Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 10, 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.


The Whispering Shelf Opens in Indianapolis, Ind.

The Whispering Shelf, a new and used bookstore with a general-interest, all-ages inventory, opened last month in Indianapolis, Ind., the Indianapolis Recorder reported.

The 2,200-square-foot store has about 1,950 square feet of selling space divided into two rooms. Earlier this year, store owner Lena Burt told Shelf Awareness that accessibility and representation are very important goals for her. Customers should be able to find a book for themselves "no matter what your bank account says," and "see themselves" reflected in the titles on display.

The store had a soft opening on April 20, followed by a grand opening on Independent Bookstore Day. The store has plenty of seating for customers, and it has already held a few community events, including an appreciation sale for teachers. This Sunday, a florist will be on hand selling mini bouquets and leading a Mother's Day card crafting workshop.

Manager Marlowe Harp told the Recorder: "We really want to be a third space for people in the community."

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Dreamland Books & Yarn Debuts in Seward, Alaska

Dreamland Books & Yarn hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Independent Bookstore Day, April 27, to celebrate the shop's opening at 302 Washington St. in Seward, Alaska. Co-owners Micheley Kowalski and Michael Stewart, who also operate Resurrect Art Coffee House, note on their new store's website: "We think books & yarn are the very best creature comforts. We've longed for a bookstore and yarn store in Seward for years, so we decided to make one ourselves! We love Seward, and we're so excited to bring this exciting new storefront to our community."

Nestled in a small red storefront downtown, Dreamland "offers a wide selection of books, as well as more than 10 brands of yarn," KBBI reported, adding that the store's concept came from Kowalski's desire to sell two of her favorite things in one place.

"You walk into the store, and the books and the covers are so colorful, and then seeing all the yarn on the walls of the colors and textures. And they just seem to really work well together. And they really are creature comforts," she said.

Feedback from customers since the opening has been positive. "It's been really heartwarming," Kowalski noted. "There's just so many people who come in, and they say, 'Oh, I'm so glad to have a bookstore in town.' For people who love bookstores--and I know there's a lot of us out there--they're just sort of the beating heart of the community."

She added that she wants to expand her yarn offerings to include locally made options, and plans to stay open year-round and host events in the off season. "Right now I feel really positive. And, you know, the winter will be a different season, it'll be a different feeling," she said. "But I also feel like having community events at the book and yarn store--book clubs and knitting nights and craft nights--I think that's really important for communities. And so I'm pretty confident that the community will support us."

Amazon Launching Amazon Book Sale May 15-20

Amazon is holding a new sales event focused on books, the Amazon Book Sale, billed as "the book sale of your dreams," from May 15-20, that will offer "deals on thousands of books" to customers in the U.S. The promotion includes discounts of up to 50% on printed bestsellers and up to 80% on titles for Kindles, Audible, and other Amazon e-devices. Some of the most heavily discounted print titles, up to 60%, are overstock and backlist.

Early deals began yesterday, mostly involving e-readers and digital titles. Those deals include three months of Kindle Unlimited for free, discounts on some Kindle Scribe devices, and deals on Kindle titles.

Amazon emphasized that some deals involve books "that have topped Amazon Charts, trending books on #BookTok and #Bookstagram, best sellers, and award winners." So far, most of the deals are for e-books. Many of the printed titles are normally discounted in the same range.

RISE Bookselling Launches 'Bookshops as Welcoming & Inclusive Spaces' Campaign

RISE Bookselling, a network program organized by the European and International Booksellers Federation and co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the EU, has launched a 'Bookshops as welcoming & inclusive spaces' campaign to spotlight booksellers from across the world who go above and beyond to ensure that their bookshops remain that way.

Beginning with Raluca Selejan of La Două Bufniţe in Romania, each week until June 10, the campaign will focus on different booksellers who will highlight the following themes:

  1. Bookshops make people feel represented
  2. Bookshops are safe havens where all are welcome
  3. Bookshops are spaces for education, dialogue and literacy promotion
  4. Bookshops foster a sense of community and belonging 

"At a time of increased political and ideological polarization, with rising censorship and the freedom of expression under threat, we recognize the need to use our voice to defend the spaces we love the most: bookshops," RISE Bookselling noted. "Bookshops have a unique role in fostering values of peace, democracy, and tolerance. In the lead-up to the European elections, now more than ever it is vital to remind policymakers and stakeholders how crucial support from democratic institutions and book friendly policies is not just for bookshops, but for the vitality and vibrancy of society."

Obituary Note: David Shapiro

David Shapiro, a poet and art historian "who was widely admired for his erudition and indelibly remembered--to his chagrin--as the defiant, cigar-wielding student in a photo that was taken during the 1968 uprising at Columbia University and came to represent the era's revolutionary zeal," died May 4, the Washington Post reported. He was 77.

"To Americans who sympathized with antiwar demonstrators at Columbia and on campuses across the country, Dr. Shapiro became a symbol of their dauntless spirit," the Post wrote. "To those who regarded the student occupiers as vandals, he embodied a descent into disorder. Dr. Shapiro recognized himself in neither version."

Thomas Fink, a professor at LaGuardia Community College in New York who has written a book about Shapiro's poetry, noted that the photo was only a "sound bite" in his life, but it forever followed him as he pursued a long academic and literary career.

Shapiro taught English at Columbia in the 1970s before moving in 1981 to William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., where he was a professor of art history until his retirement seven years ago. His first book of poetry, January, was published the year he turned 18; his final collection, In Memory of an Angel, appeared in 2017.

In an interview, poet David Lehman, founder of the Best American Poetry series and the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, observed that by embracing the abstract and experimental, the surreal and Dadaistic, Shapiro had developed a language all his own, one that "gives rise to an epiphany almost carelessly thrown off as a kind of side effect of the experience of generating new words out of old."

Shapiro's poetry collections also include Poems From Deal (1969), A Man Holding an Acoustic Panel (1971), To an Idea (1983), After a Lost Original (1994), and New and Selected Poems (1965-2006), which was published in 2007. Among his prose works are John Ashbery: An Introduction to the Poetry (1979) and You Are the You: Writings and Interviews on Poetry, Art and the New York School, which is slated for publication in the fall.

In a post on social media, author Joyce Carol Oates described him as a "wonderful presence, warm & generous to younger poets & writers. No one who knew David could quite envision him as the swaggering young hippie protester famous/notorious for smoking a cigar at the desk of the president of Columbia U. whose office he & fellow protesters were occupying."


Image of the Day: SUM 41's Deryck Whibley and Walking Disaster

Deryck Whibley and his band SUM 41 played the Brooklyn Paramount on Monday night. Here he's pictured with the Gallery Books team who will be publishing his memoir, Walking Disaster, on October 8: (l.-r.) associate marketing director Kell Wilson, editor Rebecca Strobel, Whibley, his agent, Lisa Gallagher, publicity manager Sydney Morris, and senior publishing manager Eliza Hanson.

Chalkboard: Athena Books

"Buy Mom a book. It will definitely make you her favorite!" That was the sidewalk chalkboard message at Athena Books, Old Greenwich, Conn., which noted: "Mother's Day is just around the corner! Get Mom what she really wants.... a book (and some peace and quiet)!"

Bookseller Cat: Nikola Tesla at Bards Alley Bookshop

Bards Alley Bookshop, Vienna, Va., shared a photo on Facebook of the shop's resident feline bookseller, noting: "Happy #MeowMonday from Nikola Tesla, who sat so pretty in hopes he can convince y'all to pick up a copy of Death's Country by R.M. Romero tomorrow! Lakelore meets Hadestown in this neon soaked polyamorous fairy tale!"

Personnel Changes at Avalon Travel

Lindsay Fradkoff is joining Avalon Travel as marketing director. She was formerly the marketing director for PublicAffairs and Bold Type Books.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Viet Thanh Nguyen on Fresh Air

Science Friday: Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, author of Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World (Zando-Get Lifted Books, $28, 9781638930402).

Fresh Air: Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer (Grove Press, $17, 9780802124944).

CBS Saturday Morning: Tiffany Haddish, author of I Curse You with Joy (Diversion Books, $28.99, 9781635769531)

TV: Land of Women

Land of Women, based on Sandra Barneda's bestselling 2014 novel La tierra de las mujeres, will make its global debut with two episodes on June 26, with new chapters released every Wednesday through July 24 on Apple TV+. Starring and executive produced by Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), the six-episode dramedy also features film and TV star Carmen Maura (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Volver) and newcomer Victoria Bazúa. 

Created by Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira and Paula Fernández, Land of Women is directed by Iris Award-winner Carlos Sedes. The series is produced by Bambú Producciones and executive produced by showrunner Campos, Neira, Sedes, Iris Award-winner Teresa Fernández-Valdés, Ben Spector, Sandra Condito, and Longoria via her production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Trillium Finalists

Ontario Creates announced the finalists for the 2024 Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium, highlighting "outstanding literary talent by Ontario authors and their publishers." The winners will be named June 20. Winning French-language and English-language authors each receive C$20,000 (about US$14,575) and their respective publishers receive support to promote the winning titles. 

The Trillium Book Award for Poetry in the English language winner will get C$10,000 (about US$7,285) and the respective publisher receives support to promote the winning title. Ontario Creates did not receive the minimum number of submissions required to award the Trillium Book Award for Poetry in French this year. Check out the English- and French-language finalists here.

Reading with... Rebecca Thorne

photo: 2 Comforts Photography

Rebecca Thorne is an author of all things fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. After years operating in traditional publishing, Thorne moved to self-publishing in 2022. Her indie debut is the cozy fantasy Can't Spell Treason Without Tea (Bramble, May 7, 2024; Tor UK, May 9, 2024), about a Queensguard and the Mage of Ages attempting to build a quiet, peaceful life together after years of adventures and dangers have kept them apart.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Two women--a mage and a palace guard--abandon their intense careers to open a bookshop that serves tea.

On your nightstand now:

I'm currently reading Brené Brown's Dare to Lead. I really admire her work, and even though I'm not in leadership, I devour her books when I have the time!

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was obsessed with Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde. It follows a young girl who's accused of being a witch, and is put on a stake as a dragon's sacrifice by the people she used to trust. But the dragon doesn't eat her--instead, he helps her get revenge on the townsfolk who sentenced her to death. It's honestly the best book, filled with tons of female rage and snarky banter!

Your top five authors:

Oooh. Ally Carter was hugely influential to my writing style! I loved her books as a kid. Next up would definitely be Tamora Pierce--her quartets (Alanna and Kel, specifically) got me obsessed with high fantasy. Tamsyn Muir is one of the greatest writers of our generation, I'm convinced; Harrow the Ninth has never left me. Nicole Luiken is a self-published author who wrote the Violet Eyes series; those books helped me understand genetics, and had the most swoon-worthy romance! My final one would probably be Travis Baldree; without his book Legends & Lattes, I never would have dared to try a book with lower stakes, and, man, I'm glad I did!

Book you've faked reading:

LOL. The Priory of the Orange Tree, hands down. Not because I don't think it will be amazing, but it's SO BIG and I read with the speed of a sickly turtle trudging along a busy road with dynamite tied to its shell. I'll get around to this book someday, I'm sure.

Book you're an evangelist for:

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is honestly one of my favorite books of all time. I'm not usually a fan of epistolary novels, but the characters grabbed me in a chokehold, and the world was so creative. I'm a sucker for secret agent stories!

Book you've bought for the cover:

What book haven't I bought for the cover? But most recently, probably That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming. She was picked up by an awesome publisher, and they redesigned her covers (into something equally stunning, to be clear). But I wanted the original indie covers, since Kimberly herself drew them! No regrets owning that book and its sequels in the indie format.

Book you hid from your parents:

Some old spicy book I found at a CVS when I was a teenager. I bought it because it had demons and shifters and a fated mates plot, and then was taken completely aback by the explicit sex scenes. I didn't even know books could have those back then! I definitely kept that book and stuffed it behind my bookshelf. LOL.

Book that changed your life:

Legends & Lattes, for sure (Travis Baldree). I read it at a really low point in my life, and it was exactly the escape I needed. It'd have been exemplary simply for that, but when it created the cozy fantasy genre, that inspired me to leave my literary agent and self-publish for the first time! And obviously that path led me to where I'm at today.

Favorite line from a book:

I'm reading Kay Synclaire's House of Frank right now, and it follows a witch who visits an arboretum to bury her sister. The found family is prime, and I knew it would be just from meeting the titular character, Frank, a fearsome beast with a heart of gold. Saika, the witch, is about to leave the arboretum and venture into a dangerous storm, and Frank stops her by saying, "How could I possibly allow you to go back out there when there's a place for you here?" No joke, I melted reading it. I think we all hope for someone to say that to us one day.

Five books you'll never part with:

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. (I tend to lend out my fiction books, but my writing craft books are constant references for me! So, I wouldn't part with the ones above, since I reread them all the time.) The last ones would probably be my original self-published works, back when I was in high school. I self-published three novels, and they're the only copies that exist in the world now. I'd never let anything happen to them! (I know that added up to six, but what the hell. I'm a rebel.)

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

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I envy anyone who gets to experience that ride for the first time. That book held so many elements I didn't even know I wanted until I read it. It was deliciously creepy, had a stellar romance, the best enemies-to-lovers example I've ever seen, and an absolutely heart-wrenching ending. Man, what a ride.

Book Review

Review: The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA

The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA by Jesse Katz (Astra House, $28 hardcover, 320p., 9781662601736, July 16, 2024)

Jesse Katz (The Opposite Field), longtime Los Angeles journalist, tackles a true story featuring a daunting number of characters and spanning years and tragedies in The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder, and Redemption in Immigrant LA. With admirable clarity and compassion, Katz unravels a complex narrative that has no easy answers.

In the MacArthur Park neighborhood of L.A. in 2007, a teenaged gang member under orders fired five shots at a street vendor, in retaliation for the vendor refusing to pay "rent" to the gang. The intended victim was badly wounded by four bullets; the fifth bullet struck and killed a nearby 23-day-old infant. The shooter, Giovanni Macedo, was in turn the victim of a botched murder attempt at the hands of fellow members of his gang, the Columbia Lil Cycos, as punishment for his error. Giovanni eventually testified and helped put many gang members behind bars, receiving a sentence of 51 years for his crimes.

Katz's thorough account details Giovanni's personal and family history; the history of MacArthur Park; the cultural and economic predicament of L.A.'s immigrant street vendors; the background of the Columbia Lil Cycos, the larger 18th Street alliance, and the Mexican Mafia; the lives of Giovanni's victims; and California's law enforcement, judicial, and prison systems. It's a sprawling story, but riveting and propulsive in this telling. The Rent Collectors deftly probes systemic ills. A large population of undocumented immigrant street vendors is squeezed between L.A. enforcement and street gangs: "MacArthur Park strained under the exigencies of that shadow population, a virtually permanent subclass left to invent its own opportunities, to improvise its own survival."

Giovanni's family background leaves him with a shortage of options and a desperate desire to belong to something bigger than himself. Immigration, legal, and prison systems fail, frustratingly often, to reward behaviors society deems "good" or to address adequately the "bad." Giovanni is the protagonist of this story, drawing near a parole hearing at the time of this book's publication; Katz portrays him with sensitivity and an eye to the complexities that led to his crimes. Giovanni is an imperfect symbol of redemption, but Katz shows that the marginalized teen was at the mercy of inexorable and deeply problematic societal forces. Abstaining from painting heroes or villains, Katz offers instead a plethora of thoughtful, nuanced profiles and a zoomed-out view of immigrant L.A., its street vendors, its gangs, and its intricacies. The result is relentless, multi-faceted, and incisive. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Street gangs and street vendors in L.A.'s MacArthur Park, a pair of botched murders, and a number of criminal trials shed light on social ills in this sensitive study.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Happy Belated National Poetry Month

Gary Snyder turned 94 on Wednesday; I bought my copy of Riprap, & Cold Mountain Poems 55 years ago. Time passes, poetry endures but is ever-changing, like riprap ("Lay down these words/ Before your mind like rocks/ placed solid, by hands....").

I didn't write about National Poetry Month in April, which is an aberration. The only other year I've neglected since 2007 was 2020. Must have had other things on my mind ("A Matter of Emptiness... & Voices"). Upon realizing I'd neglected NPM, I time traveled through SA's archive just to see where I'd wandered before. Here's some riprap I found:

2007: "Poetry Month reminds us that poetry is still a retail labor of love. Over the years, I've met Poetry Month evangelists and detractors among booksellers, readers and writers. Even some poets I know have expressed mixed feelings about the concept, wondering why poetry has to be trotted out like an orphan up for adoption once a year. Why isn't it irresistible?" 

2008: "As a bookseller, I also love that those utopian conversations do happen in bookstores. Poetry may not be widely read, but it cannot be stopped because, one way or another, we readers will always have our way with words."

2009: "As I write this column on my laptop, I keep glancing over at my iMac screen like an edgy air traffic controller monitoring takeoffs and landings ("Seamus Heaney, climb and maintain 15,000; Cavafy, you're cleared to land on runway 27 left"). Twitter updates are scrolling by and poetry-themed Tweets take virtual flight in 140 characters or less."

2010: "I'm not a poet, but I am a reader of poetry (and buyer of poetry collections, which is a truly endangered lit-species). I'm a writer, so I think about words all the time, but I'm also deeply intrigued by and engaged in the book trade, so I think about money, too."

2011: "I read the poems I want to read, and take from them what I can. The poems I love have a precision and clarity that I can find in no other art form. I don't know many casual readers of poetry. I have several friends and colleagues who are dedicated readers of poetry; friends who are poets; friends who are poets and dedicated readers of poetry."

2012: "At the 2010 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Denver... I watched Gary Snyder mesmerize 600-plus people in the Colorado Convention Center, telling us: 'Fortunately, my poetry is not that complicated. You don't need to be an architect to walk into a building.' "

2013: "Can you hear it? That's the subtle hum, like an electric current, of poetry being written, read, and spoken nationwide every day. All you have to do is pay attention.... Can you hear it now?"

2014: "Pick a poem, any poem. Well, not just any poem; pick one you have lived with a while. Now, read the poem aloud.... California's DIESEL, A Bookstore has been releasing a new videopoem daily during Poetry Month.... Last year, even I got in on the videopoem action with my signature monotone rendition of Gary Snyder's 'Hay for the Horses.' "

2015: "National Poetry Month is much better than the lack thereof. Cynics insist the public's poetic attention span should be longer than 30 days. Maybe so, but a month of focused attention annually is still better than year after year of general neglect."

2016: "April is the coolest month for poetry, as officially designated even for those of us who mark the spirit of NPM on other calendars: National Poetry Year, National Poetry Decade, National Poetry Lifetime, National Poetry Century, National Poetry Era. Whew! "

2017: "One of my April traditions for many years has been to consider not writing about Poetry Month, but I always succumb to temptation. It's a weakness. I read poetry almost daily; I write about it from time to time here; and poetry occupies significant real estate on my bookshelves."

2018: "By my calculation, poetry readers matter as much as poets do, though the theory may be tempered slightly by my personal history as a bad poet, if good reader, of poems. Nonetheless, I value the chance to discover poets I haven't read before, and Poetry Month increases those odds and opportunities."

2019: "I haven't written about National Poetry Month this year, but that's not because I wasn't paying attention.... In fact, the art of paying attention has been on my mind frequently since last fall, when I heard award-winning poet Ross Gay speaking at the Heartland Fall Forum in Minneapolis about his essay collection, The Book of Delights."

2021: "When I first heard the poet read, at a small event during the summer of 2001, I didn't know his work at all. As soon as he began, however, I leaned into those words to receive the brunt, the wave, the wash of images, the sound of lines forged and bent in unlikely combinations."

2022: "It's still National Poetry Month and I've been reading excellent collections, but I'll admit that some of the best poetry I've encountered has been found in songs on new albums by Willy Vlautin's band the Delines (The Sea Drift) and Dessa (Ides)."

2023: "[F]or the first time I'm celebrating NPM with just one book.... I usually have a stack; I think you should have a stack. In fact, I highly recommend the acquisition of stacks of poetry books year round."

The 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō wrote: "A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." My poetry journey continues. Happy belated National Poetry Month.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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