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Week of October 22nd, 2017

The Commonplace Book | Read This! | The List | {Book} Trailer Park | Okra Picks | The Books that Change Our Lives | Southern Indie Bestsellers | Events

{The book that changed our life and the book that saved our life}

In which in which her ladyship, the editor asks a question and receives many different answers, Mr. Wendell Berry is not interested in "trends," a woman meets a bookseller with blue hair (no, really, BLUE hair), and Natasha Boyd wonders what it really means when we say a book has changed our life.

"We are good at stories. We hoard them, like an old woman in a room full of boxes, but now and then we pull out our best, and spread them out."
--- Rick Bragg

Who is your favorite "forgotten" Southern writer?

LandmarksHer ladyship, the editor, on impulse tossed this question out to the shifting, wild populace of her Facebook feed after she had finished reading Landmarks by Robert McFarlane -- a British nature writer, but the book filled with a near endless litany of references and paeans to nature writers of his native land -- their works, once acclaimed, now sunk into oblivion like a stone into the soggy moor earth, or a floating branch disappearing into the river mists, no longer remembered. (One suspects that thanks to the success of Mr. McFarlane's book, they are all in the process of being resurrected).

ChinaberryBut it made her ladyship wonder. Who can be called a "forgotten" Southern writer? Is not her land as populated with many such literary ghosts? She immediately thought of James Still, Larry Brown, Louise Shivers. Writers whose work is beautiful, and whose books can be rather hard to find. Every avid reader has their own private list of such writers, do they not?

Peter Taylor The Complete StoriesThe results of her ladyship's impulsive question to the avatars of the Facebook feed were interesting. Some of the names offered up were people her ladyship doesn't think it would be possible to forget -- Peter Taylor, Harry Crews, Katherine Ann Porter, Walker Percy. That they should appear on a "forgotten writer" list makes her ladyship wish to sneak their books onto all the school reading lists. (Well, perhaps not Harry Crews).

"I have a set of Peter Taylor's stories from Library of America in the store," commented Brian Lampkin of Scuppernong Books. "Can a writer be called forgotten if they have a Library of America volume?" her ladyship wondered.

Woodrow's TrumpetSome of the writers suggested did not fall into her ladyship's "forgotten" category, primarily because she has met them at one time or another -- Doris Betts, Tim McLaurin, Elizabeth Spencer, Randal Kenan. It's hard to call a writer "forgotten" when you can still recall all your conversations together.

Cold Sassy TreeAnd some of the authors suggested her ladyship had not thought to classify as forgotten since she had read their books recently ("recently" here being a euphemism for "sometime within the last twenty-five years"), so she, at least, remembers them -- Charles Portis, Florence King, Wilma Dykeman, Ferrol Sams, Shirley Ann Grau, Jean Toomer, Erskine Caldwell, Olive Ann Burns. "James Dickey," wrote one friend, "Everyone knows Deliverance, but I think people forget his poetry." Good point.

Lunatic WindAnd then there were the names which were wholly unfamiliar to her ladyship. Thus, "forgotten" in the sense that nobody remembered to mention them to her -- Everette Maddox, Celestine Sibley, William Price Fox, Inglis Fletcher, Guy Owen, Caroline Miller, Harriet Arnow, Madison Jones, Elizabeth Page,William Gilmore Simms, Caroline Gordon.

Happy book hunting for her ladyship!

Read Independently! And shop local.

her ladyship, the editor

Lady Banks' Pick of the Week

Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

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

Heating & Cooling They weren't typical barnyard cluckers. Lauren had six exotic breeds, all hens: a brown pair with puffs of feathers at their ankles, like Clydesdales; a black air with overlapping, iridescent, fish-scale feathers; a white pair, elongated like they'd been crossed with seagulls, etc. They were as impressive as Lauren herself. She's British, her regal accent cutting through our Mississippi drawls. She's a river erosion scientist, and when she isn't saving our rivers, she's transforming her modest backyard (the same dimensions as ours( into an Eden with white icicle radishes, red samurai carrots, beanstalks Jack would envy. Also, she powerlifts. When you look at her, you think "specimen" or "anatomical model." You think  rheumatology students with clipboards should trail her, muttering trapezius and rectus femoris as she lumberjacks around in sports bra and running shorts. .

--Beth Ann Fennelly, Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs (W. W. Norton, 2017) 9780393609479

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The Art of LOading Brush " My purpose as a writer is to do the work I have been given to do as well as I can do it. I would like to see a trend toward reading and literacy, but am otherwise not much interested in trends ."

keep reading: Wendell Berry to be keynote at SouthWords Literary Festival



The Water is Wide "Although no one can articulate it quite like him, we see the beauty and charm of the Lowcountry and its people that Pat saw"

keep reading: The Pat Conroy Literary Festival

Read This! Books with Street Cred

Recommended reading from Southern Indie Booksellers

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair
This book! Maybe I'm just a macabre soul, but Caitlin Doughty argues that much of Western culture has grown too apart from death by avoiding it as much as possible. This prevents us from grieving in proper ways. She takes us around the world studying a variety of different death practices that may leave some of you more squeamish types squirming, but the result is very profound and beautiful and whimsical. It certainly has me thinking about how I would like to go, and now I have so many more ideas (again...macabre)!

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair ($24.95*, WW. Norton & Company), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.


The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
At once illuminating and completely unsettling, The Doll's Alphabet is an incredible collection featuring stories that almost feel as if they exist in a shared world in the not-too-distant future. These are stories about obsessions and perceptions, imbalances of privilege, the absorbing and painful nature of motherhood, and spooky mundanities like tinned meats, costumes, and sewing machines. Full of memorable moments, fascinating vivid details, and grotesque facts of the body, The Doll's Alphabet is an intelligent exploration of identity, femininity, and attraction.

The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova ($15.95*, Coffee House Press), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
From Lemuria Books' blog: "The strength of Ng's work is her ability to compose a kind of literary music out of the most ordinary things in ordinary life, from Mrs. Richardson's first encounter with Mia and Pearl to the opening paragraph with Richardson home set ablaze. These aren't just mere occurrences but intricately woven commentaries on the romanticization of motherhood and the false permanence of the American Dream. Ng presents all this with balanced weight of lyricism, wit, and a dash of melancholy, making for a recipe that is just right. While the differing perspectives were sometimes overcrowded, this gem is a compelling examination of mothers' relationships with their children, their relationships with other mothers, and their vast cultural and class experiences." Read more...

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng ($27.00*, Penguin Press), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

More bookseller recommendations

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"We just want people to come and see the new store, see the new changes that we've made. If they've been in the store in the past--we've made some updates and upgrades. But it still has that vintage, comfortable feel,"

keep reading: NewSouth Bookstore is now Read Herring

The Shadow of the LionsOne night, after an argument, his best friend Fritz Davenport, old-money scion and golden boy, ran away from Matthias in the woods -- "and off the edge of the earth." He was never seen again. 

keep reading: Thriller Round-Up



"When I rounded the first book shelf I was greeted by a friendly woman who I'm sure said, "Good morning!" or "How can I help you today?" but I was distracted by her BLUE hair." 

keep reading: A visit to FoxTale Bookshoppe

The List: October Staff Picks from Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tennessee

"What a month to be a book lover. " (see the full list)

Bluebird, Bluebird The Art of Death Glass Houses The Last Ballad  Little Fires Everywhere The Book of Separation The True American Lightning Men 

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The Last Ballad " it shows me that while I thought I was writing a book about 1929, I was also writing a book about 2017 "

keep reading: The Last Ballad



Sing, Unburied, Sing "I personally think [Jesmyn] is the greatest writer in the 21st century." -- Jason Reynolds  

keep reading: Jason Reynolds on Jesmyn Ward

October 25, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the six books shortlisted for its Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction  

keep reading: Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence shortlist

" We had been selling a lot of books, but we were doing a terrible job of selling books because it is an art store " 

keep reading: Space Cat Books opens in Savannah

The {Book} Trailer Park: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

Heating and Cooling

"One thing I wanted was to convey a sense of the fullness of the human experience, that any lived life has all these different kind of emotions swirling around. "

The Okra Pick of the Week

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann FennellyThe 52 micro-memoirs in genre-defying Heating & Cooling offer bright glimpses into a richly lived life, combining the compression of poetry with the truth-telling of nonfiction into one heartfelt, celebratory book. Ranging from childhood recollections to quirky cultural observations, these micro-memoirs build on one another to arrive at a portrait of Beth Ann Fennelly as a wife, mother, writer, and deeply original observer of life's challenges and joys. Some pieces are wistful, some wry, and many reveal the humor buried in our everyday interactions.

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs shapes a life from unexpectedly illuminating moments, and awakens us to these moments as they appear in the margins of our lives.

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly | W.W. Norton & Company| 9780393609479

buy from an indie

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Author 2 Author: Natasha Boyd on the Books that Change Our Lives

Natasha BoydSo, this is one of those interview questions, right?  If you could recommend any book that changed your life, what would it be?  This is the question that you prepare for.  You never know when it might be asked of you, so you need to make sure when it is asked, that it blows the socks off the person asking. Do you pick something that is dense and difficult to read, and therefore meant to impress the person with your intellect (or really your attention span, because clearly that is really what is most flexed). Or do you pick something seminal, something that was part of a zeitgeist of sorts? Ahh yes, they'll say and immediately connect with you over it. I was a Freshman when that came out. Everyone was talking about it. I'd never known books could resonate like a gong through an entire populace until that moment. That was the moment I truly understood the power of the written word.  Or are we just honest about what we love, even if no one else on earth has read it?

To Kill a MockingbirdWhat I realized about this question is that, similar to the books themselves, the experience of being asked this question is subjective. It's really all tied up in how and why the question is asked (are we looking to judge by asking the question) and also the life experience of the person being asked.  Therefore, knowing I was going to write a short essay on this subject for Lady Banks, I decided to go out into my community and see what the common themes were. The answers may surprise you, but the reasons for the answers won't. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

Hands down the most popular answer was To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, you'd all agree this was an important book (and should have been left as one book – but that's another opinion for another time). What was interesting, however, is people who read it out of choice, rather than when it was an assigned school book, seemed to have a more visceral reaction to how it affected them. One even going so far as to say 'it spoke to my soul.'  

TwilightOne woman gave me an answer that helped me understand more about her than I'd learned in the last two years of our acquaintance. Her answer: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.  Her reason: "I was raised Southern Baptist, this book showed me that there are many paths in the spiritual world, and it's alright to choose the one that works for you."  Wow. How much power books hold!    Another friend confessed that she'd never been introduced to reading in her home life. No one in her family read on their own, and certainly not to her. When she was grown, she was in a bad place (and not because she'd never read a book, ha! A legitimately bad life place). A friend gave her, of all things, a copy of Twilight. She got lost in another world, and hasn't stopped reading since, and no genre has been left unsampled. As far as she's concerned that book didn't just change her life, it saved her life.Indigo Girl

My heroine in THE INDIGO GIRL, the real-life Eliza Lucas, was a very busy teenage girl. She was left in charge of her family's business affairs, and she had to turn a profit. But she also adored reading, and spent much time pilfering the ancient Greeks and other philosophers out of Charles Pinckney's library. Her early letters to her younger brothers showed insight and thoughtful expression of the philosophy she'd read, and her children ended up being founding fathers of our great nation. She read something in those books that helped shape the person she became, and also the sons she raised.

My favorite thing about indie bookstores is how they grow to know their communities.  And now, when someone comes in browsing, think about that day in the past when that person picked up a book that changed their life. Will you wonder what it was? Will you ask? Or perhaps that day is today, maybe the next book you recommend will be the one that changes their life.

You may have noticed I didn't answer the question myself. If I meet you at your independent bookstore, you can ask me!

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Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending October 22. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.


See the full list here.
The Southern Book Prize | A SIBA Okra Pick | Special to the Southern List
Printable versions (PDF): Hardcover | Paperback | Children's



1. Uncommon Type
Tom Hanks, Knopf, $26.95, 9781101946152
2. Origin
Dan Brown, Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385514231
3. Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders, Random House, $28, 9780812995343
4. Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan, Scribner, $27, 9781476716732
5. The Cuban Affair
Nelson DeMille, S&S, $28.99, 9781501101724


1. Leonardo da Vinci
Walter Isaacson, S&S, $35, 9781501139154
2. Grant
Ron Chernow, Penguin Press, $40, 9781594204876
3. We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates, One World, $28, 9780399590566
4. The Last Castle
Denise Kiernan, Touchstone, $28, 9781476794044
5. Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance, Harper, $27.99, 9780062300546

Special to the Southern List

The Last Ballad Wiley Cash, Morrow, $26.99,  Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) David Sedaris, Little Brown, $28,  Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press, $16,  Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution Linda Hirshman, Harper Perennial, $10,


8. The Last Ballad
Wiley Cash, Morrow, $26.99, 9780062313119
11. Before We Were Yours
Lisa Wingate, Ballantine, $26, 9780425284681
15. To Be Where You Are
Jan Karon, Putnam, $28, 9780399183737


4. The Last Castle
Denise Kiernan, Touchstone, $28, 9781476794044
12. Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
David Sedaris, Little Brown, $28, 9780316154727
13. Make Your Bed
William H. McRaven, Grand Central, $18, 9781455570249
15. Food Can Fix It
Mehmet Oz, Scribner, $29.99, 9781501158155


3. News of the World
Paulette Jiles, Morrow, $15.99, 9780062409218
6. Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro, Vintage, $16, 9781400078776
7. The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro, Vintage, $16, 9780679731726
8. Her Body and Other Parties
Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press, $16, 9781555977887
9. A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman, Washington Square Press, $16, 9781476738024
10. IQ
Joe Ide, Mulholland, $15.99, 9780316267731
12. The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah, St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250080400
15. The Fix
David Baldacci, Grand Central, $15.99, 9781455586547


4. Absolutely on Music
Haruki Murakami, Seiji Ozawa, Vintage, $17, 9780804173728
7. Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution
Linda Hirshman, Harper Perennial, $10, 9780062692306
8. Victoria: The Queen
Julia Baird, Random House, $20, 9780812982282
9. Strong Is the New Pretty
Kate T. Parker, Workman, $17.95, 9780761189138
10. The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War
H.W. Brands, Anchor, $17.95, 9781101912171
11. The New Jim Crow
Michelle Alexander, The New Press, $19.95, 9781595586438
12. White Rage
Carol Anderson, Bloomsbury USA, $17, 9781632864130
13. Hero of the Empire
Candice Millard, Anchor, $17, 9780307948786
14. How to Be Black
Baratunde Thurston, Harper Perennial, $10, 9780062692313
15. Victoria & Abdul
Shrabani Basu, Vintage, $16, 9780525434412

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What's happening at Southern Indies across the South?

See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you.

Gabrielle Union's Real Life Book Club Tour  (author appearance)
Gabrielle Union | 10/27/2017, 08:00 pm | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Finn Murphy - Long Haul   (author appearance)
Finn Murphy | 10/27/2017, 06:00 pm | A Cappella Books | Atlanta, GA

Author Tracy Adkins: Ghosts of Athens  (author appearance)
Tracy Adkins | 10/27/2017, 06:30 pm | Avid Bookshop at Five Points | Athens, GA

Author Tracy Adkins: GHOSTS OF ATHENS  (author appearance)
Tracy Adkins | 10/27/2017, 06:30 pm | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

The Lost Hauntings of Southern Appalachia  (author appearance)
Gregg Clark | 10/27/2017, 06:30 pm | City Lights Bookstore | Sylva, NC

Spooky Reads  (author appearance)
Maja Compton | 10/27/2017, 07:00 pm | Page After Page Bookstore | Elizabeth City, NC

Green Drinks with Lee Artz, Cultural Hegemony in the United States  (author appearance)
Lee Artz | 10/27/2017, 05:00 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Valentine Leonard  (author appearance)
Valentine Leonard | 10/27/2017, 06:00 pm | Burke's Book Store | Memphis, TN

Live at the Lyric: Jenna and Barbara Bush- Sisters First Tour   (author appearance)
Jenna and | 10/28/2017, 08:00 pm | Alabama Booksmith | Homewood, AL

Story Time with Miss Rachel  (other event)
10/28/2017, 10:00 am | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Halloween Fun with Bad Kitty & Rosalind Bunn  (author appearance)
Rosalind Bunn | 10/28/2017, 11:00 am | FoxTale Book Shoppe | Woodstock, GA

Lois Ruby, The Secret Grave & other gently spooky tales  (author appearance)
Lois Ruby | 10/28/2017, 12:00 pm | FoxTale Book Shoppe | Woodstock, GA

Thomas Mullen, Lightning Men  (author appearance)
Thomas Mullen | 10/28/2017, 02:00 pm | FoxTale Book Shoppe | Woodstock, GA

Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson  (author appearance)
Janet W. Ferguson | 10/28/2017, 01:00 pm | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

A Natural History of the Nantahala National Forest  (author appearance)
Marci Spencer | 10/28/2017, 03:00 pm | City Lights Bookstore | Sylva, NC

Finn Murphy - The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road  (author appearance)
Finn Murphy | 10/28/2017, 02:00 pm | Quail Ridge Books & Music | Raleigh, NC

Come Write In!  (writers group)
10/28/2017, 03:00 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Frank McNair, Life on the Line: Football, Rage and Redemption  (author appearance)
Frank McNair | 10/28/2017, 03:00 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Wee Ones Story Time with Special Guest Ann Whitford Paul  (author appearance)
Ann Whitford | 10/28/2017, 10:30 am | Hooray For Books | Alexandria, VA

Jewish Book Festival of Central Florida  (book festival)
10/29/2017, 11:00 am | Writer's Block Bookstore | Winter Park, FL

John Hodgman - Vacationland   (author appearance)
John Hodgman | 10/29/2017, 07:00 pm | A Cappella Books | Atlanta, GA

Steven Cooper  (author appearance)
Steven Cooper | 10/29/2017, 02:00 pm | Tall Tales Atlanta | Atlanta, GA

THEODORE RICHARDS presents THE GREAT RE-IMAGINING: Spirituality in an Age of Apocalypse  (author appearance)
Theodore Richards | 10/29/2017, 03:00 pm | Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe | Asheville, NC

Poet Jane Kirkman-Smith, Water From the Wells of Home  (author appearance)
Jane Kirkman-Smith | 10/29/2017, 03:00 pm | Scuppernong Books | Greensboro, NC

Book signing with poets Jamie Elliott Keith and C. Ann (Cathy) Kodra  (author appearance)
Jamie Elliott | 10/29/2017, 02:00 pm | Union Avenue Books | Knoxville, TN

Chocolate Dinner with Expert Megan Giller   (author appearance)
Megan Giller | 10/29/2017, 06:00 pm | Fountain Bookstore | Richmond, VA

Astronaut Scott Kelly  (author appearance)
Scott Kelly | 10/30/2017, 07:00 pm | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Stuart Woods - Book Talk & Signing  (author appearance)
Stuart Woods | 10/30/2017, 07:00 pm | Eagle Eye Book Shop | Decatur, GA

Jim Carmody with THE BIG NASTY by Ron Borne  (author appearance)
Ron Borne | 10/30/2017, 05:00 pm | Square Books | Oxford, MS

MICAH SPRINGER presents KEEPERS OF THE STORY  (author appearance)
MIcah Springer | 10/30/2017, 06:00 pm | Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe | Asheville, NC

Author event with Robert Winn, author of Night Reflections  (author appearance)
Robert Winn | 10/30/2017, 06:30 pm | Parnassus Books | Nashville, TN

Hubert McAlexander with FROM THE CHICKASAW CESSION TO YOKNAPATAWPHA  (author appearance)
Hubert McAlexander | 11/01/2017, 05:00 pm | Square Books | Oxford, MS

Ellery Adams discusses The Secret, Book, and Scone Society, her new mystery novel  (author appearance)
Ellery Adams | 11/01/2017, 07:00 pm | Flyleaf Books | Chapel Hill, NC

Susan Cushman  (author appearance)
Susan Cushman | 11/02/2017, 02:00 pm | Page & Palette | Fairhope, AL

Lisa Smartt with Raymond Moody: WORDS AT THE THRESHOLD  (author appearance)
Lisa Smartt | 11/02/2017, 06:30 pm | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Ranger Games by Ben Blum  (author appearance)
Ben Blum | 11/02/2017, 05:00 pm | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Joe Hagan with STICKY FINGERS  (author appearance)
Joe Hagan | 11/02/2017, 06:00 pm | Square Books | Oxford, MS

Authors Round the South |

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