Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 8, 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

'I Fell in Love with Fiction for the First Time at an Indie Bookstore'

"I fell in love with fiction for the first time at an indie bookstore. I was being trained to be a book buyer. But we didn't get that much business and I was asked to move the fiction section from the back of the store to the front. I fell for fiction for the very first time then. I was never a library person. Even though I was broke, I always shopped at used bookstores and wanted to own books. It was often impractical. But there are stupider things to spend your money on. There are so many bookstores in the Bay Area to love. My two favorites have always been Walden Pond and Spectator Books."

--Tommy Orange, whose novel Wandering Stars (Knopf) is the #1 March Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week 

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ABA Names Children's Institute Scholarship Winners

The American Booksellers Association has announced the names of the 30 booksellers who will receive scholarships to attend this year's Children's Institute (Ci2024) in New Orleans, La., June 10-12.

The scholarship covers conference fees, a hotel room, and up to $600 reimbursement for travel expenses. The full list of scholarship winners can be found in Bookselling This Week.

Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., Hits Crowdfunding Goal

Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Mich., has raised more than $35,000 through a GoFundMe campaign the bookstore launched last month, UpNorthLive reported.

With that money, store owner Peter Makin will be able to pay off one of the store's biggest suppliers, as well as settle debts acquired during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a post on the bookstore's website, Makin and co. thanked "all of our incredible patrons across the country (and even a few overseas!)" for "coming out of the woodwork" to support the store. After the store announced that it "still had a ways to go" on the campaign, the "GoFundMe jumped more than $10,000 overnight." Donations were made by phone, by mail, and in person, and there were so many orders pouring in "it felt like the holiday rush all over again!"

"We're grateful that you think enough of us and what we do to step up and lend us a hand, whether by a donation, a purchase, a shared social media post, an event scheduled or in the works, or any of the myriad other ways in which you've made a difference," the team wrote. "We're grateful that what we do matters to you and you care enough about that (and us!) to want us to stick around. We're grateful for each and every one of you, all you book lovers who give us a reason (or many reasons) to keep on doing what we love."

Henry's Books Coming to Spearfish, S.Dak.

Henry's Books will open later this year in downtown Spearfish, S.Dak. The Rapid City Journal reported that co-owners Lizzie and Dylan Mattson are hosting a Writers Night fundraiser April 7 at Matthews Opera House. The event will feature original songs, readings and poetry, along with raffles of literary-themed goods, specialty items from local businesses, and signed books by a range of authors. 

During the past few months, Lizzie Mattson ran several pop-ups at local businesses, where she could meet and talk with community members: "It was the most outstanding way to validate the need and the desire for this to come into town. We got to learn exactly what people are interested in and what they're reading right now.... We were able to make so many wonderful connections with community members and business owners."

The upcoming Writers Night, which is going to feature local writers, poets and songwriters, "is a continuation of our crowdfunding efforts--we hope to elevate local talent and give the community the opportunity to support this unique project. During our first phase of crowdfunding efforts, we learned just how impactful it can be to simply ask someone 'What are you reading right now?' With each conversation we have, the more we solidify the overwhelming need for a bookstore here in Spearfish."

The Mattsons have had a $45,000 fundraising goal to help launch Henry's Books, and Writers Night will be the final phase of their crowdfunding. "We're hoping to get really close to our original goal of $45,000. No matter what happens, we are going to continue to move forward with the bookstore," she said, noting that ideally the store will be open by this summer.

The co-owners believe 2024 is the right time for Spearfish to gain an independent bookstore, and there is plenty of community interest in it. "We can't do this without the community, so the only way this happens is by the community and for the community," Lizzie Mattson said. "We really want to see as many people sponsor as much of the store as possible for the sake of having community involvement in every element of the store.... Our greatest hope for these sponsorship options is that you would choose something that is meaningful to you in one way or another."

She added that through the recent book pop-ups and getting to know people in the community, she sees that many people have a desire to connect and build relationships, often through the shared love of reading: "A lot of people are wanting to get back to the simple pleasure of enjoying a book."

Obituary Note: Nick Sheridan 

Nick Sheridan

Nick Sheridan, a children's book author and BBC Scotland presenter, has died. He was 32. The Bookseller reported that Sheridan "won various awards for his journalism and was most recently the consumer affairs correspondent for BBC News in Scotland and a presenter on the news review show Seven Days. He published three books for children with Simon & Schuster Children's Books, including Breaking News, a nonfiction guide to news and journalism, and the Snoops Bay mystery series."

Lydia Silver, his agent said: "Over the last four years working together, Nick and I have become not just good colleagues but great friends. Nick was a hugely talented author and he loved his work--not just writing the books, but being able to reach children, entertain them, and know that he was having an impact. Nick was a brilliantly funny, warm, kind person to be around and everyone at Darley Anderson Children's will miss him very much. Our thoughts are with his partner, his family and his friends." 

Rachel Denwood, Sheridan's publisher at S&S, added: "Everyone at Simon & Schuster Children's Books is devastated to hear that our friend and author Nick Sheridan has died. We were so proud to publish Nick's funny and insightful debut, Breaking News, and his hilarious Snoops Bay mystery series. Nick's captivating charm, humor and inquisitiveness infused his children's books, and he was committed to making reading fun and exciting. We were all hugely fond of Nick and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and partner, and to his friends." 

His final book, The Case of the Poisonous Pigs, is due to be published this year.


Image of the Day: Snowglobe Launch at NYC's Korea Society

Author Soyoung Park (center) and translator Joungmin Lee Comfort (left) celebrated the release of their YA dystopian novel Snowglobe (Delacorte) with a launch event at the Korea Society in New York City. The event was moderated by author Kat Cho (right) and book sales were handled by Yu & Me Books

Bookseller Dog: George at Abalabix Books

"Did we really need another (larger) picture of George? YES!!!" Abalabix Books, Crystal Lake, Ill., posted on Instagram, along with a photo of the shop's front window welcome sign, which reads: "Welcome to the Midwest's most fragrant, most colorful bookstore and the home of George, the original bow-tie wearing lap dog."

Personnel Changes at Hachette; Viking Penguin

At Hachette Books:

Michael Barrs is promoted to v-p, associate publisher and executive director of marketing.

Michelle Aielli is taking on a new role as v-p, publishing director and executive director of publicity.


In Hachette Book Group marketing strategy:

Kenzie Sena is promoted to marketing & sales associate.

Lauren Shade is promoted to assistant marketing director.

Michelle Forde is promoted to senior marketing manager.

Sarah Alli is promoted to marketing associate.


Ivy Cheng has joined the Viking Penguin publicity team as a publicist. She previously worked at Grand Central.

Media and Movies

Movies: The Night We Lost Him

Laura Dave is teaming with her husband, screenwriter Josh Singer (Maestro), to adapt her forthcoming novel The Night We Lost Him into a film for Netflix. Deadline reported that they come to the project following their collaboration on The Last Thing He Told Me, Apple TV+'s limited series adaptation of Dave's earlier novel, which they co-developed and executive produced.

Set to be released October 1 by Simon & Schuster/Marysue Rucci Books, The Night We Lost Him "watches as the patriarch of a famed hotel empire dies under suspicious circumstances. Thereafter, his daughter and her estranged brother join forces to find out what happened, unraveling a larger mystery about who their father really was," Deadline noted. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Sheikh Zayed Book Shortlists; Carol Shields Fiction Longlist

Shortlists have been selected for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which is organized by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre under the auspices of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, and honors authors and institutions and showcases the breadth and reach of Arab culture around the world. To see the shortlisted titles in seven categories, click here.

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, secretary-general of the award and chairman of Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, said: "We are delighted to unveil this year's shortlist, which exemplifies excellence in contemporary academic, fiction, and nonfiction literature relating to the Arab world. Throughout the rigorous submissions and evaluation process for this prestigious award, we have witnessed wide-ranging and thought-provoking subject matter, highlighting the depth, creativity, and scholarly rigor of the contemporary Arab publishing community. It is with great pride that we present this remarkable shortlist, offering a glimpse into the cultural richness and intellectual vitality of today's Arab literary landscape."

Winners will be announced at the end of March, and the award ceremony takes place April 30 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Winners each receive 750,000 UAE dirhams (about $204,200), while the cultural personality will receive 1 million UAE dirhams (about $272,270).


The longlist has been selected for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which honors "novels, short story collections, and graphic novels written by women and non-binary authors and published in the U.S. and Canada." The winner will receive $150,000 and a residency at Fogo Island Inn, and the four finalists each receive $12,500. The shortlist will be announced April 9 and the winner May 13.

The longlist:
Cocktail: Stories by Lisa Alward (Biblioasis)
Birnam Wood: A Novel by Eleanor Catton (McClelland & Stewart)
Dances: A Novel by Nicole Cuffy (One World)
Daughter: A Novel by Claudia Dey (Doubleday Canada)
Coleman Hill by Kim Coleman Foote (SJP Lit)
Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan (Random House)
Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad (Doubleday)
Loot: A Novel by Tania James (Alfred A. Knopf)
You Were Watching from the Sand: Short Stories by Juliana Lamy (Red Hen Press)
The Future by Catherine Leroux, translated by Susan Ouriou (Biblioasis)
I Have Some Questions for You: A Novel by Rebecca Makkai (Viking)
A History of Burning: A Novel by Janika Oza (McClelland & Stewart)
A Council of Dolls: A Novel by Mona Susan Power (Mariner Books)
Chrysalis: Stories by Anuja Varghese (House of Anansi)
Land of Milk and Honey: A Novel by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books)

Reading with... Parul Kapur

photo: Vino Wong

Parul Kapur holds an MFA from Columbia University and has worked as a journalist, critic, and fiction writer for much of her life. Her writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Pleiades, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal Europe, Slate, Guernica, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Paris Review. Her debut novel, Inside the Mirror (University of Nebraska Press, March 1, 2024), is an examination of art, colonialism, injustice, love, and the ambition of women to seize their own power, and it won the AWP Prize for the Novel.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

In 1950s India, visionary twin sisters battle a protective family and shaming society to claim their powers as artists--a painter and a dancer.

On your nightstand now:

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, a name I first heard from my dearest friend in graduate school, long before Lispector became a figure of fascination in American letters as a bold and provocative woman writer.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese, an intergenerational family saga I'm anticipating like a great Indian feast.

If Bomber by Len Deighton had not been a book club selection, I might never have picked up this magnificent novel, since Deighton is known as a spy novelist. Here he has created a suspenseful and deeply human story about a World War II British bombing unit preparing to destroy a city in Germany's Ruhr valley, where my husband grew up in the postwar era.  

Favorite book when you were a child:

Any of the six Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene my mother bought me at a garage sale. The Secret of the Wooden Lady might have been the first book that got me hooked on Nancy, the astute girl "sleuth." As an immigrant child, I wished I could be as brave, confident, and admired as Nancy Drew.

Your top five authors:

For their staggering powers of observation and extraordinary skill with language, I admire the writers below as literary artists and not the tarnished human beings some of them have been exposed as (specifically, the two late Nobel Prize winners at the end of my list). I would drop everything to pick up a book I hadn't heard of by any of these geniuses: James Joyce, Charlotte Brontë, Jesmyn Ward, V.S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott (sneaking in a poet whose world-building is supremely novelistic).

Book you've faked reading:

Albert Camus's La Peste (The Plague in English), an allegory of war and resistance, is a novel few of us in 10th-grade French were linguistically equipped to tangle with. As my eyes roamed over the sentences, my brain would light up whenever a familiar noun or verb appeared, but never came to a conclusive understanding of a paragraph, let alone a page. Class discussions were a time to direct my gaze anywhere but in the direction of the teacher, who might call on me. 

Book you're an evangelist for:

This Is Not That Dawn by Yashpal, a prolific writer imprisoned as a revolutionary in colonial India, is the most magnificent tale ever told of the tragedy of modern India. It begins with the domestic squabbles of a lower-middle-class Punjabi family in the city of Lahore, takes us through appalling and riveting scenes of horror and violence as the British divide the subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, resulting in millions killed, and moves beyond that calamity to a broken India picking up the shattered pieces of itself in the 1950s. Originally written in serial form for a Hindi magazine, whose spellbound readers sent sacks of mail to the author's home, This Is Not That Dawn endured a long search for an English translator. Finally, the author's son, Anand, turned his hand to translating the 1,000-page tome, which has been compared with Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer. As a curious middle-school-aged observer of the sexual revolution in the wild and woolly '70s, I chipped in to buy this book with my best friend, attracted by the risqué image of a young couple on the cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Harrad Experiment (see above). My friend and I took turns reading Rimmer's story about free love breaking out on a campus where students are assigned roommates of the opposite sex. I read the paperback in an old garden shed I'd converted into my hideout in our backyard edging a cemetery, poised between my great ignorance of sex and my great ignorance of death.

Book that changed your life:

I knew from a young age I wanted to be a writer. But reading Mrs Dalloway in my early 20s, I was swept up by shimmering flights of language, and believed I'd found my literary style: it would be lyrical, like Virginia Woolf. I saw Mrs Dalloway as a purely aesthetic work, untethered to history, since I knew so little history myself then. Recently I picked the book up again and couldn't read past a few chapters. All I saw was the characters' blithe complicity in colonialism: Clarissa Dalloway, her friend Peter, just returned from India, and others of the ruling class expected at her party represented the British elite who most richly benefitted from Empire, at the cost of crushing generations of Indians, including my family. As we evolve, so does our view of books we've loved.  

Favorite line from a book:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." --F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

Five books you'll never part with:

There is no single storyline in my favorite books, but multiple paths of exploration. I would never give up Ulysses by James Joyce, a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, his unfaithful and beloved wife (Molly), his city (Dublin) and his world (Ireland).

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul, equally a comedy and tragedy about an ambitious yet powerless son of Indian indentured servants in colonial Trinidad.

Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk, translated from Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns, a tour-de-force portrayal of a bedridden white farm wife in South Africa utterly dependent on the Black girl she once domineered over as a servant and kind of daughter.

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, part of his Cairo Trilogy, whose scenes depicting the mundane and terrifying ways in which a wife and children are subjugated by the patriarch are so vivid they sear into the mind forever.

Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain is a surprising masterpiece by an author trained in fashion who paints this intricate, autobiographical portrait of a boy and his vainglorious, alcoholic mother struggling in soot-stained, down-and-out Glasgow with astounding skill.

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

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is an utterly enchanting book, for all the savagery it contains of the treatment of the enslaved. It seems to me he took some of the real-life brutalities and peculiarities of enslavement, and mixed it with speculative elements, to evoke the terrifying strangeness of a country that normalized slavery. Every chapter came as a surprise to me, and I wish I could experience again how Whitehead connects one astonishing phenomenon to the next.

Book Review

Review: The Witches of Bellinas

The Witches of Bellinas by J. Nicole Jones (Catapult, $27 hardcover, 240p., 9781646221806, May 14, 2024)

J. Nicole Jones's The Witches of Bellinas sets a newlywed couple in a vibrant small community--a lovely wealthy commune, or a cult?--and watches the fallout, in an atmospheric, suspenseful experiment involving witchcraft, love, and dividing loyalties.

Tansy and Guy have been married mere months, although they've been together for a decade, when they move from New York City to the hamlet of Bellinas on the coast of northern California. Wealthy, health-oriented, idyllic, and highly exclusive, Bellinas is led by the charismatic Manny, or Father M to his followers, a business mogul turned self-styled guru, and his wife, Mia, a former model. Guy falls easily and head-over-heels into the lush, indulgent lifestyle: surfing, diving for abalone, carousing. Tansy, expected like all the wives to serve her husband's whims, finds Bellinas a bit suspicious. But the town's high shine, like its perfect weather, is hard to resist. She so wants things to work out with Guy: "I let the happiness I felt in that moment of renewed closeness grow taller than the forest of disappointments we had collected in the course of years together." So she goes along. "Everything would be fine. How could it be otherwise? Bellinas was so perfect-looking."

The Witches of Bellinas is narrated by Tansy in hindsight, from an apparent confinement in the town schoolhouse, after something has gone awry. With her academic background in the classics (a vocation sacrificed for Guy), she flavors her conversations and her narrative with literary references that increase her story's sense of deep foreboding, frequently comparing herself to Cassandra. The reader must wait, however, to discover the precise nature of the trouble in paradise. Is the creeping dread about the neighboring forest fires? The ocean's force? The local blend of calming tea? Are the powers at work in Bellinas magical or cult leadership at work?

Jones (Low Country) gives Tansy a strong sense of the wrongs done women at the hands of men, from both her scholarly work and her experience. "The plans of women have been called plots, schemes, murder, but if we do not claim the future as our bodies are claimed by men, then both are gobbled up by husbands and historians." She writes, it seems, for her life. "Do not discount the truth of the old wives' tales.... What is this history if not a wife's tale? A truth revealed by unlikelihoods does not make it less true."

At the intersection of the supernatural and simple human ugliness, The Witches of Bellinas gives its readers chills and thrills along with a profound sense of wrongs done, but no heroes or villains. This is a novel for anyone who's wondered if the picturesque might be too good to be true. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: In this atmospheric and suspenseful novel, an exclusive coastal California community is either the best thing to ever happen to an unhappy newlywed, as her husband believes, or a frightening trap.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'A Night of Beautiful Bookish Dreams'

To kick off the evening, you will enjoy a delectable dinner at a nearby restaurant, before returning to the Hidden Library and settling in for a night of beautiful bookish dreams; well read and ready for bed. 

--Airbnb listing for the Hidden Library of St Paul's Cathedral in London

Yesterday was World Book Day in the U.K. and Ireland, with bookshops, publishers, libraries, and schools celebrating to emphasize the point that "children are more likely to enjoy reading when their choices are championed and we make reading fun." 

As we mentioned earlier this week, one WBD tradition has taken a cost of living crisis hit in recent years. The Guardian reported that "while in the past many schools asked children to dress up as their favorite book character for the event, in recent years some schools have adopted more flexible policies, asking children to wear pajamas or comfortable clothing instead."

At Bert's Books, Swindon

WBD CEO Cassie Chadderton noted that the charity has always asked schools to "have a think about their context, have a think about the children that are in their setting, and think about what will work best for them." 

British indie children's bookseller Wonderland Bookshop, Retford, also offered some context on social media: "Have an amazing World Book Day tomorrow, everyone! If you're fretting about costumes, please don't. It can be fun and a great way to show love for a book, but it's not the main focus. If you're not a fan of dress up, lots of your favorite characters wear T-shirts and jeans!

"This doesn't mean I'm anti dressing up. I know it can be a fun part of celebrations and it must feel amazing for authors and illustrators! But it's not the main focus and it's important to remember that it's not for everyone. And that's okay!"

Other indies celebrated in their own ways:

At the Old Bank Bookshop

Antonia's Bookstore, Trim, Ireland: "We had a fabulous world book day today with visits by classes from St. Patrick's NS Trim and St Mary's NS Trim. Thank you to local author Tatyana Stewart Feeney for reading from her book Mr. Wolf Goes to the Ball."

White Rose Books & Coffee Bar, Thirsk: "We're having lots of fun on World Book Day today, pupils from Cundall Manor School enjoyed choosing books and Storytime."

Hunting Raven Books, Frome: "We are having a total blast at All Hallows! This is day 2 of our two-day book fair here and we've been really enjoying the amazing World Book Day outfits of both the staff and students. Every child has had the chance to take a book home and it's been so fun helping them choose from this brilliant selection of titles! We love running book fairs, so do get in touch if you would like to consider running one in your school."

At Hunting Raven Books

The Old Bank Book Shop, Wigtown, Scotland: "Happy at our work! #HappyWorldBookDay"

The Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh, Scotland: "800 tokens redeemed already and visits from over 250 children from the local primary school! Happy World Book Day!"

I found myself thinking about my life as a young reader. I don't recall any sort of promotional activities, national or local, taking place where I grew up. Which is kind of a shame, since the act of reading was life's blood for me early on. It gave me the world, even within the limitations of small town life. There wasn't much outside encouragement; no one ever took a photo of me reading a book, which is odd because my face was usually buried in one. 

Now, as an aging but still prolific reader, I've finally found a proper way to celebrate WBD (if only in my imagination).

Inspired by WBD, Airbnb announced that a pair of lucky readers will be able to "get lost in a literary paradise, hidden within the world-famous walls of St. Paul's Cathedral" in London, where they will embark on the "ultimate bookish adventure, spending the night surrounded by a curated collection of over 22,000 books, in one of the most breathtaking and hidden libraries in the world."

Describing the Hidden Library as "a magical space," Airbnb noted that the two lucky guests who stay there "will be the first to officially sleep inside the Cathedral since the St. Paul's Watch protected the building during World War II. You will enter the iconic St. Paul's Cathedral through the Dean's door and climb the famous Geometric Staircase, designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren over three hundred years ago. You will be greeted by the Dean of St. Paul's and receive an exclusive tour of the Cathedral. At the top of the staircase, you will enter the doors to the charming library space, and be given the exclusive opportunity to lose track of time in the pages of Holly Jackson's The Reappearance of Rachel Price, John Grisham's Camino Ghosts, and Kevin Kwan's Lies and Weddings before they hit the shelves."

This exclusive stay will be available March 15 for one night only. Potential guests can request the privilege to book a stay beginning March 12. Perhaps the better-than-fiction aspect of this experience is the cost: £7 (about $8.90) for the night, with breakfast and dinner included at nearby restaurants. 

Isobel Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected and chair of the Roald Dahl Museum, was already getting prepared: "Library lovers: set your alarm for 12th March at 10 a.m. for your chance to book a night's stay in St. Paul's Cathedral's 'hidden' library. I am sitting in front of my laptop for the next week ready to press BOOK!"

Here's the "beautiful bookish dreams" part: I don't have to be in the Hidden Library; I can already imagine it because I'm a reader.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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