Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 3, 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

'Independent Bookshops Really Become Community Hubs'

"So, I work as an editor at Penguin Classics. I've been in publishing for quite a long time. And before I worked in publishing, I worked as a bookseller.... And as a result, I experienced firsthand the way that independent bookshops really become community hubs.

"I have very fond memories of the many customers we used to have, who knew that this place was a safe place for them. They knew they could come here, they could talk to people, they could browse the books that they'd accepted as part of this community. And I don't think I would be anywhere near as good an editor, and by extension writer, if I hadn't worked in bookshops for many, many years. I'm very glad I did."

--Kaliane Bradley, whose novel The Ministry of Time (Avid Reader Press) is the #1 May Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

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Hygge House Books Relocates in Westborough, Mass.

Hygge House Books in Westborough, Mass., has relocated to a new space within the Boroughs Collective at 21 East Main St., Community Advocate reported.

Store owner Beth Orsini, who moved Hygge House Books to its new space earlier this month, held a grand-opening celebration on Independent Bookstore Day that featured an in-store scavenger hunt and a food truck. The Boroughs Collective houses close to two dozen vendors selling everything from handmade soap to antiques, and the space has comfy chairs and a bean bag. The building was previously a bank.

Orsini, a former middle-school teacher, founded Hygge House Books in 2020 as a pop-up shop. Originally a side hustle, Hygge House has grown to be Orsini's full-time business and includes partnering with schools for book fairs, building little free libraries in book deserts, and now a bricks-and-mortar location.

Sundance Books and Music, Reno, Nev., Closing May 31

After 39 years in business, Sundance Books and Music in Reno, Nev., will close permanently at the end of the month, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.

Christine Kelly, owner and proprietor of Sundance Books and Music for the last 36 years, told the Gazette Journal "it has been the honor of a lifetime. There's enormous sadness, and I feel incredibly fortunate. It's hard to leave, but it's time for a new chapter." 

In a message to customers announcing the closure, Sundance wrote "that while endings are indeed hard to write, now is, in fact, the ideal time for us to do just that. To turn the page, to conclude our story, to close the book, and yes, our doors."

There is "housekeeping to be done" as well as a closing celebration in the works, "but for now, please accept our everlasting gratitude for your kinship, support, and the esteemed privilege of serving your imagination for these many years. Together, we've crafted a legacy through Sundance Books and Music."

Until May 31, Sundance will be open Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and customers are encouraged to redeem any gift certificates or unexpired coupons they might have, as well as say hello to the team, sign the store's guest book, and peruse the inventory.

For the past 13 years, Sundance has shared the historic Levy Mansion with the Nevada Museum of Art. Kelly extended gratitude to the museum as well, and told the Gazette Journal that it has been a strong supporter of the bookstore.

The message to customers continued: "It's our profound hope that other idealistic souls will recognize the importance of independent bookselling here in the Truckee Meadows and will pick up the baton, taking us all somewhere wondrous and new."

Comic Cove Hosts Grand Opening in State College, Pa.

Comic Cove hosted its grand opening celebration on April 20 at 528 Westerly Plaza, State College, Pa. reported that the shop, which is owned by Justin and Liza Behrens, offers new and vintage comic books, Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering trading cards, and more. The store will also offer a subscription service.

An army veteran, Justin Behrens became a comic book enthusiast while serving in Iraq and said he wanted to open a store as a way to make comic books accessible and affordable for everyone.

"There's not a place around here to get older comics or vintage comics and I wanted an opportunity to get them into the hands of people," he added. "Alan Moore is one of my favorite writers in comics, and he made a comment in an interview one time that comic books are no longer for the middle class; they're for the rich because the prices are going so high. So I want to get them back in the hands of the middle class.

"I want the younger kids to get back into comics and people that said 'You know I really wanted that fancy No. 1 'Iron Man' but I can't spend that exorbitant amount of money,' I want to make sure I can give the opportunity for them to get it at an affordable price."

Behrens selected the Westerly Parkway location in part because it would be accessible for students and to help revitalize the shopping center. "I'm looking to do a whole bunch of other things and community outreach than just be a comic books store," he noted. "It sounds weird, but I'm not looking to make a profit off of this. I'm looking to build the community to a better place. If I can use comic books, which is a hobby of mine, to do that then that's awesome."

BAM Store in Fort Myers, Fla., Temporarily Relocates

Books-A-Million has temporarily relocated its store inside the Edison Mall in Fort Myers, Fla., due to a recent water main break. The bookstore has moved next to the food court, but the company said it anticipates returning to the original space in the near future. BAM said it will provide updates on the reopening schedule.

Scott Kappler, executive v-p of store operations for BAM, said, "We're thrilled to continue bookselling in Ft. Myers. While we await the reopening of our original location, we look forward to reconnecting with all of our loyal customers soon."

Shelf Awareness's Matt Baldacci on We the Content's Happy Hour Podcast

We've long admired the interviews with publishing people on We the Content's Happy Hour with Carolina: Inside Children's Publishing. Host Carolina Schwarz's goal is to help everyone with developing strategies for the sales and marketing of children's books, and she has had some esteemed guests. Our own Matt Baldacci recently participated, and the result was a fun and informative conversation about tactics, trends, the importance of sales reps, and the specific things a publisher can do to achieve success. He also shared historical anecdotes.

Baldacci said, "Carolina is a terrific interviewer, and her ambition to help all children's publishers market their books in the U.S. aligns with our own mission at Shelf Awareness to help independent bookstores achieve success. It was a great chance to explore marketing children's books in 2024."

We the Content believes in strategy as a key component for children's publishers positioning and selling books and provides a tailored approach to growth. Since 2013, they have helped clients from around the world increase sales, reduce returns, open new business channels, win coveted awards, develop new products and--ultimately--fulfill their goal of bringing top quality content to the hands of young readers.


Image of the Day: Jonell Joshua at Rizzoli

Debut author Jonell Joshua celebrated the launch of her illustrated memoir How Do I Draw These Memories? (Levine Querido) at Manhattan's Rizzoli Bookstore. Joshua (r.) was in conversation with artist Trasonia Abbott. (photo: Niles Rencher)

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fresh Air Remembers Paul Auster

Today Fresh Air devotes the show to Paul Auster, who died on Tuesday, and includes several interviews with him that aired over the years.

TV: Presumed Innocent

Apple TV has released a teaser trailer for Presumed Innocent, an eight-part limited series based on Scott Turow's bestselling 1987 novel. Starring and executive produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, the project comes from David E. Kelley and executive producer J.J. Abrams. The series premieres June 12 on Apple TV+.

The ensemble cast for Presumed Innocent also includes Ruth Negga, Bill Camp, O-T Fagbenle, Chase Infiniti, Nana Mensah, Renate Reinsve, Peter Sarsgaard, Kingston Rumi Southwick, and Elizabeth Marvel.

Abrams and Rachel Rush Rich will executive produce for Bad Robot. Kelley serves as showrunner and executive produces through David E. Kelley Productions alongside Matthew Tinker. Dustin Thomason, Sharr White, and Gyllenhaal are also exec producers. Turow and Miki Johnson will serve as co-executive producers. Anne Sewitsky serves as executive producer and directs the first two episodes and episode eight, and Greg Yaitanes executive produces and directs episodes three through seven.

Books & Authors

Awards: Benjamin Franklin Winners; Christian Book Winners

Winners have been announced for the 2024 Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in Gold and Silver categories. The awards are sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association and celebrate excellence in independent book publishing. To see the winners, click here.

IBPA announced that the awards will now be known as the IBPA Book Awards. In addition, IBPA has created several new categories for the awards. One new category honors IBPA's founder and is called the Jan Nathan Lifetime Achievement Award, which will recognize "outstanding contributions to independent publishing by individuals and companies." IBPA is also adding six more categories, including AAPI Communities; Black/African American Communities; Disabled Communities; First Nations/Indigenous Communities; Latina/o/e Communities; LGBTQIA2+ Communities; and Neurodivergent Communities.


All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore (Tyndale Momentum) won the 2024 Christian Book of the Year Award, sponsored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. The ECPA wrote, "In her memoir about overcoming abuse, addiction, and the challenges of poverty, Moore points to the central role of her faith in finding freedom from trauma and finding purpose in life." To see all the Christian Book Award winners, click here.

Reading with... Barbara J. Taylor

photo: Nathan Summerlin

Barbara J. Taylor was born and raised in Scranton, Pa. She sets her novels in the hometown she loves and fills them with miners, evangelists, vaudevillians, nuns, gangsters, prostitutes, widows, musicians, dreamers, and a seer or two. She is the author of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting Is Long. The final installment of her Scranton Trilogy, Rain Breaks No Bones (Kaylie Jones Books, May 7, 2024), explores a family's legacy of loss and a sometimes mystical vision of a better tomorrow.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A secret birth, a complicated romance, a shocking death, and no one is talking. Not even the dead.

On your nightstand now:

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride 
Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück
Ms. Magazine, Spring 1972 (research for a new project)
Ann Landers Talks to Teen-Agers About Sex by Ann Landers (more research, I swear!)

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Search for Bridey Murphy by Morey Bernstein. By age eight or nine, I'd devoured most of the books in the children's section of our local library, so my mother suggested I read The Search for Bridey Murphy, an amateur hypnotist's account of his subject's past life regression experience. My mother had read the story and was eager to discuss it with someone. I became that someone. I still remember sitting with her at the kitchen table having what felt like a grown-up conversation about a real book from the main section of the library. What a thrill!

Your top five authors:

(This list is subject to change on a daily basis.)

Zora Neale Hurston
William Kennedy
Rachel Maddow
Toni Morrison
John Steinbeck

Book you've faked reading:

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton in 11th grade. (I'm sorry, Mrs. Langan.)

Books you're an evangelist for:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, audiobook narrated by Ruby Dee

City of Thieves by David Benioff, audiobook narrated by Ron Perlman

I couldn't help myself. I had to give two answers here but for one good reason. As a former high school English teacher, I know that some people like to hold a book or Kindle in their hands, and others prefer to listen. Both of these novels sing on their own and as audios thanks to outstanding narrators. These are two titles I eagerly recommend to every kind of reader.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. When I was in high school, I remember buying A Woman of Substance simply so I could put my thumb over the "Bradford" and see my own name on a book cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

I used to sneak-read my older sister's romance novels.

Book that changed your life:

Ironweed by William Kennedy. I reread this one fairly often. The book opens in a cemetery where we hear from the living and the dead. The first time I read it, I thought, You can do this as a writer? I wouldn't start writing my own books for many years, but that moment stayed with me.

Favorite line from a book:

(A recent favorite. I almost can't choose!)

"Ruby Bell was a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too high." --Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Five books you'll never part with:

Ironweed by William Kennedy  
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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

Possession by A.S. Byatt. There's a gift to the reader at the end of this book. I won't say more for fear of spoiling the story, but I remember my delight the first time I read it.

Book Review

Review: The West Passage

The West Passage by Jared Pechaček (Tordotcom, $28.99 hardcover, 384p., 9781250884831, July 16, 2024)

The West Passage by Jared Pechaček introduces a marvelously strange cast of characters struggling against outsized forces in a world both reminiscent of medieval Europe and unlike anything readers will recognize.

Pechaček's teenaged protagonists are Pell, an apprentice to the Mother of Grey, and Kew, apprentice to the Guardian. One has trained in stories, songs, history, and rituals for births and deaths, the other in protection from the Beast. They live in Grey House, one of the five towers in an enormous palace that can take days to cross. Gargantuan, monstrous Ladies rule over the looming, decaying towers. The Ladies and their roles have changed and shifted slowly over many eras, their origins almost beyond all memory. Upon the deaths of the Mother and the Guardian, both Pell and Kew are thrust into positions they aren't quite prepared for. Before the Beast rises again, for the first time in an era or more, they must each quest beyond Grey to save the world they know.

Kew departs first, striding fearfully with his books and little else down the West Passage. In just the early pages of his adventure, he meets a sort of trout-person and a creature with rabbit ears, battles with jackals, and rides in a lantern that moves to a whistle. Pell encounters apes and a crazed tutor, befriends a Butler Itinerant riding a hollowman, and collects an unlikely stowaway. Genders are changeable, and Ladies as well as wheelbarrows can hatch from eggs. Political machinations dating back to the "time of songs" are still at work in ways difficult for these protagonists to comprehend. "Was there no transfer of power that did not involve destroying the old? It seemed now that everything he knew about the palace's history was the merest thread in a tapestry bigger than his mind could encompass."

Pechaček provides detailed descriptions of otherworldly creatures: "Three corresponding shoulders sprouted beneath them, leading to three arms, though one was severed just above the elbow and capped with chased gold. The parts of her that were not talon-like were the same glassy material as her hands." The effect is often disorienting but always fascinating, and despite extreme variations from the "real" world, questions about power structures and agency remain relevant. Pell and Kew have been brought up to uphold tradition and ritual, but to save the world, they must grapple with the possibility of change, and of choice.

The West Passage is an absorbing tale of political intrigue, touching comings-of-age, and a mind-bending phantasmagoria. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Wildly imaginative world-building, a spellbinding plot, and profoundly weird characters make this fantasy debut a memorable adventure.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Quotable CIBD--'There Is No Such Thing as Just a Reader'

As the adrenaline rush of another successful Independent Bookstore Day gradually recedes in our collective rear view mirrors (though, hopefully, objects are always closer than they appear) and the day-to-day realities of doing "the work" return, maybe just a little more basking in the afterglow is still in order. 

Although SA covered IBD and Canadian Independent Bookstore Day in some detail earlier this week, I left out a few CIBD observations worth sharing, so I'm returning to the scene of the fun to highlight them: 

As part of the lead-up to CIBD, the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association featured a series of #AuthorLoveNotes to indies from writers like Niigaan Sinclair, who said, "I want to talk to you today about independent bookstores and the role that they play in community. An independent bookstore isn't just a place that sells books--and that's important. They absolutely provide an essential service to that community, but it's a place of intersections. It's a place where people come to not just peruse talk, visit, maybe have a cup of coffee, but also to meet ideas. To meet the authors of those ideas and to disseminate and share those ideas in open conversation."

Author Canisia Lubrin said: "Hey, you're an indie bookshop. One of a few blissful things in this world: mangoes, people I love to spend the hours with, books especially from independent bookstores. On this last one, you can leave me anywhere nearby. And the one or two people to greet, the someone who will hold on to all my booktalk like pillars. And you who aren't me? They'll know what you love if you're a regular; and if you're not, they'll quickly get to know how to dispense ISBNs just for you, like the great book dealers they are. Come with me now."

"There is no such thing as just a reader"
Type Books Queen West in Toronto offered up a wonderful "love letter" to the bookshop's patrons, noting in part: "On the occasion of Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, we are thinking about book spaces. We are thinking about public libraries, cafés, nightstands, living rooms, and the untranslatable role of independent bookstores among them. We are thinking about how our greatest responsibility is to you, the Reader. We are recalling a memory. We once overheard a conversation between two customers that ended with one of them saying, 'I'm not a writer, I'm just a reader.' We wish we'd interrupted. We wish we'd insisted: There is no such thing as just a reader. We are thinking about how readers make our existence possible. 

"We are thinking about the invisibility of the act of reading versus the visibility of moving through a bookstore. We are thinking about what new shapes of thought become possible when the public and the private constellate. We are looking at the shelves, dreaming and desiring. We are thinking about collaboration and the flare that blazes when a new book finds a new reader.... We are trying to clear a path, or many paths. Books, and the ideas and images inside them, are our tools. The outsides of books count, too: their design determines inexpressible, and limitless, choreographies. The apprenticeship is ongoing. These books are our objects of study."

Archiving "a little bit of that magic"
She Does the City asked several Toronto booksellers what their favorite thing about working at a bookstore is, and Jessica Kasiama of Type Books Junction replied: "I love hearing about the reading lives of customers and coworkers. These conversations and interactions, although sometimes fleeting, feel like being given a snapshot of a life. At our Junction location, our bookselling team runs a Substack called The Juncture, which has given us a place to interview our favorite authors and regular customers, as well as share monthly reflections on what we're reading and discovering in our own lives. It's been nice to archive a little bit of that magic."

"Want some real magic?"
In "An Ode to Independent Booksellers," Globe & Mail columnist Marsha Lederman wrote: "Want some real magic? Might I suggest a place of abundance that offers the experience of leafing through actual books and strolling down shelf-lined aisles, rather than having your fingers do the walking (ancient preinternet reference, kids, to something we elders called The Yellow Pages.) Rather than trust the algorithmic river of e-commerce with aiding the purchase of your next book (along with perhaps some kitty litter and baby wipes), you can visit a place that is devoted to literature, with dedicated, IRL staff who make suggestions based on actual knowledge and experience, rather than a programmed computer formula. Magical."

"A space that builds community"
Noting that in the post-CIBD buzz the shop had gained a lot of new followers, Once Upon a Bookstore, Kelowna, B.C., shared a story about its genesis and goals: "Our store was born out of a desire to offer a space that builds community--where families felt welcome to bring their kids and be themselves. However that looks. The store is designed in a child friendly away--allowing young kids to play while parents browse, and structured by age group, so that parents can spend less time wading through endless options, and more time making informed choices.... We love to connect with our customers--so please come on in for a visit and let us share our passion for children's literature with you."

And now, back to the work.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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