This week, my ShelfTalker colleagues and I have all been sharing some last minute recommendation lists. I decided to highlight some books perfect for the reader who’s up for a good challenge but isn’t quite in that YA mindset just yet. We booksellers like to joke about all those precocious elementary school grandchildren “reading at a high school level” this time of year, but it feels like there have never been so many great books published specifically for the 10-14 age range, and that’s a great thing. We don’t have a special section for this category like some stores, but I do have a number of favorite titles to recommend. I think the books highlighted below (some new, some old) offer all the nuance, linguistic complexity, and rich worldbuilding of their upper YA counterparts, but are completely appealing and accessible to strong upper elementary and middle school readers.
Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge. In this inventive story set in the Pacific islands, conspiracies, persecution, a terrifying dentist, sentient volcanoes, and the ferocious power of the natural world come together into one of the most satisfying fantasies I’ve read for kids. Originally published as middle grade in the US as The Lost Conspiracy and newly repackaged for YA (albeit with a cover change I don’t love), this is a wonderful book for bridging the reading gap. As Cynthia mentioned in her middle grade post, certain books defy concise handselling, and this is one of them. I often just end up urging people to trust me on this one, and it usually works. Continue reading
Day four here of the ShelfTalker week of last-minute book recommendations. We are indeed in that most interesting point in the holiday retail season: too late to order in more store stock, but with the five busiest days of the year still ahead. As weary travelers crossing an arid wasteland, having just used up the last of our food and water, and with five days of walking still remaining, we must now live off whatever excess fat is stored in our bodies.
As a buyer this time of simplicity (either it is on the shelf or it is not) is a source of both relief and existential terror. Mostly relief, though, if we’ve done a good job.
Bearing our current state in mind, as we think of last-minute suggestions, it behooves to consider good books we have on hand but have neglected to promote. Books, I mean to say, that are lying latent on our shelves that we can lift up into the front tier of the store’s consciousness.
Our ShelfTalker team of blogging elves is wrapping up our holiday posts with some book recommendations this week, highlighting our staff favorites and those titles that are selling especially well in our stores. I am claiming Middle Grade books as rapidly as I placed a post-it note on that gift fruitcake that arrived at the house from our insurance agent: ” WARNING! THIS IS MINE! DO NOT EAT!!!” so that I alone could savor it, slice by slice, after these very long December days at the shop. For just like fruitcake, middle grade is my favorite treat. (Don’t judge. There’s a good metaphor to come, and if you don’t like fruitcake, I think that you just haven’t tried it lately.)
This week, we ShelfTalker bloggers are each talking about great sellers in our stores and last-minute recommendations. Yesterday, Leslie Hawkins shared baby books perfect for tucking into stockings. Come back for Cynthia, Kenny, and Meghan’s posts the rest of the week!
We’re in it now, people! This hair-raising, full-bore run up to December 24, in which we try to anticipate every conceivable kind of book people will come in looking for. This means a ridiculous amount of goggle-eyed ordering, one eye on past literary loves and the other on the brilliant editions in the current cultural swim. We know books like Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and Jill Lepore’s These Truths are going to fly off the shelves, but that’s just the tip of the holiday iceberg.
Ushering in the last week of ShelfTalker until the new year, we’ve got some recommendations for holiday gifit-giving, all week long! Here are a few of my go-to frontlist recommendations for babies, most conveniently sized to fit in a stocking.
Although the Christmas whirlwind is upon us, a group paused for a minute this week to welcome the author of an 2019 novel. We were lucky enough to sit down with Houston author and sign language interpreter, Lynne Kelly, to talk about her upcoming release, Song for a Whale. A radiant story about a Deaf girl who sets out to show an isolated whale that he’s not alone, her novel was inspired by the plight of a real-life whale who sings at a much higher pitch than other whales.
To 12-year-old Iris, who has always felt separated from her hearing friends and family, that sort of loneliness feels all too familiar. So when she hears about the whale (named Blue 55) whose voice goes unrecognized by others of his kind, she feels a compulsion to help. What follows is a wildly hopeful quest to prove to Blue 55 he’s not alone by sharing music composed to match his singular frequency. The thing is that Blue’s heading for Alaska and Houston isn’t exactly en route. But she finds an unexpected ally (and travel partner) in her Deaf grandmother who’s looking to leap back into life after a tragedy. Before anyone can stop them, the two conspirators have headed north to make new friends, touch glaciers, rock some cruise ship karaoke, and find one very special whale. Continue reading
This week I asked all my DDG booksellers to talk a little about the book they care about selling the most this Holiday season.
Eliot: My favorite book from this year is Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Ottolenghi Simple. I like the book for a number of reasons, from its intuitive layout and easy to follow directions to its categorization of recipes by time, number of ingredients and overall difficulty, which is great if you’re short on time or just feeling lazy (which is its own category in the book). What I love most, though, is the sheer number of times I’ve been totally surprised by the flavor of the dish I just made. I mean, I never thought anchovies could make an irresistible pasta sauce or that the outside skin of lemon could add more flavor than the juice itself. I love trying new things and being surprised and this book has yet to fail me in both those regards.
We’re in the home stretch, fellow Santa staff and holiday helpers, and I’m proud to know each and every one of you. With just two weeks to go (plus or minus your store’s Christmas Eve special hours, or Christmas Day service — I’m looking at you, airport and resort stores) we will be putting the last few boxes on the sleigh very, very soon, and settling down for our own long winter’s nap. I wanted to use my post this week (which you won’t have time to read, but you can forward it to one of your elf-interns) to cover a few key reminders for success in this tinsel-covered marathon.
Guess what, folks? It’s the second Josie Leavitt guest post of the season! Josie writes:
This is not the first time I’ve written about snacks, and it likely won’t be the last, even though I’m officially retired from the store. (I suspect I will always fill in at the store a little here and there and pull some more shifts during the holidays.) I realize, since I’ve been away, that I equate the store with certain food rituals. The biggest ritual is raiding the snack bin in the back room. Back in my tenure that snack bin could usually be counted on to have a myriad of yummies ranging from cookies, energy bars (usually only there as a last resort if someone had skipped lunch), candy bars and some sort of other sweet thing. The expectation of food runs very high during the holidays when we tend to act like we’re under siege every day and unable to leave the premises.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this publicly, especially since I’ve been selling audio books for the last few years through my bookstore’s website, but until recently I’d never actually read an entire book that way. I’d downloaded some with the best of intentions but never quite followed through, mostly due to some assumptions about my inability to focus on long-form audio. Continue reading