GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

  • There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

    It takes a deft hand and a skilled writer to combine pop culture references with painfully accurate explorations of racism and sexuality. These eloquent and purposeful poems are something to savor--alternately beautiful and biting. Morgan Parker's voice is powerful and memorable. Every accolade she has received from writers and critics like Roxane Gay and Eileen Myles are wholly deserved, with more surely to follow.

    There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker ($14.95, Tin House Books), recommended by Johanna, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Almost Famous Women: Stories by Meghan Mayhew Bergman

    Meghan Mayhew Bergman has done it again. 

    I loved her story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, and am equally impressed with her brilliant new collection, Almost Famous Women.  Bergman takes obscure women from the past and creates a fictional world within the context of their real histories.

    Siamese twins, Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, and Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly are among her chosen subjects. Bergman is a young writer on the rise, and this book, due out in January, will set the new year's bar high for people who love short stories as I do.

    Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman ($25, Scribner), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller

    Miller's writing is stripped down and carefully refined, packing a whole vision of the world into as few eye-widening details as possible. The stories in this collection explore the realities of women living between two worlds, with one foot in the future their meant to be striving toward and the other firmly rooted in their usually grim and booze-filled present. Though the stories can verge on the harsh, they always evoke a world that is immediately recognizable and palpably real. A great new collection by a writer who never seems to disappoint.

    Always Happy Hour ($24.95, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Donovan, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

    Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, this collection moves from contemporary L.A. to the dorm rooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, re-imagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions.

    Existential food critics. Awkward romances. These and more await in the debut novel by actor Jesse Eisenberg, who manages to create a brilliant snapshot of life in the digital age in this collection of short stories.

    Witty and amusingly gloomy, Eisenberg introduces the reader to an eclectic variety of characters and situations you won’t soon forget, especially the chapter on postmodern dating.

    Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg (Grove Press) Recommended by Andrew at Square Books Oxford MS

     

  • Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

    Benjamin Alire Sáenz's stories are of the knock-you-over-powerful variety.

    These seven stories-- set in the border towns of Juárez and El Paso, with many of them touching on the wave of violence that engulfed Juárez in the '90s-- all have a connection to the Kentucky Club, a venerable Juárez institution.

    Winner of the PEN/Faulkner award and a Lambda Literary award, this book deserves a wider audience.

    Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press) Recommended by Elese at Flyleaf Books Chapel Hill NC 

  • Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré

    Very short (flash) fiction in graphic novel format.

    Carre has really done something special here, creating intricate stories that last only a few frames. The artwork is lovely, the tales melancholic and slightly gothic.

    It goes by quickly, but you'll want to keep revisiting the individual stories to pick out each and every nuance.

    Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré (Fantagraphics Books) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL 

  • Hystopia by David Means

    David Means’ short story collection, Assorted Fire Events, was full of dark and dystopian stories. These two adjectives would also apply to his latest novel, Hystopia (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26). It is 1970. John F. Kennedy has lived through several assassination attempts and is still President. Veterans of the Vietnam war are dealing with their PTSD by taking the drug Tripizoid and undergoing a process called Enfolding. Some vets, like Rake, are so incorrigible that they can’t be enfolded, and therein lies the tale. It is a novel within a novel, complete with Editor’s Notes and Author’s Notes that provide a sense of truth and realism to the fictional story. This and other novels pertaining to Vietnam remind us that the psychological damage from war is heartbreaking, and often unmanageable.

    Hystopia by David Means (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano

    While I'm not entirely pleased that my kittens seem to have taken this up as a manual of behavior. Seriously, I often ask them--AGAIN?!

    The specificity and truthfulness of this book of poems -- ostensibly written by cats, although I'm pretty suspicious that a human helped a bit -- makes it my all-time favorite gift for cat people, and one of our best sellers in the store to boot. Whether modern or traditional, with iambs or without, these poems all manage to hit home in a way that's both humorous and wince-inducing.

    I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano ($12.95, Chronicle Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Invisible Beasts

    This is a fine collection of short fiction by Muir.

    Her main character, Sophia, is the heir to the gift of the family's ability to see invisible beasts. The descriptions of the beasts make you long for these to be real. Some of my favorites are the Truth Bats, the Hypnogator, and the Fine-Print Rotifers.

    The Truth Bats hang in your hair near your ears and help you make your way through the world. They will leave you in a flash if you tell a lie or even a small fib.  Sophia loses hers and makes a desperate attempt to get them back.  She has to tell her sister the truth about the invisible. The Hypnogater is an invisible alligator that has vision problems and that gives him the ability to hypnotize his victims. This invisible has a friend called the Poltergeist Possum, who takes human things. The Fine-Print Rotifers eat the fine print in documents that you have to sign.  It's not that you can't see them, it's that they are being eaten.

    This fine book full of humor and love of animals real or imagined would be a great read for any explorer.

    Invisible Beasts by Sharon Muir (Bellevue Literary Press) Recommended by Molly at The Fountainhead Bookstore, Hendersonville NC.

  • Look by Solmaz Sharif

    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 of This World or Maybe Another

    Alternately funny and heartbreaking, this book of inter-connected short stories depicts a South populated with characters I know and love.

    This is a book made to be read aloud or dog-eared and underlined to celebrate its beauty.

    More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson (Harper Perennial) Recommended by Elizabeth at Charis Books Decatur GA

  • Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

    In her latest collection, Bonnie Jo Campbell taps into the lives of working class women to reveal truths that are raw and inspiring.

    The women in these stories are victims, survivors, fighters, dreamers, providers and drifters. All of them vulnerable but incredibly tough, they navigate the complex and often baffling territory of relationships with men and with one another.

    Touching but never sentimental, these stories are Campbell at her best.

    Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell (W. W. Norton & Company) Recommended by CF at Square Books Oxford MS

  • New American Stories by BenMarcus (ed.)

    Quite simply, this collection reminds you just how jaw-droppingly awesome the short story form can be.

    From realism to hyper-realism to post-modernism to post-post-modernism to so-far-after-modernism-that-we-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-it-anymore-modernism.

    Everything in this anthology is pulsing and alive, and there’s not a story in here that won’t stick with you in the days to follow despite your best attempts to shake it off. Marcus does a phenomenal job finding the very best and stylistically diverse writers working today, and if you’re at all interested in where fiction’s going and just what amazing, weird, crazy awesome things it’s doing right now, then you have to read this book.

    New American Stories by Ben Marcus (Vintage) Recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Redeployment by Phil Klay

    Redeployment is a powerful debut by an exciting new voice.

    With their realistic and sometimes brutal details, these stories by a former Marine captain and Iraq war veteran are not always easy to read. But ultimately they proved to be harder to stop reading.  Klay gives voice to a variety of viewpoints through nuanced characters and prose that strikes a balance between bitter irony and real emotional depth.

    Redeployment By Phil Klay ($26.95, Penguin), recommended by Tony, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Seam

    In this powerful book of poems, which centers around women in Bangladesh known as the birangona (survivors of war atrocities during the Liberation War in 1971), Faizullah explores what's been forgotten or silenced about these women's experiences, as well as her own assumptions, related to her experience as a Bangladeshi American woman living in a cultural space of both/and/or.

    Reading the poems in Seam, I respect the level of mastery displayed in their vivid imagery and fresh approach to form. But what lingers is the poet's ability to refute the impersonal language of the state in the face of the complex realities of war, to answer it with the personal, private vocabulary that makes up the best poetry, the poetry that haunts us, makes us question, to see, as Faizullah writes, how thin the seam / between the world and the world.

    Seam by Tarfia Faizullah (Southern Illinois University Press) Recommended by Heather at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • 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 Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel

    Two-time Man Booker Prize Winner Hilary Mantel amazed me with her new collection of stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. She sees with literary vision that doesn't miss a single detail; her writing makes me laugh, cringe,
    and ache. I believe Mantel is one of our finest 21st century writers.

    The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel ($37, Henry Holt & Company), recommended by Mamie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

    I came across this brilliant little gem of a novella in a used bookstore while traveling, and it immediately became one of my favorite Southern folk tales.

    Though perhaps diamond in the rough would be a more fitting epithet, as its climactic battle is fought not by the noble knights or graceful gods of traditional epics, but rather by the comically gothic – almost grotesque – celebrities of an isolated Southern town. McCullers writes with such a vivid intensity of detail that the history of this short-lived cafe (like many of her short stories, especially Wunderkind) dwells in my memory more like a film than a story in a book.

    The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: Carson McCullers' Novella Adapted for the Stage by Edward Albee, Carson McCullers ($12.95, Scribner), recommended by Vicki, Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 by Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket

    With over thirty different pieces this collection has it all... 

    Short stories, non-fiction pieces, poems, excerpts from comics/graphic novels, articles from literary magazines, excerpts from chapbooks and even a transcript from a Night Vale Podcast.

    What also makes this collection so much fun to read is that it was curated by fourteen highschool students.
    Then last, but most certainly not least, there is the added bonus that the editor is Daniel Handler, who also wrote an introduction from Lemony Snicket.

    The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 by Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket (Mariner) Recommended by Erin at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

    This collection of four books contains nearly 200 short stories. Some might be a casual three or four pages long, some might be one or two sentences, but they're all amazing. Lydia Davis writes like no one else: her stories are weird, funny, deep, and beautiful, starting and ending in the span of a couple minutes.

    The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis ($23, Picador USA), recommended by Jacob, Malaprops Books, Asheville, NC.

  • The Descent of Alette

    This book-length poem invites us to look and look again at the world we inhabit and the people we often choose not to see.

    The Descent of Alette reinvents the epic through its use of quotation marks to create a new poetic “foot,” inviting the reader to linger over each phrase or read through the divisions, drawing attention to similar choices in our daily lives.

    A compelling narrative unfolds within this dynamic form of a woman moving through an underground world to confront a Tyrant who rules from a daylight realm.

    The voices of the wounded, the homeless, the forgotten, those who blur the stark lines of light and shadow, all are present in this journey of transformation.

    The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley (Penguin) Recommended by Heather at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Visiting Privilege

    Joy Williams has been writing the very finest stories for 42 years.

    Carver called her -simply a wonder. Brodkey said she is -the most gifted writer of her generation. Bret Easton Ellis says she is "The rightful heir to the mastery, genius, and poetry of Flannery O’Connor," and Jim Harrison calls her stories, "chillingly astute."

    I can’t add more to that, except to say that the publication of this collection is a major American literary event. Gathered here are 33 of her earlier stories, and 13 kick-ass new ones. They are all stunning, and because she deals with the most fundamental human themes--the old verities--as they are wrangled by seemingly ordinary characters, her work never seems dated, holding up powerfully against any writer on the scene now.

    Don’t miss this one--as they say, destined to become a classic.

    The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams (Knopf) Recommended by LH at Square Books Oxford MS

  • There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories

    Often anthologized and quoted writer Charles Baxter has a new collection of stories, There’s Something I Want You to Do.

    The stories are broken down into two sections, Virtues and Vices, each containing five stories. Characters come and go through the ten stories, set mostly in Minneapolis.  That Baxter understands the failings and strengths of humans is evident, and we see once again why he is considered such an authority on the short story form.

    A great choice for book clubs as members can explore Baxter’s interpretation of each of the virtues and vices.

    There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories by Charles Baxter (Pantheon) Recommended by Quail Ridge BooksRaleigh NC

  • Virgin and Other Stories by April Lawson

    These stories take place in the South, but their true terrain is the landscape of attraction, jealousy, and aggression—the easily-suppressed emotions that end up shaping so much of how we act. You might not realize it, but you think the way Lawson's characters think. Read this once to get caught up in their psychology, then again to appreciate how finely crafted the sentences are.

    Virgin and Other Stories by April Lawson ($23, Farrar Straus and Giroux), recommended by Travis, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

     A Fall 2016 Okra Pick

  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

    This poetry collection is just a delight! The poems appear simple upon a first read, but are surprisingly complex. The illustrations are simply gorgeous. The "September 10" page spread is my favorite, though "January 30" is a close second. Covering all four seasons, this makes a lovely gift book for the whole family to snuggle up on the couch and share together. It's another that I want to give to everyone I know.

    When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano ($18.99, Roaring Brook Press), recommended by Amanda, Hooray for Books, Alexandria, VA.

  • When Watched by Leopoldine Core

    Elizabeth loves When Watched by Leopoldine Core: Core delves into the wonderful strangeness that is the human mind. These characters--and the relationships they form--can be funny, unsettling, irritating, and are always entirely captivating. If you want to read about the complexities of love and sex, read this. If you want to read a book you can't put down, read this.

    When Watched by Leopoldine Core (Penguin Books, $16.00), recommended by Elizabeth at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • 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.