Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 31, 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

'Booksellers Are Courageous in Their Desire to Share Knowledge and Ideas'

"I've visited small independent bookstores across the country and have never lost the feeling of immersion and intoxication. The smell of bookstores, the sheathy sound of books pulled from shelves, lifted from book piles. The whispery customer discussions of good books in aisles. The bookstore seller's excitement in sharing their selections. I've walked down a thousand aisles of bookstore shelves and read a thousand bookseller's recommendations....

"There is such wonder in independent bookstores. Every day booksellers bravely recommend books that challenge and stir-up readers. They read and sell books that expand our imaginations, touch our aggrieved souls, and ignite our intellect. They invite readers to experience the diversity of our rich world. Read this, they say, and tell me what you think. For years and years and years they have shown me that I matter as a reader. I have known independent booksellers to sell difficult and challenging books even when they are threatened. Booksellers are courageous in their desire to share knowledge and ideas. Booksellers matter."

--Debra Magpie Earling, author of 2024 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award winner The Lost Journals of Sacajewea (Milkweed Editions), in an essay for NW Book Lovers

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Kitab Cafe and Bookstore Opening Second Store, in Detroit, Mich.

A little more than a year after its debut in Hamtramck, Mich., Kitab Cafe and Bookstore is opening a second location, in Midtown Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Kitab's original location in Hamtramck

Co-owners and husband-and-wife team Ahmed Alwhysee and Asma Almulaiki plan to open the new location in early February, in a space on West Willis St. that was previously the flagship location of a bakery and cafe called Avalon International Breads. The Midtown location will have a larger food menu than the store in Hamtramck, and a similar selection of nonfiction books pertaining to topics like Islam, personal growth, and spirituality.

The Hamtramck store opened in January 2023, and Almulaiki and Alwhysee quickly realized they'd "underestimated the need for a cafe in Hamtramck." Initially, Kitab had only self-serve coffee; now they serve tea, coffee, and a variety of espresso drinks. The business's name means "book" in Arabic, and the Free Press noted that Hamtramck has a large population of immigrants from Yemen and Bangladesh.

Alwhysee and Almulaiki, who both grew up in Hamtramck, did not expect to open a second location so soon, but felt they couldn't pass on the location. Alwhysee added: "We're hoping that it becomes a staple in the Cass Corridor like Avalon used to be. They kind of set the bar really high, so we're trying to meet it."

Read It and Eat Culinary Bookshop Opens in Buffalo, N.Y.

Read It and Eat culinary bookshop opened late last year in one of the incubator spaces inside the new West Side Bazaar on Niagara Street in Buffalo, N.Y. WGRZ reported that after spending time as a pop-up business and launching the Read It and Eat Book Fair at Seneca One last spring, owner Kimberly Behzadi decided it was time to launch the business in a permanent location. 

Kimberly Behzadi

"Buffalo's never had a culinary bookstore before, but they are well known out on the West Coast. I want to bring culinary adventures to Buffalo," she said. "Whether it's finding your next cookbook, or learning that there are romantic comedies all about foodies is a great place to start."

Behzadi added that when she first heard about the space opening up, "I thought, this is perfect. There are chefs downstairs who can inspire me where I can learn about their cuisine too, so I take inspiration from downstairs and on the top floor here. We actually have a space for the cooking classes going forward."

In addition to cooking classes and food-themed books, Read It and Eat will also be starting a book club. "All the stories are about food, but if you want to support your local library and check out the book, you do that. We also can order the books for you and we have tea from Cup of Communitea in every other month, and it's a really fun time," Behzadi said. 

Before Read It and Eat was a store, she began with subscription boxes, which come with a book and a treat to make after or enjoy while reading, and are still available to order online or buy at the shop.

"We actually have a Valentine's Day box coming up, where you can buy a foodie romantic comedy or literary book," Behzadi said. "There're five books to choose from, and you'll get three delicious gourmet cookies from Manchester Baking Company right downstairs."  

She added: "There's so much to explore in the food space that I hope people come to the culinary bookstore and just explore the shelves and maybe something will jump out to them." 

Obituary Note: Della Lynn McNamara

Della Lynn McNamara

Della Lynn McNamara, co-founder of Read It Again Bookstore, Suwanee, Ga., as well as an initial investor in and customer of the Basil Bookstore Software inventory control system, died January 26. 

In a tribute, her daughter, store owner Kim McNamara, posted on Facebook: "Della Lynn McNamara was a tenacious and hard working woman who loved to dance. Together we founded Read It Again Bookstore, which just celebrated its 21st anniversary. As Basil Bookstore Software's inaugural investor and customer, she played a pivotal role in shaping the early success of the company...

"Following my mother's wishes, there will not be a celebration of life. Instead to honor her memory, Della would have loved for you to support your favorite indie bookstore, discuss a book with a friend, leave a book in a free little library, or maybe come by and check out Read It Again for yourself. If my mom were here, she would recommend some of her favorite authors, like @norarobertsauthor, Lee Child, Vince Flynn, @kristen_britain , CE Murphy, and Patricia Briggs.

"May she rest in peace, leaving behind a legacy of determination, love, and the joy of reading."

Shelf Awareness's Best Ads of 2023


Last year, we ran thousands of ads across all of our publications--so we know a thing or two about great book marketing!

Join us next Wednesday, February 7, at 12 p.m. Eastern, or Thursday, February 8, at 3 p.m. Eastern, for a virtual session celebrating the best ads in the Shelf for 2023.

We'll go over all the Shelf's offerings, highlight our highest-performing and most innovative Shelf Awareness ads from last year, and break down what's so special about them. Join us as we geek out on stats, ah-ha at clever creative, and praise badass publishing colleagues who will take home the top honors.

Registration is open to all publisher marketing and ad/promo folks, as well as independent booksellers. To register for the Wednesday session, click here. To register for the Thursday session, click here.

If you're unable to attend either session, contact Matt Baldacci to get all the marketing goodness you missed.


Image of the Day: Midnight Maas at Otto Bookstore

The Otto Bookstore, Williamsport, Pa., celebrated the publication of Sarah J. Maas's House of Flame and Shadow (Bloomsbury) with a midnight release party Monday night.

"We are excited to host a midnight release event for Sarah's latest book," said buyer John Shableski. "Sarah has created an incredible following with her books. The joy she brings to her readers is absolutely infectious. We are definitely looking to host more events like this as she expands the series."

Otto Bookstore owner Katy Nassberg added, "Anytime we have the opportunity to celebrate a major book release like this, it creates excitement in the community and helps us find even more book fans to share in the fun."

'Midnight Maasquerade Ball' at Portkey Books

Portkey Books, Safety Harbor, Fla., hosted a Midnight Maasquerade: House of Flame and Shadow Midnight Release Ball at Kapok Special Events Center, and shared photos and videos of the festivities, celebrating the release of Sarah J. Maas's latest novel, on the store's Facebook page.

Owner Crystel Calderon noted: "Some end of the night photos from our photographer! So in these photos, thank you to my Emotional Support Human, my husband Aramis Calderon, Author who moved a THOUSAND POUNDS of books several times for the ball. And thank you to my daughters, Arabelle and Ilyana, who did an amazing job running a busy Portkey Books pop-up shop with non-stop traffic ALL night! And thank you to the ballers who stuck around for a post-ball group pic! And these photos are thanks to our photographer Anna Ottens. I can't wait to see the rest!"

Happy 20th Birthday, Cloud & Leaf Bookstore

Congratulations to Cloud & Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita, Ore., which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in March.

Owner Holly Lorincz, who purchased the bookstore in 2022, will honor the occasion with a "champagne shindig" scheduled for Saturday, March 2. The free event will be held in a large tent outside of the bookstore and will include cake, champagne, live music, and appearances from local authors Rene Denfeld, Liz Prato, Anna Quinn, and Carlos Reyes.

"I'm grateful to live in a community that supports books," Lorincz told Here Is Oregon. "Our little store turns 20 years old in March... I want to celebrate not just the authors who create paths to knowledge and empathy, and the readers who seek and share ideas, but also my heroes, those brave protectors of the printed word who've had to don their flame-resistant cardigans and stand strong in a time when we should be way past intolerance of the unknown."

Cool Idea of the Day: Banned Books Back!

"How many banned books can a room full of dedicated volunteers pack in an hour? Yesterday we found out!" Firestorm Books, Asheville, N.C. noted in a Facebook post, adding: "At our first Banned Books Back! packaging party, community members turned out in droves to sort through dozens of cartons of books removed from Duval County Public Schools in Florida. Together we prepped 642 chapter books and 936 picture books to return to young readers."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kwame Alexander on the Today Show, Colbert's Late Show

Today Show: Kwame Alexander, author of This Is the Honey: An Anthology of Contemporary Black Poets (Little, Brown, $35, 9780316417525). He will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Drew Barrymore Show: Damona Hoffman, author of F the Fairy Tale: Rewrite the Dating Myths and Live Your Own Love Story (Seal Press, $29, 9781541602250).

TV: Dark Places

HBO is developing a limited series based on Gillian Flynn's 2009 novel Dark Places. Variety reported that Flynn will serve as co-creator, writer, and co-showrunner on the project. Brett Johnson will also serve as co-showrunner, co-creator, and writer, with Guerrin Gardner credited as co-creator and writer as well. 

Theresa Kang and Caroline Garity of Blue Marble Pictures will executive produce along with Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi of Iervolino & Lady Bacardi Entertainment.

The official logline for the project: "Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in the famous 1985 'Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.' She survived--and famously testified that her teenage brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, a pair of mother/daughter true crime 'detectives' locate a grownup Libby and pump her for details, believing that Ben is innocent. Libby, having spent her youth working the talk show circuit, hopes to once again turn a profit off her tragic history: She'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings--for a fee. As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist traps, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started--on the run from a killer."

Books & Authors

Awards: Audie Finalists; Republic of Consciousness Longlist

Finalists in the 27 categories of the 2024 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, have been announced by the Audio Publishers Association and can be seen here. Winners will be named March 4 at the Audie Awards Gala in Los Angeles.


The longlist has been selected for the second annual Republic of Consciousness Prize, United States and Canada, which honors fiction from independent presses of "exceptional literary value." The shortlist will be announced March 5 and the winner March 19.

A total of $35,000 will be distributed to the presses and the authors. Each press with a longlisted book will receive $2,000. The five shortlisted books will be rewarded an additional $3,000 each, split equally between the publisher and author, or publisher, author, and translator where applicable.

The longlist:
Cross Stitch by Jazmina Barrera (Two Lines Press)
The Long Form by Kate Briggs (Dorothy)
Two Sherpas by Sebastián Martínez Daniell, translated by Jennifer Croft (Charco Press)
Breaking and Entering by Don Gilmour (Biblioasis)
Your Love Is Not Good by Johanna Hedva (And Other Stories)
Landscapes by Christine Lai (Two Dollar Radio)
The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvigneir, translated by Daniel Levin Becker (Transit Press)
Lojman by Ebru Ojen, translated by Aron Aji and Selin Gökçesu (City Lights)
The Box by Mandy-Suzanne Wong (Graywolf Press)
The Sorrow of Others by Ada Zhang (A Public Space)

Reading with... Jennifer Belle

photo: Tess Steinkolk

Jennifer Belle is the author of Going Down; High Maintenance; Little Stalker; and The Seven Year Bitch. Her essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Independent (London), Harper's Bazaar, Ms., BlackBook, the New York Observer, Post Road, and many anthologies. She has also published a book for children, Animal Stackers (illustrated by David McPhail). She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and two sons, and leads a writing workshop, affectionately called Belle's Hell. Swanna in Love (Akashic, January 30) is a coming-of-age novel that explores adolescent desire from the girl's point of view.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

It's 1982. An inverse Lolita, a 14-year-old girl, has an affair with a 38-year-old married dad, and she is making all the moves.

On your nightstand now:

My current nightstand is an old black milk crate, and on it is a small pile of books topped by Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann by Barbara Seaman. Jacqueline Susann wrote Valley of the Dolls, wore a lot of Pucci, and was a master at publicity stunts. I had always wanted to do a publicity stunt and, finally, for my last book, I came up with one. I hired 100 actors to read my book on the NYC subway--and laugh.

Favorite books when you were a child:

Eloise by Kay Thompson (illustrated by Hilary Knight). Her voice is always in my head: "I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza." The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder formed all of my romantic notions and spiritual core. Judy Blume got me through my parents' divorce. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards, read to us by our third-grade teacher, was the most exciting book I'd ever heard in my life. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott taught me character development, structure, and plot.

Your top five authors:

Charles Portis, J.D. Salinger, Anton Chekhov, John Kennedy Toole, Vladimir Nabokov. I always ask my students to list their top 10 books, and we make a shared reading list. I quickly noticed that the men always had only men on their lists, and the women had men and women. Now I'm guilty of having all men. I adore these writers more than I can begin to describe, but it's women who have been my guides: Jean Rhys, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Mitchell, and Judy Blume.

Book you've faked reading:

One summer, when I was 11, I went to French Woods Theater Camp. I brought only one book with me: The Brothers Karamazov. I thought it would make me look cool. I spent a lot of time avoiding learning how to water-ski with that book open on my lap. I could not tell you one thing about that book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm an evangelist for all books that are uncensored by today's new publishing standards of political correctness. I long to read books in which people are saying and thinking what people actually say and think. I've recently started to buy all the books in the "banned" section at the Strand. I just read Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman, which was in that section. I've watched the movie dozens of times, but I'd never read it. It was so refreshing to read the uncensored male voice. I've been begging my writer friends not to let their work get watered down and to write what they want to write.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I buy vintage editions of books sometimes because the cover brings back a certain feeling. The covers of Nancy Drew books, still to this day, bring a chilling terror down my spine. The Hidden Staircase--oh my God. One book I didn't buy for its cover was A Confederacy of Dunces. That terrible illustration of Ignatius Reilly on the cover repelled me for years. And my new cover--well, it's controversial. People either love it or absolutely hate it.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hid The Joy of Sex and The Sensuous Woman by "J" from my parents, but I got them from their own dining-room bookshelf in the first place. I'd read them when I knew they wouldn't be home and then put them back meticulously the way I had found them--and made sure my eyes didn't go to them when we were eating dinner.

Book that changed your life:

True Grit by Charles Portis literally changed my life. Talk about judging a book by its cover: a friend gave it to me during Covid, and I thought, Why would I want to read this? It had a gun on it and was some kind of Wild West book. It was nothing I would ever be interested in. Then, one day, when I was upstate with nothing to do, I opened it. The opening scene was a 14-year-old girl witnessing three hangings. Three hangings. It had been over 11 years since I had published a novel. There was something I had always wanted to write, but I didn't think I could. The character I had in mind was also 14, and an agent had told me adults wouldn't be interested. Now, reading Portis's 14-year-old protagonist, Mattie Ross, go about avenging the murder of her father, I suddenly felt brave enough to write what I had always wanted to write. I believe I owe my new book to True Grit and to the friend who gave it to me.

Favorite line from a book:

"Then it would depend on the ring." --Laura to Almanzo during his proposal in These Happy Golden Years.

"Do you let little girls hooraw you, Cogburn?" --LaBoeuf to Rooster in True Grit. There's not a bad line in that book, which has some of the best dialogue ever written.

Five books you'll never part with:

I'm not sure I understand the question. Why would anyone part with a book?

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

In a way, every book I reread feels like I'm reading it for the first time--even children's books that I can literally recite by heart. And having children gives you the opportunity to experience books as if for the first time through their eyes. What I wish is that I could again be the age at which I read those books, in the place and time where I read them. I'd love to be sitting on the rug in Mr. Pollock's classroom, listening to Whangdoodle; or listening to my record set of Through the Looking Glass, read by Cyril Ritchard, on the couch in our living room at 670 West End Avenue; or sitting in the hammock chair in my tiny bedroom reading Gone with the Wind and hundreds of other books; or cutting school to finish Catcher in Washington Square Park; or next to a boyfriend at Caffe Reggio, gasping in amazement at the passages in Confederacy. Books stay the same, even after we change. That's one of the things that's great about them.

Book Review

Children's Review: The First State of Being

The First State of Being by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, $19.99 hardcover, 272p., ages 8-12, 9780063337312, March 5, 2024)

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly (Those Kids from Fawn Creek; Hello, Universe) introduces a tender-hearted tween boy with anxiety who learns to live mindfully from a time traveler in this buoyant and entertaining middle-grade novel.

Twelve-year-old Michael worries about him and his single mom surviving Y2K, believing the theory that computers will glitch when systems switch to 2000 and shut down the world. But it isn't Y2K that threatens the universe first. It's a 16-year-old boy named Ridge, half Filipino like Michael, who has traveled from 2199 to see 1999. "The Backstreet Boys! Britney Spears!... I wanted to see it. All of it. Especially the mall." Michael, together with his 15-year-old babysitter (and crush), Gibby, lead Ridge on a tour of their year, letting him roam the mall and play with the microwave while they delicately pluck tidbits about the future from him (almost no one gets sick; humans can get artificial upgrades). Ridge refuses, however, to discuss Y2K, or to let anyone read his sumbook, a 22nd-century text summarizing history. When Ridge finally tries to return home, the time machine won't communicate with the receiver in 2199. The trio must blindly hope that Ridge's family is fixing the receiver--and that he hasn't catastrophically altered time--because Ridge, susceptible to late-20th-century diseases, is ailing. Still, despite increasing dangers, Michael plots to read that sumbook. Maybe, he thinks, by learning everything about the future, he won't ever feel anxious again.

Kelly has written one of the kindest boys in children's literature: Michael thinks first of others, especially his mom who works three jobs, yet he is weighed down by his uneasy mind and wavering self-worth. Ridge reassures Michael with precepts from the future, like the Conklin Principle ("for every bad outcome you can anticipate... consider at least one positive outcome") and the idea that staying in "the first state of being" (the here and now) matters more than obsessing over what-ifs. This helps steer Michael toward accepting that "not knowing is part of life." Throughout, Kelly touches on grief and guilt, but also on fulfilling friendships and stomach-fizzing moments of young love. Audio transcripts from Ridge's family and excerpts from the sumbook tie cleverly into the story. The First State of Being is tremendously touching--a fantastic and upliftingly fun read. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: A teen time traveler from 2199 visits 1999 and befriends an endearing, anxious tween boy in this wholesome and splendidly entertaining middle-grade novel about embracing the unknown.

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