Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 5, 2022

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Albatros Media: Words about Where: Let's Learn Prepositions by Magda Gargulakova, illustrated by Marie Urbankova

Blackstone Publishing: Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella


Bookends Opens in Pontotoc, Miss.

Bookends, a coffee shop and bookstore selling new and used titles, is open for business in downtown Pontotoc, Miss., the Daily Journal reported.

Co-owners Alissa Harris, Jenna Nolley, Dana Biffle and Arlissa Whisenant held a grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting for the store on July 23. The book inventory ranges across all genres, with romance and YA particularly popular at the moment. The owners plan to shape the inventory based on community feedback and work with as many local authors as they can.

"We are constantly taking recommendations from people on authors they like," Nolley told the Journal. "We want to have something for everybody. We started out pretty much with our own book lists and ordering from there, but we can't have just our stuff."

The non-book inventory includes board games as well as necklaces and gift items made by local artists. The coffee is self-serve, and customers are encouraged to grab a drink, find a book and read.

"We just want everyone to feel comfortable and safe when they come here, no matter what walk of life," Harris said. "We want you to feel like you're amongst friends and family."

Once the store finds its footing, the owners plan to host things like game nights, trivia nights and book clubs, with the goal being "creativity and fun." 

The owners all have backgrounds in art and entrepreneurship. Whisenant owns a trophy and gift store in Pontotoc called Image Awards and Gifts, and is Nolley's cousin, who has her own t-shirt business. Harris is an artist working with vinyl and other media while Biffle, who is Harris's mother, owns a T-shirt brand called Sippi Hippie.

Harris noted they are all avid readers, and they wanted to create a space that focuses on artists and makers. "We just thought it would be fun to do something like this."

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo

The Old Tome Bookstore & More Opens in Afton, N.Y.

The Old Tome Bookstore & More is finding its footing after opening in Afton, N.Y., late last year, the Daily Star reported. Owner Mel Mueller sells predominantly used books along with a selection of new titles, particularly from local authors and small presses. The shop also has a page.

Mueller, who is a welder and fabricator by trade, told the Daily Star the bookstore essentially fell into her lap. She caught wind of a group of people who had a collection of around 30,000 books they wanted to get rid of, and when she learned they intended to burn the books, Mueller said, "No, we're not going to have that, let me take them."

After she purchased another sizable book collection, a friend showed her a retail space at 181 Main St. in Afton. Once Mueller secured that, she realized she needed more variation in her collection, so she "bought out a school, a college and a whole bookstore." Now she has an inventory of about 67,000 books. "It's everything from brand-new from publishers to antique, rare and collectible," she added.

The store has some locally sourced nonbook items for sale as well. There are bags and jewelry from local artists and even farm-fresh eggs and honey. Over the next few months, Mueller plans to bring in a line of candles and bath salts called Dragon Sense. The Old Tome's event offerings, meanwhile, include a reading program for children in grades six through 12 and "an unplugged program where anybody can earn free books."

Looking ahead, Mueller said she plans to put the bookstore's entire inventory online, which is a "big undertaking." She may eventually expand to a larger space, but she told the Star she has no immediate plans to do so.

"We're happy with the space," she said. "It's nice and cozy; it's homey and people feel like they're in a living room when they stop and visit... and we absolutely want to keep that atmosphere of it."

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Ownership Change for the Windowsill Used & New Books in Ludington, Mich.

A "new era" began on Monday at the Windowsill Used & New Books, Ludington, Mich. The Daily News reported that Samantha Adams, a Windowsill staff member for about a year, is now a co-owner, after buying part of the business from 15-year owner Julie Toole. The plan is that in about five years, Toole will retire and Adams will take over as the store's sole owner.

"We're good friends, and we really enjoy working together, so we're pretty excited about being able to go into business together and share our love for books and reading," Adams said.

Noting that she has been training Adams "from the beginning," Toole added: "I'm feeling very confident that this is going to be a very good transition." During her time with the bookshop, Adams has revamped the store's website and added an online ordering system. "She's been soaking up industry knowledge from Toole, and has a few renovation ideas," the Daily News wrote. "But for now, the partnership doesn't mean much change in the way things are done at Windowsill."

Adams said she will maintain the "super friendly and helpful" service regulars have come to expect from Toole, a 30-year book industry veteran who described the store as "very customer service-based." Adams added that it was those "really good discussions" with customers that "really drove home the fact" that she wanted to be part of the store. "There's so many people that come in, and they're happy, and they're excited. There's really no unhappy people in a bookstore."

Toole noted that it was hard to imagine quitting the bookstore "cold turkey," which led to the five-year timeline until retirement. "I'm hoping that within the five years, that I'm ready, and I suppose if not, maybe Sam will keep me on as an employee."

The Midnight Oil, Greeley, Colo., Moves to Larger Space

The Midnight Oil, a new and used bookstore that opened in Greeley, Colo., last October, has moved to a larger space in downtown Greeley, the Greeley Tribune reported.

Store owners Pablo Guzman and Manuel Tapia explained that the store received such an enthusiastic response from the community and so many books were donated that they very quickly outgrew the original storefront at 918 8th St. The new space, at 827 10th St., is about four times the size of the original, and it officially opened to customers on July 15.

The bookstore sells titles for all ages across many subjects, including fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy, self-help and Chicano books. While the bookstore is still about 90% used, Tapia and Guzman have started doing more special orders and are gradually increasing their new book selection.

The owners plan eventually to build a small coffee house inside the store and create an events space. The building--a former jewelry store--has a "giant vault" in the back, which they intend to use for displaying banned and challenged books. The store also has four support pillars that they've covered in spiraling stacks of books; Guzman said it took about 15 hours of work per pillar.

Once they find their footing in the new space, Tapia and Guzman will consider what's next for the store, and they did not rule out opening a second location at some point.

"The community showed up for us tremendously," Guzman remarked.

John Williams Joins Washington Post as Books Editor

John Williams

John Williams is joining the Washington Post as books editor, effective September 6. In his new position, Williams will be "helping to reinvigorate this important coverage area" by leading the nonfiction and fiction books team, hiring new writers and working with colleagues to reach new audiences, the Post noted, adding: "We believe in books coverage that revels in the life of the mind and big ideas and is also consumer-oriented, giving book lovers the information they need as they choose what to read."

Since 2011, Williams has been on the Books desk at the New York Times, first as a web producer and often as a writer. Starting in 2016, he became the editor of the paper's staff book critics and has also been a mainstay of the Book Review's weekly podcast, producing and, more recently, hosting the show.

Before joining the Times, he spent six years in the editorial department of HarperCollins and later worked as a freelance writer and editor. In 2009, he started a literary website called The Second Pass, which featured reviews of new books, essays about older ones and a blog that he anchored.

"I couldn't be happier that it's all led me to the Post," Williams said.

Obituary Note: Melissa Bank

Melissa Bank

Author Melissa Bank, best known for her 1999 bestseller The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, died August 2, USA Today reported. She was 61. In a statement, her publisher, Penguin Books, called Bank "a writer with a distinctive minimalist style and boldly hilarious voice," adding that "she captivated generations of readers with her warmly piercing takes on relationships, family and adulthood." 

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a collection of linked short stories about Jane Rosenal, "starting at age 14 and following her adventures and travails in sex, love and work with a relatable, comic touch." Bank followed it up with The Wonder Spot (2005), a novel "about another young woman, Sophie Applebaum, and her quest to forge her own identity," USA Today wrote. 

A Philadelphia native with a master's degree from Cornell University, Bank "needed 12 years to finish The Girls' Guide, in part because of a bicycle accident that damaged her short-term memory and ability to think of words," the Associated Press noted. Two stories from the book were adapted into the 2007 romantic comedy Suburban Girl, starring Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Several writers paid their respects to Bank on social media, including authors Jami Attenberg ("RIP to Melissa Bank, who wrote a smart and funny book lots of people loved (and tried to imitate for years), The Girl's Guide to hunting and Fishing."); and Laura Zigman: "Such heartbreaking news. This beautiful collection by #MelissaBank was such a landmark for me and so many others."


Carmichael's Bookstore: Flood Relief for Kentucky

"Our neighbors in Eastern Kentucky are hurting after last week's record-breaking flooding devastated communities," Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., posted on Facebook. "It is going to take a lot of time and a lot of resources for people to rebuild their lives, and we want to offer what support we can. This Saturday, August 6th, all profits from our three stores and website will go to Eastern Kentucky flood relief funds organized by Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky and Hindman Settlement School. We will also have an easy way for people to make a donation when checking out."

Carmichael's posted an update on Instagram Wednesday: "When tote bags are needed for flood relief efforts, you can count on booksellers to show up! (This is *maybe* 20% of them). @toastystavern is taking donations and collecting items for those impacted by last week's flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Anyone who makes a donation today, Aug. 3rd, will receive 20% off their entire bill. They are collecting can openers, frying pans, bug repellent, tote bags, dry food or baby wipes."

Costco Picks: The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

Alex Kanenwisher, book buyer at Costco, has selected The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford (Atria, $28, 9781982158217) as the pick for August. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, Kanenwisher writes:

"I fell under Jamie Ford's storytelling spell years ago and am still enchanted after reading this month's book buyer's pick, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy.

"When Dorothy Moy undergoes treatment to mitigate inherited trauma, she connects with past generations of women in her family. The process leaves Dorothy striving to break the cycle of pain and abandonment and hoping to find peace for her daughter."

Chalkboard: LaDeDa Books

LaDeDa Books, Manitowoc, Wis., shared a photo of the shop's sidewalk chalkboard, noting that Charlie Berens, author of The Midwest Survival Guide and creator of Manitowoc Minute "says that 'Ope' is one of the most frequently used words in our part of the country. In his honor, we created a new open board for our Manitowoc shop, LaDeDa Books. Most people get it, others just think we're being silly!"

Media and Movies

TV: Devil In the White City

Keanu Reeves will star in the "long-gestating adaptation" of Erik Larson's 2003 bestselling book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaDeadline reported, adding that Hulu has put in a limited series order for the drama. This marks first major U.S. TV role for Reeves, who will also serve as an executive producer. The eight-episode series is targeted for a 2024 release, with production not expected to begin until next year.

The series is from ABC Signature in association with Paramount Television Studios. Executive producers are Martin Scorsese, Rick Yorn, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson (Appian Way), Stacey Sher, Sam Shaw, Todd Field, Mark Lafferty. Shaw is writing and will serve as showrunner. Field will direct.

The project "has been in various stages of development since DiCaprio bought the film rights to the book in 2010 and previously set it up as a feature at Paramount with Scorsese to direct," Deadline noted. "In 2019, Hulu announced that it was developing the project as a big-budget series with DiCaprio and Scorsese exec producing."

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Translates Winners

A record 21 titles, from 19 countries and 18 languages, are among the winners of English PEN's translation awards, which are selected "on the basis of outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to U.K. bibliodiversity." This year's honorees include novels, short story collections, poetry for children and illustrated memoir, and--for the first time--titles from Guatemala and North Macedonia, as well as work translated from the Macedonian, Montenegrin and Isaan dialect of Thai. Among the awarded titles is what critics have called "the first queer Macedonian novel." See the complete list of PEN Translates winners here.

Will Forrester, translation and international manager at English PEN, said: "It's not by chance that we are awarding a record number of books in this round of PEN Translates. We received submissions from more publishers than ever, for an outstandingly diverse and ambitious set of titles--testament to the vitality of translated literature publishing. These 21 books are significant works of literature, remarkable in their variety: vernacular magical realism from the border of Thailand and Laos, an illustrated travelogue, Italian gothic autofiction, poetry for children from Guatemala, and Egyptian speculative fiction represent just a quarter of the works supported. This is a thrilling set of books, and English PEN is thrilled to be helping them get to U.K. readers."

So Mayer and Preti Taneja, co-chairs of the English PEN translation advisory group, commented: "With brilliant books from, among others, Guatemala, Mozambique, Thailand and Albania, this PEN Translates round is a compelling snapshot of global literature. Including three books that pair women writers and translators, as well as bold queer writing from North Macedonia, Russia and Chile. This has been an extremely strong round, and our selections showcase U.K. publishers committed to taking risks and building communities. We're particularly delighted to include illustrated books for younger and older readers, and welcome four emerging small presses as first-time awardees. The depth and range represented shows PEN Translates, and literature in translation in the U.K., in an expansive mood, one we hope to continue."

Reading with... Johnnie Bernhard

credit: Aoudad Photography

Johnnie Bernhard is the award-winning author of four novels that focus on family, social issues and the individual's place in an ever-changing world. A former teacher and journalist, she spends her time in Texas and Mississippi. Her latest novel, Hannah and Ariela (Texas Christian University Press, June 23, 2022), is a story of human trafficking across the Mexican border.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

The decision of life and death is made by two strangers that fate brings together--an Anglo widow and a Mexican girl.

On your nightstand now:

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Hidden Staircase by Nancy Drew. 

As a young female reader, I loved that Nancy was a smart girl in charge. It was the polar opposite of the Barbie craze.

Your top five authors:

Jesmyn Ward, Joseph O'Connor, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses by James Joyce. It's not a reflection of Joyce!

Books you're an evangelist for:

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao.

Book you hid from your parents:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson.

Books that changed your life:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Felix Longoria's Wake by Patrick J. Carroll with a foreword by José E. Limón
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Favorite line from a book:

"We still tell each other that we are lucky to be alive, when our being alive has almost nothing to do with luck, but with geography, pigmentation, and international exchange rates." --Joseph O'Connor, Star of the Sea

Five books you'll never part with:

The Norton Anthology of American Literature
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez opened my eyes to the richness of Latin American literature. I am forever grateful to the late poet and playwright Ntozake Shange, who introduced me to this book. She was my literature professor many years ago. I loved her. It is because of her influence and the books she introduced that I am a writer.

The true genre of your writing:

My genre is the human story, what connects us regardless of geography, race and religion.

Book Review

Review: Our Missing Hearts

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, $29 hardcover, 352p., 9780593492543, October 4, 2022)

Political and cultural division metastasize into a dystopian U.S. in which dissent is surveilled and heavily punished in Our Missing Hearts, an eerie, prophetic novel from Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere).

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner has struggled to make sense of the world since the disappearance of his mother, notorious revolutionary poet Margaret Miu, three years ago. He remembers overhearing the late-night talks that preceded her leaving, "first his father's voice, then his mother's, bracing itself, gritting its teeth." Now his father will tell anyone who asks only that they do not know or want to know where she is, and Bird is expected to agree. His friend Sadie claims Margaret is leading a movement to fight the federal act Preserving American Culture and Traditions (PACT), created as an antidote to a period of violent civic unrest known as "the Crisis." Under this legislation, the government is tearing families apart as children like Sadie are taken forever from parents the government believes to have "un-American" sentiments, most notably a refusal to agree that China is the root of all U.S. problems. Protest art featuring heart imagery and the phrase "our missing hearts," borrowed from a Margaret Miu poem, pops up across the nation and is just as quickly expunged.

Then Bird receives an envelope containing a drawing from a folktale his mother used to tell him. He believes she is contacting him and that the drawing might lead him to her. His ensuing quest leads him to missing children and renegade librarians, through a changed and sometimes dangerous New York City, and finally to the truth about PACT, his mother and what makes the risk of raising one's voice worth it.

Ng draws inspiration from the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the political and ideological rifts dividing the U.S., but her all-too-believable dystopian landscape could be the future of any country in which nationalism and xenophobia have run amok. This departure from the author's usual realm of domestic drama has an occasional glimmer of Margaret Atwood or Fahrenheit 451 but primarily showcases Ng's own ingenuity and range. Brilliantly envisioned and filled with Ng's signature tender, intimate character work and complex family dynamics, this coming-of-age story asks what it means to be a good parent or a good citizen when every child is at risk, as well as what power art has to challenge injustice. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: This intimate, prophetic dystopian tale, a departure for Celeste Ng, both affirms and explores the power of family and art.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Strong Peloton for the Tour de Bookbike

A big thank you for all of you who have peeked in, dropped by, and helped us reacclimate to having visitors! It's been a bit like learning to ride a bike all over again--familiar, thrilling, and just slightly wobbly.

--Solid State Books, Washington, D.C., in its June 7, 2021, newsletter

At Armchair Books in Edinburgh

More than a year later, we're all still learning to ride a bike again, every single day. As Covid variants continue to unbalance life in general--and the book trade in particular--we just keep on pedaling, trying not to fall. 

As you may have guessed, I've been thinking about bicycles lately, having spent mornings throughout July watching every stage of the Tour de France, followed by the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. In addition, though I'm a very casual (read slow and steady) bike rider, I traded in my old wheels this spring for a new model and have been hitting the bike paths regularly. And I'm not riding solo in that regard. Forbes just reported that compared to 2021, "cycling levels in England rose by 47% on weekdays and 27% on weekends in the five months to the end of July."

This weekend Gramercy Books, Bexley, Ohio is supporting Team Bexley in Pelotonia 2022, which raises money for cancer research and is one of Columbus' biggest cycling events. Last Saturday, the bookshop posted: "TODAY IS PELOTONIA DAY! Shop for good in-store, 10% of the day's sales will be donated to Team Bexley. When you support Pelotonia, 100% of all participant-raised funds go toward innovative cancer research!"

Naturally, Pelotonia made me think of peloton, the main group of cyclists in a race. In the Tour de France, for example, this often means more than 150 cyclists riding for miles at high speed, side by side, wheel to wheel, aware that the slightest mistake by one rider could result in a crash. Now I'm not saying that the book trade is a peloton, or that we're in a race, or that one mistake can bring down the whole industry (if that were the case, we'd all have crashed out long ago). 

What I did start thinking about, however, were the many stories Shelf Awareness has run since the early days of Covid-19 about enterprising booksellers taking to their bikes for home deliveries.

Maybe there's a kind of bookseller bike peloton riding out there, a Tour de Bookbike in full flight. Maybe the tour's first stage got underway in March 2020, when Charm City Books, Baltimore, Md., posted: "In light of Governor Hogan's announcement, Joe and I are breaking out the tandem bicycle! We are now delivering for free if you live in Baltimore City and $5 or less if you live outside of the city. During this time, we need to all lift each other up."

In the U.K., South Kensington Books soon joined the nascent peloton: "Local Book-bike delivery gang ready for action. Stuck at home? Contact us and our booksellers will help you select any books you require. One of these happy chaps will whizz your books round to you." Australian indie booksellers were also "getting on their bikes and taking out their 'bookmobiles' to deliver purchases for free to readers who are in isolation at home due to the ongoing spread of Covid-19." During lockdown in the Indian city of Kochi, the Books by Bicycle initiative launched. 

By April, Jen Morrow, owner of Bards Alley, in Vienna, Va., told CNBC that the  bookshop was delivering books via bicycle with a neighboring bike business; and bike deliveries were also ramping up at Boneshaker Books, Minneapolis, Minn.

In May, NPR spoke with Italian bookseller Mattia Garavaglia of La Libreria del Golem, who was making about 40 deliveries a day in his car or on his bike, riding through the empty streets of Turin. And Armchair Books in Edinburgh, Scotland posted: "Absolutely nothing--but NOTHING--is more metal than doing bicycle deliveries down Edinburgh's Old Town closes. Will you find the right door? Will you be eaten by a mighty dragon? Will you find the right door but then have to earn the begrudging respect of the guard dragon through the cunning use of gladiatorial poetry recitation?"

A year after the initial lockdowns and panic, Alsace Walentine, owner of Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., said, "I do love my bike, obviously. We did over 200 deliveries while we were shut down.... I've been a bookseller for 20 years and we've never done anything like this. It's fun to change an old tradition.... The great part about (deliveries) is we get a little bit of face time with people. Some people really are still indoors at their homes and that's it."

As recently as this June, Shelf featured Bennett's Books, a used bookstore in Deep River, Conn., that offers a free bicycle repair station for customers and community members to use, featuring a bike rack as well as tools and an air pump. Located outside of the bookstore, it is accessible to all during daylight hours.

Owner Colin Bennett told the Middletown Press that the store's focus is on creating community and helping others: "If there's any money left after paying our bills, what's left goes into the community--helping people by encouraging and fostering bicycle culture here; making sure no kid goes to bed hungry, and kids have access to books."

Tour de Bookbike has turned out to be a long, long race, but a strong and focused peloton is still the key success.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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