This week her ladyship, the editor, is packing. She will be spending the holidays with her family up north for a change, rather than having the lot of them come south to visit her. The situation has presented certain logistical problems, such as "how to travel with an armful of presents?" (her ladyship sent them on ahead), or "how much room in her suitcase should be devoted to clothes, and how much to books?" (given her neurotic need to always have twice as many books as she could possible read at any given time in easy reach, this is a question that requires much consideration and a certain willingness to ball up non-wrinkle shirts into tight spaces.)
But this particular trip has highlighted a new problem for her ladyship, one that she has rarely needed to confront in the normal course of her life. It is winter. It will be cold in the part of Western New York for which she is bound. Her ladyship owns exactly one warm sweater.
Winter on the coast of North Carolina can be a little damp and chilly on occasion, but her ladyship, who hails from Buffalo, New York, finds it on the whole very easy to deal with. She has a flannel shirt for when temperatures drop into the forties, and that one warm sweater for the rare occasions when it goes below thirty. She has gloves and a hat that she never wears, and a scarf that she does. She does not have boots or warm socks, or indeed any socks at all. In fact she has taken to wearing sandals year round thus dispensing with the need for socks altogether.
She has no winter coat, only a fleece cape that lost its zipper at some point in the past and can't be closed against the wind.
Her ladyship has duly taken steps to prepare for her visit. She called a family member and informed them that she would need to borrow a coat. And she bought socks. Some things should never be borrowed.
And she made more room in her suitcase for books, because she has a feeling she will be spending an inordinate amount of time indoors, by the fire, reading.
Read Independently. And shop local!
her ladyship, the editor
Lady Banks' Pick of the Week
"The book has a lot of helpful information about the U.S. immigration system, but I found it most valuable in helping me better appreciate the challenges young undocumented immigrants face."
The Book of Isaias
"We will continue to be the Charis Books and Charis Circle you know and love: we will continue to be a home for independent and marginalized voices, and a popular education center for intersectional feminist justice"
Charis Books is moving
Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
Noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.
My brother Paul always supported me.
He never was afraid to be decent.
And in the field he cared for dogs always.
Boogie would lick his hand and hold their days
Together in beauty, a gift of love.
It's simple; no ideas exist more
Passionately unforgettable, core
Of the heart's undying, permanent nerve.
When I see a rabbit limp down a path,
I see the dead leaves, a lair, and I stand
With that rabbit and the small game of youth,
And of my brother's time--he is a mist
Of lasting voices speaking in my heart.
--Shelby Stephenson, Elegies for Small Game (Press 53, 2016) 9781941209417
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"Pappy alone decided when a Hot Toddy was needed, and he administered it to his patient with the best bedside manner of a country doctor"
William Faulkner's Hot Toddy Recipe
“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” — William Faulkner
The Mississippi Book of Quotations
Recommended reading from Southern Indie Booksellers
Perfume River is a haunting reflection on the psychic scars inflicted by the Vietnam War on three men. There are brothers Robert, who went to Vietnam, and Jimmy who went to Canada. And there's Bob, whose father was a Vietnam vet. In economically direct prose, Butler finds his way into the souls of men and the way they deal with their thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of the complex relationship of father and son. It took just one paragraph for me to understand why Butler is a Pulitzer winner.
Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly $25), recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.
A beautifully written, complex story of war, love, intrigue and shifting loyalties in occupied Italy towards the end of WW II. This novel pairs very nicely with All The Light We Cannot See, again showing the complexities of everyday life-- not the least of which include being young and passionate about life -- while living in occupied territory.
The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (Simon & Schuster, $27.00), recommended by Jamie at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
I don’t know about you, but I like to know what I am eating. This book gets into practical solutions ranging from making sure you are buying the fish you think you are, to what makes good olive oil (looking at you, Ina Garten), and the various ways in which we can and should be conscious about what we buy.
Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted (Algonquin Books, $27.95), recommended by Catherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
This was my first Tana French novel, and now I have to go back and read them all. A taut procedural with a healthy dose of paranoia, The Trespasser finds Detective Antoinette Conway navigating a hostile work environment while solving what seems to be an open-and-shut murder case. French is a master manipulator, and this novel had me thinking in an Irish accent.
The Trespasser by Tana French (Viking, $27.00), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel, NC.
Will loves Look by Solmaz Sharif: "Until now, now that I've reached my thirties; / All my Muse's poetry has been harmless." This line, from the poem "Desired Appreciation," speaks to the shock that aging into "a brain born into war" can bring; it's this shock, this coming-through-the-numbness, that drives Solmaz Sharif's masterful Look. These poems do not offer narratives of aging beyond trauma. Instead, they are prayers of the most desperate and urgent order. Look is made to break us. It drowns us in the language of war and devastates. It will also, likely, be the boldest, most masterful collection to be released in 2016. Do NOT turn a blind eye to it.”
Look by Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf Press, $16.00), recommended by Will at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
More bookseller recommendations
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“How does one start over when the past can’t be forgotten - or forgiven?"
The List: Tolerance, empathy and expanding horizons.
"Winter's Bone" seems to be fueled with clichés of Southern life and poverty at first glance: the Dolly clan is surrounded by the familiar images of drugs, violence and crime. But its central character elevates it – making this novel both an unusual and exciting coming-of-age story."
Okra Picks:A Question of Mercy
A Question of Mercy, set in a vivid landscape of the mid-twentieth-century South, is the fifth novel from Robert Penn Warren Award–winning writer Elizabeth Cox. As she challenges notions of individual freedom and responsibility against a backdrop of questionable practices governing treatment of the mentally disabled, she also stretches the breadth and limitations of the human heart to love and to forgive.
Adam Finney, a young man who is mentally disabled, faces sterilization and lobotomy in a state-supported asylum. When he is found dead in the French Broad River of rural North Carolina, his teenaged stepsister, Jess, is sought for questioning by their family and the police. Jess’s odyssey of escape across four states leads into dark territories of life-and-death moral choices where compassion and grace offer faint illumination but few answers.
Jess Booker, on the run and alone, leaves the comfort of her home near Asheville, recklessly trekking through woods and hitchhiking her way to a boarding house in tiny Lula, Alabama, a perceived safe haven she once visited with her late mother. Pursued by a mysterious car with a faded “I Like Ike” sticker, Jess is also haunted by memories of her mother’s early death, her father’s distressing marriage to Adam’s mother, the loving bond she was able to form with Adam despite her initial resistance, and her boyfriend Sam’s troubling letters from the thick of combat in the Korean War. In Lula, Jess finds, if only briefly, a respite among a curious surrogate family of fellow displaced outsiders banded together under one roof, and there she finds the strength to heed the call homeward to face the questions she cannot answer about her stepbrother’s death.
Through her vibrant depictions of characters in crisis and of the lush, natural landscapes of her southern settings, Cox brings to the fore the moral, ethical, and seemingly unnatural decisions people face when caring for society’s weakest members. Grappling with the powerful bonds of love and family, A Question of Mercy recognizes the countless ways people come to help one another and the poor choices they can make because of love—choices that challenge the boundaries of human decency and social justice but also choices that can defy what is legal in the course of seeking what is right.
Jill McCorkle, a Dos Passos Prize–winning novelist and short story writer and the author of Life after Life, provides a foreword to the novel.
BUY FROM AN INDIE
"I could read before I could talk. I mean, I wasn’t reading Tropic of Cancer or anything and granted, I didn’t talk until I was 4 (I’ve since, my coworkers will tell you, made up for lost time), but I could read."
Tell us a story: Creative Loafing Tampa The Books Issue
"My oldest grandchild is very observant. I’ve learned to recognize his pensive look. It means a question is coming and it’s going to be a lot deeper than, “Can I have a snack?”"
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
The Holiday Gift Guide, Fiction
At the end of the year her ladyship posts a holiday gift guide of books to be found in the gift catalogs of Southern indie bookstores. You can find the full guide here. Or ask for a catalog from your local bookshop.
If you have any historical fiction fans on your list, a great option is The Orphan Mother: A Novel by New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country, Robert Hicks. This novel follows Mariah Reddick, the star of The Widow of the South. She’s now free and has built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee but when her ambitious son is murdered she sets out on a mission to find who killed him. This is a masterful story with themes of motherhood, love, loss, racism and relationships is bound to be hit with most lovers of this genre!
Another post-Civil War novel to consider is News of the World by Paulette Jiles, author of Enemy Women. This story center’s around an aging migrant news reader who agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people. This 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. This is an exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
Finally, a WWII historical fiction, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, takes us into an intimate side of the war that we seldom get to see: the women’s war. This story takes us into the heart of Nazi occupied Paris and into the lives of two very different sister’s Vianne and Isabelle. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. This is a gripping story about women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, who are manipulated into betrayal, and women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly did.
If you’ve got any mystery lovers on your list this year, you should check out Descent by Tim Johnston. This story takes place in the Rocky Mountains in which the Courtland’s decide to take one last retreat before their 18-year-old daughter Caitlin goes to college. Caitlin’s parents are secretly hoping that this trip will repair their broken marriage while Catlin is looking forward to running some of the magnificent trails. One morning when she and her younger brother go out for a morning run, the Courtland’s find themselves living the kind of nightmare you only see on TV. This is an intense thriller that keeps readers on their toes from start to finish!
The king of fictional romance, Nicholas Sparks, has returned with a huge hit, Two By Two, an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love and the challenges, risks and most of all, the rewards that come with it. The story is about Russell Green who has it all, the gorgeous wife, an adorable 6 year-old, cushy job, stunning house… and then in a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to life as a single parent and its baffling reality. This story is about Russ as he embarks on a journey both terrifying and rewarding—one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.
New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult brings us another riveting page-turner in Small Great Things. This story follows Ruth Jefferson, an African American labor and delivery nurse with more than twenty years' experience. During a routine shift, Ruth begins a checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient because the parents of this child are white supremacists and don't want Ruth to touch their baby. The following day the child goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth must decide whether to comply with the parents request or save the babies life- the consequence is her being charged with a serious crime. With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers.
Another great book to consider for fans of fiction is the highly anticipated Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This epic tale spans the course of 40 years, strolling through the lives of two broken families that are brought together by an affair. It begins with the brokenness of four parents and six children and then grows into a story about the strong and lasting bonds that are forged between the kids based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. Told with a bit of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a brilliant tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
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Southern Indie Bestsellers
For the week ending December 11. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.
- The Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize | - A SIBA Okra Pick
See the full list here
Printable versions: Hardcover | Paperback | Children.
1. The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead, Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385542364
2. The Whistler
John Grisham, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541190
3. A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles, Viking, $27, 9780670026197
Michael Chabon, Harper, $28.99, 9780062225559
5. Night School
Lee Child, Delacorte, $28.99, 9780804178808
1. Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance, Harper, $27.99, 9780062300546
2. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
Michael Lewis, Norton, $28.95, 9780393254594
3. Thank You for Being Late
Thomas L. Friedman, FSG, $28, 9780374273538
4. Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
Vivian Howard, Little Brown, $40, 9780316381109
5. Born a Crime
Trevor Noah, Spiegel & Grau, $28, 9780399588174
Also of note:
8. Two by Two
Nicholas Sparks, Grand Central, $27, 9781455520695
10. A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life
Pat Conroy, Nan A. Talese, $25, 9780385530866
14. Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta
Richard Grant, S&S, $16, 9781476709642
8. Serafina and the Black Cloak
Robert Beatty, Disney/Hyperion, $7.99, 9781484711873
Special to the Southern List
Click on a book to purchase from a great indie bookstore! See the full Southern Indie Bestseller list and the books that are Special to the Southern List here.
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Events at Southern Indie Bookstores
See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you
The Tuesday Murder Club (book club)
12/20/2016, 06:30 pm | Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore | Delray Beach, FL
Wyatt Waters (author appearance)
Wyatt Waters | 12/20/2016, 02:00 pm | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS
Wit and Spark Trivia Night (other event)
12/20/2016, 07:30 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC
Author event with Andrew Maraniss author of Strong Inside (author appearance)
Andrew Maraniss | 12/20/2016, 02:00 pm | Parnassus Books | Nashville, TN
Natalie West signing 100 Things to Do in Jackson Before You Die (author appearance)
Natalie West | 12/21/2016, 01:00 pm | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS
Matthew Guinn signing The Scribe (author appearance)
Matthew Guinn | 12/21/2016, 04:00 pm | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS
The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt--Book Signing (author appearance)
12/22/2016, 05:00 pm | Charis Books & More | Atlanta, GA
The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt--Book Signing (author appearance)
Maria Cornelius | 12/22/2016, 05:00 pm | Charis Books & More | Atlanta, GA
Storytime Thursday (other event)
12/22/2016, 10:30 am | Fiction Addiction | Greenville, SC
Story Time with Miss Hannah (other event)
12/22/2017, 10:30 am | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA
Special Holiday Hours - Christmas Eve/Hanukkah Start (other event)
12/24/2016, 09:00 am | Quail Ridge Books & Music | Raleigh, NC
Children's Storytime (other event)
12/24/2016, 11:00 am | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC
Story Time with Miss Rachel (other event)
12/24/2017, 10:30 am | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA
Mishpacha - Family Hanukkah Concert (other event)
12/27/2016, 07:00 pm | Quail Ridge Books & Music | Raleigh, NC
Adults Read YA Book Club (book club)
12/28/2017, 06:30 pm | Hooray For Books | Alexandria, VA
Jack Hanna (author appearance)
Jack Hanna | 12/29/2016, 06:00 pm | Bookstore 1 Sarasota | Sarasota, FL
WORKS IN TRANSLATION BOOK CLUB discusses TO EACH HIS OWN (book club)
12/29/2016, 07:00 pm | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC
Triad Storytellers Exchange: Story Slam (other event)
12/29/2016, 07:00 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC
Storytime Thursday (other event)
12/29/2016, 10:30 am | Fiction Addiction | Greenville, SC
Reading/Signing for When She Was Bad by Gabrielle Freeman (with Kathleen Nalley) (author appearance)
Gabrielle Freeman | 12/29/2016, 07:00 pm | M. Judson, booksellers and storytellers | Simpsonville, SC
Science Fiction Book Club (book club)
12/29/2016, 06:30 pm | Hooray For Books | Alexandria, VA
Meet Chris Bowron (author appearance)
Chris Bowron | 12/30/2016, 02:00 pm | MacIntosh Books and Paper | Sanibel, FL
Children's Storytime (other event)
12/31/2016, 11:00 am | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC
First Night Alexandria (other event)
12/31/2016, 02:00 pm | Hooray For Books | Alexandria, VA
Authors Round the South