Also published on this date: Wednesday January 17, 2024: Maximum Shelf: The Safekeep

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Quotation of the Day

'Independent Bookstores Are Keeping Democracy Alive'

"Big shout out to independent bookstores! I'm trying to [visit] independent bookstores everywhere I go. And I have to say one of the things about democracy is it is the independent bookstores in a number of states that are keeping democracy alive. They're not only places to buy books; they're places for like-minded people who care about books, for example, to come together and to talk about ways they can affect their school boards and things like that. So support your independent bookstores."

--Heather Cox Richardson, whose most recent book is Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America (Viking), speaking at an event on Saturday with author Howard Mansfield hosted by Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough, N.H.

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BEM Books & More Eying Brooklyn Storefront

The owners of BEM Books & More, an online bookstore focused on Black food literature, are looking to open a bricks-and-mortar space in Brooklyn, N.Y., this year, Andscape reported.

Sisters Danielle and Gabrielle Davenport founded the online shop in 2021, and in the years since they've done many pop-up appearances around Brooklyn. They wanted to create a blend of their favorite Black-owned bookstores and culinary bookstores, and they carry cookbooks as well as food-related fiction and nonfiction, all by Black authors. The store is named for the initials of their grandmothers, Bernice Munford and Marjory Davenport.

Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport

Though no specifics have been announced, the Davenports intend the bricks-and-mortar store to be a base from which they can grow the bookstore's community. In addition to selling books, the sisters have talked about holding residencies for chefs and authors, and eventually they want to create their own kitchen products.

Asked about where they see the store in the future, Gabrielle Davenport said: "Five years from now, the Brooklyn flagship will be thriving and active and full of people excited about Black food and books every day. And we have started to grow this community outside of New York and Brooklyn. We already get people traveling here from overseas who are like, 'I want to come see you.' So, I think about that a lot."

Danielle Davenport noted that "there are so many possibilities when you think about Black culture, food, and storytelling. It feels like the opportunities are endless. But certainly, our focus right now is even within the next year. Getting our doors open and having that anchor will be a wonderful place to grow as we get into all kinds of wonderful things."

Medina Books and Coffee Comes to Coopersburg, Pa.

Medina Books and Coffee, a new and used bookstore and coffee shop, held a grand-opening celebration in Coopersburg, Pa., on December 30, WFMZ reported.

Owner Agneris Joselin Medina carries a general-interest book inventory with titles for all ages. New books are 35% off, with used hardcovers priced at $5 and used paperbacks priced at $4, and Medina is working on a book donation loyalty program that will reward community members who donate their books to the store.

Medina hosts children's storytime sessions on the weekends as well as a monthly book club. There is also a silent book club, where readers are invited to drop by and read whatever they like in the company of other community members.

The store will soon start selling bagged coffee beans, and while Medina won't be selling brewed coffee drinks, there will be tastings and samples for customers.

Medina told WFMZ that while there were indie bookstores in nearby communities, there was "not much in between," and that need inspired her to open her store. Though the physical location is less than two weeks old, the shop actually debuted in late 2022 as an online store. She explained that her father owned a bookstore in the Dominican Republic, and she wished to "honor him and his legacy" with her own store.

Page Turner Books, Kent, Wash., Suffers 'Devastating Water Damage'

Page Turner Books, a new and used bookstore in Kent, Wash., was "dealt a devastating blow" on Sunday, suffering extensive damage from burst water pipes. In a Facebook post, the bookshop noted that it rents a space in a building that has an unoccupied unit above it and the water pipes upstairs froze, subsequently bursting in two places and causing flooding into the bookstore below. A $10,000 GoFundMe campaign has been launched to assist with recovery expenses.

Co-owner Wayne Curran said the amount of loss is considerable, including credit card machines, the cash register, phone, router, all of the most valuable books kept behind the front counter, portions of book sections, and items like puzzles, figures, etc. 

The store will also be pursuing legal action. The fundraising campaign was created to help offset some of the loss, help with legal fees, as well as with the lost wages of the employees. 

"With the damages being this exponential, for a small business like Page Turner Books, we will need help from the community if we are to weather this storm," Curran said. "We definitely don't want to close our doors forever. Being a part of this community means the world to all of us."

Yesterday, the bookstore posted: "Today we are working inventory of all of the damages. We have had a few people ask if they can come and help today. You can! Just come to the back door. If you have a tablet or laptop with Excel and want to help or just help with organizing and separating, you are welcome to. We have a station set up in the back of the store the front door is locked."

Obituary Note: Michelle Dana Somers

Michelle Somers

Michelle Dana Somers, a publicist at Knopf for 14 years, died on August 24 at age 50. The publisher learned only recently of her death; Somers had lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was seven years old.

Somers was associate publicity director at Knopf from 2000 to 2014 and worked with many authors, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Toni Morrison, Carl Bernstein, Gish Jen, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

Knopf colleagues called her "a lovely woman and a dear friend, and her great enthusiasm for so many things--NPR, Duke basketball, and the theater--will be hugely missed."


Image of the Day: King's Books Hosts Tom Llewellyn

Tom Llewellyn visited King's Books in Tacoma, Wash., to celebrate the launch of his middle-grade novel The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith (Holiday House).

Personnel Changes at Abrams; Summit Books; B&T Publisher Services

Frank Albanese has joined Abrams as senior v-p, inventory, demand planning & market insights, a newly created position. He was formerly senior v-p, market insights and sales operations, at HarperCollins, where he worked more than 20 years.


Josefine Kals is joining Summit Books as v-p, associate publisher, director of publicity, effective February 1. She was previously v-p, senior director of publicity at Knopf.


Deanna Meyerhoff has joined Baker & Taylor Publisher Services as the new trade sales director. She was most recently at Penguin Random House, as national account manager, Amazon, as well as divisional sales manager, Amazon & Pacific Northwest.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Common on Colbert's Late Show

Kelly Clarkson Show: Jamie Lee Curtis, author of Just One More Sleep: All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait... and Wait... and Wait (Philomel Books, $18.99, 9780593527047).

Also on Kelly Clarkson: Allison Holker Boss, co-author of Keep Dancing Through: A Boss Family Groove (Disney Hyperion, $18.99, 9781368092197).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Common, author of And Then We Rise: A Guide to Loving and Taking Care of Self (HarperOne, $30, 9780063215177).

Movies: It Ends with Us

Isabela Ferrer and Alex Neustaedter have joined the cast of It Ends with Us, based on Colleen Hoover's bestselling novel. Deadline reported that the film stars Blake Lively as Lily, Justin Baldoni as Ryle, and Brandon Sklenar as Atlas, with Baldoni directing. The cast also includes Jenny Slate and Hasan Minhaj.

Sony Pictures is releasing the film theatrically on June 21, with Alex Saks producing for Saks Picture Company along with Jamey Heath on behalf of Wayfarer Studios. Executive producers are Steve Sarowitz, Andrew Calof, and Baldoni on behalf of Wayfarer Studios, along with Lively, Hoover, and Andrea Ajemian.

Christy Hall wrote the current screenplay and is also producing. Baldoni and Wayfarer Studios optioned the film rights in 2019 and have been working with the author, who is consulting on the project.

Books & Authors

Awards: T.S. Eliot Winner

Self-Portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant has won the £25,000 (about $31,600) T.S. Eliot Prize, sponsored by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and honoring "the best new poetry collection published in the U.K. or Ireland."

The judges called Self-Portrait as Othello "a book with large ambitions that are met with great imaginative capacity, freshness and technical flair. As the title would suggest, the poetry is delivered with theatricality and in a range of voices and registers, across geographies and eras. It takes real nerve to pull off a work like this with such style and integrity. We are confident that Self-Portrait as Othello is a book to which readers will return for many years."

Allen-Paisant is a Jamaican writer and academic who works as a senior lecturer in Critical Theory and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. He is also the author of the poetry collection Thinking with Trees, winner of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for poetry. His non-fiction book, Scanning the Bush, will be published by later this year.

Reading with... Jennifer Weiner

photo: Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

Jennifer Weiner, perhaps best known for her adult books (The Breakaway; That Summer; Mrs. Everything), is also the author of the middle-grade The Littlest Bigfoot series, available as a boxed set. The Bigfoot Queen (out now from Aladdin), in which the Yare, or Bigfoots, and their secret world are in danger of being revealed, is the final book in the trilogy.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A fast-paced story about lonely kids becoming friends, solving mysteries, finding their strengths, and saving the world.

On your nightstand now:

The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza--coming this spring, it's about a butcher/chef in Philadelphia who flies to Sicily to learn about her family's history and gets much more than she expected.

Out There Screaming, edited by Jordan Peele, The Pram by Joe Hill, The Changeling by Victor Lavalle--it's spooky season, and horror is one of my favorite genres. Out There Screaming is an anthology by Black horror writers. The Pram is an original short story about a couple coping with pregnancy loss. They leave New York, move to Maine, and move onto a piece of property that formerly housed a sect of religious fundamentalists. Hilarity does NOT ensue.

I've been saving Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder for a quiet afternoon when I'm ready to be terrified and intrigued by a new mother who thinks (maybe correctly) that she's becoming something not entirely human. And I just finished Cecilia Rabess's Everything's Fine--aka the book that Goodreads tried to cancel. An extremely provocative story about a romance between a Black liberal woman and her Trump-loving college classmate turned colleague.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--Francie Nolan was one of the first characters I met who felt like me, and Betty Smith rendered Francie's world so vividly.

Your top five authors:

Stephen King, Susan Isaacs, Curtis Sittenfeld, Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz.

Book you've faked reading:

Paradise Lost. I was young! I had other things to do!

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'll give you two: Veronica by Nicholas Christopher and Shining Through by Susan Isaacs.

Veronica is one of the weirdest, trippiest, strangest stories I've ever read--a mashup of a noir detective story and a love story, with elements of myth and magic, time travel and science fiction woven through. It's not for everyone, but the readers who love it capital-L Love it.

And Shining Through is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, featuring one of my favorite fictional protagonists: Linda Voss, a working-class Jewish secretary in 1940s New York City, who is street-smart and scrappy. She takes care of her alcoholic mother and is hopelessly (she thinks) in love with her handsome, educated, married boss. She gets the guy... but that's only where her adventure begins. I love how smart and subversive this story is. Linda is a funny, endearing narrator who is brave in ways most of us can only hope to be, and whose happy ending involves not just romance, but becoming the best version of herself, and saving the world in the process.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Mom Rage by Minna Dubin takes on a huge taboo--the anger that mothers feel toward their kids--and gives it a close examination. Not only is her book brave and necessary, but its cover image--a pot of milk on a stove, boiling over--is so provocative and apt.  

Book you hid from your parents:

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. My mom was reading it for her book club, and it had some pretty steamy parts.  

Critics--then and now--turned up their collective noses at Auel's oeuvre, but those books were incredibly readable, they were fantastically entertaining, and not only did I learn a lot about sex, I also learned a lot about history, anthropology, geology, and what plants and berries will kill you if you eat them.

Book that changed your life:

I read my mother's battered paperback copies of Heartburn by Nora Ephron and Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz when I was 11 or 12, and I remember being so struck by the voice in each writer's work--how it was possible to be a Jewish woman, unapologetic about either one of those things, and write in a funny, conversational way about stuff like breasts and feminine hygiene and petty resentments.

Favorite line from a book:

"Children ask better questions than do adults. 'May I have a cookie?' 'Why is the sky blue?' and 'What does a cow say?' are far more likely to elicit a cheerful response than 'Where's your manuscript?' 'Why haven't you called?' and 'Who's your lawyer?' " --Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader

Five books you'll never part with:

I've got a signed copy of Susan Isaacs's Almost Paradise that my mom gave me for my 40th birthday. That one is special. Same with my signed copy of Hillary Clinton's Living History--I was in conversation with Senator Clinton at two events. Not only is she smart, but she is also warm and funny and would have made a wonderful president. One of my favorite Curtis Sittenfeld books is American Wife. It takes Laura Bush's life as a jumping-off point, and asks big questions about politics and marriage, and the compromises both require. I've still got my childhood copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, which I was so excited to pass along to my own daughters. And I've got a gorgeous collection of Lynda Barry's comics, which I love. She can do more in a four-panel black-and-white comic than many novelists can do in 400 pages.

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

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. This was one of the first books I read about "kid runs away from home, survives the elements, and figures out how to survive," and I loved reading about Sam Gribley's adventures.

Book Review

YA Review: Black Girl You Are Atlas

Black Girl You Are Atlas by Renée Watson, illus. by Ekua Holmes (Kokila, $18.99 hardcover, 96p., ages 12-up, 9780593461709, February 13, 2024)

Two award-winning creators work together to produce an inspirational celebration of Black sisterhood in Black Girl You Are Atlas, a semi-autobiographical collection of poems and stunning artwork.

Newbery Honoree and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner Renée Watson (Ways to Make Sunshine; Love Is a Revolution) uses different poetic forms (such as haiku, tanka, and free verse) to illustrate and discuss her experiences growing up as a Black girl. She begins with the joyful and stimulating "Where I'm From," inspired by Puerto Rican writer Willie Perdomo. In this piece, Watson uncovers the layers of her personal and cultural history that pieced together her "east coast hip-hop and island tradition" identity, including--but certainly not limited to--"Baptist hymns," "secular jigs," "single mommas," and "perseverin' souls." In the titular "at·las | \'at-les\" ("from Merriam-Webster Dictionary"), she defines the word and uses a big block of text to remind Black girls of their strength and importance: "But it is you, always, who holds the world up." Watson's work includes aspects of a memoir as well as poems about the experiences of other Black women. "Knock Knock" ("for Renisha McBride") and "A Pantoum for Breonna Taylor" both focus on how grace is not often given to Black women--"Black women are not even safe in our sleep."

Accompanying Renée Watson's uplifting poems is the majestic artwork of Caldecott honoree and CSK Illustrator Award-winner Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom; Black Is a Rainbow Color). Holmes's mixed-media collages layer materials into colorful compositions that sometimes span double-page spreads. Her art symbolically depicts key points in Watson's poems, like themes of resilience, race, gender, class, and sisterhood. Although Black Girl You Are Atlas is written for and about a very specific audience, Watson's strong yet delicate poems are written with such conviction that all readers can experience the pride in each stanza. Anyone, no matter their age or ethnicity, can feel and have a sense of pride in themselves after reading this excellent compilation. --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Two award-winning creators team up for this beautiful collection of heartfelt illustrated poems of self-love and Black sisterhood.

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