Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 26, 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.

News

Pedro Martín: Pura Belpré Award Winner

Pedro Martin

Earlier this week, the American Library Association announced the 2024 Youth Media Award winners, and one name was called four times: Pedro Martín. His 2023 middle-grade book, Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir (Dial Books for Young Readers), won both the Pura Belpré Youth Illustration Award and the Pura Belpré Children's Author Award, plus a Newbery Honor and an Odyssey Honor for the best audiobooks produced for children and young adults. The Pura Belpré Award honors "Latinx writers and illustrators whose children's and young adult books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience."

You have had an extremely big day. How are you feeling?

I'd have to say somewhere between "shocked" and "unspeakably grateful." Also exhausted. Not from doing anything work related, just from smiling and shaking my head all day.

Mexikid started life as an online comic series. What made you collect your stories, re-illustrate them, and bind them into a physical book? Please tell our readers about both the comic series and the book.

Mexikid Stories (the Instagram series) started out because I had just left my job at Hallmark Cards and was trying to figure out my next chapter in life. I had been scribbling down these illustrated stories for years and tossing them in an old lunchbox. When I unpacked my office, I found them and really thought they were funny (pats self on back). So, I decided I would redo them for the Instagram crowd (20 panels at a time, once a week).

After a few years of just enjoying the act of pure creativity, I decided to try to package them as a collection and get them published. I didn't get any bites until I hooked up with my agent, Dan Lazar, and he saw that I had more potential selling my stories as a graphic memoir. One full story for the middle-grade audience.

I had this road trip story on my mind for a long time, but I didn't think it would work on Instagram. So, I adapted it into a graphic memoir format. The two formats are pretty different visually. The IG stories are meant to be very casual and minimal. The graphic memoir was all about drawing the reader in with lots of detail and depth. Plus, the memoir dealt with deeper emotions than I felt I could get away with in the series. 

How did you choose which stories would go into the book?

The story in the book was always there... I mean, it was a story of my family. I had actually used parts of that big story in early Mexikid Stories. The incident with the serenata and the flies landing on the big sugary cookie had been told on Instagram in an isolated form. Since I had the space in the graphic novel, I put it back in and gave it the context it was missing. 

Is there anything you wanted to include but couldn't?

Yes! There was a draft that was over 600 pages long. But "wanting to include" didn't mean it was important to the story. So those bits had to go. You'll thank me later for not rolling them out here.

It is impressive how this book manages to be consistently funny and captivating for a young audience at more than 300 pages. How did you keep up the speed?

One of the things that I learned at Hallmark (Shoebox Greetings) was to not get in front of the story. Make the pictures support the words, not the other way around. But, at the same time, control the speed at which the reader takes in the information. Break up the copy to force the reader to read it like you want them to. And thanks for saying it's funny. That's very nice of you to mention.

How did you keep up the funny when dealing with things like moving a grave or accidentally pulling a still-alive-and-injured deer into an RV?

That's the only way my family knows how to deal with strong emotions. We make fun of them or subvert them somehow. It's how we process trauma. Honestly, we may have a problem. We may need professional help.

The inclusion of pictures at the end was really effective--it felt like a nice conclusion. Why did you decide to include them?

Originally, I didn't think to do that. My editor, Kate Harrison, and my designer, Jenny Kelly, suggested it. They explained that because it was a memoir, it had to be grounded in real life. If young readers were to be fully invested in the story, they needed to know that this happened to a family just like their own. I realized that I would be curious too if I was picking up this book.

Is there anything you'd like to add or say to Shelf Awareness readers?

I'd like to thank the indie bookstores for their loving support for this book. I could never have hoped for a fiercer group of champions. You're the best! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


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ABA Closing White Plains, N.Y., Office; Board Nominations Set

The American Booksellers Association will not be renewing the lease for its office in White Plains, N.Y., where the association has been headquartered for the last 12 years, Bookselling This Week reported.

The decision comes after nearly four years of remote work--association staff has been working remotely since March 13, 2020--and the closure "will have no impact on staff or members." Effective February 1, the mailing address for the organization will be 600 Mamaroneck Ave., Suite 400, Harrison, N.Y., 10528.

The office closure will not only significantly decrease ABA's carbon footprint, but also allow it to put more of its budget into member services and programming. The association further noted that the switch to remote work has helped ABA better serve member stores nationwide and given it much more flexibility in its hiring.

The ABA has had offices in Westchester County since buying a campus-like space in Tarrytown in 1991. It then moved to another office building in Tarrytown in 2005 before moving to White Plains in 2012. Earlier, the association had offices in New York City.

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In preparation for the 2024 board elections, ABA has accepted the nominating committee's recommendation of one candidate to stand for election to a three-year term as board director.

Per Bookselling This Week, the candidate is Christina Pascucci Ciampa, owner and founder of All She Wrote Books in Somerville, Mass. She would fill a vacancy created by the departure of board director Kelly Estep (co-owner of Charmichael's Bookstores, Louisville, Ky.), whose second term on the board is ending.

In addition, Kathy Burnette, founder of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, Ind., is running for her first term after being appointed to the board last year. Danny Caine, co-owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., is running for a second term.

A ballot for the board elections, which will include space for write-in candidates, will be e-mailed to ABA members at the beginning of March. The ballots must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on April 3. The ABA's annual membership meeting is scheduled for May 23.


Fundraiser for Ida's Bookshop, Collingswood, N.J., Exceeds Goal

Jeannine Cook recently launched a GoFundMe campaign for Ida's Bookshop in Collingswood, N.J., that exceeded its $23,000 goal in just five days. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the landlord had raised the rent for Ida's Bookshop, and Cook, who also owns Harriett's Bookshop in Philadelphia, was able quickly to crowdfund enough to pay the rent at her Haddon Avenue location through the end of 2024.

"The community raised it," she said. "I'm so grateful. It's very hard to be creative and innovative when your head is barely above water."

In an on-line pamphlet requesting the community's support, Cook wrote, "Small businesses face an uphill battle against corporate giants and million-dollar developers. The struggle for survival and growth is not just economic, but also a fight to preserve the uniqueness and character of local communities."

Isis Williams, board president of Haddon Township Equity Initiative, a nonprofit that supports marginalized businesses and people who live in South Jersey and a real estate agent, said, "We recognized [if Ida's moved] it wouldn't just be a big loss to the community. It would support where the world is right now, that people have moved on since Covid. It's the responsibility of the community not just to march and celebrate [MLK Day], but to show up when the businesses needs help."

After the successful fundraiser, Cook says she's now free to "strategize and plan a sustained future for Ida's Bookshop within Collingswood without the additional stressors of making ends meet from month-to-month.... Our overall goal is to purchase a building in Collingswood and stick around for generations."

In an Instagram post, Cook called the campaign a "HUGE testament to your SHOWING UP in so many ways on behalf of yourselves, each other, us, and the future. Just writing to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what we've done TOGETHER and what we will continue to do together."


Verb Bookstore and Cafe, Jonesboro, Ark., Reopens After Merger

Verb Bookstore in Jonesboro, Ark., has reopened after merging with Story Coffeehouse, KAIT8 reported.

Last month, bookstore owner Sari Harlow announced that she would acquire Story Coffeehouse, which was located in the same building as her bookstore, and merge the two businesses. The coffee shop closed permanently on December 22, and Harlow has spent the last few weeks moving Verb into the coffee shop's space.

Now, the move is complete and Verb has reopened as Verb Bookstore and Cafe, with expanded hours and a new coffee bar.

"This is a dream come true," Harlow told KAIT8. "We're so thrilled to be serving Jonesboro even further with books and with coffee now. Our community here has just been fantastic."


International Update: Australian Holiday Season Book Sales; Bookshop UK's Indie Champions Awards

Although 2023 book sales in Australia were down for the year overall compared to 2022, the holiday season numbers were strong, according to Nielsen BookScan figures. Books+Publishing reported that Australian sales for December 3-30 totaled 10.1 million units and A$194.4 million (about US$127.7 million), representing increases of 6.7% by volume (up from 9.5 million in 2022) and 2.9% in value (compared with $189 million in 2022).

Adult fiction was up 13.7% in value at A$55.5 million (about US$36.5 million) and 12.9% in volume (2.6 million). Children's book sales were also up, by 10% in volume to 4.7 million and 4% in value to A$55.6 million (about US$36.5 million). 

The strong holiday season sales were also an increase on those of the same period in 2021, when retailers sold 9.1 million books, with a value of A$180.8 million (about US$118.7 million).

According to Nielsen, Australia's overall bestselling titles were:

Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton
RecipeTin Eats: Dinner by Nagi Maehashi
The Secret by Lee & Andrew Child
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
Heartstopper Volume 5 by Alice Oseman

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Bookshop.org U.K. unveiled its annual Indie Champions Awards winners, recognizing "the top individuals and organizations that have supported independent bookshops with us in the past year." Check out the awards video here. This year's winners are: 

Fiction: Lydia Davis for Our Strangers 
Nonfiction: Mikaela Loach for It's Not That Radical 
Children's author of the year: Katherine Rundell for Impossible Creatures
Lifestyle and culture author: Cold War Steve Annual 2024
Podcast: Literary Friction
Overall publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publishing professional: Eleanor Slater, HarperCollins
Innovative use of Bookshop.org: BooksForTopics
Content creator: The Kids Books Curator

"These awards allow us to pay a well-deserved thanks to a broad range of individuals and organizations working year-long to support indies; our community would not be nearly as strong without their continued creativity and support," said Nicole Vanderbilt, managing director of Bookshop.org UK, adding: "May the Indie Champions Awards continue to shine a light on those working tirelessly to support indie bookshops, and inspire others to follow in their footsteps."

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"There is so much magic to be found in children's bookstores," the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association posted on its Facebook page to highlight CIBA's latest entry in its "Meet Our Member" series: Kinder Books in New Westminster, B.C. Among the highlights from a q&a with founder and owner Anne Uebbing:

Would you mind sharing some of the values that propel your work?
I am driven by my passion for learning and believe that education should be engaging and fun. I also believe in the power of community and networking. We actively connect with our community and provide diverse, inclusive programs, workshops, and events that offer resources and knowledge to curious minds, regardless of age.

Sharing literature is another passion of mine and I understand the responsibility that comes with our privileged position as booksellers. I believe that even a small positive impact on a child's mind can have a cumulative effect on society. Those small moments of connection and growth contribute to a brighter future when we come together and learn from one another.

I hold a deep reverence for a child's journey to literacy, recognizing that it lays the foundation for a connected and meaningful life. I firmly believe that through education, literacy, and compassion, we can build a better world.

What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
What I love most about being an independent bookseller is the freedom to bring in whatever titles I want and need. This freedom allows us to be more creative and intentional with our displays. We can curate a unique collection that speaks to our customers' interests and desires.

Additionally, I cherish the personal connections and learning opportunities that come with being an indie bookseller. I enjoy hearing what our community needs and being able to make it happen. It brings me joy to provide a space and platform for authors and artists to showcase their work. Ultimately, being an independent bookseller allows me to create a place where people can meet, connect, and share their love for literature. --Robert Gray


Obituary Note: Robie Harris

Robie Harris

Robie Harris, a prolific author "who specialized in nonfiction books for children that explored their inner lives, guided their awakening to topics from emotions and sexuality to health and relationships, and exposed them to wide-ranging topics," died January 6, PEN America reported. She was 83. A former elementary school teacher, Harris served for many years on the organization's children's and young adult books committee.

Author of more than 30 books for children, she faced the rising threat of book banning in public schools, including her own titles, by inspiring "many through her unflinching defense of the right to read for all ages and rallied authors to the cause of standing against this censorship," PEN America noted.

"Robie was utterly fearless," said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. "She believed very strongly that children had the right to know about their own bodies, sexuality and puberty and as a former teacher of young children took it upon herself to make that happen. Her books were totally matter-of-fact in educating kids on these subjects and she was undaunted by the frequent challenges and bans against her well-praised books. Robie was indefatigable, going on at full steam well into her 80s and we will deeply miss her engagement and dedicated contribution to our work."

Harris's subject interests included books that exposed children to engineering, architecture, nutrition, math, death, and genetics. Her best known work, It's Perfectly Normal, illustrated by Michael Emberley, guided preadolescent children on puberty, their changing bodies, sexuality, and sexual health. It was translated into 27 languages and sold one million copies. Published in 1994, it was updated numerous times, including a 25th anniversary edition. 

"While the title won praise from physicians, child development specialists, and educators for its accuracy, reliability and for offering children clear guidance on the topic, the book was frequently banned and removed from school and public libraries in the United States with critics citing its unvarnished accuracy and visual representation of the subject and questioning its age-appropriateness," PEN America noted.

Harris's other books include It's So Amazing!, Hello Benny!, It's Not the Stork!, and Mail Harry to the Moon!, all illustrated by Emberley.

In a tribute, the National Coalition Against Censorship board said Robie left behind "a legacy of unwavering commitment to free expression and intellectual freedom. Robie Harris was a tireless champion for the principles that lie at the core of the NCAC's mission. As a board member for over 20 years, she played a pivotal role in advocating for the protection of artistic and intellectual endeavors from censorship. Her passion for promoting open dialogue, diverse perspectives, and the right to free speech resonated throughout her tenure with the NCAC....

"As we mourn the loss of Robie Harris, let us remember her as a beacon of courage, resilience, and passion. Her legacy will continue to inspire us in the ongoing fight against censorship, reminding us of the importance of upholding the principles she held dear."


Notes

Personnel Changes at Macmillan

Tim Greco has been promoted to executive v-p, sales, of Macmillan, effective February 2. Greco is currently v-p, field sales, special markets & sales strategy, and succeeds Jennifer Gonzalez, who is leaving her position of president, sales & marketing, and has been at Macmillan for 12 years.

Macmillan CEO Jon Yaged called Greco "a quintessential book person, an innovative and entrepreneurial sales strategist, and overall great person. His strong track record of building relationships, growing the next generation of sales leaders, and delivering impressive results makes him the perfect match to lead our phenomenal sales team. I also want to thank Jenn Gonzalez for her service to Macmillan for the past 12 years. It's a testament to her leadership that we have a stellar group of sales talent that enables us to promote from within."


Media and Movies

TV: Apples Never Fall

A teaser trailer has been released for Apples Never Fall, the Peacock limited series based on Liane Moriarty's 2021 novel. IndieWire reported that in the adaptation, "Annette Bening and Sam Neill portray the seemingly ideal parents, whose four adult children (Jake Lacy, Alison Brie, Conor Merrigan-Turner, Essie Randles) lead perfect lives. Yet all of that comes crashing down as a stranger enters their lives and Bening's character disappears."

Melanie Marnich (The OA, The Affair) is the writer, showrunner, and executive producer of the series, with David Heyman (Wonka, Barbie) also serving as an executive producer. The seven-episode limited series is additionally produced by author Moriarty, lead star Bening, Gregory Jacobs, Joe Hortua, Albert Page, and Jillian Share. Director Chris Sweeney executive produces; Dawn Shadforth also directs.

Apples Never Fall premieres March 14 on Peacock. 



Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Finalists, Judy Blume Honored

The finalists have been released in six categories for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, along with shortlists for the John Leonard Prize for First Book and the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. Winners will be named on March 21 during a ceremony at the New School in New York City. Check out the complete list of finalists here.

In addition, Judy Blume is receiving the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Becca Rothfeld has won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and the winner of the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, recognizing "institutions that have made lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture," is the American Library Association.

"It's a thrilling privilege for the NBCC to continue the work envisioned by John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof in 1974: to honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about literature," said NBCC president Heather Scott Partington. "This year's remarkable and uncompromising finalists delve into subjects as diverse as adoption, authorial identity, cultural disruption, mythmaking, and the banal. Many tell stories that have previously been silenced or ignored. Our Sandrof Life Achievement Award and Morrison Achievement Award winners Judy Blume and the ALA exemplify how literacy and literary access lead to liberation. What a beautiful year for books."

Mandana Chaffa, v-p of the Barrios Book in Translation Prize noted, "We're immensely proud of our rich multi-genre shortlist which celebrates the work of both translators and authors from diverse cultures and languages, and also underscores the importance of independent and small press publishers in our literary conversation."

Sandrof award chair Jacob M. Appel said Blume, "whose widely acclaimed works include such modern classics as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, has inspired generations of young readers by tackling the emotional turbulence of girlhood and adolescence with authenticity, candor and courage. As her works generated controversy, she earned a national reputation as a relentless opponent of censorship and an iconic champion of literary freedom. At 85, this grand doyenne of American letters now owns and operates a non-profit bookstore, Books & Books in Key West, Fla."

Balakian committee chair Colette Bancroft said, "The two reviews that Rothfeld submitted, of Benjamin Labatut's historical novel The MANIAC and Sen. Josh Hawley's self-help book Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, brilliantly embody her insight, range and depth of knowledge in lively and persuasive prose."

Regarding the Toni Morrison Achievement Award winner, Appel commented: "We honor the ALA for its longstanding commitment to equity, including its twentieth century campaigns against library segregation and for LGBT+ literature, and its perennial stance as a bulwark against those regressive and illiberal supporters of book bans. At a time when our nation's libraries remain under relentless assault from both political and economic forces, the ALA towers over the literary landscape as a beacon for our most vulnerable voices."


Reading with... Sarah-Jane Collins

photo: Isabel Lasala

Sarah-Jane Collins is a writer, editor, and journalist from Meanjin (Brisbane), Australia, who moved to New York by way of Gadigal land (Sydney) and Narrm (Melbourne). In Australia, Collins worked as a journalist covering politics, courts and crime, education, the environment, the arts, and women's issues. Her work has been nominated for various Australian journalism and writing awards, and her fiction has won the Overland Fair Australia Prize. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Collins's debut novel, Radiant Heat (Berkley, January 23), is set in the Australia bushlands.

Handsell readers your book in approximately 25 words or less:

A devastating bush fire rips through the Australian countryside, leaving a mysterious dead woman on Alison King's doorstep. Their connection could be deadlier than the fire. 

On your nightstand now:

People Collide by Isle McElroy. I haven't started it yet--it's on top of a large TBR pile--but I'm excited to dive into this story of a husband and wife who find themselves in each other's body.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Plus, I didn't have sisters, and it made me want them so badly!

Your top five authors:

Annie Proulx, because she writes place with such command and beauty. Michael Ondaatje's writing is wonderfully lyrical, and his stories are epics--a perfect pairing. Thea Astley for her beautifully wrought stories of Australian lives. Hilary Mantel's command of history and thoughtful prose make the Cromwell novels unforgettable. Jane Austen was an astute observer of character, class, and politics, and her books are funny and endlessly entertaining.

Book you've faked reading:

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. After university, I spent the summer before I started my cadetship at a newspaper in Melbourne reading all the 20th-century classics I hadn't yet. I didn't get into this one, though, so I never finished it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow by Thea Astley. A gorgeous rendering of a hideous event in Australian colonial history. There's a lot about this book that is fascinating, but the fact it's based on a true event makes it a must-read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin. If I'm being honest, I don't buy books for their covers, but if I did, this stunning one would be the top of my list. The book inside is wonderful too.

Book you hid from your parents:

I've never hid a book from my parents! We're big readers and nothing was off-limits growing up. My dad gave me Patricia Cornwell's Postmortem to read when I was 11, and I took it to class and my teacher asked if my parents knew I was reading it. If I was a 15-year-old today, I'd for sure be hiding Maeve Fly by CJ Leede from them, though.

Book that changed your life:

Lots of books have inspired me, driven me to be a better writer, and to work in new ways. I think asking an author this is a little disingenuous, since the obvious answer is my own book, Radiant Heat, which took me from Sydney to an MFA in New York, to the life I have now, writing fiction. Milkman by Anna Burns really made an impression for its refusal to change the dialect and forcing the reader into the perspective of an Irish woman during the Troubles. I loved it.

Favorite line from a book:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." There are other lines from other books, but what an opening, Jane! [from Pride and Prejudice]

Five books you'll never part with:

Close Range by Annie Proulx, because I love her lyricism and her unflinching eye. She writes so beautifully of terrible tragedies and epic relationships. I always want to be able to refer to her words.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, because the Cromwell trilogy is masterful, but this close imagining of Anne Boleyn is heartbreaking and revelatory.

In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje, because I would read an instruction manual if Ondaatje wrote it, but this book is his best in a crowded field. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, because it changed my idea of what science fiction could be.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, because it's a dark and perfect commentary on women's place in Australian society and the toxicity of the patriarchy.

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

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I stole my then-boyfriend's copy from his nightstand after watching him stay up all night reading it, and then I did the exact same thing. What a taut, terrifying, brilliant page-turner.

Australian books you recommend:

Tall Man by Chloe Hooper is about the appallingly handled death in custody of an Indigenous man on Palm Island in Queensland, Australia. It happened on the same island Thea Astley's The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow is set, and Hooper lays bare the Queensland Police and the racism and prejudice that led to violence and tragedy as she sits in on the police officer's trial.

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM by Don Watson. This very large tome is part memoir, part biography by Keating's speechwriter. If you like good writing, it's a joy to read and an incredible insight into a time of huge transformation for Australia.

Pig City by Andrew Stafford is a book about the music culture and history of my hometown, Brisbane. My uncle gave me a copy when I was at university, and it's just a great work of social history, written with great command of the subjects at hand.

Thirst for Salt by Madelaine Lucas is a stunner for its prose and the homesick yearning for the Pacific Ocean it inspires. Lucas's command of the central love story is quietly authoritative and dreamily executed.

It's cheating because it's four books, but Peter Temple's Jack Irish series is a must-read for every crime fiction enthusiast, and the world Temple crafts is a perfect slice of 1990s Melbourne, right down to the footy rivalries.

Steam Pigs by Melissa Lucashenko is a great debut by an Indigenous writer who has gone on to be one of Australia's best authors, and whose voice is an essential contribution to Australian literature.


Book Review

Review: The Devil's Grip

The Devil's Grip by Lina Wolff, trans. by Saskia Vogel (Other Press, $17.99 paperback, 288p., 9781635424201, April 2, 2024)

Swedish writer and translator Lina Wolff (Carnality) crafts a magnetic fever dream in The Devil's Grip, a fast-paced novel, hypnotically translated by Saskia Vogel, about a woman pushed to the edge of sanity by an abusive relationship.

A woman moves to Florence, Italy, from her home country and is overwhelmed by its romance and her own loneliness. But its dark corners begin to look more appealing after she pairs up with an unremarkable-looking man who goes by Mickey to her Minnie. Despite Mickey's lack of beauty, Minnie is drawn to him by his intensity, his control, and the way he makes her aware of her own body. Mickey, however, grows increasingly violent and disloyal in his sexual acts, and Minnie becomes convinced that their bodies are only vessels for the demons inside them both. No matter how much she wants to love Mickey, her demon lusts for his demise.

As Minnie becomes steadily more unwound, so does the plot. Yet despite the novel's progressively surrealist nature, Wolff's masterful prose keeps the story grounded in the precision and simplicity of language, the immediacy of bodily sensation, and the necessity of desire. For example, Wolff describes Minnie's attraction to Mickey through a variety of no-nonsense, deeply embodied details: his "masculinity... seeping from his pores," and his "sore spot, which he has now revealed to her. She knows where it is, and she can poke it with her finger." This form of palpable desire that persists throughout the novel makes almost anything--including the horrors that surround Minnie, real and imagined--seem possible.

Thematically, the book's heart lies in its raw but original depiction of intimate, gendered violence. Though Wolff rarely engages in the spectacle of showing physical abuse on the page, the novel's narrator often makes readers stare, mesmerized, at the material remnants of that violence. The emotional abuse Minnie suffers from Mickey is extreme; so, too, is the mental and emotional abuse she suffers at the hands of the larger world, which contributes to her destruction even as it attempts to help her. Minnie's seeming downward spiral notwithstanding, Wolff's novel avoids thinking of Minnie's arc as solely a destruction; instead, her arc is a struggle, not just against the man she thinks she loves, but against forces much greater than he could ever be. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: A Lynchian drama about gendered, relational violence, Lina Wolff's The Devil's Grip is sure to mesmerize and terrify readers in equal measure.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: There's Always a Time for Print Books

I do not believe that the public will always be completely satisfied with the glaring screen.

--Sinclair Lewis, speaking at the American Booksellers Association's annual convention dinner in 1936 (via the New York Times)

On Wednesday nights at De Stiil Booksellers in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, a small group of readers gather, "all tucked away in their own little corners, cozy with a book," CTV News reported. The weekly event, called Page Break, offers "a small amount of time to take a literal and literary break from screens and technology."

"They give us their phone or tablet, whatever they have and we keep it at the register," owner Aude Le Dubé said. "They bring their own book. They read their book for an hour. We close the doors. We put on real cool jazz, and they read.... Some people have been coming here every Wednesday for two-and-a-half years, and they need friends.... I think it's a great concept, but I think they need the third space. We are a third space. So they like to come here. It's cozy. We're nice."

So that's happening in the present, but I was also just reading about the speculative future. Since last September, BookNet Canada's blog has been featuring an occasional series called "Visions of the Book Industry in 2035," featuring individuals working in different areas of the book supply chain sharing their thoughts on the future.  

As a licensed time traveler, I'm always up for a little cruise through the decades.

In the September post, Noah Genner, BookNet Canada president & CEO, said one of his visions for 2035 is a "more sustainable supply chain. More conscious use of the resources used to produce, distribute, and sell books. We must consider everything from efficient digital storage, paper use, other materials, transportation, and the end-of-life of our products--be they books or digital devices."

Jael Richardson of the FOLD Foundation observed: "I would love to see a world where we can easily buy a book in multiple formats by bundling purchases. If we want to be green in 2035 and perhaps print fewer physical books--which would allow publishers to save money while still supporting authors--we have to provide ways for folks to experience new formats. I'd love to buy a book with the added bonus of receiving a digital copy or an audiobook."

In this week's BookNet Canada post, Wendy Reid, accessibility and publishing standards lead at Rakuten Kobo, said she hopes that by 2035, "we'll finally push past the 10% threshold for digital content. Print will still have its place, it needs to, but we should be considering the sustainability, accessibility, and availability benefits of digital-first or digital-exclusive publishing."

Hitting reverse, I returned my time machine to the present, stopping briefly to notice a CBC News report that, despite assumptions that physical books--like physical bookstores--will eventually go the way of the horse and buggy "in fact, sales of print books appear to be enjoying a bit of a lift driven by strong performance in genre fiction and interest from younger readers."

Since the time machine was already warmed up, I just kept traveling backward to see how they were handling the future of books a century ago. I quickly encountered an esteemed gentleman who had a lot to say on the topic. 

Sinclair Lewis

In May 1936, the New York Times reported that author and Nobel Prize laureate Sinclair Lewis had given a speech titled "Enemies of the Book," at the American Booksellers Association's annual convention dinner.

Lewis predicted that no form of radio broadcast, television included, would ever threaten the demand for good books. He began by pointing out that all writers were members of the same guild--booksellers. "We bookmen sell security in life," he suggested, as opposed to life insurance salesmen who sell security in death. 

"I do not believe that anything will altogether supplant the old-fashioned printed book, which has changed so very little since Gutenberg finished printing the first book, a Bible, back in 1455," Lewis observed. "I do not believe that any nimble television apparatus, any series of phonograph records, any ingenious microscopic gadget whereby you can carry the entire works of Balzac in your cigarette case, will ever take the place of books, just as we know them. It is obvious that people listen to the radio and go to the motion pictures instead of reading books, but there are plenty of other Cossacks on our trail, the automobile, the bridge table and night clubs.

"It may be that we are all--publishers, writers, and dealers--in permanently for smaller profits, but there is one merit in this situation. It means we belong to a profession which must become increasingly skilled.... I do not believe that the public will always be completely satisfied with the glaring screen, or that they will forever prefer the unctuous verbal caresses of radio announcers to the many-colored pages of Dickens."

A little timeless advice for readers: every now and then, just check your "microscopic gadget whereby you can carry the entire works of Balzac in your cigarette case" at the register and enjoy a Page Break, wherever (or whenever) you may be.

---Robert Gray, contributing editor

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