GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal

    The world is a beautiful place, don't you think? Not because it is, but because I see it that way.

    The title is the first thing I noticed about this book, but it definitely wasn't what kept me reading it--the writing itself took care of that.

    This entire novel is ONE sentence. This is a book meant to be devoured in one sitting--you may not stop to catch your breath. Hrabal is a master and he does something really special here. 

    Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age By Bohumil Hrabal ($14, NYRB Classics) Recommended by O.B. at Scuppernong Books Greensboro NC

  • Day In, Day Out by Hector Aguilar Camin

    Day In, Day Out by Hector Aguilar CaminA fast-paced little noir that constantly circles around the conventions of its genre (sex, drugs, murder), and instead manages to become more of a meditation on hopeless desire than a pure, simple crime novel.

    Day In, Day Out by Hector Aguilar Camin ($14.95*, Schaffner Press), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

    So, the title. "Ghachar ghochar" is an untranslatable phrase uttered when things become hopelessly tangled. Like the knot on the cover. Like the lives of Vincent's family after a sudden, collective change in financial status. Like their relationship with the relentlessly imperturbable ants that have invaded the family's living quarters. Translated from Kannada (a southern Indian language), this novella-length book will grab you from the first pages and hold you until the end. A compelling, engrossing family drama that I would call delightful, but for the ending …

    Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag ($15, Penguin Books), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Happy Death by Albert Camus

    His first book and my favorite.

    I admit, although I don't like how he portrays most women in this book, I appreciate his descriptions, his words, how real and raw many parts are, how I can feel a moment described.

    I pick up this book every year at different seasons because it feels changed to me depending on the time of the year, my age in life. It's hard to describe a book I always go back to, to attempt an explanation on why I love it, I just do.

    Happy Death By Albert Camus ($15, Vintage), recommended by Erin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • I Am Radar By Reif Larsen

    A strange, beautiful book about science, art, identity, war, and storytelling itself, I am Radar stretches its tendrils across continents and generations, and into some pretty ambitious narrative territory.

    When Radar is born with black skin to his pale white parents, a chain of events begins that entangles the particles of the universe from New Jersey to Norway, from Cambodia to the Congo. What happens when a radical Norwegian puppet collective meets the Colonel Kurtz of library books? Mr. Larsen's wild ride of a novel is mind expanding indeed.

    I Am Radar By Reif Larsen (Penguin Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

    Inheritance from Mother by Minae MizumuraI just finished reading an amazing new novel in translation: Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter). It’s a long novel that was published over a two-year period in a Japanese magazine, as a homage to earlier Japanese serial novels. It follows a middle-aged woman named Mitsuki and her attempts to rearrange her life upon her realization that her husband is cheating on her, that her mother will soon be dying and leaving she and her sister a sizable inheritance, and her constant ruminations on money and the ways she will fill her time and economize her savings until she, too, dies. If that all sounds morbid and dark, it is, but there is also a subtle humor at work during the novel, with both sisters talking about how they’ll celebrate when their mother finally dies--their relationship to her is fraught, to say the least--and the many flashbacks into the past add a lot of depth to the characters and the family history overall, leaving me with the feeling of really knowing these characters and of feeling sad to have to leave them by the end of the novel. Luckily, it’s relatively long, and Mizumura’s writing style is simple but elegant, not forcing you to get too bogged down in deciphering the beauty of each sentence, and really letting you enjoy the characters and the plot.

    Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura, translated by Julia Winters Carpenter ($27.95, Other Press), recommended by Jacob, Malaprops Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Dreamy and philosophical and bittersweet, this book makes me wish I could get my paw-hands on more memoirs written by polar bears.

    "After the death of all living creatures, all our unfulfilled wishes and unspoken words will go on drifting in the stratosphere, they will combine with one another and linger upon the earth like a fog. What will this fog look like in the eyes of the living? Will they fail to remember the dead and instead indulge in banal meteorological conversations like: 'It's foggy today, don't you think?'"

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (translator) ($16.95, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Elizabeth, Avid Bookstore, Athens, GA.

  • So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors

    The two novellas in So Much for That Winter have certain things in common with each other and relatively little in common with anything else I’ve ever read. They are unique in form. “Minna Needs Rehearsal Space” is told in declarative sentences, one after another, one line at a time, never grouped as paragraphs. “Days” is a story in numbered bullet points. While, admittedly, it takes a page or two to get used to storytelling in these formats, once you are used to it (if you’re like me anyway), you forget that it’s different. Instead, it works with the story. Both novellas’ main characters are women recovering from break-ups. The story-in-headlines of Minna conveys how our very thinking is altered in the aftermath of a dissolved relationship: everything feels drastic, nothing flows naturally, and every action completed without the support or presence of a former partner feels like an accomplishment. Similarly, in “Days,” the lists feel like journal entries, all seemingly saying, “I survived this day. I will keep on surviving.” Altogether, the book is around 160 pages of anxiety and revelation. It took me hardly any time to read it, but processing it was a long and enjoyable experience.

    So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors ($15, Graywolf Press/Farrar Straus Giroux), recommended by Laura, Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN.

  • The Allure of Chanel by Paul Morand


    A little known treasure I discovered, this book is written by a close companion of Chanel and the story tells of her life in her words. The author and Coco spent many years together traveling and entertaining. It’s an insight into the personal life of Chanel, her politics, fears, desires and dreams. The book is beautifully illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld, Head Designer and Creative Director for House of Chanel.

    The Allure of Chanel by Paul Morand, Euan Cameron ($29.95, Pushkin Press), recommended by Linda, Books and Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur by Jean-Claude Ellena

    Mr. Ellena is the exclusive perfumer for the House of Hermes, the book is a little gem.

    While reading the book my mind tricked me into actually smelling orange blossom and bergamot and other lush and exotic scents. For anyone that loves luxury for the sake of luxury this is it.

    The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur by Jean-Claude Ellena ($24.95, Rizzoli Ex Libris), recommended by Linda, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

    This short book became an instant classic in Korea when published in 2000.

    It's the story of Sprout, a hen who yearns to escape the farmyard and keep one of her eggs to hatch. Once free of her cage, she must negotiate new animals and threats, including the ever-lurking weasel. I was deeply affected by this plaintive and heartbreaking story, but Sprout's tenacity, courage and hope also lifted me up.

    The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang, Nomoco -Illustrator, Chi-Young Kim -Translator  (Penguin Books) Recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, (John Batki & George Szirtes, translators)

    The Last Wolf is one fabulous sentence that runs for 70 pages. Afterwards, you can turn the book over and read the novella Herman. This book is beautiful, difficult, and absolutely worth it.

    The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, $15.95), recommended by Nathan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani A huge best-seller in France, The Perfect Nanny packs a punch that its brief length belies. It addresses issues both topical and enduring through the lens of the relationship of a young professional Parisian couple and the caregiver they hire for their two young children when the mother has a chance to return to work.

    The shock of the novel's chilling first sentence, "The baby is dead," is elegantly balanced by the complex issues Slimani addresses: our expectations of mothers' responsibilities, our connection to the people we employ, our view of immigrants, and the ways in which how see ourselves differs from the realities of who we really are.

    This is a striking, powerful novel that, rightly, leaves us with more questions than answers. It's a book that doesn't let go easily, and as a reader, I was the better for that.

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani ($16.00*, Penguin Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

    A legitimate masterpiece, mixing antiseptic, dystopian sci-fi with reflections on aging, love and lonlieness.

    Hoeullebecq's genius is on full display, switching between philosophical musings and caustic misanthropy while somehow retaining a lowkey humanity. A singular bit of fiction.

    The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, Gavin Bowd ($16, Vintage Books USA), recommended by Justin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

    I'm not a big fan of absolutes, but I am adding this book to my small list of things I think everyone should experience. The introduction by David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) evoked tears. Higashida's writing races along the skin, swims in the blood, jumps skyward.

    For anyone who has struggled understanding and anyone who has struggled to be understood.

    The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism By Naoki Higashida, Translators: Ka Yoshida, David Mitchell (Random House)

    The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida ($23.00, Random House), recommended by Lynne Marie at Fountain Bookstore, Richmond VA.

  • The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria

    The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De MariaThis haunting and surreal novel, though a cult favorite in its native Italy, has been generally unknown to American readers since its publication in 1977. Written at a time of rampant right- and left-wing terrorism, the story follows an investigator as he tries to reconstruct a twenty-day period of mass insomnia in which the inflicted are attacked and murdered by giant, unseen entities. Far too much satire and subtext to mention here. Presented in English for the first time by translator Roman Glazov.

    The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria ($24.95*, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre; Jordan Stump (Translator)

    The Waitress Was New By Dominique Fabre; Jordan Stump (Translator)

    Observational and mundane, this is a novel that inhabits the mind of an ordinary man for three days as his life abruptly changes. For all those who need a dose of Parisian café in their lives.

    "Let the world turn around us, beyond our spotless bars, in the end every day will be carefully wiped away to make room for the next."

    The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre; Jordan Stump (Translator) ($16, Archipelago Books), recommended by Elizabeth, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen

    Edgar, aka Eggert Furst, aka Comrade Parts, is one of the most intriguing and pathetic villains I've come across.

    Okasanen's latest novel, like her international best-seller Purge, delves into the political tumult of little-known Estonia, where the overly ambitious Edgar adopts a new identity, while selling out his friends and colleagues, with each regime swing between the Red Army and the Nazis.

    His total lack of conscience and increasing paranoia of exposure by the two people who know him – his alcoholic estranged wife and his freedom-fighting cousin Roland – add just the right hint of dark comedy.

    When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Knopf Publishing Group) Recommended by Vicki at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • You Should Have Left. by Daniel Kehlman

    You Should Have Left by Daniel KehlmanDaniel Kehlmann's novella sent shivers down my spine and kept me asking, "Just what is happening here?" A screenwriter tries to break through writer's block during a vacation with his family at a mountain house in Germany, but soon finds himself confronting sinister and physics-defying phenomena. I picked this up looking for a quick and entertaining read, but the story grabbed my wits and tossed them into its skewed events--and compelled me to read it again. A deliciously frightening tale.

    You Should Have Left. by Daniel Kehlman ($18.00*, Pantheon Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Zbinden's Progress by Christoph Simon

    This charming novel is a character study of an elderly Swiss man who loves life, loves people—his wife especially—loves to walk, and loves to talk, but struggles to make a connection with his son.

    This is just the book to read on a rainy day, perhaps in front of a fire with a cup of cocoa. Or if you want to slow yourself down to enjoy more of your life.

    Zbinden's Progress by Christoph Simon ($15.95, And Other Stories), recommended by Sue at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.