Also published on this date: Monday March 11, 2024: Maximum Shelf: Norman MacLean

Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 11, 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.


Bookish Oscar Winners: Oppenheimer, Poor Things

At last night's Academy Awards ceremony, several movies based on books or with book connections took home Oscars, including the big winner Oppenheimer, which picked up seven of the golden statuettes. This year's major category bookish Oscar winners are:

Oppenheimer, based on the biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin: Best picture; directing (Christopher Nolan); actor in a leading role (Cillian Murphy); actor in a supporting role (Robert Downey Jr.); cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema); film editing (Jennifer Lame); music, original score (Ludwig Göransson)

Poor Things, based on the novel by Alasdair Gray: Actress in a leading role (Emma Stone); costume design; makeup and hairstyling; production design; sound

The Zone of Interest, based on the novel by Martin Amis: Best international feature film

American Fiction, based on Percival Everett's novel Erasure: Writing, adapted screenplay (Cord Jefferson)

The Boy and the Heron, inspired by Genzaburo Yoshino's 1937 novel How Do You Live?, which appears in the film but is not directly connected to the story: Best animated feature film

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, based on a short story collection by Roald Dahl: Best short film, live action

A number of book-related movies earned Oscar nominations but didn't win. These included Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the book by David Grann; Nyad, based Diana Nyad's Find a Way; The Color Purple, based on the novel by Alice Walker; Society of the Snow, adapted from Pablo Vierci's book; Nimona, based on the graphic novel by N.D. Stevenson; Robot Dreams, based on the comic by Sara Varon; Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, based on the Marvel Comics character; and The ABCs of Book Banning

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Kai Bird, Co-Author of American Prometheus, Wins BIO Award

Kai Bird
(photo: Joshua Bird)

Kai Bird has been selected for the 2024 BIO Award, the annual award given by the Biographers International Organization to "a distinguished colleague who has made significant contributions to the art and craft of biography."

With co-author Martin J. Sherwin, Bird won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006, for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Vintage), which became the basis for Christopher Nolan's film Oppenheimer, winner last night of seven Oscars.

Bird is the author of six other books, four of which have been biographies. They include The Chairman: John J. McCloy, the Making of the American Establishment (1992); The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy & William Bundy, Brothers in Arms (1998); The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (2014); and, most recently, The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter (2021). He's currently working on a book about McCarthy-era lawyer Roy Cohn.

Since 2017, as executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, Bird has worked to advance the field of biography and to support and encourage fellow biographers. He is also a distinguished lecturer at the Levy Center and serves on the board of the Biographers International Organization.

Heather Clark, chair of the BIO Awards Committee, observed that Bird "has not only scaled the heights of biography--winning a Pulitzer Prize for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer--he has been an inspiring and approachable mentor to many first-time biographers as the director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. Under Kai's stewardship, the Levy Center has become the most important institute for biography in America. Through its prestigious fellowship program and illuminating lecture series, the Levy Center, under Kai, promotes young and established biographers and brings their work to a wider public. Lastly, Christopher Nolan's film Oppenheimer, based on American Prometheus, has brought both Kai and the genre of biography unprecedented global visibility. We thank Kai Bird for all he has done for biography."

Bird called biography "the best form of history. It's the most probing and intimate, precisely because it's about one other person. And yet through the biography of this one other person's life, you have a window into all sorts of history that you learn along the way. So it's also the most accessible form of history, too. It's very captivating to the average reader."

Tattered Cover Plans to Emerge from Bankruptcy by June

The Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo., has submitted a financial plan that would enable the bookstore to emerge from bankruptcy by June. As reported by Denverite, the plan aims to resolve "about $3.4 million in unsecured debt, repair its relationship with vendors and restructure operations to become a smaller, more modern and financially sustainable business."

The retailer is considering cost-cutting measures that include "evaluating its current lease terms and exploring whether to keep its four existing retail stores or move to less costly locations." (The four stores do not include Tattered Cover's Denver International Airport locations, which are joint ventures with Hudson Booksellers.)

Tattered Cover CEO Brad Dempsey said in a statement, "Without a doubt we still have complicated negotiations to complete, challenging local economic pressures to navigate, and difficult decisions to make as we forge ahead toward establishing profitability. But with the continued hard work of our incredible team and support from people in Colorado as well as across the nation, we are optimistic about Tattered Cover's future."

After filing for bankruptcy last October, Tattered Cover closed three stores and let go about 30% of staff. In January, in a partial reorganization plan, Tattered Cover listed unsecured claims totaling $3.2 million, with "large amounts" owed to publishers, landlords, and former employees, including some $467,000 to former CEO and co-owner Kwame Spearman, an amount Tattered Cover is objecting to.

Charlesbridge Launches Middle-Grade Fiction Imprint, Charlesbridge Moves

Charlesbridge is launching a new middle-grade fiction imprint, Charlesbridge Moves, that will publish "high-interest, character-driven stories that are told through traditional prose and verse, and several future books will have graphic-novel elements... the imprint focuses on the inactive reader or capable nonreader who has become disengaged."

The new imprint will be headed by editorial director Eileen Robinson, who in 2011 started Move Books with the hope of increasing literacy rates among boys. Charlesbridge acquired the company in 2022. Robinson Robinson is also editing board books and picture books for the Charlesbridge list as executive editor.

Robinson said, "Charlesbridge Moves will excite middle-grade and chapter-book readers with adventure, mystery, and fun, giving them the confidence to read more. Whether told through traditional prose, verse, or graphic novel elements, our books grow and sustain an appetite for reading, especially with boys and reluctant readers."

The first books on the Charlesbridge Moves list are:

The Kid by debut author Jeff Schill, "a rollicking western set in 1882 with a boy, a quick-draw called The Kid, a city slicker, and an outlaw." (May 7)

Hum by William David Thomas, "an adventurous, heartwarming story of a boy who discovers he can communicate with a llama, unveiling repressed memories and lies about his past." (July 16)

Wings to Soar by Tina Athaide, "a courageous novel-in-verse, set in the 1970s--a young refugee is displaced in a country that doesn't want her." (July 23)

Saving Kenny by debut author Corinne Gaile. "In the midst of emotional and physical upheaval, a young boy with a dauntless spirit sets his sights on becoming a costume designer after seeing the opera Aida." (October 29)

Future books include the Monsters of Fife, a three-book series of fantasy adventure novels by Jane Yolen.

Charlesbridge is distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

Obituary Note: Petra Mathers

Petra Mathers

Petra Mathers, a celebrated children's book illustrator and author of more than 40 picture books, died February 6. She was 78 and died by suicide, together with her husband, Michael Mathers.

"They believed their marriage was the most complete relationship ever," Barbara Hansel, a friend and a former bookstore owner, told the New York Times. "They often said they could not live without the other. They did what we always knew they would do. It confirmed the truth of their marriage."

Petra Mathers's books include the popular Lottie series. Lottie's New Beach Towel was Book of the Year for I magazine, and Lottie's New Friend won the Silver Medal from the New York Society of Illustrators. 
Noting that her "kindly, often bumbling animal characters were nonetheless quietly heroic and often risked much for love," the Times wrote: "With spare, naïve images rendered in ink, pencil and watercolor, Ms. Mathers's stories--whose subjects included a soulful museum guard (an alligator) who falls in love with the subject in a painting (another alligator) and a warmhearted chicken named Lottie and her best friend, Herbie, a duck--were just as sparely written, but imbued with sly humor and wit, captivating both her eight-and-under audience and their parents."

Her first book was Maria Theresa, the story of "a dreamy fowl who has all sorts of adventures." It was followed by three other titles before Mathers began her Lottie series in the late 1990s. When an interviewer asked why she focused on chickens, she replied: "I can make them move, draw them to express feeling. Lottie is my role model. Even though it seems that I am inventing her, she already exists in all of us when we are at our best."

Aunt Mattie Got Her Wings (2014), Mathers's final book, "foreshadowed one of her last acts, a decade later," the Times noted, adding: "Mattie is Lottie's beloved aunt; here she is 99 years old, and dying, and Lottie travels to the hospital to say goodbye. Aunt Mattie wakes up to greet her. 'They're expecting me upstairs, but I told them I was waiting for you,' she says. 'Oh Lottie, what fun we've had.' "

"And off Aunt Mattie goes. It's not clear where, but there's an airplane waiting for her--a flight on Out of This World Airlines--and lots of other chickens. Everyone looks pretty happy. Back home, Lottie finds a note waiting for her. 'By the time you read this I will be dead,' it says, 'and I imagine you're feeling a little down in the beak. That's why I'm writing this letter. I've had a long and happy life doing what I love best.' Aunt Mattie adds, 'Now it's time to make room for someone else on this earth.' "

Over the years, Mathers had donated much of her original artwork to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass. Nichols B. Clark, the museum's founding director and chief curator emeritus, called it "a natural fit. They both used humble animals to tell very big stories." Clark received one of her goodbye letters, in which she wrote of the pleasure she took in being part of the Carle Museum and included an unpublished manuscript and a generous check.

"Petra was really very important and not as celebrated as she deserved to be," said Anne Schwartz, her longtime editor. "Each book is a slice of life beautifully captured, a little gem. She was a keen observer of the minutiae of the world around her, the small dilemmas of life. And she was a romantic to her very bones."


Image of the Day: Dragtivity Day Signing

Kyne Santos signed copies of her book Math in Drag (Johns Hopkins University Press) at Cheer Up Charlies' annual Family Dragtivity Day in Austin, Tex. Dragtivity Day is a family-friendly celebration of drag hosted in partnership with Drag Story Hour, SXSW, the Austin Public Library, and BookPeople.

Bookseller Dog: RIP Stella Deux at Howling Basset Books

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the unexpected passing of Stella Deux, our beloved basset hound, who became ill at the beginning of this week and was not responsive to treatment," Howling Basset Books, Oldwick, N.J., posted on Instagram. "Stella was such a people lover--as the store mascot, greeting people was her favorite thing to do, and she took her job very seriously. (Even though she did not know how to howl.) Little did we know when we decided to open the store last year that Stella would become such a local celebrity and people would travel especially to see her! She received so many belly rubs from all of you and lived her best life here at the store. She will be greatly missed."

Personnel Changes at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

At Little, Brown Books for Young Readers:

Cheryl Lew has been promoted to associate director, publicity. She was most recently senior publicity manager.

Savannah Kennelly has been promoted to senior digital marketing manager. She was most recently digital marketing manager.

Christie Michel has been promoted to senior manager, school & library marketing. She was most recently manager, school & library marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tamron Hall on the View

Today Show: Charles Spencer, author of A Very Private School: A Memoir (Gallery, $28.99, 9781668046388).

Sherri Shepherd Show: Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier Revised Edition: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story (Dey Street, $17.99, 9780062917607).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Kara Swisher, author of Burn Book: A Tech Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982163891).

Today Show: Lisa Mosconi, author of The Menopause Brain: New Science Empowers Women to Navigate the Pivotal Transition with Knowledge and Confidence (Avery, $30, 9780593541241).

CBS Mornings: Stephen Curry, author of I Am Extraordinary (Penguin Workshop, $19.99, 9780593386064).

Tamron Hall: Trent Shelton, author of Protect Your Peace: Nine Unapologetic Principles for Thriving in a Chaotic World (Hay House, $24.99, 9781401973162).

Also on Tamron Hall: Tim Ross, author of Welcome to the Basement: An Upside-Down Guide to Greatness (Thomas Nelson, $29.99, 9781400247783).

The View: Tamron Hall, author of Watch Where They Hide: A Jordan Manning Novel (Morrow, $29, 9780063037083).

Books & Authors

Awards: Gordon Burn Winner

Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan (Daunt Boks) has won the £10,000 (about $12,860) Gordon Burn Prize, which honors "fiction and non-fiction books that are fearless in their ambition and execution which push boundaries, cross genres and challenge readers' expectations."

Organizers said that Kick the Latch "is based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer. It vividly captures the arc of one woman's life at the racetrack--the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner's circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the 'particular language' of 'grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody'--with economy and integrity."

Book Review

Review: 888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers

888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers by Abraham Chang (Flatiron Books, $29.99 hardcover, 400p., 9781250910783, May 7, 2024)

Abraham Chang has worked in publishing for years, so it's no shock that his debut novel displays a confidence more common among established authors. 888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers knows exactly what it is doing, and the only question at this point is just how many people will fall in love with Young Wang and his search for perfection--in numbers and in life.

Set in the mid-to-late '90s, this book is a quiet riot of pop-culture references, full of song titles and movie moments, AOL and pager code. The structure and pacing are strong, bouncing between Young's second year at New York University and the flashback sections focused on his first five loves, starting in elementary school with Denise, who has a "Leia-likeness." There's a magical first kiss at the sixth-grade dance ("You and Natalie are alone now; there doesn't seem to be anyone around."), and a dramatic broken heart just before college. Each segment is cinematic, getting every detail just right.

Besides the delightful barrage of '90s nerdery, the other thread that ties Chang's work together is Young's insistence on the importance of numbers, some good ("11: Two #1s. Make a wish. GOOD.") and others terrifying ("44: SO BAD. ALWAYS AVOID"). Young's uncle Su Su believes "we only get seven great loves in life: man, woman, thing, whoever and whatever gets your motor running," so when he falls for Erena (his number six), he is forced to question his faith in the numbers. Could she be his 888 love--"The most magical of numbers: the triple 8. The triple A, top grade, best of the best. Infinity upon infinity upon infinity"--or is number seven out there waiting for him?

Young is a film nerd who regularly dreams of revered directors like George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, and John Hughes offering advice: "Don't wait for some bolt of lightning that may never come!" As an "ABC" (American Born Chinese), Young's love for his New York City home is enriched by his Chinese heritage, and soon John Woo and Ang Lee are the directors in his dreams, reminding him, "You carry these stories with you, in whatever you do."

Perfect for GenX readers or younger fans of such classics as Ready Player One, this coming-of-age story is thoroughly fresh while touching something universal, that tender reminder of the power of love. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Shelf Talker: A spot-on dive into 1990s New York and the struggles of finding out who you are meant to be and all the ways you might be meant to love, Abraham Chang's debut is hilarious and sweet, a pure delight.

The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in February

The following were the most popular book club books during February based on votes from book club readers in more than 83,500 book clubs registered at

1. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Riverhead Books)
2. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper)
3. Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday)
4. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (Dial Press)
5. Demon Copperhead: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper)
6. The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday)
7. Mad Honey: A Novel by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan (Ballantine Books)
8. Lady Tan's Circle of Women: A Novel by Lisa See (Scribner)
9. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove Press)
10. None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books)

Rising Stars:
The Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods (OneMoreChapter)
The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters (Catapult)

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