Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 20, 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.


Eight Cousins Books Expanding in Falmouth, Mass.

This summer, Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth, Mass., will expand into a second storefront, doubling its size.

The new space at 199 Main St. will become the home of Eight Cousins, while the original space at 189 Main St. will belong to Eight Cousins Kids. While the two stores are not physically connected, they are "approximately 50 steps away" from each other. The store is hiring for year-round positions, with both full-time and part-time/weekend positions available. Store owners Sara Hines, Janet B. Totten, and Eileen C. Miskell are planning to open the new store in early July.

The owners told the Falmouth Enterprise that they'd been eyeing expansion for a while, as the current location was "a little size-challenged." When the previous occupant of 199 Main St., the Green Eyed Daisy, announced it wanted a bigger space, Hines, Totten, and Miskell thought it would be a great fit. 

"There will be more space to spread out, and we will want more front-facing books, which are so much more appealing," Totten said. "This is an amazing opportunity to nourish young children and provide them a nice browsing experience."

"As a bonus, the store at 199 Main is not moving away; they are just moving next door," Hines added. "It's a neat little story about stores expanding on Main St."

Eight Cousins was founded in 1986 as a children's bookstore by Carol Chittenden and her mother, Betty Borg. Over the years, it expanded its offerings to include adult books. Chittenden sold the store in 2015.

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B&N Closing Glen Allen, Va., Bookstore

Barnes & Noble will close its bookstore on Brook Road in the Creeks at Virginia Centre shopping area in Glen Allen, Va., next month.

The store posted on social media: "It is with great sadness that we announce the closure of this bookstore, as the landlord has chosen to redevelop. Our last day in this location will be Sunday, June 23. It has been our honor and privilege to be your bookseller here in Glen Allen for the last 23 years."

B&N directed customers to nearby B&N locations in Richmond, in Short Pump and in the Libbie Place Shopping Center, while suggesting that it may return to the Glen Allen area with another store. The company hopes, it said, "to welcome you back to our new bookstore in the near future." 

Reese Witherspoon, 'One of the Most Influential People' in the Book Business

As Reese's Book Club approaches its 100th pick, the New York Times delved into what has made the book club leader "one of the most influential people" in the book business.

Reese Witherspoon

In a story called "Inside Reese Witherspoon's Literary Empire," Witherspoon said her club's monthly choices need to be optimistic and shareable. "Do you close this book and say, 'I know exactly who I want to give it to?' " The picks also have to be books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. "Because that's what women do," she said. "No one's coming to save us."

The club's effects have been striking: "Her book club picks reliably land on the bestseller list for weeks, months or, in the case of Where the Crawdads Sing [by Delia Owen], years," the Times wrote. "In 2023, print sales for the club's selections outpaced those of Oprah's Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold."

Begun in 2017, the Reese Book Club made Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman its inaugural pick. The novel "spent 85 weeks on the paperback bestseller list. The club's second pick, The Alice Network [by Kate Quinn], spent nearly four months on the weekly best-seller lists and two months on the audio list. Its third, The Lying Game [by Ruth Ware], spent 18 weeks on the weekly lists."

Witherspoon has found what the Times calls "a sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction, with a few essay collections and memoirs sprinkled in. She turned out to be the literary equivalent of a fit model--a reliable bellwether for readers in search of intelligent, discussion-worthy fare, hold the Proust. She wanted to help narrow down the choices for busy readers, she said, 'to bring the book club out of your grandma's living room and online.' "

A small group of people consider titles for the club, and "Nothing makes her happier than getting something out in the world that you might not see otherwise," Jon Baker, one of the group, said about Witherspoon.

One way Witherspoon aims to help create something you might not see otherwise is through the club's Lit Up program, which helps "dynamic, unpublished, diverse women and nonbinary writers" develop their craft and hopefully get published. The program includes an all-expenses-paid retreat to develop a manuscript and learn about the business side of publishing, a three-month mentorship with a published author, meetings with literary agents, and a book launch marketing commitment from Reese's Book Club when the book is published.

This program itself is another great Reese pick.

Obituary Note: Alta

Alta, the poet and publisher who "founded what is believed to be the country's first feminist press--and who went by her first name only, so as not to be associated with the surnames of her father or husbands," died March 10, the New York Times reported. She was 81.

Shameless Hussy Press was a shoestring operation in 1969 when Alta began publishing books from her house on a hand-cranked offset printer in spineless, stapled chapbooks, like zines. The press published works by many notable feminist writers of the era, including the Black lesbian poet and activist Pat Parker and Mitsuye Yamada, whose Camp Notes and Other Poems was about her childhood in a U.S. internment camp during World War II. 

Alta also published Ntozake Shange's poem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, which was originally performed in bars and coffeehouses before going on to fame as a play, first at the Public Theater in Manhattan and then on Broadway.

Alta recalled being bowled over by for colored girls when Shange sent it to her. "I was just stunned," she said in an oral history conducted for the University of California Santa Cruz. "I just kept reading it and reading it."

Much of second-wave feminism, like the leftist movement that preceded it, ran on print, and poetry was the perfect medium, the Times noted.

"It's like music," said poet, playwright, and essayist Susan Griffin, whose collection of poems, Dear Sky, and book of short stories, The Sink, were published by Shameless Hussy Press. "It expresses things you haven't quite integrated into your rational mind. It's the cutting edge of social change. Things would come out in poetry that later could be articulated in policy or ideas."

Remember Our Fire was Shameless Hussy's debut collection, featuring 10 poems by women. A celebratory reading, was held, but Alta later recalled that the contributors refused to attend: "To say that there was a supportive women's writing community in 1969 is not quite accurate."

Eventually the readings grew to the point where as many as 1,000 people attended, "and the poets, Alta included, were treated like rock stars," the Times wrote, adding that she "schlepped that first anthology, all 250 copies, along with a book of her own work, to the local bookstores, but only two welcomed it--one was Cody's Books, a beloved Berkeley institution on Telegraph Avenue--where they sold out in six months. Women began sending Alta their writing, digging in their drawers, as she put it."

By 1974, Alta was setting up at a card table at the American Booksellers Association show with the other indie presses, where she joked that they got traffic because they were next to the bathroom.

Her own work was described as salty and direct. "She was very much like her poetry," Griffin said. "Honest, playful, outrageous. She loved breaking the rules. She was like a female Charles Bukowski, and like Bukowski, she took great pleasure crossing lines."

From Alta's poem "In the Spring of My 35th year, Oakland, 1977":

Any day now, maybe any year now, let's not be hasty,
Maturity will come and I will stop lusting.
Or lust, rather, after things of the spirit, after insight and vision(s).
I will see beyond the smooth arms of sun tanned men and the soft breasts of women bending over roses.
I will see their auras, and our energy fields will touch, and I won't get VD anymore.
I have taught myself to look away from the young fellas, their eager cocks just waiting to snap out as I reach out.
I no longer look at them, no longer stare at their thighs in their jeans.
But it's backfired somehow, now I see bald heads as a good sign.
Those guys have a lot of hormones to work with,
and chubby tummies
are a sure sign of lusty appetites, oh jeez

When it closed in 1989, Shameless Hussy had published about 50 titles, including the 19th-century French novelist George Sand's The Haunted Pool, which had been out of print; Calamity Jane's letters to her daughter; and three volumes of Alta's own poetry. By the mid-1970s, Shameless Hussy's printing press had moved out of Alta's garage, and the books were being printed, now with spines, by a company in the Midwest.

From 2006 to 2008, Alta ran her own gallery in Berkeley, showcasing works by local artists. "My own poetry was only shocking because it hadn't been said a million times," she once said. "Now it's been said a million times. If you read my poems now, they'd say, 'What's the big deal?' "


Image of the Day: Paul Yamazaki at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., hosted Paul Yamazaki, the principal buyer at San Francisco's City Lights Booksellers, to celebrate his memoir Reading the Room: A Booksellers Tale (Ode Books). Yamazaki was in conversation with Bookshop Santa Cruz's head book buyer, Melinda Powers. Events director Chorel Centers said, "We had many of our staff and other industry folks in the crowd to hear Paul and Melinda’s illuminating discussion."

Happy 40th Birthday, Politics and Prose!

Congratulations to Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., which is celebrating its 40th birthday on Saturday, June 22.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be family storytime and arts & crafts in the children and teen department. All-day activities include music, coloring sheets, and a photo booth. Exclusive anniversary merchandise will be available. In addition, Lyft is offering a 50% discount on rides to the celebration, and the community is being encouraged to share favorite memories about the store.

The highlight of the day, from our point of view, is a panel discussion at 5 p.m. on "The Past, Present, and Future of Bookselling" that features:

Bradley Graham, who bought Politics and Prose in 2011 with his wife, Lissa Muscatine, from longtime owners Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade. Earlier he had been a reporter and editor for 30 years at the Washington Post and wrote two books, Hit to Kill: The New Battle over Shielding America from Missile Attack (2001) and By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld (2009).

Ruth Liebmann, v-p, accounting marketing, at Penguin Random House. She has also worked at literary agency, as an author, and a bookseller--and is a longtime champion of independent bookstores.

Wil Haygood, the author of 10 books, including prizewinning biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Sammy Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. His book, The Butler, was made into a film directed by Lee Daniels. Haygood has been a reporter for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. A Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, in 2022 Haygood received the Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton International Literary Peace Prize Committee.

Katy Waldman, a staff writer at the New Yorker, where she writes about books, culture, and more. Previously, she was a staff writer at Slate and the host of the "Slate's Audio Book Club" podcast. She won the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 2019 and the American Society of Magazine Editors's award for journalists under 30 in 2018.

Moderator Susan Coll, who has worked at Politics and Prose for seven years as both the director of events and programs and now as the events advisor. She is the author of seven novels, including Bookish People and Real Life and Other Fictions, and was the president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation for five years. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, Moment magazine,, and

Bookstore Mural: Fern and Fable Books

Fern and Fable Books, Ormond Beach, Fla., shared a look at its beautiful new mural, saying, "A total dream come true--Our very own Fern & Fable mural by @bethoconnorart! We are so honored and grateful to be the home for this incredible magical work. Thank you Beth for being the MOST AMAZING! If you need me I'll be standing outside all day staring at it."

Personnel Changes at 92nd Street Y; Drawn & Quarterly

Lucas Wittmann has been appointed executive director of the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He was formerly editorial director of TIME, overseeing the Ideas and Opinion sections. Before that, he worked at W.W. Norton and Regan Arts, and was literary editor of the Daily Beast and Newsweek. Wittmann also co-founded the nonprofit House of Speakeasy, which hosts literary cabarets at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater and brings writers into New York City schools. His writing has appeared in the Paris Review, the Wall Street Journal, and Time.


Francine Yulo has been promoted to marketing and sales manager at Drawn & Quarterly. She began her career at Drawn & Quarterly as a bookseller in 2020. A year later, she was promoted to editorial assistant to the publisher and executive editor, where, among other duties, she co-edited Giant Robot: 30 Years of Defining Asian-American Culture. Yulo sits on the advisory board for the Montreal Comic Arts Festival and is the incoming treasurer for the Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael McDonald on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Kevin Kwan, author of Lies and Weddings (Doubleday, $29, 9780385546294). He will also appear on the Today Show.

Also on GMA: Kristina Kuzmič, author of I Can Fix This: And Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child (Penguin Life, $29, 9780593653333).

Fresh Air: Michael McDonald, co-author with Paul Reiser of What a Fool Believes: A Memoir (Dey Street Books, $32, 9780063357563). He will also be on the Tonight Show.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Paul Scheer, author of Joyful Recollections of Trauma (HarperOne, $29.99, 9780063293717). He will also appear tomorrow on GMA.

Good Morning America: Elizabeth Beller, author of Once Upon a Time: The Captivating Life of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy (Gallery, $29.99, 9781982178963).

Tamron Hall: Scott Hoying and Mark Hoying, authors of How Lucky Am I? (Holt, $18.99, 9781250853332).

The View: Bill Maher, author of What This Comedian Said Will Shock You (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781668051351). He will also appear on the Tonight Show.

TV: Forever, Interrupted

Laura Dern and Margaret Qualley will star in and executive produce Forever, Interrupted, a Netflix limited series based on the 2013 bestselling novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Deadline reported. Julia Bicknell is writing the adaptation and will serve as showrunner for the series, which is from A24 and company-based producer Jessica Rhoades.

The project "was taken out about a month ago. In a tough marketplace, it generated interest from multiple buyers, ultimately landing at Netflix," Deadline noted.

Executive producing are Rhoades and Alison Mo Massey for Pacesetter Productions; Reid, Brad Mendelsohn for Circle of Confusion; Dern and Jayme Lemons for Jaywalker Pictures; as well as Qualley and Brett Hedblom for I Understand Pictures. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Plutarch Biography Winner; Dylan Thomas Winner

Anansi's Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World by Yepoka Yeebo (Bloomsbury) has won the 2024 Plutarch Award for the Best Biography of 2023.

Biographers International Organization said that "in a captivating, genre-bending debut, Yepoka Yeebo reconstructs the strange life of John Ackah Blay-Miezah, a big, cigar-chomping flim-flam man from Ghana who masterminded one of the largest, longest-running con jobs the world has ever seen. Yeebo sets the stage in the tumultuous early days of independence from British colonialism, when most of Ghana's considerable wealth was still held in London. When Ghana asked for its money, much of it had disappeared in bad investments. The scandal lodged in Blay-Miezah's brain, where it morphed over time into a bold plan glued together with criminal intent.

"For years Blay-Miezah lived lavishly and outwitted his investors as well as Ghanaian governments, Swiss bankers, British businessmen, and the FBI. To research this brilliant study of human duplicity and greed, Yeebo sought obscure and far-flung sources. She found people willing to talk and documents that had survived war, fire, and rampages. Yeebo skillfully pulls back Blay-Miezah's curtain of lies and fake identities to reveal how he charmed his victims out of millions. Wry, penetrating, and unfailingly entertaining, the book sits at the intersection of biography, history, and investigative journalism."


Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (published in the U.S. by Grove Press) has won the 2024 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, honoring works of fiction by authors around the world aged 39 or under. The Prize has a £20,000 (about $25,330) award.

Chair of judges Namita Gokhale said, "Amid a hugely impressive shortlist that showcased a breadth of genres and exciting new voices, we were unanimous in our praise for this viscerally moving, heartfelt novel. There is a musicality to Caleb Azumah Nelson's writing, in a book equally designed to be read quietly and listened aloud. Images and ideas recur to beautiful effect, lending the symphonic nature of Small Worlds an anthemic quality, where the reader feels swept away by deeply realised characters as they traverse between Ghana and South London, trying to find some semblance of a home. Emotionally challenging yet exceptionally healing, Small Worlds feels like a balm: honest as it is about the riches and the immense difficulties of living away from your culture."

Open Water, the British-Ghanaian writer's first novel, was shortlisted for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize in 2022.

Book Review

Review: Guilty Creatures: Sex, God, and Murder in Tallahassee, Florida

Guilty Creatures: Sex, God, and Murder in Tallahassee, Florida by Mikita Brottman (One Signal/Atria, $28.99 hardcover, 288p., 9781668020531, July 23, 2024)

On December 16, 2000, 31-year-old real estate appraiser Mike Williams left his Tallahassee, Fla., home to go duck hunting on nearby Lake Seminole. He never returned to his wife, Denise, and daughter, Anslee, but it took nearly 17 years to uncover the shocking story behind his death and its aftermath. Mikita Brottman (The Solitary Vice, An Unexplained Death) describes a lurid tale of sexual intrigue and betrayal in a tight-knit faith community in her smart, fast-paced Guilty Creatures: Sex, God, and Murder in Tallahassee, Florida.

From their days at Tallahassee's North Florida Christian High School, a private Baptist school, Mike and Denise shared a close friendship with Brian Winchester and his wife, Kathy. Both couples married in 1994, but by 1997, Denise and Brian had begun an affair. It took them three years to formulate and act on the scheme to murder Mike, but on that morning, Brian secretly accompanied him to the lake with the plan of pushing him out of his boat and watching him drown under the weight of his hunting gear. In his panic when the plot didn't go as planned, Brian shot his close friend and buried his body miles away, where it remained undiscovered until October 2017.

Despite the persistent, albeit sometimes unconventional, efforts of Mike's mother, Cheryl, to keep the investigation active, it languished for years, though Denise received nearly $1.8 million in insurance proceeds--most from policies Brian had sold Mike--and she and Brian married in 2005. Paradoxically, as Brottman explains, at times the murder drew Denise and Brian more deeply into their faith, as they sought comfort and support from its teachings and their church community. But over the years, as the weight of their guilt mounted and the cracks in Brian's psychological armor became irreparable, the bond between these "adulterous Baptist lovers" eventually ruptured.

Brottman, who holds a doctorate in English literature from Oxford and is trained in psychoanalysis, usefully brings these elements of her background to this project. For the epigraphs that accompany each chapter, she draws from works like James Cain's novels Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, as well as Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the spirits of Dostoevsky and Poe hover over the story. Her reflections on Brian and Denise's complicated inner lives, especially when she's interrogating their attempt to rationalize their deeds with their Christian faith, or examining Brian's longtime sex addiction and his painful unraveling, help shape the book's intriguingly multidimensional account.

The tragic tale of a couple whose lust overpowers their inhibitions and drives them to commit a heinous crime is hardly new, but as Brottman demonstrates with freshness and verve in Guilty Creatures, that doesn't make it an any less engrossing one. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A lurid tale of crime and punishment in a fundamentalist Christian community.

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