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{Singing Christmas carols in summertime.}

In which a dear friend is remembered and honored in book suggestions, Ms. Carson McCullers sings Christmas carols in summertime, and Ms. April Ayers Lawson talks about the best book of the year (of 1965).

December 27, 2016

In This Issue

Lady Banks' Commonplace Book | Read This! | The List | Okra Picks | Event Calendar | Southern Indie Bestsellers


Dearest Readers

My Katherine Mansfeield ProjectHer ladyship is writing from parts up north, hence the brevity of this message. She hopes her readers are all enjoying a joyful holiday with the people they love the best. She hopes, also, that among the good cheer and gifts there were some of a literary nature. A dear friend sent her ladyship a copy of My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kristy Gunn, so that is what her ladyship is reading in the quiet times between family visits.

What books were in your stockings or under your tree?

Read Independently. And shop local!

her ladyship, the editor

Lady Banks' Pick of the Week

Book of Isaias". . . the last thing I wanted to read about, I thought, was a bachelor and his widowed mother taking a bus trip to the Y for a ‘reducing class’" 

The Best Book of 1965: Everything That Rises Must Converge

"She could talk about anything from books to music to low-down gossip."

Remembering Nancy Olson


Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

Noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.

It's Not Like I Knew HerSummer 1963 - Catawba, Florida

Jodie Taylor hesitated beneath a canopy of sweet gum, hickory, and beech trees, and squinted into the sun's white glare. Ahead, the familiar clapboard house, bleached the color of oak ash, straddled the ridge like a well-worn saddle. In the dappled sunlight, the porch appeared to slouch away from the main house, evoking memories of the rank contrariness that had dwelled there. She picked up the battered suitcase and stepped from the shade's relief onto the lane's hot sand.

A murder of crows cawed down at her from their perch along the power line. The more curious birds swooped closer, appearing to memorize her face, and she wondered by what mane they might call her. Crows as messengers of death was a superstition held by some, but not her.

She peered through the porch's rusted screen door and called his name, not in the hard-earned voice of the woman she'd become, but in a small way, borrowed from her childhood. As though neither the departure of Miss Mary nor the passing of time and distance had made her anyone other than his curse.

--Shelby Stephenson, Elegies for Small Game (Press 53, 2016) 9781941209417

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Fallen Land" "Fallen Land" is starting to pop up on "Best of 2016" lists. Writers' Bone, a literary website, listed Brown's novel as No.3 on its "30 Best Books of 2016," ahead of Richard Russo's "Everybody's Fool" and Colson Whitehead's National Book Award winner "The Underground Railroad."" 

Taylor Brown makes Best of 2016 List


“I decided to cocoon myself in literature."

A Memphis Literary Christmas Wish


Read This!

Recommended reading from Southern Indie Booksellers

In Heroes of the Frontier, the main character, Josie, is a dentist by trade. When a patient sues her for malpractice, Josie grabs her kids and escapes from her work troubles and her no-good husband Carl. What she can’t escape are her invisible burdens: her past―her parents were scandal-ridden nurses―and her lack of self-confidence and sense of direction. Whether she’s running 'toward' or 'away,' the reader and her endearing children―Paul, an eight-year-old with an old soul (the adult of the family most of the time!), and Ana, who is a handful―go along for the ride.

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (Knopf $28.95), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.


I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman

Brian Wilson has made some of the most groundbreaking and timeless music ever recorded. From singing along to Rosemary Clooney’s “Tenderly" at age 10 to becoming a Kennedy Center honoree in 2007, Wilson recounts the ups and downs of a Beach Boy’s life.

I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman (Da Capo Press, $26.99), recommended by Andy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.



The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Exuberant grandiosity! A poet's belief that the world will be changed by a literary movement! You'll find people you know so well you can practically touch them despite the fact they live in Mexico City in the 1970s. I've not had more fun reading a book in ages!

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $27), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.


The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays

There are passages in this novel that make me cry every time I read them, but not because of the great

sadness (of losing a loved one to Alzheimer's) but because of its beautiful depiction of marital and familial love.

The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays (St. Martins Griffin) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA


Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Adults, don’t let the packaging fool you into thinking this is just a book for kids. This delightful and moving biography of E.B. White is for all ages. If Charlotte’s Web still holds a special place in your heart, this is a must read.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White(HMH Books for Young Readers, $18.99), recommended by Karen at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.




Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

In the 1970s, Joan is a professional ballerina. Her company features the Russian breakout star, Arslan Ruskov. Joan is the reason he is in the United States--she even drove the get-away car. Despite the fact that she loves Arslan, he is engaged to another woman and Joan knows she will never be a soloist, so she decides to leave the ballet world. Joan marries her high school boyfriend and they live a nice life, but when their son begins to study dance, Joan is forced back into the lifestyle. Will her secrets be exposed or will her son be able to follow his dreams?

Astonish Me is written with a style similar to a performance. It is divided into different acts and the narration sets the scene as the events unfold. Several different topics are broached in this book, ranging from parenting styles to marriages to work ethics. This is a book that you will want to read with someone else, as the ending will leave you desperate to discuss with a friend who understands.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.


More bookseller recommendations

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Carson McCullers: Stories, Plays, and Other Writings“Sometimes in August, weary of the vacant, broiling afternoon, my younger brother and sister and I would gather in the dense shade under the oak tree in the back yard and talk of Christmas and sing carols”

Carson McCullers's Yuletide gift


The List: Gutsy Girls.

"It is just the kind of book I loved when I was young; one with a daring and dreamy heroine"

"Chinese folklore with uniquely inventive plot make this story perfect for all kinds of readers."

"Even if your childhood experience has nothing to do with pageants or terrible family members you will feel your soul expand when you read this" 

The staff at Flyleaf Books has compiled a list of books featuring gutsy girls -- because it is never too early to start hacking away at the glass ceiling.

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation The Gutsy Girl The Secret Horses of Briar Hill Trouble with Twins Gertie's Leap to Greatness When the Sea Turned to Silver Rad Women Worldwide Women in Science Fight Like a Girl Lumberjanes Raymie Nightingale Girl Who Drank the Moon

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"The arts are the heartbeat of New Orleans" 

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will return in 2017 with Bryan Batt, Rick Bragg, Dorothy Allison, Roy Blount Jr. and Patricia Bosworth, among a host of other authors, journalists and literary celebrities. 


Okra Picks: A Lowcountry Heart

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy

Final words and heartfelt remembrances from bestselling author Pat Conroy take center stage in this winning nonfiction collection, supplemented by touching pieces from Conroy’s many friends.

This new volume of Pat Conroy’s nonfiction brings together some of the most charming interviews, magazine articles, speeches, and letters from his long literary career, many of them addressed directly to his readers with his habitual greeting, “Hey, out there.” Ranging across diverse subjects, such as favorite recent reads, the challenge of staying motivated to exercise, and processing the loss of dear friends, Conroy’s eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing.

With a beautiful introduction from his widow, novelist Cassandra King, A Lowcountry Heart also honors Conroy’s legacy and the innumerable lives he touched. Finally, the collection turns to remembrances of “The Great Conroy,” as he is lovingly titled by friends, and concludes with a eulogy. The inarguable power of Conroy’s work resonates throughout A Lowcountry Heart, and his influence promises to endure.

This moving tribute is sure to be a cherished keepsake for any true Conroy fan and remain a lasting monument to one of the best-loved masters of contemporary American letters.


Okra Picks

Thousand Miles from Nowhere"He gives us a hard time but only because he knows we’re capable of doing great things" 

John Gregory Brown receives outstanding faculty award




Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending December 18. 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 | Okra Pick! - 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. Moonglow
Michael Chabon, Harper, $28.99, 9780062225559
4. Commonwealth
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062491794
5. Swing Time
Zadie Smith, Penguin Press, $27, 9781594203985


1. Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance, Harper, $27.99, 9780062300546
2. The Undoing Project
Michael Lewis, Norton, $28.95, 9780393254594
3. Born to Run
Bruce Springsteen, S&S, $32.50, 9781501141515
4. Atlas Obscura
Joshua Foer, et al., Workman, $35, 9780761169086
5. Thank You for Being Late
Thomas L. Friedman, FSG, $28, 9780374273538

Also of note:

9. Two by Two
Nicholas Sparks, Grand Central, $27, 9781455520695
14. A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life
Pat Conroy, Nan A. Talese, $25, 9780385530866
7. 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

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

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


Lady Banks is sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South.
SIBA | 3806 Yale Dr. | Columbia, SC 28409

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