Root and Press Newsletter Worcester's Independent Blog, Cafe and Bookstore

Since COVID infections rose quickly in March, the book industry, like all industries, has been in a state of flux. There have been a myriad of factors that have upended a relatively stable and reliable industry. Books that were once ubiquitous are out of stock and the frustration is doubled when the customer has to wait weeks (or even months!) for certain titles to come into our store. We used to place a "main" order on Sunday night and have this order by Tuesday afternoon. At the slowest point of delivery, this order was taking 10-14 days, making it impossible to get many new releases on time since they often arrive at our wholesaler about a week before release. (We still run into this issue occasionally, but the delivery schedules has seemed to stabilize.)

We have all seen this play out, whether it is at the market (Where are my blue tortilla chips? Why is there no pasta?) or with cars, or homes, or whatever commodity we enjoy or need. No market could be immune from the prolonged period of disruption caused by COVID. We are grateful to have had patient and understanding customers, those who may not be able to pinpoint why A Tale of Two Cities is taking so long, but are gracious with our staff and thankful for our best nonetheless.

As we move into the fall and winter seasons the challenges will only increase for food and retail businesses alike. Root and Press wants to rise to these challenges. We are settling in to a 9:00 A.M. opening, but we will be extending our hours a few days a week to include dinner hours. We have not finalized plans yet but I will send out a newsletter as soon as we decide over the weekend. We are excited to make these changes, as we are not only increasing service hours but adding some exciting new menu items as well.

Book News and Nuggets

Not all customers have been as great as you! This WaPo article demonstrates that before COVID we were Amazon-ized - we expected a large inventory of goods at low cost and cheap and quick delivery for immediate consumption. As the book spigot slowed to a drip, some people were not very understanding, even as low print backlists turned again to hard-to-acquire bestsellers. 

• Britt Bennet's The Vanishing Half has sold more books through two months than Where the Crawdads Sing and Little Fires Everywhere, among other titles. 

• Our non-fiction book club is currently selecting our next book - join and vote here!

• EW and the LA Times have profiles on Yaa Gyasi, whose book Transcendent Kingdom is among our releases next week. Among other things, Gyasi muses why it took Americans so long to support Black authors and to listen to their voices, likening the influx of demand these past few months as cramming for a final exam. 

• Need a book suggestion? Electric Literature has lists upon lists broken down into some non-traditional categories.

Non-Fiction Releases of the Week

The Human Cosmos by Jo Marchant

An historically unprecedented disconnect between humanity and the heavens has opened. Jo Marchant's book can begin to heal it.

 

For at least 20,000 years, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are--our art, religious beliefs, social status, scientific advances, and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. It's a disconnect with a dire cost.

The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict

How was the Patriots dynasty built? And how did it last for two decades? In The Dynasty, acclaimed journalist Jeff Benedict provides richly reported answers in a sweeping account based on exclusive interviews with more than two hundred insiders--including team executives, coaches, players, players' wives, team doctors, lawyers, and more--as well as never-before-seen recordings, documents, and electronic communications.

Through his exhaustive research, Benedict uncovers surprising new details about the inner workings of a team notorious for its secrecy. He puts readers in the room as Robert Kraft outmaneuvers a legion of lawyers and investors to buy the team. We listen in on the phone call when the greatest trade ever made--Bill Belichick for a first-round draft choice--is negotiated. And we look over the shoulder of forty-year-old Tom Brady as a surgeon operates on his throwing hand on the eve of the AFC Championship Game in 2018.

Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami by David Karashima

Thirty years ago, when Haruki Murakami's works were first being translated, they were part of a series of pocket-size English-learning guides released only in Japan. Today his books can be read in fifty languages and have won prizes and sold millions of copies globally. How did a loner destined for a niche domestic audience become one of the most famous writers alive? This book tells one key part of the story. Its cast includes an expat trained in art history who never intended to become a translator; a Chinese American ex-academic who never planned to work as an editor; and other publishing professionals in New York, London, and Tokyo who together introduced a pop-inflected, unexpected Japanese voice to the wider literary world.

Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault

Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural working class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that employs most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault's own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for her seemingly secure childhood. The mill, while providing livelihoods for nearly everyone, also contributed to the destruction of the environment and the decline of the town's economic, physical, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname "Cancer Valley."

 

Mill Town is a personal investigation, where Arsenault sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxins and disease. Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks, Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
Hitler: Downfall 1939-1945 by Volker Ullrich
(Not available on Bookshop yet)
Volker's second Hitler book (following Ascent1889-1939) demonstrates how decisions during World War II led to the toppling of the Third Reich.

 

Noteworthy Fiction Releases

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi's stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief--a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut.

A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

In her twelfth year, Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl, confronts a piercing question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small village of Nattetta--her grandmother, her best friend, and her many aunts, but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Complicating these feelings of abandonment, as Kirabo comes of age she feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her at odds with her sweet and obedient nature.

 

Seeking answers, Kirabo begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, a local witch, trading stories and learning not only about this force inside her, but about the woman who birthed her, who she learns is alive but not ready to meet. Nsuuta also explains that Kirabo has a streak of the "first woman"--an independent, original state that has been all but lost to women.

Kirabo's journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her family's expectations, is rich in the folklore of Uganda and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women. Makumbi's unforgettable novel is a sweeping testament to the true and lasting connections between history, tradition, family, friends, and the promise of a different future.

Daddy by Emma Cline

In ten remarkable stories, Emma Cline portrays moments when the ordinary is disturbed, when daily life buckles, revealing the perversity and violence pulsing under the surface. She explores characters navigating the edge, the limits of themselves and those around them: power dynamics in families, in relationships, the distance between their true and false selves. They want connection, but what they provoke is often closer to self-sabotage. What are the costs of one's choices? Of the moments when we act, or fail to act? These complexities are at the heart of Daddy, Emma Cline's sharp-eyed illumination of the contrary impulses that animate our inner lives.

Juvenile/Kids Releases

Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers (Full Color Edition) by Dav Pilkey

When we last saw our heroes, George and Harold, they had been turned into evil zombie nerds doomed to roam a devastated, post-apocalyptic planet for all eternity. But why, you might ask, didn't the amazing Captain Underpants save the boys from this frightening fate? Because Tippy Tinkletrousers and his time-traveling hijinks prevented George and Harold from creating Captain Underpants in the first place! Now, having changed the course of human history forever, they'll have to figure out a way to CHANGE IT BACK!

I Survived: California Wildfires, 2018 by Lauren Tarshis

California continues to be ravaged by devastating wildfires. Lauren Tarshis's heart pounding story tells of two children who battle the terrifying flames and -- despite the destruction -- find hope in the ashes.


The people of Northern California were used to living with the threat of wildfires. But nothing could have prepared them for the devastating 2018 fire season, the deadliest in 100 years and the most destructive in history.

 

In the 20th I Survived book, readers join eleven-year-old Josh as he leaves his New Jersey home for the rural northern California town where his cousins live. Still reeling from the life-changing challenges that propelled him and his mother across the country, Josh struggles to adapt to a more rustic, down-to-earth lifestyle that couldn't be more different from the one he is used to.

 

Josh and his cousin bond over tacos and reptiles and jokes, but on a trip into the nearby forest, they suddenly find themselves in the path of a fast-moving firestorm, a super-heated monster that will soon lay waste to millions of acres of wilderness and -- possibly -- their town. Josh needs to confront the family issues burning him up inside, but first he'll have to survive the flames blazing all around him.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson's stirring novel explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed.

 

For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone's hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he's as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ's house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ's mom explains it's because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that--but it doesn't make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can't remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?