Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine


Judge Issues Written Preliminary Injunction Against Texas's 'Sexual Rating' Law

Finding that Texas's "sexual rating" law "violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment," federal district court judge Alan D. Albright yesterday issued a written order granting a preliminary injunction against implementation of the law. He also denied a motion from the defendants to dismiss the case. The judge had issued an oral preliminary injunction August 31. The law was scheduled to go into effect September 1.

The plaintiffs in the case--BookPeople, Austin, Tex., Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund--issued a joint statement: "We thank the court for its clear and decisive ruling and applaud its finding that this law violates the First Amendment, imposes impossibly onerous conditions on booksellers, and ignores the vastly different community standards across local communities. Today is a great day for Texas booksellers, publishers, readers, and communities."

Under the law, all companies selling to school libraries, librarians, and teachers in Texas would have to assign ratings to books concerning their sexual content. (Titles for required curricula are exempted.) A book deemed "sexually explicit" would be banned, and a book deemed "sexually relevant" would have restricted access. The "sexually relevant" rating would cover, plaintiffs said, all non-explicit references, in any context, to sexual relations, and therefore "could apply broadly to health-related works, religious texts, historical works, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many other works," including many classic works of literature.

The "sexually explicit" rating would apply to material describing or portraying "sexual conduct" that is determined to be "patently offensive," which Texas state law defines as an affront to "current community standards of decency."

The law also has a retroactive feature: by next April, all booksellers and other book vendors would have to submit to the Texas Education Agency a list of every book they've ever sold to a teacher, librarian, or school that qualifies for a sexual rating and is in active use. The stores also would be required to issue recalls for any sexually explicit books. If the Agency found that a bookstore has been incorrectly rating books, it could be banned from doing business with charter schools or school districts. The Agency could also override booksellers' ratings.

Judge Alan D. Albright

In his order, Judge Albright wrote that "the issue before this Court is whether the State of Texas is allowed to delegate the categorization to third parties like these plaintiffs. This Court holds that it may not, at least in the manner employed here.

"For whatever reason, Texas chose not to have anyone employed by the state at any level make the initial evaluation of the sexual content. It chose instead to impose this extraordinarily difficult and prohibitively expensive burden solely on third parties with totally insufficient guidance. And worse still, no matter how much time and expense the third parties invest in complying, the State (through the Texas Education Agency) retained the power to unilaterally alter any decision made by the third party.

"The TEA has the total, unilateral power to alter any rating with which they disagree. The posting of the assessment made by TEA--not the third party--would then appear on TEA's website as if the third party had made the assessment. Finally, the state denied the third parties the ability to appeal if they disagree with the State's ratings of any book. Therefore, this Court holds that the State of Texas impermissibly seeks to compel an individual or a corporation to create speech that it does not wish to make, and in addition, in which it does not agree with. The question faced by this Court is whether this law violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. For this and other reasons, the Court finds that this law violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment."

The judge also wrote that the Texas law "fails to inform the public or any plaintiff whose community standard it is referencing. It is an open question whether this community standard is based on Austin, Texas, or Onalaska, Texas--or any of the more than 1,200 incorporated municipalities across Texas. The lack of any blueprint for the plaintiffs to follow creates a blunt reality that under this scheme it is guaranteed that different book distributors and sellers will arrive at different assessments with respect to hundreds if not thousands of books. While the TEA has the authority to resolve conflicts over what the correct assessment is--for potentially hundreds of books--there is no requirement in the statute that they do so, and it is unclear from the provisions of the statute what the plaintiffs (or school districts in Texas) would do in the interim. Thus, school districts across the state of Texas would be able to purchase a book of the exact same content from one provider but not another. Or, if they bought a book from one provider, they might be allowed to make it available to students without parental approval, but if they bought it from a different vendor, parental consent would be required."

The law's "requirements for vendors are so numerous and onerous as to call into question whether the legislature believed any third party could possibly comply," the judge added.

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black

Heather Reisman Returns as Indigo CEO; Markus Dohle New Board Chair

Heather Reisman

Heather Reisman, founder of Canadian retailer Indigo Books & Music, who gave up the position of CEO last year, is returning as CEO following the sudden resignation earlier this month of Peter Ruis. Other major executive changes announced by Indigo include the appointment of Craig Loudon, Indigo's CFO, as COO, though he continues as CFO. Indigo has also appointed former Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle chair of the board of directors; he had joined the board as a director in June. Eileen Naughton has been added to board, along with Reisman.

"There is a clear path for Indigo to regain its momentum," said Reisman. "I love this company and its mission. Even more, I care deeply about our people, who have given so much to build this incredible company over more than two and a half decades. I know that together we will return Indigo to growth and profitability. I'm thrilled for both Indigo and for Craig Loudon about his promotion to COO. Craig has not only the institutional knowledge and experience to support me and our entire team in his new role, he has also been a trusted partner for our employees, our suppliers and our shareholders for a long time."

Dohle commented: "We are incredibly grateful that Heather has agreed to return to the helm of Indigo and as a member of the board, and that Craig has agreed to take on the key role of COO. More than ever, Heather's unique experience is needed as we work to bring Indigo back to profitable growth. We know Heather's deep understanding of the Indigo brand as the country's leading voice on books and reading, and her commitment to the business, combined with a very special and dedicated organization, will put the company on the right trajectory."

Reisman added: "Markus brings unique knowledge of our industry and real passion for our business. We are very fortunate to have him as our chair and I know I will personally benefit from his guidance and engagement, as will our entire organization."

CBC News reported that the changes are "the latest twist in a tumultuous year for the company," which began with last fall's executive changes in which long-time company president Peter Ruis was promoted to CEO, and Reisman became executive chair. In the spring, the company was hit by a cyberattack, in the aftermath of which Reisman announced her retirement from the company. Several board members also resigned at the time. Ruis's resignation from the CEO position he had held for less than a year was the most recent challenge.

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

It's Official: Nihar Malaviya CEO of Penguin Random House

Nihar Malaviya

Nihar Malaviya, who was made interim CEO of Penguin Random House at the end of last year following the resignation of Markus Dohle, is now the official CEO, parent company Bertelsmann announced.

Bertelsmann chairman & CEO Thomas Rabe stated: "In Nihar Malaviya, the right leader is at the helm of Penguin Random House at the right time. Nihar has proven exactly this over the past nine months, and I am delighted that he is now taking over responsibility for Penguin Random House on a permanent basis. As interim CEO, Nihar has set an important strategic course. Most importantly, he has transformed the structures at Penguin Random House so that the publishers and publishing groups can work more creatively and entrepreneurially. I am confident that he will continue to develop the Group with great vigor. I look forward to continuing to work with him as CEO of Penguin Random House and on [Bertelsmann's] Group Management Committee."

Malaviya served as president and chief operating officer of Penguin Random House U.S. from 2019 to late last year, and since 2014 had responsibility for all publishing operations in the U.S., from supply chain to technology & data and client services. He began his career at Bertelsmann in 2001 as a participant in the Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program, and in 2003, he moved to Random House. Malaviya is a two-time recipient of the Bertelsmann Entrepreneur Award for Strategy Execution and holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the New York University Stern School of Business as well as a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He is also a member of the boards of the Association of American Publishers and of Yale University Press.

Merchandise, Book Sales Support Binc

An number of publishers and sidelines suppliers are partnering with the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to produce items that benefit Binc's mission of helping booksellers and comic book retailers in need.

With Sourcebooks, Binc has published My Medical Journal, a book that aims to help readers navigate the medical field and log their personal treatment plans. It features research from medical teams, social workers, therapists, and lawyers in the medical field and offers advice on everything from keeping accurate records to asking doctors and healthcare providers the right questions. Proceeds from the book go to Binc.

Rays for Compassion's Book Lover's Bracelet features various charms including a mini library card, a tiny Pride and Prejudice, and a charm with the words "I Love Books." The bracelet comes attached to a card that can also serve as a bookmark. A portion of the bracelet's sales are donated to Binc.

Dissent Pins has created an I'm with the Banned sticker. Measuring 3" wide by 3.5" tall, it features a stack of books in front of a flame. 50% of the profits from the sticker will go to Binc.

From now until Independent Bookstore Day 2024 (April 27), Fly Paper Products will donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of its new Indie Bookstore Candle to Binc. The scent is cocoa butter, honey, and cashmere, and the name was chosen by indie bookseller Caitlin Moore of Pear Street Books and Plants, Oklahoma City, Okla., as part of a naming contest run by Fly Paper Products to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Beacon Book Light is donating a portion of wholesale proceeds from its Indie Beacon Book Light to Binc. Independent bookstore owners Mike Buglio (the Book Rack, Arlington, Mass.) and Debbie Sullivan (the Book Oasis, Stoneham, Mass.) created the book light last year. It is available only to independent bookstores.

Steerforth Press, meanwhile, is making a donation to Binc whenever a bookseller joins its e-mail list or requests an ARC for the first time.

Bookstores, regional bookseller associations, and even thriller author Michael Connelly have done T-shirt sales through Bonfire that have benefited Binc. Anyone can set up a T-shirt sale, and Bonfire can help with designs. Binc is a registered charity, and funds raised through these T-shirt sales go directly to Binc.

Voice of the Heartland Award Going to Janet Jones of Detroit's Source Booksellers

Janet Jones, Source Booksellers

The Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association boards are giving the 2023 Voice of the Heartland Award to Janet Jones, owner of Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich. The award recognizes individuals and organizations who "uphold the value of independent bookselling and have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Midwest."

The associations called Jones "a trailblazer in both education and bookselling" with a "lifelong commitment to fostering a love of learning and promoting literacy."

They continued: "Janet's journey is closely intertwined with Detroit's history, mirroring the city's triumphs and struggles. She witnessed the rise of the automobile industry and the subsequent Great Migration, which transformed Detroit. Her story echoes the city's vibrant cultural history, from the Motown era to the challenges posed by suburbanization.

"Janet opened her first brick and mortar store, Source Booksellers, inside the Spiral Collective--a shared space with three other women-owned, African American businesses on Cass Avenue and Willis Street in Detroit's Midtown area in 2002.

"In 2013, as Detroit faced bankruptcy, Janet seized an opportunity to open Source Booksellers in the Midtown district, contributing to the neighborhood's revitalization. Her bookstore has always focused on history, culture, health, metaphysics, spirituality, and literature by and about women. Janet's commitment extended beyond selling books; she actively promoted titles on vital topics, such as water resources and racial history, making Source an essential hub for social discourse.

"Janet's life's work epitomizes dedication to service, education, and community building. Her story is a testament to the legacy of women who have played pivotal roles in creating and sustaining Black-owned bookstores throughout American history. Through Source Booksellers, Janet continues to envelop her community in knowledge, care, and love, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape."

Jones will be presented with the award during Heartland Fall Forum in Detroit at the Heartland Booksellers Award Ceremony, on Wednesday, October 18.


Image of the Day: Scuppernong Books Welcomes Halle Hill

Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C., hosted Halle Hill for the launch of her story collection Good Women (Hub City Press), which delves into the lives of 12 Black women across the Appalachian South. The store reported that "Halle was so excited to celebrate the launch in her hometown bookstore with family and friends."

Happy 50th Birthday, Boulder Book Store!

Congratulations to Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., which marked its 50th anniversary on Sunday with a storewide celebration. The festivities included birthday cake to feed more than 400 bookstore guests, a string trio, a scavenger hunt, book giveaways, on-demand typewriter poetry, a photo slideshow, and more. In addition, 36 authors were invited to join the festivities, sign books, and chat with customers. 

Opened in 1973 by David Bolduc, Boulder Book Store began as a small shop with only 10 bookcases and five employees. Now, the business employs more than 50 booksellers, occupies 20,000 square feet over three floors, offers more than 100,000 titles, and has secured its place as an integral part of the community and a haven for book lovers. Named PW Bookstore of the Year in 2018, Boulder Book Store has also been been selected as Best of Boulder by local papers every year since 1987.

Pictured: (l.-r.) authors Melanie Crowder, Leslie Vedder, Natalie Mae, Alison Ames, Jessie Weaver, and Mariko Turk. (photo: Julia Atwood)

SLC's Queer Bookstore Partnership Hosts Andrew Joseph White

Back: (l.-r.) Tara Lipsyncki; Calvin Crosby; (front) Kaitlyn Mahoney (Under the Umbrella); Andrew Joseph White; Orion Enceladus and Raelle Westwind (the Legendarium)

Three queer-owned bookstores in Salt Lake City, Utah, teamed up to host trans author Andrew Joseph White and celebrate his new YA novel The Spirit Bares Its Teeth (Peachtree Teen).

The event, a collaboration between the King's English Bookshop, Under the Umbrella, and the Legendarium, took place Saturday evening at the Legendarium and drew some 70 attendees. Calvin Crosby, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, noted they were "almost all members of the trans youth community here in SLC."

Tara Lipsyncki, hostess of the King's English Bookshop's drag storytime, was also in attendance, and the event benefited Brain Food Books, a nonprofit run by Crosby that distributes books to kids and teens.

Saturday's event was the third time the three bookstores have partnered. The first such event saw Jason June visit the King's English, and they teamed up again to co-host a Drag Queen Storytime at Under the Umbrella. The stores hope to continue co-hosting events on a quarterly basis, with all co-sponsored events benefiting Brain Food Books.

"Like our queer community here in Utah, independent bookstores are stronger together," Crosby said in his introduction Saturday night.

Personnel Changes at DK; Crown

Rebecca Smart, co-CEO of DK, will become a dedicated internal leadership and talent coach at Penguin Random House, effective January 1. Smart began at DK as managing director, publishing, in 2019 before becoming co-CEO last year.

Paul Kelly, who has been co-CEO of DK with Smart, will become CEO. Kelly has been with DK for seven years, starting as CFO and strategy director.


At the Crown Publishing Group:

Gwyneth Stansfield has taken the new role of executive publicist, media engagement.

Stacey Stein is promoted to publicity manager.

Bree Martinez has joined Crown as senior publicist.

Mary Moates has joined Crown as associate director of publicity.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Aparna Nancherla on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Aparna Nancherla, author of Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself, and Impostor Syndrome (Viking, $28, 9781984879806).

CBS Mornings: José Andrés, author of The World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593579077). He will also appear on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Drew Barrymore Show: Arthur C. Brooks, co-author of Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier (Portfolio, $30, 9780593545409).

Movies: The Twits

Netflix revealed a first look at Oscar-nominated filmmaker Phil Johnston's (Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph) adaptation of The Twits, Roald Dahl's 1980 children's novel. Deadline reported that the animated feature, which is set to hit Netflix in 2025, was co-written by Johnston and Meg Favreau. It is the first screen adaptation based on this particular Dahl title, which has been translated into 41 languages and sold 16 million copies worldwide. Animation is by Jellyfish Pictures (The Boss Baby, The Bad Guys).

"I've always been attracted to reprehensible characters. I don't know what this says about me and I don't want to look into it. The point is, The Twits was my favorite book when I was a kid. I love the Twits and their terrible tricks," Johnston said. "I love that they lack self-awareness, personal hygiene, and any inkling of human decency. And I love this movie because it reminds us that twits like the Twits, whose default emotions are anger and vengeance, can't be allowed to win in our world."

Co-directors on the project are Katie Shanahan and Todd Demong. Producers are Johnston and Maggie Malone, with Daisy West co-producing. Netflix said this will be the first animated release in an upcoming line-up of Dahl adaptations, including Wes Anderson's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and an animated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company in September 2021.

Books & Authors

Awards: Crook's Corner Finalists

The finalists have been selected for the $5,000 Crook's Corner Book Prize, honoring the best debut novel set in the American South. The winner will be announced in January. The finalists:

The Old Place by Bobby Finger (Putnam)
Hestia Strikes a Match by Christine Grillo (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Indigo Field by Marjorie Hudson (Regal House Publishing)

Book Review

Review: The Vulnerables

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead, $28 hardcover, 256p., 9780593715512, November 7, 2023)

The Vulnerables is not Sigrid Nunez's first pandemic fiction; she published the prescient Salvation City in 2010, spotlighting a global flu outbreak. This time, Nunez turns her lens inward, focusing on a writer past her mid-60s (not unlike Nunez), contemplating existence with still-close college friends who have briefly reunited just in time for the funeral of one of their own. In hindsight, the gathering would be "the last time any of us would be traveling anywhere--for more than a year," as the lockdown begins.

Upon returning to Manhattan, the unnamed writer/narrator is asked to be companion and caretaker to Eureka, a highly intelligent and sociable macaw, when the owners become stranded in California as Covid-19 quickly spreads. The request speaks to the writer's childhood aspiration to work with animals and she easily connects with Eureka: "Like many who lack patience dealing with other humans, when it comes to animals I have all the time in the world." She settles into a comfortable routine: "Just one of the countless bizarreries of lockdown life: an entire luxury boutique building and a full staff, all for one little old bird and me."

All goes well until Eureka's originally assigned birdsitter--a troubled young man fleeing his unaccepting parents--returns unexpectedly. With the writer's own apartment now occupied by a frontline pulmonologist--a friend's sister who left Oregon to volunteer with coronavirus patients in Manhattan--the writer struggles to readjust to the latest changes, particularly in overcoming her disdain for this often thoughtless new roommate. Indeed, during this mandated isolation, quotidian existence parallels the life of an exotic bird relegated to--no matter how nice--a cage.

The pandemic proves to be quite the equalizer, as Nunez (The Friend) adroitly turns each of the characters--regardless of age, gender, privileged backgrounds or not--into the titular vulnerables, confronting exposure to illness, isolation, rejection, homelessness, and death. Deftly integrated into a familiar narrative of discordant strangers bonding, The Vulnerables is a penetrating interrogation of the nature of reading, writing, creating fiction--especially in a time of widespread peril: "images of harrowed health care workers made it hard to see inventing stories about made-up people as a heroic profession." Even as Nunez regales, frustrates, entertains, impacts her audience, she also reminds them slyly: "how could any of this have really happened? I must be making it up." Grateful readers can only hope that Nunez will continue her essential work of "making it up" for volumes to come. --Terry Hong, BookDragon

Shelf Talker: National Book Award-winning Sigrid Nunez presents a spare, remarkable novel featuring an unnamed narrator contemplating the nature of writing fiction amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score
2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
3. One Friday in Napa by Jennifer Hamm
4. The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan
5. King of Pride by Ana Huang
6. Twisted Games by Ana Huang
7. Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
8. A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole
9. The Coworker by Freida McFadden
10. Mine to Promise by Natasha Madison

[Many thanks to!]

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