Also published on this date: Monday September 18, 2023: Maximum Shelf: Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein

Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 18, 2023

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

Quotation of the Day

Bookstores: 'The Beating Heart of the Towns Lucky to Have Them'

"I wouldn't be a healthy, happy human without books or bookstores. Books are, in my mind, the greatest invention that humans have ever created, and nothing a techbro can come up with would ever be able to match it. They're a way to capture the writer's soul and have it speak intimately to the reader's soul, which is a staggering feat. I've always had a life in books as vivid and deep as the one I live outside of books. And bookstores are essential--they're the beating heart of the towns lucky to have them; they allow writers to write more books, and readers to discover the books that will enrich their lives, that they will carry with them in a kind of gentle chorus for the rest of their days."

--Lauren Groff, whose novel The Vaster Wilds (Riverhead Books) is the #1 September Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

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


N.J.'s Watchung Booksellers: New Kids' Room, New Co-Owner

Big news at Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J.: the store is celebrating the grand opening of its new children's store, the Kids' Room, with a week of activities and events. Owner Margot Sage-EL also announced that her daughter Maddie Ciliotta-Young is now a co-owner and eventually will take on full ownership of both stores.

Speaking of the store's succession plans, Sage-EL said, "You need new blood, new vision to move forward with a business that's been through so many changes throughout the last three decades. With Maddie's drive and deep connections to this community, we've already seen exciting new changes and opportunities for growth."

The Kids' Room, located at 44 Fairfield St., has some 1,300 square feet of space, about the same size of the longstanding store, at 54 Fairfield St. The new location houses all of bookstores' titles for children through tweens. (YA and graphic novels will be in Watchung Booksellers.) Because of its square shape, as opposed to the other store's longer, narrower shape, the Kids' Room will host most events. The former children's space in the back of Watchung Booksellers has been renovated into a reading room, with more nonfiction titles. The Kids' Room also has a backyard garden, which will host author receptions and storytimes, weather permitting. The reading room will host some signings, book clubs, and literary salons.

Margot Sage-EL and Maddie Ciliotta-Young

Ciliotta-Young said, "We are thrilled to expand our children's programming with the opening of the Kids' Room. While we had wonderful adult events at Watchung Booksellers, we were limited with what we could do for kids in the confines of that shared space. Now, we are already scheduling children's book authors, multiple storytimes, and exciting new book clubs for middle-grade and YA readers. As a former educator, I'm also very excited to expand our offerings to area schools by way of school orders, book fairs, and author visits."

Watchung Booksellers was founded in 1991 by Kathy Linsk. In 1992, Sage-EL created a mail-order catalog, Great Owl Books: Celebrating Our Many Voices, promoting multi-cultural children's books, and in 1996, she and Trina Rogers bought the bookstore. Great Owl Books was incorporated into Watchung Booksellers and continued for several years. (The logo of the Kids' Room includes a large and small owl, reflecting Great Owl Books.) Sage-EL became sole owner in 2000. Watchung Booksellers moved to its current, main home in August 2001.

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Conn.'s Title IX: A Bookstore Closing

Title IX: A Bookstore, which was founded in New London, Conn., in 2020, is closing, effective October 1.

In an announcement to customers, owner Annie Philbrick, who also owns Bank Square Books in Mystic, said in part that "reallocating our resources and efforts into ensuring the long-term sustainability of our flagship location, Bank Square Books, and our various community efforts needs to be our priority at this time. Our commitment to New London remains unchanged--we are dedicated to continuing our mission of supporting the community by partnering with schools and other New London-based organizations. It is our intention to honor the legacy of Title IX: A Bookstore through the continuation of the Bookstore Community Fund out of Bank Square Books and beyond."

Philbrick also thanked the community for its support and said the store was "proud of what our team was able to accomplish during that time." That included launching, in 2022, the Bookstore Community Fund, a "pay it forward" style program to make new books more accessible for all. The store opened in November 2020 as a part of a citywide pop-up shop initiative, with the goal to serve the diverse community of New London with a collection of books that focus on investigating, informing, and inspiring social justice.

This past July, Philbrick closed Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerly, R.I., which had opened in 2016. That store, she said, had "run a deficit year after year due to thin margins, fierce online competition, and increasing costs on nearly all fronts," which had become "insurmountable hurdles" for Savoy.

East West Books & Gifts Reopening in Edmonds, Wash., Next Month

After more than 30 years in Seattle, East West Books & Gifts will reopen in its new location, in Edmonds, Wash., next month, the Edmonds Beacon reported.

Originally located in Seattle's Roosevelt neighborhood, the bookstore later moved to Lynnwood and then to Bothell. On September 30, operations will cease in Bothell as the team, led by manager Rika Rafael, begins the move.

They will reopen at 110 Third Ave. N., with a celebration on Wednesday, October 25. The store, which specializes in mind, body, and spirit, will continue to host occasional larger events at Ananda's Yoga Hall in Bothell.

B&N Debuts the Nook GlowLight 4 Plus

Barnes & Noble has introduced the Nook GlowLight 4 Plus e-reader, which offers 32 GB of storage, more than three times the space of the prior GlowLight Plus model. Other features include a high-resolution e-ink display, waterproof design, and a 7.8" screen. The Nook GlowLight 4 Plus retails for $199.99.

Obituary Note: Gita Mehta

Gita Mehta

Gita Mehta, the Indian and American writer, journalist, and filmmaker, died September 16. She was 80.

Mehta's first book was Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East, a work of nonfiction about Westerners who came to India looking for instant enlightenment, that was published in 1979. Her first novel, Raj, about a princess in the early 1900s, as royal India was ending, was published in 1989, followed by A River Sutra, a collection of stories about people touched by the river Narmada, in 1993; Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of India, about the country on its 50th anniversary of independence, in 1997; and Eternal Ganesha, a popular study of the Hindu deity Ganesha, in 2006.

In the New York Times, Edward Hower called A River Sutra "enchanting," adding that it "takes place in a fabled land of the romantic imagination, drawing on timeless literary traditions. Told with skill and sensitivity, Gita Mehta's tales are a delight to read, bringing to Western readers the mystery and drama of a rich cultural heritage."

Mehta produced and directed TV documentaries for various European and U.S. networks and from 1970 to 1971 was a war correspondent for NBC. Dateline Bangladesh was her film compilation of the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971.

Mehta was married to Sonny Mehta, longtime president and editor-in-chief of Knopf, who died in 2019.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: "I am saddened by the passing of noted writer Gita Mehta. She was a multifaceted personality, known for her intellect and passion towards writing as well as filmmaking."


Donna Paz Kaufman, Mark Kaufman on Story & Song

On "Legacy of Leaders," Jack Sears interviews Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman, focusing on their bookstore, Story & Song Center for Arts & Culture, Fernandina Beach, Fla., which includes the bookstore, a bistro, an art gallery, musical and theatrical performances, and more. Donna Paz Kaufman recalled that the two met "because of an author," when she was managing Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, Tenn. Then, "for the last 32 years, we've helped other people open and successfully, profitably, run their independent bookstores," she continued, via the Bookstore Training Group at Paz & Associates. They opened the store in 2018, in part "to walk the talk," as Mark Kaufman put it. See the full interview here.

16-Year-Old Founds Banned Books Book Club in Fla.

A new book club that held its first meeting at Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., focuses on reading banned books--which isn't that surprising considering the variety of ways the state is banning or limiting access to books. But a nice, heartening surprise is that the book club was organized by a 16-year-old named Iris Mogul, WLRN reported.

A high school junior, Mogul said, "I just want to start with reading books and discussing why they're banned and what we think of that. Which for me, I know I don't like censorship." Among the authors whose work she wants to discuss are James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.

At its initial meeting the group decided the first book it will discuss is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance--and a Florida resident for most of her life.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Oprah Winfrey on CBS Mornings

CBS Mornings: Max Greenfield, author of I Don't Want to Read This Book Aloud (Putnam, $18.99, 9780593616581).

Also on CBS Mornings: Sheila Johnson, author of Walk Through Fire: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Triumph (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 9781668007136).

Good Morning America: Leslie Jones, author of Leslie F*cking Jones (Grand Central, $30, 9781538706497). She will also appear on the Today Show.

Also on GMA: Gina Homolka, co-author of Skinnytaste Simple: Easy, Healthy Recipes with 7 Ingredients or Fewer (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593235614).

Tamron Hall: Matthew A. Cherry, author of Hair Love ABCs (Kokila, $8.99, 9780593695647).

CBS Mornings: Oprah Winfrey, co-author of Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier (Portfolio, $30, 9780593545409).

Good Morning America: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, authors of The Home Edit: Stay Organized: The Ultimate Guide to Making Systems Stick (Clarkson Potter, $29.99, 9780593581698).

Also on GMA: Matt Gutman, author of No Time to Panic: How I Curbed My Anxiety and Conquered a Lifetime of Panic Attacks (Doubleday, $28, 9780385549059). He will also appear on the View.

Tamron Hall: Granger Smith, author of Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward after Loss and Heartache (Thomas Nelson, $29.99, 9781400334360).

On Stage: Water for Elephants, the Musical

Water for Elephants, the new musical adapted from Sara Gruen's 2006 novel, has set a spring 2024 Broadway opening. Deadline reported that the production, directed by Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo), will begin previews on February 24 at the Imperial Theatre. Opening night is scheduled for March 21.

With a book by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher) and a score by the band and performance troupe PigPen Theatre Co., Water for Elephants made its world premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre last summer. The Broadway staging will be produced by Peter Schneider, Jennifer Costello, Grove Entertainment, Frank Marshall, Isaac Robert Hurwitz, and Seth A. Goldstein.

"What excites me most about Water for Elephants is working with our enormous design and creative team, an incredible group of artists from different avenues of storytelling," said Stone. "From Broadway veterans to puppeteers to circus artists--we have an eclectic collection of internationally acclaimed and innovative creators.... What's amazing about the culture of the circus is that you're dependent upon one another to do a trick safely, so as a team we really all must lean on one another. If we do our jobs well and connect with our audience, we will, quite literally, get the story off the page and into the air."

Books & Authors

National Book Awards Fiction Longlist

The National Book Foundation has released the longlist for the 2023 National Book Awards in the fiction category, the last of the awards' five categories to be announced. (The others are Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People's Literature.) Finalists will be revealed October 3, and winners named November 15 at the National Book Awards Ceremony. The fiction longlist:

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Pantheon Books)
Temple Folk by Aaliyah Bilal (Simon & Schuster)
Ponyboy by Eliot Duncan (W.W. Norton)
This Other Eden by Paul Harding (W.W. Norton)
Loot by Tania James (Knopf)
Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips (Knopf)
A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power (Mariner Books)
The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen (Holt)
Blackouts by Justin Torres (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Holler, Child by LaToya Watkins (Tiny Reparations Books)

Awards: McIlvanney, Scottish Crime Debut Winners

At the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival, Squeaky Clean by Callum McSorley won the McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year, and The Maiden by Kate Foster won the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year.

Organizers said Sqeaky Clean "features DI Ally McCoist the least popular detective in the Glasgow police who has been demoted. It's a contemporary thriller packed with black humour and hints of Breaking Bad. Like Tim in the book, Callum McSorley worked at a carwash to make money while he was a student which has informed some of the colourful characters."

The Maiden is "set in the 17th Century and is a reimagining of true historical events in which Lady Christian Nimmo is charged with the murder of her lover--and uncle--Forrester."

Book Review

Review: In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning

In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning by Grace Elizabeth Hale (Little, Brown, $29 hardcover, 256p., 9780316564748, November 7, 2023)

In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning is a story with personal significance for Grace Elizabeth Hale (Making Whiteness), who tackles some of the greatest race-relations demons--historical and continuing--in the United States. In this thoroughly researched account, Hale investigates the 1947 murder of a man named Versie Johnson in rural Jefferson Davis County, Miss. The author's beloved grandfather served as sheriff at the time, and her mother originally offered this tale as one of righteous heroism: her white grandfather stood up to a mob and refused to release his Black prisoner, who was somehow nevertheless removed to the woods where he died. But Hale learns that her grandfather's involvement was neither innocent nor heroic.

In her thoughtful narrative, Hale places the death of Versie Johnson in layers of context. She works to find personal information about Johnson, with limited results: one theme of her book is the lack of recorded facts about people judged inconsequential by the record-keepers. She struggles to reconcile very different accounts of Johnson's alleged crime (rape of a white woman). She studies the history of lynching in the United States, by its various definitions; the history of Jeff Davis County (what many locals call it) and Mississippi; and a handful of similar cases in nearby counties before 1947. By the end, she reconstructs a passable version of events: possibilities about the life of Versie Johnson and an estimation of her grandfather's decision-making on the night he was among the group that drove his prisoner from the town's jail out to the field where a crowd of white locals witnessed Johnson's murder.

A historian of American culture, Hale began to do research for this book as she finished a doctoral dissertation on southern segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and white supremacy. She brings this expertise to a subject about which much information has been lost, and writes that "family trees, genealogies filled with relatives' names and the dates when they were born and died, depend on archives. And official repositories of documents in turn depend on a society's ideas about who matters." Research skills and informed guesses (always clearly indicated) do, however, yield a story. "The past does not have to be ancient to be made of splinters and silence," Hale writes, and what she reveals is important for a national reckoning as well as Hale's personal one.

In the Pines is elevated by lovely writing: "Family trees are metaphors. They share with pines both a basic structure and a tendency to flourish only when conditions are right." It is also marked by incisive thinking about race in history and in the present. Hale's work is a significant contribution to that larger conversation. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A historian with personal connections to its players expertly researches a specific lynching case in this razor-sharp report.

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