Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Little Brown and Company: Haven by Emma Donoghue

Berkley Books: The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Sourcebooks: Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod by Casey Sherman

Candlewick Press (MA): Arab Arab All Year Long! by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

Jy: Enemies (Berrybrook Middle School #5) by Svetlana Chmakova

Entangled Publishing: Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noël

St. Martin's Press: The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Legendary Comics YA: Enola Holmes: Mycroft's Dangerous Game by Nancy Springer, illustrated by Giorgia Sposito


D.C.'s Politics and Prose Recognizes Employee Union

Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, representing many P&P booksellers, have reached an agreement on the scope of a bargaining unit at the bookstore, and owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine have formally recognized the union as the collective bargaining agent. In a joint announcement, P&P and the union said both parties are "committed to working together collegially and constructively to negotiate a contract for unionized employees and ensuring that Politics and Prose continues to play a vital role in our community."

Graham and Muscatine added: "As stewards of a local, independent business with a 37-year legacy of progressive management and mission, we've valued collaborating with employees to solve problems and address needs, and we look forward to working with the union in the same spirit."

The P&P organizing committee said, "We are proud to join the growing movement of booksellers and baristas across the country who have unionized their workplaces. Forming our union has not only served as an affirmation of our shared values within the Politics and Prose community, it will also strengthen our workplace and ensure the long-term success of our beloved community hub. We look forward to negotiating our first contract and welcoming more bookstore workers in D.C. and beyond into our union family."

The unionization effort became public last December when union organizers presented what they said were authorization cards signed by a majority of staff members and wanted voluntarily recognition by the owners. Graham and Muscatine declined to do so, in part because they disagreed on which employees were eligible for the union. They called for a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, which would have taken place soon. But after engaging Kathy Krieger, a lawyer with a labor background, they worked with the union to agree that some 54 employees out of P&P's staff of 100 would constitute the bargaining unit and that a majority of those employees had signed union authorization cards.

Politics and Prose has three stores in the capital. Co-owner Bradley Graham is president of the American Booksellers Association.

W. W. Norton & Company: Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet

Raven Book Store Employees Buy Half of Store

Raven Book Store owners: (front, l.-r.) Nikita Imafidon, Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Jack Hawthorn, Danny Caine, (back row) Kelly Barth, Hannah Reidell, Chris Luxem, Sarah Young. (photo: Adam Smith)

A group of seven booksellers at Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., has purchased half of the store from Danny Caine, who had been sole owner since 2017. Caine has loaned the employees the money for the shares, which will be repaid out of future profits.

The booksellers are Kelly Barth, Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Jack Hawthorn, Nikita Imafidon, Chris Luxem, Hannah Reidell and Sarah Young, who have a combined 70 years of experience at Raven. They now own exactly 49% of the store.

The arrangement allows those booksellers to make a "literal investment in the business" and was modeled after a similar arrangement with a group of employees at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., who purchased half of the bookstore from owners David Sandberg and Dina Mardell in 2018.

Caine reported that the plan has been in the works since spring of 2021, but the idea has been "in my head ever since I saw Porter Square booksellers buy half their store." In early May 2021 he reached out to Sandberg at Porter Square to learn as much as he could about employee ownership. Sandberg was "generous with his time and amazingly helpful," and the discussions made Caine think employee ownership could work at Raven, too.

He started to discuss the idea informally with employees who he thought might be interested, and they "slowly arrived at a consensus." Over the summer he had the store's attorney and accountant start the complicated transition process.

"I never thought I'd be a business owner," said Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, "but it feels so good to share that title with many of my closest friends. Even more so, as my sense of ownership in the store has grown over the last few years, it's now put down roots that will support my passion for years to come."

Kelly Barth, bookseller at Raven for 24 years, said: "After all the splinters, paper cuts, and joys of the Raven since 1997--both large and small--it feels so satisfying to know that a part of it all belongs to me."

"After 20 years working at the Raven, I am pleased and proud to be a part of this great Lawrence tradition as an owner," said Sarah Young, who celebrated her 20th anniversary at the store this month. "It is wonderful to be working with such talented and enthusiastic people who all share a love for this beautiful store."

Jack Hawthorn said: "It's really beautiful to get to be a part of all of the growth happening at the Raven and to inherit so much history. We've been given an excellent opportunity to carry on and expand that legacy together."

"Being a part of the Raven has always felt like working with a community, and now to have a part of the business excites me for the future of bookselling," said Nikita Imafidon. "It feels great to be a part of a store that has the heart of the sellers who run it and the community behind it, triumphs, flaws, and all, together at the helm."

"Without the booksellers, there is no Raven," said Caine. "Now the ownership structure of the store better reflects that reality."

Harper Voyager: Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa

For Sale: Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, Mich.

Saturn Booksellers, the 29-year-old independent bookstore in Gaylord, Mich., is up for sale. Store owner Jill Miner plans to retire later this year and is looking for the "passionate, energetic person or persons who will step up" to continue the bookstore's legacy. 

The 2,755-square-foot store, Miner noted in an announcement to customers, has not only weathered the pandemic so far but just concluded the store's most profitable year ever. The all-new store is the only general, independent bookstore in a "six-county radius" and is located in a "tourist mecca," with loyal customers both local and across the country.

The store has an existing lease through April with three one-year extensions lined up, and there's additional square footage available in an adjacent space. Miner said she's available to help with the transition and wrote that many of the store's "knowledgeable and fun staff of booksellers" would be "pleased to discuss staying in place with a new owner."

Miner can be reached at 989-732-8899 or at, and she will entertain discussions and offers until March 1.

KidsBuzz for the Week of 05.23.22

Meet Cute Romance Bookshop Coming to La Mesa, Calif., This Spring

Meet Cute Romance Bookshop & Fizzery, a romance-focused bookstore with a cafe specializing in fountain soda beverages, will open in La Mesa, Calif., this spring, Forbes reported. Store founder Becca Title, whose background includes a career as a lawyer as well as a theater director and producer, is eyeing an April 2022 opening date.

Becca Title outside the future location of Meet Cute.

At opening the store will carry roughly 3,500 romance novels, with subgenres like "contemporary, historical, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and YA romance" represented, among others. Title plans to emphasize books by authors of color, queer authors and authors who are disabled as well as stories featuring characters with those backgrounds. Her event plans include things like book signings, panel discussions and book club meetings.

The "fizzery" side of the store, which is a term Title invented, will sell "handcrafted sodas, egg creams and floats," complete with a popcorn machine and a selection of pre-made snacks from nearby small businesses. Title is also interested in adding "fizzy alcoholic beverages" at a later date.

Title told Forbes that she's "been daydreaming about owning a little bookstore for years," but only started to contemplate the idea seriously after the pandemic started. She noted that while it would be easier to open the store without the fizzery side of the business, "it was really important to me to create a space for people to gather, especially since I was doing my planning in the middle of our ongoing pandemic, which has caused a lot of people to feel very isolated."

She hopes her bookstore and fizzery serves as a community gathering space, and she reported that her community has had "really positive" reaction to her plans and to the in-person pop-ups she's hosted so far. She's also used these pop-up appearances as a way to gauge just what her customers will be interested in--there have been a lot of requests for queer romance novels especially.

She's found a location on a walkable street near "a lot of adorable small businesses" that is also easily accessible by trolley or car. When it came to learning the business of bookselling, Title said she "learned more or less everything I know so far about bookselling from other booksellers." The bookseller community, she added, is "extremely friendly, and folks are very generous with their time." 

Obituary Note: Ben McFall

Ben McFall (via)

Ben McFall, the longest-tenured bookseller in the history of New York City's legendary bookstore the Strand, "who for decades peered above his spectacles at a line of acolytes, tourists and young colleagues for whom he incarnated the store's erudite but easygoing spirit," died December 22, the New York Times reported. He was 73. Store owner Nancy Bass Wyden said the prospect of the bookstore without McFall is "ungrounding.... He's the heart of the Strand."

In a Facebook tribute the Strand posted: "It is with great sadness that we share the news that long-time bookseller Ben McFall passed away.... We cannot begin to count the number of lives touched by Ben's wit and knowledge in his 40+ years working at the Strand. His desk on the main floor, just beyond the cooking section, was a familiar space that fellow booksellers and customers alike visited often seeking his singular advice. We feel honored to have known him, and hope you will join us as we celebrate Ben's life."

Memorial to Ben McFall at the Strand (via)

McFall "enjoyed duties and perks not given to any other Strand employee," the Times wrote, adding that for much of his career, he was the only person in charge of an entire section (fiction). With used titles, he determined the price of each hardcover "and then affixed a Strand sticker to the dust jacket.... Pricing was one of many fields in which Mr. McFall's experience enabled him to make quick, intuitive pronouncements. Without checking a computer, he would say he knew how many years it had been since he had last seen an obscure old novel, the number of days it had remained in stock, and its current value online."

In addition, he could name the books in the fiction section, and cite the number of copies of them, at any given moment. "It seems like a feat, but if it were your house, you'd know where things are, too," he told the Times for a 2013 profile.

McFall did not, however, "trade this adroitness for a position in management," remaining instead on the ground floor, "where he became the only employee to have a desk designated specifically for his use," the Times noted. Often a line of people would form waiting to speak with him. His partner, Jim Behrle, who also once worked at the Strand, said he would approach the line and ask if anyone needed help, but "people would decline. They waited for Ben."

Lisa Lucas, publisher of Pantheon Books, visited the Strand to chat with McFall every Saturday when she was in town. "He'd always be sifting through a pile of used books," she recalled. "A Barthelme book, a DeLillo book, Colson Whitehead, Murakami--we'd have conversations about whatever he had in his hands."

McFall will not have a successor as head of fiction. His duties, like most others at the Strand, will be shared. "Ben never had an official position," said Paul Secor, a retired Strand book buyer. "Ben's title was 'Ben.' "

The Times noted that for the sake of his safety during the pandemic, McFall "was moved to corporate offices away from the public and his usual spot on the ground floor. There was no more line of fans. Yet Mr. McFall, who was so attached to his Strand name tag that he sometimes wore it around his apartment, chose to keep it on even though he no longer spoke to customers. It read: 'Benjamin. Ask me.' "

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Second Death of
Edie and Violet Bond
by Amanda Glaze

GLOW: Union Square & Co.: The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda GlazeGet ready for a gratifyingly spooky historical fantasy with thrilling acts of female rebellion. Twins Edie and Violet Bond are powerful mediums traveling with a group of spiritualists who, in shows that purport to channel the dead, covertly promulgate their socio-political opinions. Laura Schreiber, executive editor at Union Square & Co., was delighted to work with debut author Amanda Glaze: "Amanda's ability to depict 19th-century misogyny and the reclaiming of female power feels so relevant to our current dialogues surrounding young women's mental states, autonomy and right to speak for themselves." The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond is transportive, in every sense of the word. --Emilie Coulter

(Union Square & Co., $18.99 hardcover, ages 12-17, 9781454946786, October 4, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported



Open Book Bookstore Donates Amzn.swearjar Proceeds to Binc

Posted over the holiday weekend by Open Book Bookstore, Elkins Park, Pa.: "A year-end thank you to those indie bookstore customers who forgot that the name of Jeff Bezos's online retail conglomerate is a 'swear word' at Open Book Bookstore. In 2021, customers' slips of the tongue led to more than $107 in contributions to Binc, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation."

Personnel Changes at St. Martin's Publishing Group

Sophia Lauriello has joined the St. Martin's Publishing Group as a publicist. She was previously at Harper Wave.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rep. Jamie Raskin on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Monica Aldama, author of Full Out: Lessons in Life and Leadership from America's Favorite Coach (Gallery, $28, 9781982165918).

Fresh Air: Rep. Jamie Raskin, author of Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy (Harper, $27.99, 9780063209787).

Drew Barrymore Show: Victoria Lily Shaffer, author of Pup Culture: Stories, Tips, and the Importance of Adopting a Dog (Tiller Press, $19.99, 9781982178826).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Michael Breus, author of Energize!: Go from Dragging Ass to Kicking It in 30 Days (Little, Brown Spark, $28, 9780316707022).

The View: Stacey Abrams, author of Stacey's Extraordinary Words (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063209473).

On Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird

Baize Buzan, an original ensemble cast member of the Broadway stage adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, "will return to the production January 5, the same day that Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Greg Kinnear makes his Broadway debut, succeeding Tony nominee Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch," Playbill reported. Buzan will follow Tony winner Celia Keenan-Bolger in the role of Scout Finch.

Daniels and Keenan-Bolger played their final performances January 2. Mariah Lee will also join the cast as Mayella Ewell January 11. To Kill a Mockingbird began performances November 1, 2018, at Broadway's Shubert Theatre. "On February 26, 2020--a few weeks before the Broadway shutdown--the Broadway cast gave a history-making free performance at Madison Square Garden in front of 18,000 New York City school children," Playbill wrote.

To Kill a Mockingbird will launch its national tour March 27 at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, N.Y., starring Emmy winner Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch. Performances will begin in London at the Gielgud Theatre March 10 starring Rafe Spall.

Books & Authors

Awards: Voss Literary Winner

Amanda Lohrey won the A$5,000 (about US$3,565) Voss Literary Prize for her novel The Labyrinth, Books + Publishing reported. The prize, which is judged by the Australian University Heads of English, honors the best novel from the previous year. 

The judging panel described The Labyrinth as "a cool, elegant novel that explores the consolations and mystery of art--in this instance, through the immersion of self in the act of doing. Lohrey doesn't encourage her readers to identify personally with her characters, or to embroil themselves in the intricacies of plot. Rather, we are to sit with her protagonist, Erica, and allow her story to quietly burrow into our hearts and souls. We are invited to attend to the planning and building of Erica's labyrinth but not to anticipate or overthink.... It is this quality of quietness, drawing us into a silent meditation on the nature of creativity, that sets The Labyrinth apart from other novels that boast more seductive characters, more glittering wordplay, more urgent political messages. The Labyrinth suggests ways in which we might come together, find strength in community and nature, and psychological and spiritual healing. The labyrinth itself remains a work in progress--there is no closure but there is hope."

Book Review

Review: I'd Like to Say Sorry, but There's No One to Say Sorry To: Stories

I'd Like to Say Sorry, But There's No One to Say Sorry to: Stories by Mikołaj Grynberg, trans. by Sean Gasper Bye (The New Press, $19.99 hardcover, 160p., 9781620976838, February 8, 2022)

Photographer/psychologist/author Mikołaj Grynberg is best known in his native Poland for his documentary nonfiction featuring his generation of Polish Jews, born after the Holocaust and raised by survivors. Grynberg turns to fiction for the first time with I'd Like to Say Sorry, but There's No One to Say Sorry To, a sparse but dense collection of 31 precisely distilled short stories in which he "seeks to tell these personal stories in literary form." The result--wrenching, astonishing, surprisingly humorous--is a stupendous success: gorgeously crafted, deeply affecting narratives, empathically translated by Sean Gasper Bye, who also appends an illuminatingly personal endnote.

Most of Gynberg's stories are presented interview-style, their narrators sharing memories, experiences and often secrets. Revealing Jewish identities is one of Grynberg's most penetrating themes: "It wasn't a message she passed on to us, it was fear," a granddaughter says in reaction to her late Grandma's deathbed revelations of "ghettos... Auschwitzes... gas" in the opening "Unnecessary Trouble." In "An Elegant Purse," a mother fuels a contentious relationship with her daughter for decades in order to protect her child from her Jewish history. An estranged father confesses to multiple generations of suicide in twisted attempts to expunge the family's Jewish roots in "Bitter Chocolate." A boy with a limp learns of his Jewish parentage after his mother's death in "An Empty Jewish Soul." In "Klementyna," a 90-year-old has never shared her Jewish history with her two daughters "who don't know they're Jewish... [with] clear consciences now." A teen making his annual visit to his Polish grandmother learns of his heritage when she sends him to a Jewish summer camp in "Birthright."

Additional standouts showcase especially piercing sentences: all the reasons "it's better not to be a Jew" in "Cacophony"; "I give you murder in the camps, you give me Jewish suicide," referencing a Polish man's visit to Israel in "A Jewish Barter"; "We have jokes because we haven't got any hope. But we sure know how to laugh," in "A Joke for You." Dark humor enlightens an American man's Fiddler on the Roof-infused search for his Polish roots in "Anatevka." The poignant English title derives from the final line in the apologetically anti-Semitic "My Five Jews."

In this collection--originally called Rejwach--hullabaloo, uproar--Grynberg efficiently renders desperate choices, unspeakable endurance and unexpected laughter into compact literary mementos. While oral history inspires and informs Grynberg's fiction, translator Bye reminds readers of the currently "mounting official anti-Semitism in Poland, when many... see no place in Poland for Jews." Grynberg's significant collection stands stalwart as a "testimony of a Jewish present--a Jewish presence." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Polish photographer/psychologist Mikołaj Grynberg alchemizes his documentary nonfiction into a superb collection of 31 short stories poignantly revealing the Polish Jewish experience.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. State of Grace by Marie Force
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
3. Reimagine Teams by Mark Samuel
4. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
5. Locked Up Liars by Elle Thorpe
6. A Not So Meet Cute by Meghan Quinn
7. The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori
8. Darling Venom by Parker S. Huntington
9. Zodiac Academy: The Awakening by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti
10. The Eighth Realm by Michael Chatfield

[Many thanks to!]

KidsBuzz: Schiffer Kids: Big P Takes a Fall (and That's Not All) by Pamela Jane, illus. by Hina Imtiaz
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