GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

    This isn’t a $35 travel book so much as the best, cheapest coffee table book you could ever buy. A gorgeous encyclopedia of the coolest sights on the planet. It is so large, and so thorough, that there literally is something in it for everyone. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton (Workman Publishing, $35.00), recommended by Tristan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Burmese Days: A Novel by George Orwell

    Orwell draws on his years of experience in India to tell this story of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen living in a settlement in Burma congregate in the European Club, drink whiskey, and argue over an impending order to admit a token Asian. Definitely my favorite work of fiction! Great historical context, wonderful writing and the best ending to any book ever!

    Burmese Days: A Novel by George Orwell ($14.95, Harvest Books), recommended by John, Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA.

  • Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France by Thad Carhart

    I never stop recommending Thad Carhart's memoir of the second time he moved to France, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, which is a primer on the workings of pianos, and a sheer delight to read. Now, Carhart goes back to 1954, when his family of seven moved into a charming old mansion near the Château de Fontainebleau (his father was a NATO official), and immersed themselves in a France still recovering from WWII. His rich experiences as a kid alternate with chapters on the history of the chateau and the assorted French kings who inhabited it. And when he has returned to Fontainebleau as an adult, he gets to share in a restoration of the chateau, and retrace the steps of his childhood in a way we all sometimes wish we could. A perfect book for a summer escape to a very different place and time.

    Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France (Viking $27), recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, 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.

  • Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman

    Possibly to my parents chagrin, I've always had an intense fascination with dangerous places and conflicts, and the men and women who risk their lives to share them with the world. Tim Hetherington was one such man.

    A immensely talented and singular photojournalist, he managed not only to record some of today's most dangerous conflicts, but he did so in such a way as to put a human face to these faraway wars.

    Here I Am chronicles his time in Liberia, his celebrated work with the soldiers of Afghanistan (as well as his involvement with Sebastian Junger and the documentary Restrepo) and the months leading up to his tragic death in Libya in 2011. Huffman, like Hetherington did before him, has taken a larger-than-life figure and contained him within one concise, emotional and inspiring portrait.

    Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman (Grove Press) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora

    Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator Rachel Isadora returns with I Just Want to Say Good Night, a new spin on the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, set on the African plains.

    I Just Want to Say Good Night follows Lala as she puts off going to bed by saying goodnight to her family's cat, goat, chickens and more one at a time. "Isadora perfectly captures the universal ritual of a child saying goodnight to everything as a way to stall going to bed," said Erin Barker, buyer and manager at Hooray for Books! in Alexandria, Va. "The book is humorous and gentle, and the main character is adorable.”

    I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora ($17.99, Nancy Paulsen Books), recommended by Erin, Hooray for Books, Alexandria VA.

  • In The Garden of Burning Sand

    In The Garden of Burning Sand, Corban Addison weaves a wonderful tale of a power struggle in an African city.

    Centered on a case of child molestation, Addison  introduces characters from all walks of life to give you the perspective of what child molestation does to everyone.  The child in this story has Downs Syndrome and she finds people to help her in the court system.  They are limited in what they can legally do, but they still work to bring justice to the child.

    Addison wants to show how we as Americans have to be willing to help these children by bringing DNA labs to African courts  This is definitely a novel with a message , but with skill he gives us an excellent story to surround the issues that he wants us to be aware of.  If this book had been tackled by a less skilled author, it would have been a book that you thought you should read and you would struggle through.  Corbin was able to weave a beautiful story through the difficult issues that he brings to the front in this excellent novel.  I encourage you to read it.

    In The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison (Quercus) Recommended by Molly at Fountainhead Bookstore Hendersonville NC

  • Killed at the Whim of a Hat: A Jimm Juree Mystery by Colin Cotterill

    Jimm Juree, first-person narrator of this excellent mystery, is a crime reporter out of work. Her mother, with early dementia, sold the family home and business and relocated to southern, rural Thailand. Jimm's grandfather, a retired cop, rarely talks and her younger brother who wants to be a world-class body builder moved with the family; her older brother, a transgendered former beauty queen now computer hacker stayed in the city.

    Suddenly, things begin to happen in their new village: A Volkswagon van, complete with two skeletons, is discovered by a well-digger then a visiting Buddist abbott is violently murdered shortly after Jimm meets a nun and a monk who become suspects in the case. As Jimm works the case hoping to break back into news, she finds allies in unexpected places.

    The charm of Whim isn't the crime story. It's the characters, the whimsey, and the humor woven subtly through the novel that make it a cut above the rest. Of course, the chapter headings, quotes from President Malaprop, are well worth the read. Don't miss the beginning of this excellent new series!

    NOTE: Many readers will remember Cotterill's wonderful series about Dr. Siri, a 70-something Laotian county coroner.
    I predict even more fans for Jimm!

    Killed at the Whim of a Hat: A Jimm Juree Mystery by Colin Cotterill ($18.99, Minotaur), recommended by Molly, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

    Written by Nobel Prize-winning author Sigrid Undset, this trilogy is a masterpiece, with each book in the series better than the last. Set in the 14th-century and reveling in the everyday details of medieval life in Norway, the saga follows one woman through childhood, young love, married life, motherhood and into old age. The Wreath is Kristin's coming-of-age story: she recklessly enters a relationship with an older man that puts her at odds with her father and the Christian church she was raised in. Persevere past the unfamiliar names and places and you will be rewarded with a richly immersive literary experience.

    Kristin Lavransdatter, I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset ($16, Penguin), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill NC.

  • Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

    While Fuller’s first book, Cocktails Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, paints an exquisite picture of her early life in Africa, this memoir portrays her later life as she tries to navigate the world outside her African experience.

    She marries an American in the hopes that he will take her away from her unorthodox upbringing only to discover that her life does not fit as she had hoped.  She confronts her life and its difficulties, revealing the complexity of her family as they deal with suffering and loss.

    A poignant narrative that is worth reading.

    Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin Press) Recommended by Stephanie at Page & Palette Fairhope AL

  • Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

    In the tradition of Wilfred Thesiger's The Marsh Arabs and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Marshlands explores a culture virtually snuffed out under Saddam Hussein, and how we cement our identities by pointing at someone to call "other." Elegant, brief, and searing, the book shivers with the life of a fragile, lost world.

    Marshlands will live on my favorite shelf, for sure. It is a surprising and well-written novel by Matthew Olshan, who also has a fun children’s book titled A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785.

    Marshlands by Matthew Olshan ($14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Emöke, Malaprops Books, Asheville, NC.

  • Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

    What a delicious memoir of a New Yorker, now married to a Frenchman and living in the south of France!

    The couple impulsively buys a quirky old house that belonged to famous poet. They become parents, Gwendal leaves his job, and they open a specialty ice cream shop. This fascinating combination of history, cultures, cuisine (wonderful recipes included) and small town life is at once funny, touching, honest, and totally engaging. I loved it.

    Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Ellizabeth Bard (Little Brown and Company) Recommended by Carol at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh

  • Street of Thieves by Mathias Enard

    In this haunting coming of age story, we meet a young Moroccan named Lakhdar who spends his days in Tangier watching girls, reading French detective novels, and gazing across the water at the elusive lights of Spain.

    When he is kicked out of his house for an improper relationship with his cousin, he begins a journey that takes him from the streets of Tangier to the Straits of Gibraltar, and finally to Barcelona, where he finally finds some semblance of a home despite the squalor and chaos of his surroundings. 

    Set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the collapse of the European economy, Street of Thieves is a dark and beautiful portrait of a boy's fateful path to manhood.

    Street of Thieves by Mathias Enard (Open Letter Books) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Sweetland

    Michael Crummey takes you into the heart of the insular fishing community of Chance Cove, Sweetland Island, Newfoundland.

    68-year-old Moses Sweetland's family goes back to the founding of the island. He is the only holdout when the government offers the residents a generous cash settlement to relocate, but only if everyone signs on. Told in sparse, beautiful prose, with generous helpings of the local dialect, the characters and story are reminiscent of Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, where conversations give hints of the tangled history and relationships of family and friends who have known each other for generations.

    Sweetland is a requiem for the intimate knowledge of place that a transient society can just barely remember.

    Sweetland By Michael Crummey (Liveright Publishing) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

    A magical debut novel: part fairy tale and part historical fiction set in medieval Russia.

    The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden ($27, Del Rey Books), recommended by Amy, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Blackhouse by Peter May

    This is the first in a series featuring a policeman who is sent to his childhood home of Lewis Island in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, -a formidable and forbidding world where tradition rules and people adhere to ancient ways of life- to investigate a grisly murder involving islanders he's known all his life.

    It's riveting and beautifully written.

    The Blackhouse By Peter May ($14.99, Quercus Books) Recommended by Nancy, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

    An incredible story of a 14-year-old boy whose African village is devastated by drought.

    Reading in the little village library and scavenging for parts he accomplishes the impossible. I loved this book when it first came out in 2009, and now a young readers edition has just been released in paperback.

    Truly inspirational, the author demonstrates that anything is possible with education and determination.

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon (Harper Perennial) Recommended by Andy Brennan at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • The Dry by Jane Harper

    An atmospheric debut mystery that takes place under the blistering Australian sun. A federal agent returns to his hometown to find a decades old crime influencing his investigation of a horrific new one. Tightly paced and hard to put down.

    The Dry by Jane Harper ($25.99, Flatiron Books), recommended by Bonnie, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

    The Glass PalaceTo read a novel by the masterful Amitav Ghosh is to be swept along in a sea of facts, linguistic oddities, and almost fantastical characters on a grand scale. Elephants with anthrax! Exiled royalty! The teak forests of Burma, the rubber plantations of Malaysia, WWII, photography, love, trade, nationalism, family. A page-turning epic.

    The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (Random House). Recommended by Elese at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Golden Age by Joan London

    The Golden Age, by Australian novelist and bookseller Joan London, takes place in a hospital for children recovering from polio in Perth in the 1950’s. That may not sound like a particularly cheerful subject and, in many ways, it isn’t. The novel covers not only the ravages of polio, but also, because it centers around a Jewish immigrant family, it discusses the ravages of war. London’s writing, however, is transcendent. What could be a bleak, mournful tale is instead a beautiful story about finding poetry in the halls of a hospital and hope in the face of despair. This is a book I read all in one sitting because I just didn’t want to stop.

    The Golden Age by Joan London ($17, Europa Editions), recommended by Laura, Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN.

  • The Kindness Diaries: One Man's Quest to Ignite Goodwill and Transform Lives Around the World

    The incredible journey of one man who sets out to circumnavigate the globe on a vintage motorbike fueled by kindness.

    Follow the inspirational journey of a former stockbroker who leaves his unfulfilling desk job in search of a meaningful life. He sets out from Los Angeles on a vintage motorbike, determined to circumnavigate the globe surviving only on the kindness of strangers. Incredibly, he makes his way across the U.S., through Europe, India, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and finally to Canada and back to the Hollywood sign, by asking strangers for shelter, food, and gas. Again and again, he's won over by the generosity of humanity, from the homeless man who shares his blanket to the poor farmer who helps him with his broken down bike, and the HIV-positive mother who takes him in and feeds him.

    At each stop, he finds a way to give back to these unsuspecting Good Samaritans in life-changing ways, by rebuilding their homes, paying for their schooling, and leaving behind gifts big and small. The Kindness Diaries will introduce you to a world of adventure, renew your faith in the bonds that connect people, and inspire you to accept and generate kindness in your own life.

    The Kindness Diaries: One Man's Quest to Ignite Goodwill and Transform Lives Around the World by Leon Logothesis (Reader's Digest) Recommended by Jamie at Ducks Cottage Manteo NC