Check Your Shelf

Keep Your Library Staff Safe

Welcome to Check Your Shelf, where we’re going to start hearing a LOT about libraries reopening during the pandemic. I’ll make my position clear right now: libraries should not consider reopening in any form until it is safe for their staff to do so. What that looks like will vary from community to community, but I’m seeing a lot of discussion from libraries that plan to implement curbside services despite extended shelter-in-place orders, and despite COVID cases still being on the rise in their area. I hope these libraries have really good answers as to why they’re risking the safety of their staff like this, because I just can’t think of any.

And now, on with the newsletter.

Libraries & Librarians

News Updates

Cool Library Updates

Worth Reading

Book Adaptations in the News

Books & Authors in the News

Numbers & Trends

Pop Cultured

Bookish Curiosities & Miscellaneous

On the Riot

Keep on keeping on, everyone. I’ll see you all next week.

Katie McLain Horner, @kt_librarylady on Twitter. Currently reading My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing.

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships for May 1: Science Fiction About Workers

Happy Friday, shipmates! It’s Alex with some fun links and a moment of me being in my feelings about labor in science fiction. And congratulations to everyone–we made it out of the decade known as April and are now in the May epoch! Stay safe out there, space pirates.

News and Views

Check out the cover of Nghi Vo’s upcoming novella When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, which is the standalone sequel to The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

DisCon III, aka Washington DC WorldCon in 2021, did a fun Twitter thread of science fictional occupants of the White House.

Queer visibility and coding in The Last Unicorn

The Weird Sisters of Shakespeare and the witchcraft trials of his time

Short story to read: Anything Resembling Love by S. Qiouyi Lu. (CW: sexual assault)

A delightful Twitter thread about how various Star Wars characters make their coffee.

If you ever wondered what happened when lightning strikes sand

A study finds that the majority of authors “hear” their characters speak.

On Book Riot

This week’s SFF Yeah! podcast is about books within books…

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is getting new adaptations

15 magical books like Harry Potter for adults

Quiz: What YA mythological tale should you read next?

Free Association Friday: May Day

It probably comes as no surprise, but I have a lot of Feelings and Opinions about organized labor and unions, and it’s International Worker’s Day–solidarity forever! So how about some science fiction (that isn’t mine) that touches on labor issues. Oddly enough, there isn’t much fantasy that I’d say really digs into labor issues… at least that I know of.

First of all, it’s not a book, but if you haven’t seen Sorry to Bother You, directed by Boots Riley, you need to correct that ASAP. This movie is probably the most sharply incisive science fiction I’ve ever seen about labor issues. It’s weird, funny, and very disturbing. (Honorable mention goes to Sleep Dealer, directed by Alex Rivera, which is about labor exploitation by the US across the Mexican border, when Mexican workers are no longer allowed to cross… but they are allowed to remotely pilot robot frames on work sites.)

A People’s Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams – Considering that its title is a riff on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, you can guess what kind of issues of justice the short stories (by a lot of really awesome writers including N. K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, and G. Willow Wilson) are interested in interrogating. Every story isn’t about labor, but it’s definitely a presence in the book.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz – A time travel story in which Tess is trying to find a way to get her edits to stick… and then encounters another group of time travelers in 2022 who are bent on stopping her at any cost. Her story intertwines with that of Beth, whose life was forever changed by the murder of a friend in 1992. And in among all that, the IWW and United Steelworkers put in an appearance.

Company Town by Madeline AshbyCompany Town by Madeline Ashby – The company town in question is an oil rig the size of a city that’s owned entirely by one corporation… bringing with it all the labor issues you might guess. Hwa normally functions as a bodyguard for members of the sex worker’s union, but then she gets tapped to guard the young scion of the company that owns the town… while there’s a series of murders going on.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow is is a very “this could happen at any moment” story about gold farmers in MMORPGs (which are a real thing in the world already) who are low-wage pieceworkers being exploited mostly in Asia. They start to unionize for wages despite the real-world threat posed to them by enforcers employed by their bosses.

On the darker side…

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers SolomonAn Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon is an absolutely brutal science fictional examination of racialized labor exploitation, set on a generation ship where the society is set up like the antebellum South. There’s a lot more to it–Aster’s journey to discover the truth of what happened to her mother as the already terrible world around her begins to fall apart touches on a lot of deeply emotional issues.

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander – An alternate history that brings together labor exploitation and animal rights, where there are sapient elephants who can communicate with humans during the workplace horror that was the radium girls.

See you, space pirates. You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’d like to know more about my secret plans to dominate the seas and skies, you can catch me over at my personal site.



We’re giving away $150 to spend at Amazon to celebrate the coming of spring outdoor reading! Or spring indoor reading, since we’re all social distancing.

Enter here for a chance to win, or click on the cover image below!

Today In Books

Rapping Dr. Seuss: Today In Books

Rapping Dr. Seuss

Filmmaker Wes Tank decided to play some Dr. Dre beats and rap Dr. Seuss books and the results are awesome. At the moment there are six rapping/readings of Dr. Seuss books including The Lorax; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; Fox in Sox. Have fun trying to rap along with him.

Make The Popcorn

The Danny Boyle directed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (who swap playing Dr and creature), will stream for free on the National Theater’s Youtube channel. Today, April 29th, at 7pm UK time you can watch Cumberbatch as the Creature. From May 1st, 7pm UK time, until May 8th you can watch Jonny Lee Miller as the creature.

Newly Created Initiative To Help Women & Non-Binary Comic Retailers

Joining in the fight to help people stay afloat during the pandemic are Kelly Sue DeConnick, Lilah Sturges, Trina Robbins, Vita Ayala–and many more! They are supporting the newly created initiative Insider Art. The initiative will raise money–you’re gonna want to check out all the contributors and contributions–to offer financial assistance to female and non-binary comic book retailers affected by the pandemic.

Update on B&N not selling magazines: Jason Sanford reached out to Barnes & Noble and it turns out that the Good e-Reader article was incorrect, and has since been updated, when it stated they would permanently stop selling magazines. B&N will resume selling magazines in stores when they reopen.

True Story

True Crime Picks: Scotland, Canada, and Beyond!

I’ve been reading more and more mysteries while stuck in quarantine, so we’re focusing on true crime reads today! Murder gets a lot of space in the true crime genre, but I included a couple non-murder options for those (like my fiancée) who would prefer to spend their free time NOT reading about one of the worst things that can happen.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold. If you listen to For Real, you might’ve heard us talking this up. If you’re mad about the amount of focus usually given to the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders, Rubenhold is with you. She tells the stories of the women whose lives were taken away, she rights past injustices done to their narratives, and all around does a great job changing the perspective of this infamous true crime story.


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Recently made into a film! Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative to defend “the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.” He meets Walter McMillian, accused of a murder he insists he did not commit. If you’re looking for a story of hope and justice and people fighting for what’s right, then here you go.


The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner. You know how specific types of crimes can come in waves? Like people see other people doing it and then THEY do it? Well the ’60s and early ’70s was the age of airplane hijacking. As in they were happening once a week. This book tells the story of a couple that “pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history” and what finally ended this weirdly popular crime in 1973.


The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. In 2000, the FBI received a package. It was “a series of coded letters from an anonymous sender to the Libyan consulate, offering to sell classified United States intelligence.” What made the code much harder to crack was the sender had dyslexia. This is is billed as a “true-life spy thriller,” which is excellent.


Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga. We do not talk about the high rate of crime perpetrated against Indigenous people enough. Talaga is an Anishinaabe Canadian journalist and here investigates the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students that spanned 2000 – 2011 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She tells the story of Thunder Bay, how Canada has not supported Indigenous communities, and what Indigenous youth in Canada face today.


Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer by Margalit Fox. I love a colorful cover with a long subtitle. In 1908, a wealthy Scottish woman was murdered inside her home. Police blamed a Jewish immigrant and he was convicted and sent to prison. Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame was OUTraged and spent years working to exonerate the convicted man. Another read for fans of JUSTICE.

Stay inside if you can, nonfictionites. Wear a mask, wash your hands, wipe down your phone, and read read read (while also taking a break to prevent eye strain!). As always, you can find me on Twitter @itsalicetime and co-hosting the For Real podcast with Kim here at Book Riot. Until next time! Enjoy those facts, fellow nerds.

Unusual Suspects

Free YA Crime Audiobooks

Hello mystery fans! We made it to May of this century that is 2020 and another weekend–if weekends are still a thing for you. Anyhoo, I’ve got some distractions in the form of interesting things to read, watch, and I’ve loaded you up on great Kindle deals.

From Book Riot And Around The Internet

In the Dog House by VM Burns cover imageA Brief Tour into the World of Cozy Mystery Authors

While they are self-quarantining, Rincey and Katie tackle some of the oldest mystery and true crime books on their TBR in the latest Read or Dead.

Five True Crime Books You Should Read This Month

Goodreads Employees Recommend Their Favorite Mysteries

Suspense, Mystery and Thriller Must-Read Books by Women Writers of Color to Read in 2020

Win a Copy of FIGHT CLUB 3 by Chuck Palahniuk!

News And Adaptations

Lambda Literary is asking for donations in order to continue operations.

Move over Veruca Salt, I NEED THIS NOW: exclusive preview of The Searcher by Tana French!

HBO Max sets launch date, unveils first look at new shows: Kaley Cuoco’s The Flight Attendant, and more.

cover of The 57 Bus by Dashka SlaterFree YA audiobooks through summer! (I love this program and look forward to it every year and there are fantastic crime books you should run to if you haven’t already: The 57 Bus; Monday’s Not Coming; Burn Baby Burn)

Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason is coming to HBO in a new series–focusing on the attorney’s early career, based on Erle Stanley Gardner detective fiction. For fans of Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany will also star, and John Lithgow who has been in a million things. And here’s the trailer.

How Much of ‘Home Before Dark’ Is Based On The Real Hilde Lysiak?

Watch Now

On HBO Go: The Kitchen, adapted from the same titled graphic novel by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, stars Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy, and Elisabeth Moss as mobsters’ wives who take over when their husbands end up in prison. Watch the trailer.

Kindle Deals

Untamed Shore cover imageIf you’re looking for slow burn suspense with a bite: Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is $4.99! (Review) (TW domestic abuse/past suicide mentioned, detail)

Indian Summer Meets Agatha Christie: I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie is $1.99! (Review) (TW suicide)

For a great British procedural that launches a great new series: The Birdwatcher by William Shaw is $2.99! (Review) (TW suicide, detail)

miracle creek cover imageIf you’re looking for a super good legal thriller + mystery + everyone’s got secrets: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is $3.99 (Review) (TW child abuse/ suicide/ sexual assault)

And for a creepy-ish British serial killer read: The Whisper Man by Alex North is $2.99! (Review) (TW addiction/ child abuse, murder/ pedophile)

Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See 2020 upcoming releases. An Unusual Suspects Pinterest board. Get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

If a mystery fan forwarded this newsletter to you and you’d like your very own you can sign up here.

Read This Book

Read This Book: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

American Spy cover imageThis week’s pick is American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.

Content warning: Home invasion, some violence–sorry, I don’t remember anything else!

American Spy is one of my favorite books of 2019, and even a full year later I still cannot shut up about this book! It’s about Marie Mitchell, a Black FBI agent working in the 1980s. Her ambitions are high, but her career has stalled out thanks to racism and sexism in her home office, and she’s not really sure what the future holds for her. Then she’s recruited by the CIA for a one-off mission that turns into an ongoing, overseas assignment: spying on Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso, first on his U.S. visit and then in his own country. Marie is cautious, but she takes the job. Thomas is intellectually engaging, charismatic, and sensitive, a born leader despite his tendency towards Communist values. It’s not long before Marie finds herself agreeing with his politics more often than not, and increasingly uneasy about the level of U.S. meddling with foreign affairs…and when violence breaks out, she must act quickly to establish where her loyalties lie.

This is an absolutely stellar spy thriller, and I’m so excited about it because it centers a Black woman–in the ’80s and ’90s, no less! It’s also beautifully written, structured as Marie’s letters to her young children, written in the ’90s as she looks back on her choices to get involved with the mission to spy on Sankara, and the fallout which persists to her present day. There’s also a strong subplot involving Marie’s sister, whose career choices inspired Marie’s journey to the FBI, and whose mysterious death has haunted her for years. This book is intense, but not in the traditional spy thriller way. There aren’t endless shoot-out scenes and high speed car chases, but there are deeply unsettling meetings, mysterious strangers, and shady dealings that force Marie to question her moral compass, the motivations of every one around her, and what it means to be a good person, a good spy, a good mother, and a good American. If you’re looking for a deeply human spy novel, then you cannot go wrong with this book. Bonus: I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated brilliantly by Bahni Turpin, one of my favorite narrators.

Happy reading!

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

The Stack


Riot Rundown



Audiobooks 04/30

Hola Audiophiles! I went outside for a walk three days in a row and can I just tell you my mood is so much better after? I got in some excellent audiobook time too as an added bonus, so let’s get straight to the books before I attempt some lame joke at isolation humor.

Ready? Let’s audio.

New Releases – April 28  (publisher descriptions in quotes)

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, narrated by the author – George M. Johnson is a journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist. His young-adult memoir chronicles his childhood, adulthood, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia while examining gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. It’s meant to be both a primer for teens who want to be allies and a testimony for young queer men of color.

The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernandez, narrated by Glenn Davis and Ron Butler – Ready for a case of the did-ya-knows? The Compton Cowboys are a group of 10 Black riders on a small ranch in Compton, California, one of the very last in an area that’s been home to African-American horse riders for decades. Decades! The story starts with The Compton Jr Posse, a project founded by Mayisha Akbar in 1988 to offer local youth an alternative to street life. Today’s Cowboys are a group of Black men and women defying stereotypes in a community built on “camaraderie, respite from violence, healing from trauma, and recovery from incarceration.”

Narrator Note: Glenn Davis reads Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay and I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews! Ron Butler is part of the ensemble casts for both Alexis Schaitkin’s Saint X and How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova, narrated by Frankie Corzo – Santa madre, this book! Renata is a memory thief who was kidnapped as a child and brought to the palace of Andalucia where she was forced to use her powers to kill thousands. Years later, she’s been rescued by the Whispers, a group of rebel spies working against the crown. When Dez—the commander of her unit and Renata’s boo—is taken captive by the evil jerk-face prince, Renata must return to the palace to complete Dez’ top secret mission. But doing so stirs up some old stuff and reveals a secret from her past that could change the game entirely. The whole thing is set in a lush, magical world inspired by Inquisition Spain.

Narrator note: I loved Frankie Corzo’s reading of Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana! Other notable performances include The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero and Meg Medina’s Merci Suárez Changes Gears.

Island Affair by Priscilla Olivares, narrated by Carmen Vine – Sara Vance is a social media influencer who’s getting her stuff together: she’s recovering from an eating disorder, her career is on the rise, and things in general are looking good. Then her boyfriend is a no-show on her family’s big Key West vacay and that just will not do! Rather than face the ridicule of her perfect judgy siblings and their perfect judgy spouses, she enlists the help of a sexy Cuban firefighter/paramedic/dive captain named Luis to play the part of her fake fiancé. They play the part and play it well, too well! Will their fake romance become a real one once it’s time for Sara to go home?

Narrator’s note: Carmen Vine reads a lot of romance audiobooks, including Priscilla Olivares’ His Perfect Partner and Stripped by by Zoey Castile (pssst, that’s Zoraida Cordova’s romance pen name!)

Little Family by Ishmael Beah, narrated by Dion Graham – Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people make a home in an abandoned airplane somewhere in Zimbabwe. Elimane is the book and street smart one while clever Khoudiemata takes responsibility for keeping the three younger kids safe and fed. Each day they scheme and scam to survive, then Elimane makes a dangerous deal with a shadowy head of a crime syndicate to ensure their continued survival. Meanwhile, Khoudimata is swept up by the “beautiful people,” the fortunate sons and daughters of the elite, and wonders if perhaps it’s time to go off and live life for herself.

Narrator note: Dion Graham has one of my favorite narrator voices, hands down. His work includes Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and lots of Nic Stone and Walter Mosley titles. He’s a pro!

Latest Listens

TW: child death, violence/torture (mostly off page)

I abandoned several audiobooks since we last did this newsletter and went back to…. drum roll…. gothic mystery! If you’re thinking, “This again, Diaz?” my feelings won’t be hurt if you skip this section. If you’re still rockin’ with me, let me tell you about The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell, narrated by Jayne Entwistle and Elizabeth Knowelden.

The book reminds me *a lot* of Sarah Waters’ Affinity: an upperclass woman visits the women’s ward of a Victorian London prison and becomes obsessed with a particular inmate. See what I mean? Dorothea Truelove is a young, wealthy, and beautiful woman obsessed with phrenology and it’s potential use in the study of violent crime. Her charitable work takes her to Oakgate prison where she meets Ruth Butterham, a poor seamstress who’s confessed to killing several people with a needle and thread. If you’re thinking she went all stabby stabby, guess again! She claims there’s a supernatural—and deadly—power in her stitches.

The story alternates between Dorothea and Ruth’s perspectives, with Ruth slowly revealing her tragic (the most tragic) backstory to Dorothea. It broke my heart and kept me guessing till the end: is she telling the truth? Is there another sinister force at work? Jayne Entwistle is perfection once again, conveying a range of emotions as Ruth that never once feel contrived. Elizabeth Knowelden, on the other hand, is sometimes a little bit breathy for me. This is the second of her performances that I’ve listened to in the last six months and it took me about an hour to get over what feels like a perpetual hush in her tone.

Worth the listen though? Yep. Just the right amount of Gothic suspense or my liking.

From the Internets

For the gagillionth time: you don’t have to read more if you’re stuck at home. If you want to though, here are some tips—like turning to audiobooks—from CNN.

Today’s the last day of National Poetry month! Here’s a playlist of excellent poetry audiobooks.

Speaking of Libro, check out these awesome interviews with Abby Jimenez (The Happy Ever After Playlist) and C Pam Zhang (How Much of These Hills Is Gold).

Audiofile Magazine is reading my mind! Here are 8 new romance audiobooks from favorite narrators.

Check out Audible’s interview with Veronica Roth.

Last bit of Libro news: did you know they hired booksellers affected by COVID-19? The position goes from April 13th to May 15th and you can meet the bookish superstars here.

Over at the Riot

7 of the Best Audiobooks by Muslim Women Writers

Get Free Audiobooks for Teens This Summer Through SYNC

How Audiobooks Helped Me Feel Less Lonely Staying Home with My Newborn

Radio Drama: Then and Now

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter, catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast, and watch me ramble about even more new books every Tuesday on our YouTube channel.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.