Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 18, 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.


RISE Bookselling Conference Opens in Portugal

On Sunday morning, more than 350 booksellers from 28 countries gathered at the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, for the second iteration of the RISE Bookselling Conference. After welcome remarks from European and International Booksellers Federation presidents Fabian Paagman and Jean-Luc Treutenaere, Portuguese author Afonso Cruz gave the morning's keynote talk.

Alfonso Cruz

A musician, multi-disciplinary artist and the author of more than 30 books, Cruz recalled that when he was working on what became his first book, Encyclopedia of Universal Story, he "wasn't thinking of being a writer." He had a background in animation, and was "just writing" for the sake of it. After the success of Encyclopedia of Universal Story, he went on to write many more titles, for both adults and children.

Some of those he mentioned were The Books That Devoured My Father, about a child reading the books in his father's library after the latter's death; an adult novel called Kokoschka's Doll, named for the life-sized doll that Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka commissioned after the end of his love affair with Alma Mahler; and a satire of capitalism called Let's Buy a Poet, in which people who are deemed less economically valuable can be purchased as pets.

Cruz explained that many of his books, including some for adults, feature illustrations, and he dislikes the stereotype that books with illustrations are automatically for children. He remarked that these same illustrations, which are supposedly for kids, would be pieces of art if they were simply framed and hung on a wall.

Innovative Ideas in the Bookshop
Among yesterday's panels, one focused on "innovative ideas in the bookshop." Pasi Vainio of Vinhan Kirjakauppa in Ruovesi, "in the middle of nowhere" in Finland, described how his store, founded in 1903, has made itself into a bookseller with connections and customers far beyond its village of 4,000 inhabitants. Besides the bookshop, which is "the core of the business," there is an art gallery, a book cafe and bar, an upstairs floor with bedrooms that is a b&b in the summer and a retreat for authors, artists, and musicians in the winter, a laundromat in the basement, and something most bookstores don't have: a sauna.

Left to right: Pasi Vainio, Jan Smedh, Tom Rowley, and moderator Sheila O'Reilly of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland.

Through social media and "lots of events," including a very popular three-day festival of literature in the summer, the store attracted 50,000 visitors last year and "35,000 paying customers." In Finland, Vainio concluded, people have said "the physical book is in a big crisis. I say if that's the case, I'm living in a dream world."

Jan Smedh of Sweden's English Bookshop, with locations in Uppsala, Stockholm, and Gothenburg, noted that his stores are not "expat shops." Fully 95% of customers are "Swedes who read for pleasure in English."

Smedh outlined some of the programs and events that the store puts on to attract customers:

  • Swish-a-Book from Santa is a Christmas gift program (Swish is a Swedish payment system similar to Venmo), under which customers arrange to have gift-wrapped books sent in December.
  • A monthly book club that features one title in each of 11 categories and includes reading groups for seven of them at all three English Bookshops. It also has a subscription component available for 3, 6 or 12 months, in which customers receive "surprise packages."
  • A new 2024 reading challenge introduced in the Gothenburg shop that lists 52 books to read during the year and includes a Facebook discussion group.
  • An informal program whereby the shops bring over English-language authors from abroad who stay with Smedh, do events, and are the focus of a staff dinner at Smedh's home. Besides leading to good connections with authors and publishers abroad, the events are extremely important for staff, who feel "privileged and connected," Smedh said.

Tom Rowley, who founded Backstory in London in 2002, said he based his bookshop and bar in large part on Kramers (formerly known as Kramerbooks & Afterwords) in Washington, D.C., which he visited frequently while working in the capital as a journalist. "I wanted a bar that was integrated, not a bookstore and a cafe," he said, so that the "bookseller becomes a publican," in the tradition of a British pub.

Rowley aims to attract as many people as possible who don't usually read books and promotes the idea of "the bookshop as a place for everyone." Toward that end, he hosts many non-book events, particularly a weekly music concert.

From the beginning Rowley also embraced the Internet. "I figured that the Internet is not our enemy but can be our friend," he said. One example: the store's fiction and nonfiction book clubs take place entirely on Zoom, which has many advantages, including reaching customers worldwide and getting "bigger-name authors than we might otherwise."

He also said that he relishes being able to innovate in small ways every day. "If something doesn't work," he said. "We do something else."

Rowley writes a weekly newsletter and asked the audience to contribute to this coming week's version by sending him a note about what their stores' current bestselling title is and why. --Alex Mutter & John Mutter

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London Book Fair 2024: Sustainable Publishing

At the 2024 London Book Fair last week, sustainability was one of the biggest topics of the show. On Tuesday, journalist Geeta Pendse moderated a main stage panel on the subject that featured Sherri Aldis, director of the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe, Rachel Martin, global head of sustainability at Elsevier, and children's book author Piers Torday.

Left to right: Geeta Pendse, Sherri Aldis, Rachel Martin, Piers Torday

Aldis brought up misinformation and disinformation as major obstacles in the way of climate action and the fulfillment of the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals. She called misinformation and disinformation "pervasive in society" and called for a "multi-stakeholder approach" to combating it.

The U.N. began working on the problem in earnest during the Covid-19 pandemic in response to the amount of health misinformation that was spreading at the time. At that time the U.N. developed two mechanisms for combating misinformation: using "trusted locals" to disseminate facts and science, and fostering media literacy.

In June, the U.N. will publish a new code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms, which is meant to provide a "gold standard" for governments, policy makers, and the media to use. She also noted that the U.N. will examine the current business models of online spaces, which generally give incentives to "hate speech and lies," and consider alternatives.

Another difficulty, Martin said, is the harassment and targeted attacks that academics receive. She discussed a recent survey that found that one in four researchers have either experienced online abuse directly or know a close colleague who has, and she mentioned climatologist Michael Mann, who in 1998 first published the "hockey-stick graph" depicting the rise in global temperatures. In February, he won a $1 million defamation case against conservative writers who accused him of manipulating data and likened him to child molester Jerry Sandusky.

Martin further pointed out that the classic assumption that simply providing information will change behavior "kind of out of date." People need to experiment with contextualizing and synthesizing science in news, and she noted that generative AI could provide some good opportunities for synthesizing vast amounts of peer-review content. It could also be used in the developing world to create policy briefs on climate and the environment.

Torday remarked that as a fiction author, he did not so much deal in facts as in values, and he sought to foster in young people a cultural respect for the facts as well as a culture of hope. The "doomsday narrative" has dominated discussions about climate change for a long time now, he said, and while the reality of climate change is indeed "perilous," that type of narrative "doesn't always cut through." People can feel attacked for their lifestyle and become defensive, or ignore the problem entirely.

Changing the narrative, he stressed, is "actually vital" to getting people to accept the facts, and in his work he tries make the point that small changes matter, cultural behavior counts, and "no problem is too insurmountable." Martin agreed that people will do more for hope than out of "despondence or fear," and Aldis said the publishing industry is a valuable ally in not only getting the facts out there, but also getting people inspired and motivated.

In 2021, Torday was behind an open letter to U.K. publishers and literary agents calling for united action across the industry on climate change. It was signed by more than 100 writers and illustrators, and Torday recalled that he went about it by contacting as many authors as he could and asking if they thought the values they presented on the page were matched by the values of that page. The answer, overwhelmingly, was either "I'm not sure, or no."

Since then, "people did come together," and over the past few years there have been "positive steps." Both the U.K. Publishers Association and International Publishers Association have developed carbon calculators publishers can use to assess the carbon footprint of a given title, and publishers as well as trade bodies have been increasingly collaborating and sharing data. Torday noted that there is still a "long road to travel," and much more work needs to be done related to returns, shipping, printing, and other parts of the supply chain. For sustainability, he said, there is "no silver bullet."

An encouraging option is the increase in the use of print-on-demand, with Torday remarking that given the improvements in quality of print-on-demand titles in recent years, consumers might already be reading print-on-demand titles without realizing it. The "stereotype" that print-on-demand is automatically cheap or low-quality, he continued, is no longer the case.

There are advances in printing and materials that can drastically lower the carbon footprint of print books without sacrificing readability or quality, Torday said. To illustrate this point, he showed the audience two copies of the Danish classic Lucky Per by Nobel Prize-winner Henrik Pontoppidan. One edition had a carbon cost of about 2.2 kg; the other had a cost of only about 350 grams. That more sustainable version, Torday said, does not omit a single word from the text and has normal-sized type. If every book was made using those methods, it would be the equivalent "to taking 15 million cars off the road."

The panelists also discussed the misconception that digital is automatically more sustainable. Martin acknowledged that while a digital copy of a book typically has a lower carbon cost than a print copy, it isn't that simple. Those estimates do not take into account the carbon cost of the device being used to read the e-book, whether that be a smartphone, tablet, or dedicated e-reader, or the carbon cost of the data centers that power digital infrastructure. Torday also observed that while a physical book may have a higher carbon cost than an e-book, the physical copy can be shared from reader to reader and last 100 years.--Alex Mutter

ABA, Others Declare 'SBA: Dump Amazon' Day

The American Booksellers Association and other independent businesses and associations have declared Wednesday, March 20, "SBA: Dump Amazon" Day, to protest Amazon's continued co-sponsorship of National Small Business Week, which takes place April 28-May 4. The ABA and Small Business Rising have complained to the federal Small Business Administration, organizer of National Small Business Week, about Amazon's participation but say their protests have gone "unheeded."

On March 20, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and others aim to make "their voices heard, demanding that Administrator [Isabel] Guzman do the right thing and 'dump Amazon.' "

ABA CEO Allison Hill commented: "Over the past two decades, Amazon has grown a stranglehold on the book industry and crushed healthy competition in the marketplace for small business. It is preposterous that a government agency charged with assisting and protecting the interests of small business concerns and preserving free competitive enterprise would select Amazon as a co-sponsor of National Small Business Week--a disconnect heightened by the Federal Trade Commission's simultaneous lawsuit against Amazon for illegally maintaining monopoly power. Granting Amazon the opportunity of sponsorship allows it to whitewash anti-competitive behavior and the harm its doing to small business while forcing small businesses to engage with their biggest threat to accept this opportunity. Enough is enough."

David Grogan, director of advocacy and public policy at the ABA, added: "National Small Business Week is meant to be a celebration of small businesses. So we find it a bit ironic and troubling that the week is co-sponsored by Amazon--a huge corporation currently being sued by the Federal Trade Commission and 17 state Attorneys General for alleged antitrust violations that the FTC claims have severely harmed small businesses. Certainly, booksellers have been impacted by Amazon's anti-competitive tactics perhaps more than any other businesses. For the SBA to enter into a partnership with Amazon (and other huge corporate sponsors) for the week dedicated to small business is simply a slap in the face of every small business in the country."

Valparaiso University Switching to B&N College

Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., is switching from Follett to Barnes & Noble College, the Valpo Torch reported.

In January the university announced it had signed a new five-year contract with B&N College, and though Follett's contract technically won't expire until the end of June, the two companies currently are working on the transition. Over spring break, the bookstore will close so that Follett and B&N College can switch out computers, cash registers, and other equipment. Looking ahead, the bookstore may eventually add lounge space or a coffee shop.

Once part of the same company as the bookstore chain, B&N College split off as a separate entity approximately 10 years ago.


Image of the Day: Chelsey Goodan at P&T Knitwear

On International Women's Day, P&T Knitwear in New York City hosted a sold-out event with Chelsey Goodan for her new release, Underestimated: The Wisdom & Power of Teenage Girls (Gallery Books). Goodan was in conversation with thought leader Janna Meyrowitz Turner and 19-year-old activist Jaya Harper.

#StPatricksDay: 'Indie Bookstores: The Real Gold at the End of the Rainbow'

At Carmichael's Bookstore

Green was the color of the day yesterday as booksellers celebrated St. Patrick's Day and the lead-up to it, with many sharing their good spirits on social media, including: 

Raven Books, Dublin, Ireland: "Irish window done. Wishing you all Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig. Back open at noon on Monday."

Kennys Bookshop & Art Gallery, Galway, Ireland: "Happy #StPatricksDay one and all! Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh! In celebration, we'd like to give this hamper of Irish books worth €300 away to one person (anywhere in the world). Like, RT, comment or follow us by 9am Wednesday to enter. Enjoy the weekend!"

The Stacks Bookstore, Savannah, Ga.: "Yes, we're open today until 6! It's all clear of parade shenanigans at The Stacks. No crowds, no chaos. Just books and good vibes!"

At the Poisoned Pen Bookstore

The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale, Ariz.: "March brings us so many things to celebrate. Don't you love this bright window of shamrocks, signs of spring and symbols of St Patrick?"

Verb Bookstore, Jonesboro, Ark.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day, Book Friends! Come on down to Gee Street for a little extra luck today. We have a Pot of GOLD-en Milk Latte, a clover green Matcha Latte, and some birthday cake protein bites as beautiful as any rainbow!"

Rosetta Books, Maleny, Australia: "Celebrating all things Irish today with our inspired selection of authors, poets and some wonderful travel guides here at Rosetta Books Maleny. Happy St.Patricks Day to you all."

Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky.: "Indie bookstores: the real gold at the end of the rainbow."

Sunshine Book Co., Clermont, Fla.: "Did you enjoy the festival yesterday? Swing by today if you're strolling and enjoying today. We're open now-4pm, then we have a private event 4-6pm. Hope you'll be lucky and find just the book you're looking for. Cheers! #stpatricksday."

At the BookMark

The BookMark, Neptune Beach, Fla.: "Don't worry about wearing green--instead check out a green book this St. Patrick's Day. We have plenty of options available for you, no matter your genre. Sláinte!"

Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.: "Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit (Happy St. Patrick's Day). Enjoy a pint, read some Sally Rooney, or maybe rewatch Derry Girls, just don't forget that the Mystic Irish Parade is one week away! Cheers."

The Gold Rush Bookstore, Rossland, B.C., Canada: "Happy St. Paddy's day! May the luck of the Irish be with you today."

New Story Community Books, Marshall, Mich.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day! Come in and show us your Irish spirit and select a shamrock for savings or something free on Sunday."

Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.:"Hope you come in today to witness these shenanigans and grab a book and an Irish beer with Tyler."

Blacksburg Books, Blacksburg, Va.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day! We picked some four leaf clovers for y'all so if you stop by the store then grab one!"

At Title Wave Books

Title Wave Books, Anchorage, Alaska: "Happy St. Patrick's Day from your friendly Title Wave Family!! Looking for last minute green to wear? We got you covered!!... Come on in for some green and great deals!!"

Cover to Cover Books, Columbus, Ohio: "Happy St. Patrick's Day! See if you can spot the leprechaun at our shop. We'll be open like a pot of gold at the end of a marvelous rainbow from Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday."

The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day! Our shelves are filled with all of the Irish authors you know and love and maybe some you're yet to discover. If you're feeling a bit more musical, we've got just the albums for you too. We wish everyone a safe and luck-filled day!"

The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn, Glen Ellyn, Ill.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day! Top of the Morning to You. We are open today 11-4. Don't forget to wear your finest green attire--because even our book spines are feeling festive!"

Reads by the River Books and Gifts, Waterford, Wis.: "Wishing you all a great day! Stop by the shop and see Lindsay today from 11-2! It's always a lucky day when you get to browse at the bookstore!"

At the Valley Bookseller

Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn.: "Happy St Patrick's Day! We have a plethora of books by Irish authors and those that honor Irish culture. Between your green beers and parades, make sure you stop by and say hi."

Midtown Reader, Tallahassee, Fla.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day. Don't get caught without your green today! Whether you're searching for your pot of gold or just don't want to get pinched, our bookstore has you covered. Be sure to stop by today to pick up your next green read!"

Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day!"

Personnel Changes at Phaidon and Monacelli

Ellie Levine is being promoted to director, marketing & digital initiatives at Phaidon.

Audrée Damiba is joining Phaidon as marketing manager, effective March 25.

Eva Baron is being promoted to publicist at Phaidon, effective March 25.

Caroline Jones has joined Monacelli as marketing and publicity assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sarah McCammon on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Dan Pashman, author of Anything's Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People (Morrow, $35, 9780063291126).

CBS Mornings: Brett Gelman, author of The Terrifying Realm of the Possible: Nearly True Stories (Dey Street, $29.99, 9780063315976).

Fresh Air: Sarah McCammon, author of The Evangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church (St. Martin's Press, $30, 9781250284471).

Today Show: José Andrés, author of Zaytinya: Delicious Mediterranean Dishes from Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon (Ecco, $45, 9780063327900). He will also appear on the Tonight Show.

The View: Christine Blasey Ford, author of One Way Back: A Memoir (St. Martin's Press, $29, 9781250289650).

TV: Salem's Lot

New Line's film adaptation of the novel Salem's Lot will debut on Max sometime in 2024 "after repeated delays riled author Stephen King into publicly wondering where the heck the Warner Bros. film was," IndieWire reported. 

Gary Dauberman's adaptation was first announced in 2019 and shot in 2021. Last month, King took to social media to say, "Between you and me, Twitter, I've seen the new Salem's Lot and it's quite good. Old-school horror filmmaking: slow build, big payoff. Not sure why WB is holding it back; not like it's embarrassing, or anything. Who knows. I just write the f[*]cking things."

The film reunites the producing teams behind horror franchises The Conjuring universe and the IT films, with Dauberman writing and directing, as well as executive producing with James Wan and Michael Clear for Atomic Monster and Roy Lee for Vertigo alongside Mark Wolper.

Salem's Lot has been adapted only for TV before. CBS had a two-part miniseries from 1979, and Rob Lowe starred in an Emmy-nominated TNT series in 2004. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Weatherford Fiction Winner

Daughters of Muscadine: Stories by Monic Ductan (University Press of Kentucky/Fireside Industries) has won the 2023 Weatherford Award in Fiction, presented by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association to honor fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books that "best illuminate the challenges, personalities, and unique qualities of the Appalachian South."

Organizers said, "Covering the last one hundred years, Ductan's collection shares the stories of people whose voices have been suppressed and erased for too long: Black women, rural women, Appalachian women, and working-class women. Ductan presents the extraordinary nature of everyday lives in the tradition of Alice Walker, Deesha Philyaw, James McBride, and Dorothy Allison in an engaging, engrossing, and exciting new voice."

Ductan teaches literature and creative writing at Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has appeared in such journals as Oxford American, Good River Review, Southeast Review, Shenandoah, Appalachian Heritage, and South Carolina Review. Her essay "Fantasy Worlds" was listed as notable in The Best American Essays 2019.

Finalists in the fiction category were Good Women: Stories by Halle Hill, On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel, and The Songs of Betty Baach by Glenn Taylor.

Book Review

Review: Cecilia

Cecilia by K-Ming Chang (Coffee House Press, $14.95 paperback, 144p., 9781566897075, May 21, 2024)

Cecilia, by the critically acclaimed novelist and short story writer K-Ming Chang (Bestiary; Gods of Want; Organ Meats), is a sensual and surreal novella about the intensity, eroticism, and haunting nature of girlhood friendships.

As a cleaner at a chiropractic office, Seven is used to the indecencies of the human body and passes her time trying to "solve the mystery of the sheets on the gyrating table," falling into daytime imaginings to distract herself from reality. But when a chance meeting throws Seven and her childhood friend Cecilia back together, Seven's daydreaming begins to spin out of control, taking her back to memories and imaginings from her girlhood. As Seven and Cecilia orbit each other in the present, boarding the same bus seemingly without intention, the past increasingly bleeds through, unspooling desires Seven long made dormant.

Like Chang's previous work, Cecilia luxuriates in its visceral imagery of embodied desire. With descriptions like "one thumb beneath my shirt, the tip of it filling my belly button, burrowing until I bleed," and the scene of a young girl swallowing a liver that "pulses sour against my lips, blood lunging through it... [when] it slides down my throat," Chang never shies away from the raw. The writing borders on body horror, yet avoids becoming too grotesque. Instead, it allows space for readers to engage in a fascination with hunger, a transportive understanding of impulse. It attempts to capture the elusive view that Seven imagines a fly on her tongue might see down her throat, "at the threshold of my hunger."

Seven and Cecilia's journey together--both in the past and the present--escalates alongside the intensity of these descriptions. Rather than dismissing the eroticism of girlhood friendships as temporary, the unbound nature of Cecilia's time demands an acknowledgement of the more subversive nature of young sexual exploration. The tension of Cecilia and Seven's relationship--of what can be done but what shouldn't, of what they want but often fear--is the driving force behind the novella's pace. But the true wonder of the book is the precariousness with which it navigates tones, moving from dread to humor, longing to rage. As readers witness this high-wire act of affect and desire, realization and devastation, they will be compelled by, if nothing else, the knife's edge that underlines the novella's plot, always threatening a fresh cut. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: A phantasmagoric journey of a body's awakening, Cecilia is a quick yet explosive read about queer desire.

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