May 22, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Written and performed by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman has said that this is his most personal story; although it's not autobiographical, he channeled his seven-year-old self while writing it.  And when he reads the story, every intended emotional note comes through in a way that simply reading it off the page may not.  I read this with an online bookclub when it was new, and across the board those who listened to it enjoyed it the most.
A young boy's life is changed when a strange family moves into the farm at the end of the lane.  They are magical in a way that is all about love and understanding, and the scenes where he's talking to the mother or the grandmother are stirring.  He becomes very close with the daughter and they have adventures, sometimes into other realms.  Things go wrong, as they often do, and the children have to find a way to fix the imbalance they've created.
So much of this story is about how it feels to be seven years old; feeling powerless over changes in your life, frustrated when the adults won't believe you, and so totally open to all the magic the world has to offer, even when it's scary. There is a vulnerability and sweetness in the telling that warms my heart. It's a quick listen, only about five hours, but the story will stay with you, and it just may be the salve you're looking for right now.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780062255686?bookstore=borderlands?bookstore=borderlands

May 16, 2020

Curb-Side Pickup Coming Soon

Hi Everyone,

As you've probably heard, both California and San Francisco are relaxing some of the restrictions on business operations.  Specifically, retail businesses like Borderlands will be allowed to start offering "curb-side pickups" to the public starting on Monday, the 18th.  We are, as you'd expect, very excited to start being able to handle business in a slightly more "normal" way.  It's also going to be really nice not to need to pack up every single book that we sell and send them by mail.

However, we aren't going to start immediately.

The guidance from the city Health Department has been a bit scant so far, and that is part of the reason that we're going to delay a little bit.  But, moreso, I want to have time to think through our procedures carefully and get the supplies and equipment that we'll need on hand before we start.  As I see it, there is no reason to rush headlong into this and, given the risks associated with making mistakes, there is a very good reason to move slowly and thoughtfully.

We will start a trial of doing curb-side sales on Wednesday, May 20th, from 11 am to 5 pm and we'll continue on Thursday and Friday, the 21st and 22nd.  Then we will close for the weekend, assess how it went and, assuming that we have a good system in place, we will start a regular schedule on Monday, May 25th.  For the first three days, Jude and I will be the only people working at the shop.  Starting on the 25th, I anticipate that we'll be bringing staff back to the store, opening for longer hours (probably 10 or 11 am to 6 or 7 pm), and be operating seven days per week.  Below you'll find an explanation from Jude about how the process will work.

It saddens me that we not be able to allow any customers into the store during this stage of reopening, and I also regret that we won't be able to spend much time at all socializing with you when you stop by.  But, this is much better than the circumstances that we've been working under and, although we'll only see you for a short time, it makes me very happy that we'll be able see our favorite people in the world -- you, our customers.

Warm Regards,
Alan


We're happy to be able to provide front-of-store ("curbside") pickup by appointment for your book orders!  In keeping with directives from San Francisco's Health Department, we've developed the following system to keep our customers and employees safe while getting you the books you need.

How it works: just call us (415 824-8203) or email orders@borderlands-books.com to place your order.  If you call us, we'll ask for your book selections and credit card info for payment, and we'll set up a time for to pick up your order.  If you email, please send us your book selections and your phone number; we'll call you to get payment information and set up an appointment for pickup --  please DON'T email us credit card info -- it's not secure.

Please arrive on-time for your pick up appointment, or call us and let us know if you need to reschedule.  IMPORTANT - the health order requires that you wear a face-covering to your pick up appointment; we're prohibited from serving anyone who isn't wearing a mask, bandana, or other face-covering.  Once you arrive, call the store to let us know you're here, and wait on the tape line outside the window.  We'll put your bag of books and receipt outside the door and wave cheerily.  (Cheer levels may vary by employee.)  Confirm that your order is correct, give us a thumbs up through the window, and you're on your way!

All Best,
Jude

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

The Down Days by Ilze Hugo

This is either the best time or the worst time to read Ilze Hugo's The Down Days, depending on how you look at things. Unless she's an incredibly fast writer with some super-highway to editing and publishing, Ms. Hugo started this story well before the current situation began. In her write-up on John Scalzi’s blog (https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/05/08/the-big-idea-ilze-hugo/) she talks about being fascinated with the way viruses and pandemics shape culture. In this story, it's years after a major pandemic hit Cape Town, South Africa. The residents are isolated from the rest of the world, and finding new ways to survive; some jobs have become obsolete and people are making a living in ways they wouldn't have imagined in the "before times". Wearing masks, and regular mandatory med checks have become a way of life.

There are several main characters, and the audiobook splits up the narration in an interesting way, with Gideon Emery reading the male POV's and Bianca Amato reading the female POV's. Both performers are excellent, and it works well with the pacing of the story, which takes place over one week.  The narration switches rapidly between the characters whose lives all end up intersecting, as they solve mysteries of missing persons while questioning reality. It culminates in a dramatic and surprising climax.

This is not exactly an uplifting story, as everyone is carrying around a deep sense of loss and fear, but it does have elements of hope and redemption. And it may well be the relatable disaster cozy you've been looking for.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781797108667-the-down-days?bookstore=borderlands

May 08, 2020

This Week's Audiobook Recommendation

by Melinda Rose

Becoming Bulletproof written and read by Evy Poumpouras

I received this as an advanced listening copy, and it stood out to me because you don't see many women in this author's line of work, and I thought it would be an interesting perspective.  Evy was a secret service agent through several administrations, and interweaves her experiences in the field with how the skills she learned can be applied to everyday life.  It's a memoir with lots of practical advice.  Some may call it a self-help book, but it's more personal than that.
Evy starts off with her story of September 11, 2001.  She was at the federal offices of the World Trade Center when the towers were hit.  She talks about the people she helped, the people who helped her, and what it means to be someone who runs back into a burning, collapsing building.
And it goes from there, talking about finding strength in difficult situations, and how to be prepared for whatever life throws your way.  I found her story intriguing and the information useful.
There's bonus content for the audiobook only; conversations between her and her husband after each major section.  The dynamic is endearing, and it gives her a chance to go a little deeper into some aspects of her story.  I really appreciate it when authors take advantage of working in a different medium.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in the security business, or are interested in learning how to move through the world with more strength and confidence, this is the listen for you.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781797100470-becoming-bulletproof?bookstore=borderlands

Upcoming Event - N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse

N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse read and chat, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall -- a virtual event to benefit Borderlands Books, thanks to Charlie Jane Anders and the wonderful I Love Bookstores Folks! Wednesday, May 27th at 12:00 pm PST  - We Love Bookstores is the brain-child of our friend Charlie Jane Anders, the author of The City In The Middle Of The Night, and was set up in response to concerns about the effects of the economic shut-down on Bay Area bookstores.  They're doing weekly events on Zoom and each event benefits a specific bookstore.  The two best parts of these events is that We Love Bookstores does all the work and all the proceeds from the ticket sales go to the specified bookstore.  It's a wonderful and completely spontaneous "happening" (in the very much 60's sense of the word) and we're just speechless with gratitude for what they're doing.

The event that they're doing to benefit Borderlands is on May 27th and will feature N.K. Jemisin, Hugo Award winning author of The City We Became, and Rebecca Roanhorse, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of Trail Of Lightening, in conversation, hosted by Maggie Tokuda-Hall.  This promises to be a really wonderful exchange between two hugely influential modern writers in our field and one super-talented up-and-comer!  You can get tickets here - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nk-jemisin-and-rebecca-roanhorse-for-borderlands-books-tickets-103364449852

(Given the current circumstances, all of our in-person events have been cancelled indefinitely.  We'll let you know as soon as it's safe to restart them!)

How are we doing at Borderlands?

by Alan Beatts

A lot has happened since my last update, a month ago.  Or was it two years ago?  I'm not sure because corona-time is strange and elastic. Regardless, much has happened.  Jude and I have been filling mail-orders as fast as we can (and that is fast indeed) but it's been hectic.  Selling 20-40 books over the counter is a moderately busy day but not at all a strain.  Processing, packing and shipping out 20-40 books in a day, however, is an awful lot of work.  We've been thrilled to do it -- both serving our customers and getting a little income makes us very happy -- but it's been busy. We'll be continuing to fill mail-orders for the duration and we're happy to send you anything you'd like.  You can check out our inventory at Biblio.com - https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/borderlands-books-san-francisco

This is a good time to mention that Martha Wells' much anticipated Murderbot novel, Network Effect, just arrived today and we expect to be shipping out a lot of copies of that.  We're also going to have our first socially-distanced, drop-in signing with Christopher Moore on Friday.  He'll be signing copies of his newest, Shakespeare For Squirrels.  If you'd like to get a copy of that, or any of Chris' other novels, inscribed to you, just drop us a line at orders@borderlands-books.com and we'll be happy to take care of you.

While Jude and I have been being the mail-order-monkeys, the rest of the staff have been working from home on various things, many of which I'm excited to announce today.

Thanks to a bunch of outstanding work on the part of Amy (with help from Jeremy), we have a new website.  It seems that 2005 called recently and wanted its website back, so we made a new one.  Please do check it out and let me know what you think - http://www.borderlands-books.com

We've also improved some other parts of our presence on-line.  Maddy has set up and is managing an Instagram account for us at borderlands_books so, if that's your thing, please do follow us there.  Maddy is also in the process of producing a series of videos that we'll be posting on our channel at YouTube.  The first should be up this Friday and we're hoping to post on a weekly basis thereafter.  If you want to be sure to hear when the video is up, please subscribe to our channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgvLsi-6ZyU0fuY09DIAt3A

The final major thing that we've been working on is setting up our own shopping cart / ecommerce system.  As good as Biblio.com is and as great to work with as they are; our own system will work better, since it'll be specifically matched to our business, and we'll also save on the commission that Biblio charges.  Jeremy's been working on that and it's getting close to ready for a test run.  We hope to have it ready for ordering specific new releases within a week or two and to offer our entire inventory by next month.

Finally, I have been working on getting one of the Small Business Administration's Payroll Protection Program loans.  If you've been following the news about that, you won't be surprised that it's been a complicated and frustrating process.  However, despite my expectations, we did receive the loan on Sunday.  Granted, we applied on the 8th of April but, better late than never, as they say.  Thankfully, the decision about whether to accept the loan was simpler for us than it was for many others because we had kept the whole staff on payroll from the outset of the shelter-in-place order. Consequently, we didn't have to make the hard decision about whether to bring people back from furlough while still very unsure what the coming months would hold.

Thanks to that loan, we are currently in much the same financial position that we were in at the end of February.  Depending on what the next six to twelve months hold, it is still possible that we will be in a tricky financial situation at some point but, for now, things are looking relatively good. Not great, mind you, but pretty good. Certainly, we are not at risk of going out of business.

That said, your support is still very welcome and needed.  Ordering books from us to be shipped has made a huge difference over the past month and will continue to do so for as long as we keep the shop closed.  It's looking like we will be able to start offering curb-side pickup of books sometime in the coming weeks.  When that happens, continuing to shop with us would be a huge help in these trying times.

Though our original opening date at the new shop on Haight Street is now a thing of the past, I will be starting work there again this week.  The sheet rock crew will be starting on Monday, the 11th, and I hope to keep the work there moving forward at a good pace.  Perhaps by next month I'll have some idea of an opening date.  Sadly, I fear that we will have to wait for the opening party extravaganza that I had planned but, that will just make it even sweeter when it happens.  Because it will not only celebrate our new location but will also celebrate the existence of a vaccine for COVID-19!

So, until I see you again at the store -- whether it be outside the window, picking up a bag of books, or inside the shop, peering at me over a mask -- take care of yourself, your people and your world, be kind and patient, and stay safe.

Bookshop.org

by Alan Beatts

A number of people have asked me about Bookshop.org over the last month.  Specifically, they've been drawing my attention to it because they think that it would be really useful to us, especially given the current situation.  If you haven't heard about Bookshop.org, the super-short version is that they're offering an almost effortless way that bookstores can sell books on-line and get a very nice percentage of the sales (30% right now).  Further, they're offering a much larger percentage of affiliate sales than Amazon (10% vs. 4.5%).  And, finally, they're giving a substantial portion of those sales to local bookstores.  So far they've raised $1,271,387.61.

So, what's not to like?  And, where can Borderlands sign up?

The first one is a complicated question but the second one, that's easy -- Borderlands _can't_ sign up.

The American Booksellers Association has a very long history (it was founded in 1900) and my history with the ABA is long as well.  Borderlands became a member in, I dunno, 1998?

The ABA has done some great things.  It was the kernel for The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (founded in 1990), an outstanding organization that supports freedom of speech and has mounted highly effective opposition to banning books.  It has also worked closely with the BINC Foundation, which provides aid to individual booksellers in financial distress.  And it has been a tireless advocate for independent booksellers by providing extensive education opportunities, acting as an advocate, and working in opposition to, initially, the threat posed by large chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble and, later, Amazon's domination of the market.

It's also a wealthy, often clueless, organization that see itself as the embodiment of independent bookselling.  Perhaps its greatest failing, probably due to institutional blinders, is that when the ABA _thinks_ "bookstore" what it _sees_ is a large, general interest, new bookshop.  Problem is; that doesn't describe most of the bookstores in the US.  Consequently much of what the ABA does ends up being a Procrustean bed.  Everything that doesn't fit gets cut off or distorted.  Please bear with me while I dig into the ABA for a bit.

The ABA is wealthy.  Per the last federal tax filing in 2018, the ABA has assets of a bit over $34 million and revenue of $3.9 million.  In the real world, that's not much for a national trade organization, but we're talking about bookselling here -- that's a lot of cash.  In comparison, the average bookstore in the US has an annual revenue of around $225,000 (1).  As would suit a wealthy organization, the ABA is generous.  Salaries and other compensation in 2018 were $2.4 million.  Oren Teicher, the former CEO, pulled down a salary of $379,859 plus $65,367 in other compensation.  Remember that average bookstore?  Teicher's compensation is just shy of double that amount.  It's probably a good thing that the ABA is sitting on so many assets since, in 2018, they had an operating loss of more than three-quarters of a million dollars (2).

The ABA is clueless.  I'll just give a single example because I could go on and on.  Since the early 2000s, the ABA has flailed around trying to figure out how to provide access to ebook revenue for indy bookstores.  After various false starts (i.e. partnering with Sony and their walled-garden ebook reader), they settled on Kobo.  Which is not a bad eReader platform but, the deal that is supposed to make ebook sales have some value for stores nets a participating store around fifty cents per sale (3).  That's a fine model.  If a store moved 25% of its business to ebooks they could look forward to going right the hell out of business.  So, why the deal in the first place?  Every bookseller I've talked to about it has, at best, said, "Well, at least we can sell ebooks.  But, it's not really worthwhile."   One of the booksellers was an ABA board member at the time!  So, in a desire to seem relevant, the ABA chose a solution so bad that, if all their members embraced it and supported it, it would put them out of business (both the members and the ABA).  What makes it even better is that, though they didn't come up with a solution, they did create a perception on the part of customers that buying ebooks would support their local store.  If that doesn't sufficiently demonstrate the cluelessness of the ABA, just go visit the ABA's ecommerce site - https://www.indiebound.org.  Never heard of it?  That's because it's awful and has always been awful.

Bottom line, the ABA is composed of well-meaning people who care about books, readers and bookstores.  I would never dispute that.  But, as an organization, they're not very competent and they're seriously out of touch with what bookselling is actually like.  Here's a secret about bookstores - many of the big, well-known stores are run by people who don't need to survive on their profits.  To my certain knowledge there are big bookshops owned by: venture capitalists who did very well during the dot-com boom; people who are well-enough-off to own a villa in Italy for vacations; the heir of a family that owns a significant portion of the downtown of a major city; and a landlord who owns a nice strip of top-end retail buildings in another major city (actually, there are two like that).  It is booksellers like that who have the time to serve as board members of the ABA.  I certainly have neither the time nor money to do it.  No bookseller who is really scrabbling does.  It's also booksellers like that who give the ABA the endowments that allow it to function.  And, finally, because ABA dues work on a sliding scale, it's the big stores that pay the most in annual dues.

So, you've got an organization steered by booksellers who are complete outliers in their field and headed by an officer whose compensation is almost double the gross sales of the average member store.  What could possibly make it better?  How about this?  The ABA, as an organization, is habitually less than honest in its public communication.  The first time I ran into that was a write-up in their newsletter years ago about a town-hall meeting with the CEO.  It was described as a pleasant discussion with Northern California booksellers.  In fact, it included an exchange between myself and the CEO that was so unpleasant that the president of our local booksellers association apologized to me for the CEO's conduct.  Over the years I've seen that pattern of spin-doctoring over and over again.  In that case, it wasn't particularly harmful, but it can be.  Take the ABA's recent riff, for example.  Over the past few years a big talking point for the ABA has been that indy bookselling is doing well and that new stores are opening.  It's treated as serious news by places like NPR (4), The Harvard Business School (5), and The Voice of America (6).

But what the ABA has actually been saying is that _their membership_ is growing.  If you look at the US Census figures, it's a different story --"For 1992, the Census Bureau reported 13,136 bookstore establishments, consisting of small "independent" stores as well as larger chain stores. As of 2016, the number of stores tallied in the Census Bureau survey had fallen to less than half that figure, to an all-time low of 6,448."  Furthermore -- "The bookstore workforce increased by more than 54% from 1992 to 2008. The number of employees then declined substantially, with 45% fewer people (83,319) working in these establishments in 2016 than eight years earlier." (7)  Even adjusted for the closure of Borders and the downsizing of Barnes & Noble, that is still a steady decline.

That kind of spin-doctoring is actually damaging because it gives people a false sense that everything is fine for bookstores.  Why does the ABA do it?  First, I think it's to maintain the fiction that bookstores are vibrant and important (and, by extension, that the ABA is important and going a good job).  Based on what I've seen over the years, that fiction is very important to the ABA.  Second, I think it's a function of the institutional blinders that I mentioned earlier.  The ABA has a hard time conceiving that bookselling is much bigger than their members.

Last point, and speaking of members.  Notice that the census figure for number of bookstores in 2016 was 6,448?   The ABA has gotten pretty clever of late and doesn't clearly list their total number of members.  But, searching their online list of members without any limit returns 2,817 stores (8).  They do list how many new stores join each year (while omitting the number of stores that stop being members -- perhaps no-one ever leaves?).  Per their website, they added 75 members in 2017 and 99 members in 2018.  Backtracking from that information suggests that they had 2643 members in 2016.  So, the ABA actually represents significantly less than half of bookstores in the US.  But you'd never imagine that from either their public statements or the amount of credibility they enjoy.

We haven't been a member since around 2000 or so.  I just wasn't willing to participate in an organization like the ABA.  I haven't regretted it for one moment.

By now, you're probably wondering what in the world the ABA has to do with Bookshop.org, yeah?

Fair question.  Bookshop.org exists because a guy named Andy Hunter went to the ABA with some suggestions about what they could / should do to correct the problems with the ABA's ecommerce site - Indiebound.org.  The catch was that the ABA couldn't do it.  His suggestions would have meant that they were actually selling books, which they can't do.  (Rightly, I think. The ABA is a trade organization.  It's not cool for an organization that represents businesses to set up as a competitor.)

I talked to Mr. Hunter yesterday.  He's a good guy.  I think he really cares about bookstores.  Actually, I know he cares about bookstores because, when he couldn't work with the ABA to make something that would be really functional for indy stores, he went and did it himself; in consultation and with the support of the ABA.  At the time, he told me, he didn't know about issues with the ABA.  In fact, he said he had no idea that any booksellers had problems with the ABA.

So, to participate in Bookshop.org, as a bookseller, you have to be a member of the ABA.  Granted, any bookstore can be an affiliate (just like anyone else on the planet) and get a little cut of referred sales but; that is neither financially nor practically the same thing.

Further, part of Bookshop.org's plan is sharing a portion of their profits with independent bookstores.  From their website -- "If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they'll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don't use Bookshop)."(9)

The stores that get a piece of that "earnings pool".  It's the members of the ABA.  No-one else.

Which makes the counter at the top of their site reading, as of this moment, "$1,271,387.61 raised for local bookstores", a bit inaccurate.  Might be more honest if it said, "$1,271,387.61 raised for the membership of the American Booksellers Association".  Perhaps the ABA's fondness for less-than-straight speech rubbed off?  I hope not.  But, as my dad used to say, "You can't touch pitch and not be defiled".

The question I had was; Why ABA members only?  Since then, I've spoken with Sarah High, Bookshop.org's Partnership's Manager, and with Andy Hunter, the founder. Initially the only answer I got was, "Our reasoning for the ABA requirement is because of our partnership with their organization."  But, at the end of a really lovely conversation with Ms. High, she said that it was because of an agreement that they had made with the ABA.  An agreement that the ABA requested.  No surprise there, really.  But then, during my conversation with Mr. Hunter, it turned out that there actually is not a binding agreement in place nor does the ABA have a controlling ownership stake or board position.  In an email followup to our call, Mr. Hunter pointed out that, from the very beginning, his understanding with the ABA was that only their members would be participants and that the ABA had been very helpful through the process. But, when all is said and done, the only conclusion that I can come to is that the requirement is there because the folks who run Bookshop.org want it there.  Which, I guess, is fine.  It's their company, after all.  Perhaps they don't want to piss off the ABA.  That's never been something that's concerned me very much (shocking, eh?) but I'd hardly suggest that my way of doing business is well suited to most other companies.

I find myself very conflicted about Bookshop.org.  It is obviously run by people who share values with me.  Most importantly, they both care about independent bookselling and are competent enough to actually do something effective.  I absolutely love that they're playing Robin Hood to Amazon's Sheriff of Nottingham; with the greater affiliate percentage and their pass-along-the-profit scheme, they're taking sales away from Amazon and giving the money to bookstores and the people who are generating the sales.  During my conversation with Mr. Hunter he genuinely listened to my perception of the problems with the ABA and said he would bring them up.  I was left with the feeling that he really would like to see things work out well.

On the other hand, their catering to the ABA doesn't sit very well with me.  And, especially at a time like this, when _all_ bookstores are struggling and people are so happy to help, the misdirection in using a phrase like, "XXX dollars raised for local bookstores" and avoiding almost any mention of the ABA on their website is . . . upsetting.

The ultimate feeling I'm left with is that I just wish it were different.  Bookshop.org is something that I'm thrilled to see and I would love to support wholeheartedly.  I just wish they would support me.

Hell, they seem smart enough.  Perhaps they could solve the problem of how to get indy bookstores a good enough margin on ebooks that we could sell them, and not go out of business in the process.  That would be cooler than skates on a rattlesnake.

1) https://www.womply.com/blog/the-state-of-local-bookstores/
2) https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/view_990/135676641/0ca9d546f5bf1c27b1240f1296c9bab0
3) https://publishingperspectives.com/2015/08/ebooks-sold-at-independent-bookstores-garner-pitiful-profits/
4) https://www.npr.org/2018/03/29/598053563/why-the-number-of-independent-bookstores-increased-during-the-retail-apocalypse
5) https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/20-068_c19963e7-506c-479a-beb4-bb339cd293ee.pdf
6) https://www.voanews.com/arts-culture/us-independent-bookstores-thriving-and-growing
7) https://www.amacad.org/humanities-indicators/public-life/bookstores-establishments-and-sales
8) https://www.bookweb.org/member_directory/search/ABAmember/results/0/0/0/0
9) https://bookshop.org/pages/about

Battles, Science, and Zombies -- Libro.fm Recommendations

by Melinda Rose

I've been writing weekly audiobook recommendations for the Borderlands Blog, and it's been a lot of fun.  I've rounded up and refreshed the past month's reviews for you here. We've got an epic battle for the soul of a city, a character-driven military drama, armchair science, and of course a zombie apocalypse.

The City We Became by NK Jemisin, Narrated by Robin Miles.
Just, Wow! This audiobook was an experience. I've never listened to a book so well-produced, and it's set a new standard in my mind.  Miles' performance is stellar.  She nails the accents of each individual borough, and every character has a distinctive voice - not an easy feat considering all the different cultures, backgrounds, and ages represented.  There are sound effects and music woven throughout the story - at just the right point below the narration so as to enhance but not distract.
There's a lot that resonated with me in this book.  Not only does Jemisin tackle issues of racism, gentrification, and toxic masculinity; she does it with a diverse group of characters whose race and sexual orientations are important, but don't define them. I find that refreshing.
In this story, every major city has a soul, and New York City is fighting for its life.  In order to fend off the powers that want to prevent it from becoming truly alive, it selects one person from each borough to be a physical manifestation of that part of The City.  The story follows each of their journeys as they come to understand who they are, what they stand for, and what's at stake if they don't join forces and fight for the city they love.
Each character is strong on their own.  There are wonderful  'oh hell no, not today'  moments when they feel backed against a wall and have to fight, but none of them are exactly eager to trust each other.  They're used to being self-reliant, and thinking of their own boroughs as distinct, but this can be isolating.  Since listening to this book I've been thinking a lot about isolation versus community, and the strength in vulnerability.  I like it when a story stays with me and inspires me to ponder things on a deeper level.
Plus, as a San Franciscan, I completely relate to the struggle against the forces that would chip away at the very things that make a city unique, and I loved seeing that fight made as personal as it feels.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781549119736-the-city-we-became?bookstore=borderlands

The Light Brigade By Kameron Hurley, Narrated by Cara Gee
I was already a fan of Cara Gee, who plays OPA Captain Drummer on The Expanse.  No, she doesn't use her Belter accent here, but the performance is equally strong.
The story is told in first person by Dietz, who volunteers for the army after her home is destroyed by aliens.  She's idealistic and stubborn, but as she progresses through training and then into fighting, she discovers things aren't exactly what they seem. Through a glitch in the way travel at the speed of light is made possible in her world, she ends up jumping around through time and spends most of the story trying to catch up with herself so she can figure what the hell is going on.  The non-linear timeline is confusing, because you're experiencing it in the same way Dietz is, but the way all the strands end up weaving together is quite compelling.
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781508280408-the-light-brigade?bookstore=borderlands

Have some extra time on your hands and looking for something you can really sink your teeth into?
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, and narrated by Edward Herrmann is a great way to go.  Part biography, part history of science, and part exploration of Einstein's contributions to the fields of mathematics and physics, it all adds up to a wonderful listen.
There was a lot in here I didn't know about Einstein's personal life or his earlier, less famous but still deeply important theories.  It's interesting to put his discoveries in the context of the world events at the time.  I also enjoyed the crash course in theoretical physics, which was neither too dense nor dumbed down, the perfect balance for an armchair science nerd.
libro.fm/audiobooks/9780743561396-einstein?bookstore=borderlands

World War Z by Max Brooks is a great listen. It's a series of interviews with a myriad of survivors of the Zombie War from all over the world.  Each conversation features a different voice actor, with Max Brooks playing the role of the interviewer, so it really feels like you're listening in on the interviews themselves.  This book is eerily poignant at this time, what a friend of mine might refer to as a "disaster cozy".  The first interviews are about the beginning of the global pandemic, as governments try to cover it up or ignore the severity, until it gets completely out of hand. And then of course, chaos ensues.
There are several versions, all abridged, but the ‘Complete Movie Tie In Edition' has the most content. (Note, the book and the movie are related in name only)
https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780449806968?bookstore=borderlands

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you find some great listens of your own.

A Word About State Senator Scott Wiener

by Alan Beatts

Right now there are so many people behaving wonderfully that the ones that behave badly and deceptively are especially irritating.  Which is why I really feel the need to mention that our State Senator, Scott Wiener, said something in his April Newsletter that was deliberately misleading.  And it was about Borderlands.

In his newsletter he said, in part. "I know I'm biased, but I think that San Francisco has the best small businesses in the world. Some, like my personal favorite dim sum restaurant Mama Ji's, are still open for takeout. Others, like one of my favorite bookstores, Borderlands Books — a fantasy and sci-fi bookstore in the Mission -- have closed for now. "

Nice, huh?  Except I dunno why we would be one of his favorite bookstore since I'm absolutely certain that he's only set foot in the shop once.  It was back in 2015 and the occasion was to talk with me about some highly critical things that I had said.  I hadn't appreciated his position on the minimum wage increase that almost put us out of business and the cavalier way that he had dismissed a reporter's question about our closure by saying words to the effect of -- I love Borderlands but we knew that there would be some negative consequences from the wage increase.

At the time of his comment to the reporter, I asked all the staff if they had ever seen him in the shop.  They were all sure that they hadn't.  For some people, that recollection might not be authoritative but -- Scott Wiener is over six and a half feet tall, has red hair, and is even scrawnier than I am. He's not a person you can miss.

That conclusion was further supported by his one (and, I'm pretty damn sure) only visit to the shop.  He walked in and looked around in exactly the same way I've seen thousands of people do; the first time they come in.  He came to the counter and we had the following conversation.
Him, "Hi.  I'm Scott Wiener."
Me, "Yup."
Him, "I'm sorry to hear that you're closing."
Me, "Yeah, me too."
Him, " . . . . "

And then he left.

Not what I would say is the best possible example of reaching out to your constituents (at the time, Wiener was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and represented the district that both the store and my home are located in).  But, to be fair, I've been told that I can be a bit intimidating, especially if I'm not in a very good mood.

Since 2015, as far as I know, he's never set foot inside the shop again.  He's also not one of our mail-order customers (I checked).  Amusingly enough, we do have a sponsor named Scott Wiener, but it's not the same guy (I also checked).

So, why are we one of his favorite bookstores?  I truly don't know.  Unless it's because he likes being able to tie himself, as a supporter, to a business that enjoys a huge amount of support. Perhaps he thinks that he'll get the people who support us to support him?  As I said, I dunno and I don't really care.  But, I'm not going to let him act like he cares a bit about us when, at the time we needed help, all he could say was that -- there would be some negative consequences -- and then run away when he was face to face with the person who was suffering that consequence.

(Oh, and of course, he also said we were closed on April 3rd when, at the time, we had begun doing mail-orders again.)

April Bestsellers

Hardcovers
1) The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
2) The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
3) Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
4) The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
5) Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
6) Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
7) Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
8) Agency by William Gibson
9) When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
10) Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Trade Paperbacks
1) This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
2) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
3) Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4)  City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
5) Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
6) A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
7) The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
8) Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole
9) Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara West
10) Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Mass Market Paperbacks

(Since we've only been doing mail order sales, we didn't have enough mass market sales in April to make a reasonable list.)