Also published on this date: Monday, November 29, 2021: YA Maximum Shelf: Anatomy: A Love Story

Shelf Awareness for Monday, November 29, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Indies First: Customers--and Sales--Return

"Delivering books on horseback. Amazon ain't got nothing on us." --Harriett's Bookshop, Philadelphia, Pa.

In general retail, online sales dropped over the Thanksgiving weekend compared to the previous year, the first time this has happened in at least a decade, according to preliminary estimates. And at general retail bricks-and-mortar stores, sales rose considerably--around 50% compared to last year--but were still down as much as 25% compared to pre-pandemic times.

At independent bookstores across the country, the story was different: many indies reported strong sales, even compared to the pre-pandemic era, and some said it was their strongest Black Friday/Indies First/Small Business Saturday ever. Many attributed the good tidings to the power of the buy local movement and the continued emphasis on the need to shop early at a time when supply chain problems have been disrupting deliveries.

Theodore's owners Steve Israel (l.) and his wife, Cara Longsworth, with Oren Teicher.

Theodore's Books, Oyster Bay, N.Y., held its official opening on Saturday, attracting hundreds of people. "Virtually every Long Island elected official" came for the ribbon cutting, and many more for a signing with Huma Abedin, author of Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds (Scribner). Former American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, a minority investor in the store, spent the day handselling at Theodore's and commented, "It was great!"

Busy sales floor at Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, Mo.

For the 10th year in a row, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., celebrated Festivus Friday, extending the 20% off sale over the weekend since customers were limited to five at a time in the store. Owner Margot Sage-EL called Festivus Friday and Small Business Saturday "great this year," with "numbers better than 2019!" Watchung Booksellers is benefitting, she continued, from "heightened awareness about keeping indie bookstores alive and running" and the beginning of Hanukkah yesterday. Watchung Booksellers was also featured in a piece about Black Friday on CBS News.

At Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., Small Business Saturday has become one of the busiest days of the year, and this year was no exception. Unabridged celebrated with a 10% discount on everything and debuted two new store tote bags designed and signed by local artist David Lee Csicsko. Owners Ed Devereux and Patrick Garnett thanked "our amazing customers who helped make the day a grand success."

Shoppers at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

Kelly Estep, co-owner of Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., and co-vice president/secretary of the American Booksellers Association, posted on Facebook: "Today was a busy day and that's wonderful, but mostly what I noticed was that the sun was shining and customers were kind and genuinely happy to be shopping in our store. I've been doing this a long time (30ish years) and it still makes my heart swell to wrap a book and have someone say 'thank you so much' and really mean it. May each of you have something in your life that continues to make your heart swell."

In the runup to Indies First Day, Roxane Gay, this year's spokesperson, tweeted about her favorite indie bookstores across the country, a compilation she acknowledged was "not comprehensive." (See the full list here.) She also wrote: "I have been privileged to spend a lot of time at a lot of indie bookstores, and to a one, they've offered a warm, communal space filled with books and book lovers."

Author Daniel José Older at Octavia Books, New Orleans offered a Small Business Saturday Thanks for Giving special that will continue through tomorrow, November 30. Any customers who spend at least $15 in-store or online at their indie and submit a receipt will have a choice to get one of a dozen audiobooks for free. As of this morning, about more than 1,800 customers spent more than $90,000 at their local indies, according to Libro's Thanks for Giving Tracker.

The New York Public Library ran its fourth annual Black Friday spoof, a fake ad "touting the best deal of any season: free books with a library card." The ad reads in part, "a deal that is 'one for the books': 'buy none, get everything free' with '0% interest loans' and 'free returns.' " In a reference to the NYPL's ending of all late fines last month, the ad notes, "the Library's prices have always been fine... but now they're fine free."

The ad was sent to the Library's 1.3 million e-mail subscribers at 9 a.m. on Black Friday and was shared on social media. The ads have traditionally generated a spike in library cards and check outs.

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Pictures from a Celebration

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, indie bookstores across the country welcomed readers back into stores--including masked President Biden.

President Joe Biden did some Small Business Saturday shopping on Nantucket Island, Mass., where he and his family spent Thanksgiving weekend. After lunch at a local pub, the Bidens stopped by Nantucket Bookworks. The president wrote on Instagram: "Small businesses are the backbone of communities across the country--and it's crucial we support them during the holiday season and all year round. Shop small."

Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., offered 10% off to anyone who wore bookstore merchandise--from any store. Here Raven booksellers show how to do it.

Shoppers at Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., which offered readings and signings, story times and other events and treats throughout the day.

Actress Aubrey Plaza, known for her role as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation, visited Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes, Calif., to sign copies of her new children's book, The Christmas Witch (Viking Books for Young Readers).

At Books & Books at the Studio in Key West, Fla., author Cheryl Tan (l.) with owner/author Judy Blume. Tan wrote: "Highlight of today: Randomly bumping into dear heart Judy Blume at her bookshop--I love that one minute I'm there to buy some holiday presents and next thing I know, I see Judy on a ladder rearranging books on a shelf. (@booksandbookskw is her bookshop!) One of the sweetest post-pandemic reunions I've had... LOVE Judy!"


Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

#IndiesFirst on #SmallBusinessSaturday: 'Today Felt Like the Loveliest of Family Reunions'

At 2 Dandelions Bookshop in Brighton, Mich.

Independent booksellers took to social media for #IndiesFirst on #SmallBusinessSaturday to share their experiences and to express gratitude to communities across the U.S. for stepping up to support them in challenging times. Here's a sampling from the big weekend:

Pagination Bookshop, Springfield, Mo.: "Happy Small Business Saturday!! Today we celebrate and support our neighbors who own local businesses--places that make our Springfield community vibrant and unique, stimulate our local economy, and donate to local schools and nonprofits! And what a gorgeous day, too!!.... We can't wait to see you and help you fill your imaginations and shelves!!"

Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, Pa.: "Small Business Saturday isn't about discounts--it's about local jobs and supporting businesses that positively impact your community.... Also, extra credit if you buy this book for that co-worker who starts their day with micro-aggressions."

At Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.

Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.: "It's Small Business Saturday!! We're here for you. Come show your town some love and Shop Local, Shop Small!"

Whistlestop Bookshop, Carlisle, Pa.: "Today is Small Business Saturday. Stephanie of Georgie Lou's and I noticed that the creator and sponsor in past years, American Express, has downplayed this year's. We think they want to transition to an all-year concept, which is fine. And the idea is well-established, after all. So there will be fewer balloons and less whoop-de-doo, but all us small businesses hope you will continue to do some of your shopping with us to find what you want, discover what you need, and help keep alive your extended neighborhood. Thanks!"

Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.: "It's Small Business Saturday! Show some love to all the amazing small businesses Downtown Frederick has to offer."

Newtonville Books, Newton, Mass.: "Scenes from a Small Business Saturday--thanks to @thevillagebank for always paying for parking on this day! The best! Also, boxes are taking over the office."

At Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga.

Violet Valley Bookstore, Water Valley, Miss.: "Hey y'all, it's small business Saturday, and unicorns ARE real! Come support Mississippi's only queer, feminist, transinclusive bookstore.... Come see us today."

Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash.: "It's Small Business Saturday! Shop small today to support your local businesses."

Horton's Books & Gifts, Carrollton, Ga.: "Thank you to our wonderful customers for shopping at Horton's on Small Business Saturday!! We appreciate your business and look forward to seeing you again. More lovely gifts arriving every day!"

Read with Me, A Children's Book & Art Shop, Raleigh, N.C.: "Small Business Saturday reminds me how we all may be small individually, but we're fierce together...."

The Dog-Eared Page, Danville, Va.: "Oh, Danville. Sweet, sweet, Danville. Today was so much fun. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for making our first Small Business Saturday such a success. We love you!"

Kramers, Washington D.C.: "Thank you so much for your support and shopping small with us yesterday for #SmallBusinessSaturday. In case you missed out, we're doing it all over again today."

Bookseller trading cards at Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, Idaho

Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, Idaho: "Thank YOU. It's been a fast and fabulous #SmallBusinessSaturday today and it's thanks to every one of you for showing up, placing orders online, and helping us do what we do best--introducing books to people who will love them

Off the Beaten Path, Lakewood, N.Y.: "Closing out another Small Business Saturday, and we have once again broken our record set last year, for our best sales day ever! Thank you so much for everyone who came out!"

Blue Marble Books, Fort Thomas, Ky.

Blue Marble Books, Fort Thomas, Ky.: "A massive and heartfelt thank you to each and every person who came through our doors yesterday and today. We are so grateful for the joy you bring us each time we see you, whether it's the first or fiftieth! Thank you for shopping locally. Thank you for shopping small. Thank you for the love. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Dotters Books, Eau Claire, Wis.: "Goodnight, Bookshop. Goodnight, Lovely Friends who stopped into the shop today and those who supported from afar. It was so wonderful to see you all again. I can't thank you enough for all of the support you've given the shop--and me--over the past year and a half. Today felt like the loveliest of family reunions."

Anniversary Celebrations
In Sonoma, Calif., Readers' Books celebrated its 30th birthday on Indies First/Small Business Saturday with a 30% off sale and cake and bubbly. Commemorative T-shirts, tote bags and baseball caps were also for sale.

Book Suey Co-op in Hamtramck, Mich., celebrated its fourth anniversary on Saturday. The bookstore has gone from a pop-up store to a long-term bricks-and-mortar, and the co-op now has 13 prospective and full members.

Greenlight Bookstore in Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Saturday marked five years in business for Greenlight Bookstore's location in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Owner Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo thanked the Flatbush community for its support, saying: "This neighborhood literally put the books on the shelves of its own bookstore." Volunteers helped make sure the store could open in time for the 2016 holiday season, and it's been "an absolute joy to gather and celebrate with you every holiday season since."

Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, Pa., which opened in 2017, noted: "Grateful to be here FOUR YEARS! To deal with all the challenges of being a small, black-owned business PLUS a pandemic and still be here is a Blessing! Thanks to everyone that's supported us along the way--it means the world to us."

Stephanie Culen, owner of Poet's Corner Book Shop in Duncans Mills, Calif., celebrated the store's first year in business, writing: "I'm so very humbled and grateful for all the support and inspiration from the community and local shop owners from all of West County! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

International Update: Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday & More in Canada, U.K., Ireland, New Zealand

The Bookery, Crediton, U.K., is ready for the holidays.

Although Thanksgiving wasn't on the international menu this past weekend for obvious reasons, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday were, along with creative alternatives like Civilised Saturday, Buy Nothing Day and even some philosophical considerations on the launch of the retail holiday season. Among the highlights on social media:

Drake the Bookshop, Stockton-on-Tees, England: "Our Black Friday deal. Great books. Great service. Great knowledge (ok, pretty good knowledge). Helping make your High Street stay GREAT. GREAT staff, who get paid the living wage. We also pay our share of taxes. When you buy local the money stays local. We bring some of the best-known authors to your town. Those authors get the royalties they should get. We promise not to send the rocket to the moon. We are so proud of this deal, we've decided to make it happen all year!"

The Twizel Bookshop, Twizel, New Zealand: "Black Friday Special: Buy one book and pay full price for another book."

Holiday windows at Gutter Bookshop, Dalkey, Ireland

The Book Hive, Norwich, England: "As the hail streams down on this bleak Black Friday, we're not sure about you but our minds turn to the frailty of mortality, and time, and how we spend it, and how it’s always running away, running out... a bit like these two books, whose use is limited to specific dates and of which we have only a handful of copies left. So come on, people--push those deep dark existential thoughts down to a place where you can temporarily forget them and grab yourself an advent calendar full of ghouls to tick off the days until Christmas in creepy style, or a poetry-filled diary to plan all the wonderful shopping you’ll do to fill the void next year! This really is the nightmare before Christmas."

Glass Bookshop, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: "Happy Small Business Saturday, and THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for always making the choice to support and uplift us! Your friendship has meant the world to us and there's no other community we would rather be part of.... Thank you for supporting small businesses in #yeg. These places are run by your friends and neighbours, employ members of our community, reinvest in our community (we actually pay our taxes!) and, like you, are invested in a safe and happy living space for all of us. A few certain billionaires can't say the same! So thank you."

The Paper Hound Bookshop, Vancouver, B.C., Canada: "Remember when Black Friday was one of those points of American culture--like the word restroom, or the practice of wearing one's shoes indoors--that we were generally aware of but rarely applied in our day-to-day life? It was a more innocent existence. We extend our sympathies today to our comrades in the retail trenches where things actually go on sale. As a point of resistance, we will select three undesirable titles that no one was ever going to purchase anyways and symbolically increase their asking price by 20%. We will also continue to deny the existence of Cyber Monday and persist in our practice of never using any of our multiple social media accounts to actually sell you anything, instead pairing increasingly bizarre anti-consumerist admonishments with images of unrelated books. Happy Buy Nothing Day!"

Red Lion Books, Colchester, England: "Civilised Saturday is back. Serving Sherry all day."

Banner Books

Banner Books, Ennistimon, Ireland: "It is Sunday and we are open. It would be an excellent day to do some early Christmas shopping. We have understated (read: minimal) decorations, no loud music, and a #BookshopDog poised to welcome you (unless you don't like dogs, in which case she will politely retreat to her bed and leave you in peace). We are a little oasis of calm in a mad, rushy world...." 


Cool Black Friday Indie Alternatives

"Black Friday is back but it's not what it used to be," the Associated Press reported Friday. That wouldn't have been headline-worthy news to independent booksellers, who have become adept at finding alternatives to Black Friday. This year's options included the almost traditional Plaid Friday and more, including:

Francie & Finch Bookshop, Lincoln, Neb.: "We're getting in the spirit at F&F. Happy holidays everyone!" And: "That's a wrap for another Plaid Friday at F&F!"

Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.: "Happy Plaid Friday!"

Lucy's Books, Astoria, Ore.: "Ready. Set. Shop Plaid!"

Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt.: "Commit to the flannel."

Plaid Elephant Books, Danville, Ky.: "Wow. Plaid Friday was awesome. Y'all are awesome. Let's do it again tomorrow."

At Dancing Bear Toys and Books

Dancing Bear Toys and Games, Frederick, Md.: "FROSTY FRIDAY. Local friends, head downtown to get some holiday shopping done!" 

Lark and Owl Booksellers, Georgetowen, Tex.: "INTROVERT FRIDAY: Here at Lark & Owl, we do Black Friday a little differently. Come hang out with us for INTROVERT FRIDAY and enjoy a more relaxed and quiet shopping experience while still getting your hands on some great gifts like these cute ornaments or this awesome Renegades Box Set."

The Well-Read Moose, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: "Moose Friday is here!! The PRIZE WHEEL will be out and spinning all day today ($50+ purchase to spin). Holiday Gift Guide books are 20% off one book per purchase, and all Moose Mugs and books for Books for Tots are 20% off today."

Floor Display: Tribute to Stephen Sondheim

Title Wave Books, Anchorage, Alaska, shared a photo of the one of the shop's display tables, noting: "We are heart-broken to hear of the passing of Stephen Sondheim, at 91, [who] was one of Broadway's most influential writers. Some of his many works include Into the Woods, Company, Sweeney Todd, and West Side Story. He will be greatly missed."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mel Brooks, Ryan Shazier on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Mel Brooks, author of All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business (Ballantine, $29.99, 9780593159118).

Also on GMA: Dick Lehr, author of White Hot Hate: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America's Heartland (Mariner Books, $28, 9780358359906).

CBS This Morning: Brené Brown, author of Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (Random House, $30, 9780399592553).

Today Show: Christopher Andersen, author of Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan (Gallery, $27.99, 9781982159726).

The Talk: Vanessa Lachey, co-author of Life from Scratch: Family Traditions That Start with You (HarperOne, $29.99, 9780063031760).

CBS This Morning: Jason Reynolds, author of Stuntboy, in the Meantime (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $13.99, 9781534418165).

Good Morning America: Jodi Picoult, author of Wish You Were Here: A Novel (Ballantine, $28.99, 9781984818416).

Also on GMA: Ryan Shazier, author of Walking Miracle: How Faith, Positive Thinking, and Passion for Football Brought Me Back from Paralysis... and Helped Me Find Purpose (Grand Central, $28, 9781538706251).

Today Show: Kathie Lee Gifford, author of The Jesus I Know: Honest Conversations and Diverse Opinions about Who He Is (Thomas Nelson, $26.99, 9780785254768).

The View: John McWhorter, author of Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America (Portfolio, $28, 9780593423066).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Kal Penn, author of You Can't Be Serious (Gallery, $28, 9781982171384).

Movies: The Tragedy of Macbeth

A new trailer has been released for The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen's adaptation of Shakespeare's play, starring Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, IndieWire reported. The opening night selection of the New York Film Festival, the movie hits theaters on Christmas Day, followed by streaming on Apple TV+ January 14, "with Apple and A24 hoping to break late into the Oscar race."

Directed by Coen, with photography by Oscar nominee Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour, Amelie) "in glorious black-and-white, the film is an immaculate production that should easily score a number of nominations," IndieWire noted. The cast also includes Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson and Harry Melling.

"When I first got into the movie business--it's been almost 40 years ago--the reason I was able to make movies with Ethan [Coen], the reason we were able to have a career is because the studios at that point had an ancillary market that was a backstop for more risky films, which were VHS cassettes or all these home video markets, which is essentially television," Coen told an NYFF audience. "So the fact that those markets are sort of responsible for my career, I'm not going to bust on them now because they've become very successful and are overtaking the market. It's the reason I'm able to do this stuff.... I have mixed feelings about [streaming] obviously. You want people to see it on a big screen. But the other part of it is that's been part of the history of our movies since the very beginning. That's the best answer I can give you."

Books & Authors

Awards: Grammy Spoken Word Nominees

Among the nominations for the 2022 Grammy Awards, which will be televised January 31, are some book-related ones. In the Best Spoken Word Album category (which includes poetry, audiobooks & storytelling), the nominees are:

Aftermath by LeVar Burton (Hachette Audio)
Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation from John Lewis, read by Don Cheadle (Hachette Audio)
Catching Dreams: Live at Fort Knox Chicago by J. Ivy
8:46 by Dave Chappelle & Amir Sulaiman (YouTube)
A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Random House Audio)

Attainment: New Titles Out This Week

Selected new titles appearing tomorrow, November 30:

Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev (Pantheon, $45, 9780307908193) is a biography of surrealist artist René Magritte.

Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail by Ray Dalio (Avid Reader Press, $35, 9781982160272) explores global economic and political trends.

Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey (Orbit, $30, 9780316332910) is the ninth and final volume in the Expanse sci-fi series.

Dava Shastri's Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti (Grand Central, $28, 9781538703861) follows a billionaire matriarch who fakes her death.

Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly (Mobius, $26.99, 9781473680838) is a thriller about a dancer starring in Swan Lake.

You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus (Delacorte, $19.99, 9780593175866) is a new stand-alone young adult thriller from the author of One of Us Is Lying.

Genius Camp by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, $16.99, 9780593301777) is the second book in middle-grade the Smartest Kid in the Universe series featuring a very smart kid who goes to a camp for geniuses.

Book Review

Review: Velorio

Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino (HarperVia, $26.99 hardcover, 272p., 9780063071377, January 4, 2022)

Velorio is an ambitious, movingly lyrical debut novel from Xavier Navarro Aquino that looks at the real-life tragedy of Hurricane Maria's impact on Puerto Rico through a grief-soaked, phantasmagorical lens. The novel alternates between bitter despair and glimmers of hopefulness and community, reflecting throughout on the extent to which Puerto Ricans feel abandoned and abused, both by their own government and by the rest of the world. Velorio begins soon after the hurricane subsides, when Camila finds that her sister, Marisol, has been killed by a mudslide. Camila sets off to find "the people that would return things back to how they were," taking the corpse of her sister, who Camila cannot believe is dead even as Marisol begins to decompose.

Marisol's fate is only a hint of the tragic strangeness to come, which draws multiple characters into the makeshift cult leader Urayoán's attempt to form a utopian community in the mountainous center of Puerto Rico. The effort is ominous from the start, with Urayoán employing bands of teenagers and children dressed in red, wearing black surgical masks, as his muscle. The "reds" behave increasingly like an animalistic pack as the novel goes on, but under his direction they steal all-important gasoline and diesel and redistribute it from his base in the mountains. To Puerto Ricans feeling abandoned in the wake of the hurricane, all-too-accustomed to the island's metaphorical and physical decay--"the entire island is rot. Not just a little rot, something mishandled or forgotten. A rot like bone corruption, punctured so deep inside it spreads"--even Urayoán's twisted vision can seem like a viable alternative.

While Urayoán's paradise follows a familiar course, becoming increasingly violent and Hobbesian as the novel progresses, the prose is distinctive and dreamlike. Navarro Aquino swaps characters and takes on their voices with graceful fluidity, moving from Urayoán's messianic prophecies to characters that punctuate their passages with scraps of poetry. Velorio has apocalyptic fires and savage violence, but its most powerful moments are the quiet, searching ones, where Navarro Aquino reflects on the island's history of being "taken and given like the final play in a losing game of dominoes." Navarro Aquino's gift is translating that historical pain into the turbulent inner lives of his characters, all struggling in their own, sometimes destructive, ways with their feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Their wounds are older and deeper than those inflicted by Hurricane Maria. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader 

Shelf Talker: Velorio is a phantasmagorical journey into Puerto Rico in the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Maria, drawing its damaged characters into a bizarre utopian cult.

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