Shelf Awareness for Monday, November 20, 2023

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

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

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

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


CALIBA Seeks New Executive Director

The California Independent Booksellers Alliance is seeking a new executive director. The move comes after co-executive director Kristin Rasmussen announced that she is leaving the organization in mid-December to become a district sales manager for Scholastic. Co-executive director Ann Seaton had already planned to leave the association at the end of the year, although she will now continue in an advisory capacity while CALIBA searches for a new executive director.

Kristin Rasmussen

Rasmussen, who will continue her work with CALIBA's Golden Poppy Book Awards through January, said. "It has been my great pleasure to work with the CALIBA board, Ann Seaton, our CALIBA office, and the Golden Poppy committees over the past two-plus years. I feel strongly that we've made important progress in strengthening the organization through various programs and outreach. There is so much to be optimistic about moving forward in 2024. Anyone who joined us in South San Francisco this past September for our fall trade show can attest to that. The energy and enthusiasm of our booksellers and publishing partners is inspiring and will continue to inspire me in all I do moving forward." Before joining CALIBA, she managed {pages} a bookstore in Manhattan Beach.

Ann Seaton

Seaton worked as a bookseller, buyer, and manager for more than 30 years in various independent bookstores, including Hicklebee's in San Jose, before joining the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association in 2015 in administration, then becoming operations manager a few years later. She was hired as co-executive director in August 2021. She plans to expand her work with her local Friends of the Library in getting books into the hands of families in rural California, create connections between other Friends associations in the region, and tackle a couple of side projects that have been too long on the back burner.

Valentina Moberg, who was recently named CALIBA's operations manager, joined the office in early 2020 and has worked on several important initiatives, and has served as the liaison with publishers and authors for all of CALIBA's live and virtual programming. Emma Marie will continue to work on CALIBA's marketing and promotions programs.

Melinda Powers, CALIBA president and head buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, said, "While this is a moment of big change for CALIBA, it is also one of opportunity. The efforts that Ann and Kristin have made to bring together and solidify our statewide bookselling community provide an excellent platform from which to continue to shape and grow the organization. We wish them both well in their future endeavors and thank them for their hard work and dedication, words truly personified in Ann and Kristin. We will miss their care and enthusiasm, even as we look forward to the promise that lies ahead for the Alliance.

CALIBA is looking for candidates who value diversity, equity, and inclusion in the book community and who are excited to lead bookstores into a strong, innovative, and united California future. For a full job description, click here.

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

Dále Zine, Miami, Fla., Launching Mini-Truck Bookmobile

Art bookstore Dále Zine in Miami, Fla., is launching a mobile bookstore built out of a Japanese kei truck, or mini-truck, the Miami New Times reported.

The bookmobile, which was announced on Instagram earlier this month, will officially make its debut in December during NADA Miami, part of Miami Art Week. Beyond that, Dále Zine plans to partner with museums, local businesses, and other organizations throughout Miami-Dade.

The vehicle, a 1996 Honda Acty, is much smaller, and has a lower-horsepower engine, than the pick-up trucks typically found in the U.S. Kei trucks are designed for navigating narrow roads and urban environments, and in many U.S. states are not allowed on interstates and highways.

Dále Zine co-owner Steve Saiz explained that he has long been "obsessed" with kei trucks, and he always loved the idea of using one to bring art books to Miami neighborhoods like Little Havana or West Kendall.

"It aligns with Dále Zine bringing art everywhere, making art as accessible as possible," Saiz told the New Times. "And something I thought was funny was that it's part of our brand--we're always on the move."

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Among Friends: Key People Look Back at Publishing and Bookselling

It's a big subject that warrants a big book: Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing & Bookselling in the 20th Century is an in-depth illustrated history of book publishing and bookselling in the U.S. from World War II through 2000. Besides offering more than 500 striking and sometimes amusing photographs, the book features essays and remembrances from more than 100 influential people in the business, a kind of pantheon of the era.

Among Friends was edited by Buz Teacher, founder of Running Press Book Publishers, and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher, and published by Two Trees Press, distributed by Ingram Content Group.

The 576-page book weighs about nine pounds, and is a kind of object of art: it's packaged in a decorative, die-cut clamshell box. Only 1,600 copies have been printed, and they're numbered by hand. The retail price: $200.

Among the many bookseller contributors are Richard Howorth and Lisa Howorth, Linda Bubon, Ann Christophersen, Tom Borders, Michael Tucker, Matthew Miller, Barbara Morrow, Becky Anderson, Matty Goldberg, Philip Turner, William Rickman, John Evans, Frank Kramer, Carole Horne, Robert Haft, Danny Gurr, Clyde Anderson, and Terry Finley.

Among the publishers, distributors, wholesalers, and others with fascinating histories and takes on the business are Mike Shatzkin, John Sargent, Chip Gibson, Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Peter Osnos, Bob Miller, and many more.

Their stories and recollections add a personal touch to the major shifts of the time, which in bookselling included the huge growth of chain mall stores Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Bookseller, then the growth of chain superstores, primarily Borders and Barnes & Noble, the founding of Amazon--and throughout the period, the challenges faced by independent bookstores whose future was repeatedly questioned but who in so many cases met the challenges and found ways of surviving, adapting, and even thriving.

Here's a taste of some of the essay-remembrances:

Sally Richardson, longtime head of St. Martin's Press: "One thing that hasn't changed is that independent bookstores still have a lot of influence, and their outlook is so different from that of the chains. In the end, it's still pretty simple. Authors bring us ideas, and we make books. The books are preeminent. And then it's all about getting the books to the people who want to read them."

Steve Bercu, former head of BookPeople, Austin, Tex.: "BookPeople has adapted and thrived. Competition from the Internet and eight new chain bookstores compelled us to rethink our inventory and work at setting ourselves apart from the cookie cutter chain stores.... The store established the Austin Independent Business Alliance, commissioned the economic impact analysis that quantified the value of independent business, and practically invented our fanciful 'Keep Austin Weird' movement."

Chuck Robinson, co-founder and longtime co-owner of Village Books, Bellingham and Lynden, Wash.: "Our store has managed to survive and grow because we have always been open to change. In fact, one of the belief statements at the beginning of our store manual is 'Change is necessary, desirable and can be enjoyable.' "

Roxanne J. Coady, founder and owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn.: "Bookstores are uniquely situated to provide moments and days of utter satisfaction. Listening to customers, placing the book in their hand that fills the need of the moment, that cheers them up, that gives them courage or comfort, watching authors connect with readers in moments of intimacy and understanding, and creating a place for our community to gather."

Betsy Burton, co-founder and former co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah: "Perhaps the most important [lesson we learned] was our discovery that there is an art to the occupation we'd chosen, and it involved far more than rhapsodizing about one's latest literary coup de foudre. Handselling required listening rather than talking, discerning the tastes of customers based on what books they loved. There was ample opportunity for us to enthuse over titles we loved, but those recommendations were only for people whose tastes were similar to our own, or broad enough to encompass all manner of books--something that can be said of many readers, long may they live and breathe (and read)."

Hut Landon, former co-owner of Landon Books and former head of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association: "By the mid-'90s, NCIBA had taken steps to distinguish independents from other sellers, but we needed to show why that differentiation mattered, both to publishers and to consumers. In 1997, the association raised $125,000 to create a marketing plan to promote the best of independent bookselling. We worked with a local advertising firm to produce a campaign and in 1998 launched Book Sense, a regional identity for independents. Book Sense featured five elements that embodied independent booksellers--knowledge, passion, personality, character and commitment to the community."

Gayle Shanks, co-founder and co-owner of Changing Hands, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz.: "Changing Hands stayed alive thanks to determination and creativity. We expanded our gift selection, increased our remainder inventory, added more events to our calendar, and continuously schooled the staff in customer service. They were told that what we had that Amazon didn't was passionate booksellers who read and recommended books, could carry bags out to people's cars and who would go the extra mile to deliver an extraordinary experience."

Oren Teicher, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association: "The 1990s also saw multiple skirmishes over First Amendment and free expression issues. With strong allies in the publishing and library communities, booksellers became fierce opponents of any effort to suppress constitutionally protected speech. Most notably, the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie by Iran in 1989, which led to the bombings of bookstores in the U.S. and around the world, galvanized bookseller support for free expression."

Among Friends is the kind of book anyone with an interest in the recent history of the book world can get lost in for hours--and find all kinds of gems that illuminate where the book business is today and show how much and how little has changed.

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Obituary Note: A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt

British author, critic, and Booker winner A.S. Byatt (Dame Antonia Susan Duffy), "one of the most significant writers and critics of our time," died November 16. She was 87.

Born Antonia Drabble, Byatt studied English at Cambridge, Bryn Mawr College, and Oxford. She began teaching at University College London in 1962. The Guardian noted that her first novel, The Shadow of the Sun, was published in 1964, just a year after A Summer Bird-Cage, the first novel by her sister, Margaret Drabble, "thus establishing the notorious and possibly exaggerated rivalry between them."

Byatt's reputation grew as she embarked on the Frederica Quartet, charting the changing nature of the female experience in the 20th century with the novels The Virgin in the Garden (1978), Still Life (1985), Babel Tower (1996), and A Whistling Woman (2002). "When she broke off in the middle of this project to write Possession, Byatt found both critical acclaim and a new audience," the Guardian noted. Possession won the Booker prize in 1990, becoming a bestseller both in the U.K. and U.S. The Children's Book (2009) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

The recipient of many awards, Byatt became a CBE in 1990 and a DBE in 1999. In 2014, a coleopterist working in Central and South America named a species of iridescent beetle in her honor (Euhylaeogena byattae Hespenheide), inspired by her portrayal of naturalists in the novella "Morpho Eugenia" in Angels and Insects (1992). Byatt received the Erasmus Prize in 2016, awarded by the King of the Netherlands.

"She was also remarkable for her generosity to younger writers," the Guardian noted. "At a stage of her career when she might well have been excused for finding her own professional commitments a sufficiently heavy workload, she read new work voraciously. Her floorboards cracked under the load of novels and poems sent to her by writers and publishers who valued her approval far above that of reviewers. She could not possibly have read all of them, but she read an astonishing number."

Writing in the Guardian, Lisa Allardice observed: "She loved Europe, tennis, science, art and languages. 'I think the virtue I prize above all others is curiosity,' she told an interviewer. It is this rapacious curiosity that she brought to her 10 novels, many works of criticism and essays, and in so doing she helped change the British novel into something far more intellectually capacious and outward-looking. Hers was a life defined by literature. 'I'm more interested in books than people, and I always expect everybody else to be, but they're not.' The Dame will be greatly missed."

In a statement, Vintage wrote, in part, that Byatt "has been an integral part of Chatto & Windus's publishing since 1964, starting with her first novel The Shadow of the Sun. Twenty-three other spectacular novels and works of criticism followed.... Her novels showed a profound engagement with history and historical consciousness--and an understanding of the traditions in which she wrote--whether folktale or novel.... The world of publishing was hugely important in Antonia's life and she cultivated friendships all around the world (her work was translated into thirty-eight languages)." 

"Antonia's books are the most wonderful jewel-boxes of stories and ideas," Clara Farmer, her publisher at Chatto & Windus, observed. "Her compulsion to write (A4 blue notebook always to hand) and her ability to create intricate skeins of narrative was remarkable. It was always a treat to see her, to hear updates about her evolving literary characters and indulge in delicious titbits of literary gossip. Like all Chatto's publishers before me, I was devoted to her and her writing. 2024 would have been her sixtieth (Diamond) anniversary as a Chatto author. We mourn her loss but it's a comfort to know that her penetrating works will dazzle, shine and refract in the minds of readers for generations to come."

Jenny Uglow, Byatt's longtime editor, said: "Working with Antonia Byatt was full of surprises.... Like many writers, she could hold the germ of a story in her head for a long time, sometimes for years, but when it emerged she would work on it assiduously in her notebooks and in conversations, reading widely to clarify the background of intellectual movements and artistic ideas, and mapping every scene in detail in her head, from the colors of clothes and the names of minor characters--which were often bizarre--to the complexity of train timetables. Finally, the shape was fully formed in her mind. Then it would flow on to the page, with not a change to be made."

Zoë Waldie, her literary agent, noted that Byatt "used to say that making things out of language was the most exciting thing she knew. She did this magnificently over many decades and held readers spellbound."


Happy 60th Birthday, Odyssey Bookshop!

Joan Grenier receiving the commemorative jacket.

Congratulations to the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass., which wrapped up a "60 Days for 60 Years" celebration on November 11 with an anniversary party for the store's closest supporters. The 60 Days festivities included flash sales, special bookstore merchandise, and special events like a Kids Lit Festival. 

Among the highlights was an offsite event with Rachel Maddow for Prequel (Crown) that drew more than 700 attendees. At the wrap party, Joan Grenier, who took over the bookshop from her father, Romeo Grenier, in 1986, was presented with a commemorative embroidered jacket from the staff of the store before returning to dancing with long-time customers, reps, and friends.

Cool Idea of the Day: Nowhere Bookshop's Bad Review Merch

The team at Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio, Tex., has created a line of sweatshirts, hoodies, and T-shirts featuring two bad reviews of the bookstore. 

The first review, which rated the bookstore one out of five stars, reads: "I don't understand the need for an expletive on every single piece of merchandise. There is a very political feel to most of the products and the book selection. Leave the propaganda at home and let's just read. Especially if I'm going to pay full price, I'll spend my money anywhere but nowhere."

The second, a two-star review, states: "If you're very conservative... You will be offended."

General manager Elizabeth Jordan told News 4 San Antonio that the chosen reviews help underscore the store's mission, particularly its commitment to supporting queer and BIPOC communities and creating "an open, inclusive, and welcoming community space."

The clothing items are currently being sold as part of a limited-time campaign on Bonfire, and nearly 500 have been sold. Should demand continue after the campaign ends on November 24, the store will continue to make the items available. They are also looking at putting the reviews on tote bags and selling them in-store.

Book Trailer of the Day: Small Business, Big Success's Tips for Small Business Saturday

Small Business, Big Success by Cynthia Kay (Career Press), a trailer that offers tips for businesses in advance of Small Business Saturday.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Stephanie Land on Fresh Air

CBS Mornings: Ray Isle, author of The World in a Wineglass: The Insider's Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now (Scribner, $50, 9781982182786).

Also on CBS Mornings: Madhur Jaffrey, author of An Invitation to Indian Cooking: 50th Anniversary Edition (Knopf, $40, 9780593535684).

Fresh Air: Stephanie Land, author of Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education (Atria/One Signal, $28, 9781982151393).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Henry Winkler, author of Being Henry: The Fonz... and Beyond (Celadon, $30, 9781250888099).

Tonight Show: Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, authors of Love Comes First (Little, Brown, $19.99, 9780316525022).

Good Morning America: Mark Seliger, photographer of Vanity Fair: Oscar Night Sessions: A Decade of Portraits from the After-Party (Abrams, $80, 9781419754784).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: José Andrés, co-author of Feeding Dangerously (TKO Studios, $44.99, 9781952203978).

TV: Mary and George

Starz has released a teaser trailer for Mary and George, a seven-part limited series created by playwright D.C. Moore and inspired by Benjamin Woolley's book, The King's Assassin: The Secret Plot to Murder James I, according to IndieWire.

The cast includes Julianne Moore, Nicholas Galitzine, Tony Curran, Nicola Walker, Niamh Algar, Trine Dyrholm, Sean Gilder, Adrian Rawlins, Mark O'Halloran, Laurie Davidson, Samuel Blenkin, Jacob McCarthy, Tom Victor, Simon Russell Beale, Amelia Gething, Mirren Mack, Rina Mahoney, and Alice Grant.

Oliver Hermanus is lead director of the show, which is produced by Hera Pictures in association with Sky Studios, and will premiere in 2024 as a Starz original series in the U.S. and Canada.

"Mary and George is the perfect complement to Starz's provocative slate and we're thrilled to partner with Sky Studios to bring this extraordinary series to U.S. audiences," said Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks for Starz. "We can't wait for the world to discover the untold story of Mary Villiers, who mastered the art of sexual and political conquests in a male-dominated society. And to have Julianne leading this remarkable cast is a dream."

Books & Authors

Awards: Blackwell's Books of the Year

Titles in three categories have been chosen as Blackwell's Books of the Year, the Bookseller reported. Representing titles Blackwell's booksellers said they were most passionate about recommending to customers this year, the category winners are now in the running for Blackwell's Book of the Year 2023, which will be announced November 28. This year's shortlisted books are:

Fiction: In Ascension by Martin MacInnes
Nonfiction: Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard
Children's: Greenwild by Pari Thomson

"I am incredibly proud of this shortlist. Our booksellers are champions of outstanding writing and each of these titles is thoroughly deserving of its place on the list," said Zool Verjee, commercial manager for Blackwell's.

Book Review

Review: Dear Sister: A Memoir of Secrets, Survival, and Unbreakable Bonds

Dear Sister: A Memoir of Secrets, Survival, and Unbreakable Bonds by Michelle Horton (Grand Central, $30 hardcover, 352p., 9781538757154, January 30, 2024)

Dear Sister: A Memoir of Secrets, Survival, and Unbreakable Bonds is a harrowing story, a call to action, and a love letter between sisters.  

In their 20s, Michelle Horton and her sister, Nikki, were very close, working together to raise Nikki's two children and Horton's son. Horton thought she knew everything about her sister's life, and so was entirely caught off guard by the emergency call. Her niece and nephew's father was dead. Nikki had killed him. He had been abusing her horrifically for years, and many members of the community had known it, had been working actively to get Nikki out. Horton was told to come and pick up her sister's children, ages two and four, immediately.

In the months and years that followed, Horton's life was consumed by the work of single-parenting three children while raising money for her sister's legal defense, becoming an amateur expert on criminal law and the psychology of abuse, and advocating for survivors' rights. The high-profile 2019 case of Nikki Addimando resulted in her conviction of second-degree murder and a sentence of 19 years to life in prison. Despite extensive evidence, the judge concluded that Nikki was not a victim of abuse.

Horton's narrative (with supporting evidence) is available elsewhere, but she additionally brings to her memoir a close, personal account of Nikki's trauma and that of the three children involved, the deep connection between sisters, and the continuing failure of the legal system adequately to handle abuse victims when they appear as criminal defendants. Horton delves into the sisters' childhood, including earlier instances of abuse, and the culture in which so many--including the author--failed to recognize the signs of Nikki's suffering. Keeping silent about her abuse did not serve Nikki in the end, but Horton observes that other victims will not be encouraged by Nikki's experience to speak up.

The stories Horton relates are heartbreaking. She does not shy away from graphic descriptions of the brutal abuse Nikki experienced, which some readers will find difficult to read. These details do not feel gratuitous, but rather central to the painful but necessary account Horton offers. Her concern extends beyond her own family, to other victims of intimate partner violence who enter the justice system as criminals. Dear Sister is not only Horton's story and Nikki's story, but also an urgent appeal for reform. Heartfelt, disturbing, but ultimately hopeful, this memoir is an important part of an ongoing conversation, and a tribute to sisterhood. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: The heartbreaking story of a woman incarcerated for killing her abuser, told by her sister, highlights systemic wrongs and the resilience of a family in trauma.

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