Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week


Read This Now: The Index

What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!

Browse the whole list!


  • The Battle for Home The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa Al-Sabouni

    From the publisher: From Syria's tolerant past, with churches and mosques built alongside one another in Old Homs and members of different religions living harmoniously together, the book chronicles the recent breakdown of social cohesion in Syria's cities. With the lack of shared public spaces intensifying divisions within the community, and corrupt officials interfering in town planning for their own gain, these actions are symptomatic of wider abuses of power With firsthand accounts of mortar attacks and stories of refugees struggling to find a home, The Battle for Home is a compelling explanation of the personal impact of the conflict and offers hope for how architecture can play a role in rebuilding a sense of identity within a damaged society.

    From Kimberly at The Country Bookshop: "An architect walks you through the building and character and history of Homs, Syria. Through sketches of buildings and towns, the current situation and how it came to pass is explained."

    The Battle for Home The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa Al-Sabouni ($25.95, Thames & Hudson), recommended by Kimberly, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker

    This beautiful book should be in every doctor's office, every waiting room, every home. With brilliant images of girls in their natural habitat, this book celebrates strong girls with great gusto.

    Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker ($30, Workman Publishing), recommended by Rachel, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

    This isn't a self-help or get rich quick book; it's the ultimate browsable treasure trove of tidbits of information from the lives of individuals who are masters of their craft. Topics range from fitness & diet to friendships, work habits, tech, and everything in between. Who doesn't want to hear some sage advice from people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sebastian Junger, Jamie Foxx, or Sam Harris? Just the info on pg. 138 about evening and morning rituals is well worth the price of admission (and truly changed my life for the better). If you take from this book what the author intends, you'll "like 50%, love 25%, and never forget 10%."

    Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss ($28, Houghton Mifflin), recommended by Lane, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Brand New Catastrophe by Mike Scalise

    Everyone loves a good catastrophe story, and Mike Scalise has a great one-- the rupture of a brain tumor that leads to a rare pituitary disorder at age 24. Not many of us share a diagnosis with Andre the Giant, but Scalise makes this tale of hospitalization and recovery both relatable and strangely hilarious. And at its heart, it's a book about how the stories we tell shape us, catastrophic or not.

    The Brand New Catastrophe by Mike Scalise ($15.95, Sarabande Books), recommended by Travis, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton

    The first oral biography I ever read, one that sticks with me. Edie Sedgwick: beautiful, wealthy, flighty and famous, falls in with Andy Warhol's coterie in exploding mid-60s New York. Told by a vast array of would-bes, weres and hangers-on, the tale of what happens next (brilliant and bad) is edited to crystal perfection and tragic in its detail.

    Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton ($17, Grove Press), recommended by Matt, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

    Lewis’s book the Undoing Project is a compelling collaboration between two extraordinary men and one of the greatest partnerships in the history of science. Not only does the book tell the story of how these two laid the foundation for behavioral economics it also gives us insight to their complicated personalities and drive.

    The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis ($28.95, W.W. Norton & Company), recommended by Vickie, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

    The winter months are a great time to read that book you’ve been putting off. For me, it’s Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R.—a sweeping history of all aspects of Roman history. A renowned classicist, Beard illustrates why Rome is still relevant today, with a passion for the subject that appeals to students of Roman history as well as newcomers.

    S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard ($17.95, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Andy, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life By Ayelet Waldman

    Want a laugh-out-loud book about depression? A feel-good book about LSD? An engaging look at chemistry, history, and law? Look no further. Waldman is difficult and she knows it. She’s trying to get better. We root for her every step of the way.

    A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life By Ayelet Waldman ($24.95, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

    Amidst all the noise and anger in society, Krista Tippett offers a refuge, an oasis where we can learn the value of listening, and learn to respect and appreciate people and the world around us. In her latest book, she offers a message of hope. The Peabody Award-winning radio host of On Being, Krista is a master of what she terms "generous listening," with a strong curiosity, and a "willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity." What better model could we ask for? 

    Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Penguin $28), recommended by René at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    Quail Ridge Books is hosting Krista Tippett at the UU Fellowship of Raleigh for the paperback release of the book on Friday, March 3.

  • Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin

    How DO you make money as a writer without losing your mind or your soul? The short answer is, “It depends.” The long answer is the entirety of this book: honest, engaging essays by writers including Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, and Jennifer Weiner.

    Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin ($16, Simon & Schuster), recommended by Mary Laura, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • I’ll Tell You in Person by Chloe Caldwell

    Chloe Caldwell is the kind of friend who calls you once in a while with some crazy story that never disappoints and is always worth the wait. Taking an almost memoir-istic structure, her essays show her personal growth through coping with addiction, internet/celebrity infatuation, acne, being broke, and feeling lost. Striking, funny, sometimes absurd, and always tender, Caldwell writes herself into she has always loved and needed—a friend.

    I’ll Tell You in Person by Chloe Caldwell (16.95, Coffee House), recommended by Amanda, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Tim Tyson

    It's been almost 13 years since Tim Tyson's Blood Done Sign My Name, his personal and gut-wrenching story of violent racism in North Carolina. His masterful new book, The Blood of Emmett Till, is already garnering praise from around the country and from the staff at Quail Ridge Books.

    Helen says, "The horrific scenes in this book will be seared in your memory. Tyson takes you back to 1955 and puts you in the middle of the teenager's murder. Relying on extensive research and the only interview the woman involved has ever given, Tyson recounts the crime, the aftermath and the trial. The saving graces of this story are Till's mother, his uncle, one witness, the judge and the prosecutors. They emerge as heroic. Tyson writes a powerful, unrelenting closing where he blames everyone responsible from President Eisenhower on down. All the way through this book, the image of young Emmett Till—fun loving and helpful to his single mother—hovers over the shocking story."

    Rosemary says, "The story of Emmett Till is finally told, with the belated admissions of one of the key participants. What stood out strongest to me, even midst the horrors of Emmett's murder, was the bravery of Mamie Till. Imagine losing your child in such unspeakable circumstances, then putting your pain aside to do all you could to make sure his death wasn't in vain. You won't forget this book, nor should you."

    The Blood of Emmett Till by Tim Tyson (Simon & Schuster $27), recommended by the staff at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    Tim Tyson will visit Quail Ridge Books to discuss the book on Friday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m.

  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

    A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document.

    The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ($13.95, Vintage), recommended by Elizabeth, Charis Books, Atlanta, GA.

  • A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches by Tyler Kord

    Never have I ever cried laughing while reading the introduction to a cookbook. What is so upsetting about such a delicious, uncomplicated food, you might ask. Perhaps that it is that something so ordinary and comforting can be radically transformed into something surprising. Tyler Kord goes for the unconventional (cheese on fish) and the staples (broccoli, meatloaf). He reminds you to be as fancy or naughty (undressed sandwiches) as you want. Insane Clown Posse, the World Cup, Emma Straub, the sound of broken rules-- it's all here. You'll be a fancy sandwich renegade in no time.

    A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches by Tyler Kord ($22.99, Clarkson Potter), recommended by Amanda, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William J. Barber

    Over the summer of 2013, Rev. William Barber led more than a hundred thousand people at rallies across North Carolina to protest cuts to voting rights and the social safety net, which the state's conservative legislature had implemented. These protests, which came to be known as Moral Mondays, have blossomed into the largest social movement the South has seen since the civil rights era and, since then, it has spread to states as diverse as Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Ohio. In The Third Reconstruction, Rev. Barber tells the story of how he helped lay the groundwork for the Moral Mondays movement and explores the unfulfilled promises of America's multiethnic democracy. He draws on the lessons of history to offer a vision of a new Reconstruction, one in which a diverse coalition of citizens black and white, religious and secular, Northern and Southern fight side-by-side for racial and economic justice for all Americans. The Third Reconstruction is both a blueprint for activism at the state level and an inspiring call to action from the twenty-first century's most effective grassroots organizer.

    The Third Reconstruction by the Rev. William J. Barber ($16, Beacon Press), a  Winter 2016 Okra Pick.

  • Upstairs at the Strand: Writers in Conversation at the Legendary Bookstore by Jessica Strand

    “The Strand is a monument to the immortality of the written word and hence beloved writers.” -Fran Lebowitz

    The Strand is my Mecca, and I can think of no better setting for this series of interview-conversations with some of our most treasured authors. Discussions range from craft and process to which authors they’re reading now and whatever else might come up. There’s something here for every bibliophile. (Plus, how great is it that they made this a book instead of YouTube videos or something?)

    Upstairs at the Strand: Writers in Conversation at the Legenday Bookstore by Jessica Strand (W.W. Norton & Company, $15.95), recommended by Shannon at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • Hillbilly Elegy (audiobook) by J.D. Vance

    Hillbilly Elegy doesn't make any grand political statements or try to swing its reader's views one way or the other as much as it offers a glimpse into the lives and realities of this distinct segment of American society. The author himself, J.D. Vance, narrates this audiobook and adds an extra level of intimacy to this already extremely personal history of growing up as part of a culture that may be on its way out, but is still very much a way of life for a large portion of Americans. A timely and important listen!

    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance ($14.99, HarperCollins, Audiobook: available from Libro.fm), recommended by Lane, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

    In Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain is much less cranky than he was in Kitchen Confidential, but is somehow angrier. Targets include Ruth Reichl, most professional restaurant critics, and the Food Network. Foodie or not, Medium Raw will entertain and enlighten.

    Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain ($15.99, Echo Books), recpmmended by Colin, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands

    MacArthur is brilliant, bold and arrogant. Truman is plain-spoken, patient, and determined. Relying on meeting notes, diary entries, letters, and transcripts of Congressional hearings, this book chronicles the Korean conflict by telling the stories of two very powerful personalities. You read spellbound as the drama plays out. Fascinating behind the scenes history!

    The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands ($30, Doubleday), recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh

    You don't need to be familiar with Chesnutt's or Hersh's work to appreciate this phenomenal book, but you will undoubtedly want to be once you've finished it. Hersh is a writer of intense and subtle beauty, and she will make you cry and feel a hundred other things with the power of her style alone. Through the tragic story of her close friend and tourmate, Chesnutt, Hersh evokes the torture of all that artistic genius encapsulates and makes that pain sing in a voice both opaque and elegant, grimy and pristine. Ultimately, this is a deeply affecting meditation on one's thrust toward 'important art' and on how music is a necessary expression of sadness and loneliness but also one of intense and inimitable beauty.

    Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh ($14.95, University of Texas Press), recommended by Donovan, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

    A 2016 Southern Book Award Finalist
  • My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

    Books and food are two of my favorite things, so when an author flawlessly combines the two, I'm sold. I've found myself perusing the pages of this book multiple times and have recommended it to dozens of shoppers here at the bookstore. It's truly a crowd pleaser! Reichl seamlessly blends cookbook and memoir, resulting in a beautiful writing, gorgeous photography, and delicious recipes. With a focus on working through difficult life changes and making it through to the other side, we can all use a little of this book at this time of the year! If you're shopping for someone who loves a great cookbook, enjoys diving into a memoir, or can't help flipping through books on photography, this book is a winner. You'll definitely want to try her simple recipe for Congee - trust me, it's amazing!

    My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl ($35, Random House), recommended by Amanda, Hooray for Books, Alexandria, VA.

  • Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen

    Ashley Christensen has just come out with her long-awaited cookbook, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), and it was worth the wait. The book is more than a beautifully designed cookbook with all the signature dishes that have given Poole's its well-deserved reputation and earned Ashley the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. It's a joyful show and tell of Ashley's (and Raleigh's) personal history and the renaissance of Southern food told through each beloved recipe (and yes, the Macaroni au Gratin recipe is in there).

    Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins

    Lauren Collins blew me away with her hilarious and eloquent account of learning French abroad. Armchair linguists and anyone fascinated by words and how they get lost in translation will not be able to put this down.

    When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins (Penguin Press, $27.00), recommended by Katherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted

    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.

  • 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.

  • Who Killed These Girls?: Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders by Beverly Lowery

    Beverly Lowry looks deep into the horrors of four unsolved killings in Austin in the early 1980’s with a detective’s mind and a novelist’s heart. The result is a book that is gripping, moving, and as good as any depiction of a murder case that’s been published since In Cold Blood. Is true crime not your thing? It isn’t my thing either, but this transcends the genre. Brilliant.

    Who Killed These Girls?: Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders by Beverly Lowery (Knopf Publishing Group, $27.95), recommended by Ann Patchett at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

    I Will Find You is not light reading, but it is necessary reading for a culture that seems unable to talk reasonably and openly about sexual violence. This nonfiction account of her own rape is filled with unrelenting honesty about sexual violence, race in America, and the realities of incarceration and poverty.

    I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, 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.

  • 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.

  • In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis

    Like paintings with shadowy figures in darkened corners, the lives of four of our nation's first presidents cannot be fully understood without opening the pages of Kenneth Davis' In the Shadow of Liberty . George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson were founding fathers who risked their lives for the principles of freedom and liberty, while denying these rights to the slaves they owned, bought, and sold their entire lives.

    Davis' exhaustive research and objective narrative reveal men whose lofty ideals were easier to legislate than to apply to their personal lives. The stories of five black slaves whose lives were entwined with these men and their families on a very intimate level are revealed in the context of a society in which the economic value of each could not be denied. Davis highlights the ironic juxtaposition of these bastions of liberty and their enslaved companions with a clarity that made me consider how very difficult it can be to truly live out the values we claim to cherish. A key title in understanding the humanity of these famous Americans for ages 10+.

    In the Shadow of Liberty, (Henry Holt $17.99), recommended by Cindy at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear...and Why by Sady Doyle

    At its best, pop culture criticism forces us to reconsider a familiar product by placing it in a new context and, in doing so, imbuing it with new meaning. Trainwreck is just that. Doyle effectively and entertainingly litigates her case: that Western culture's fascination with 'fallen' female starlets—AKA trainwrecks--is simply a modern form of the patriarchal silencing and marginalization of women that has been going for centuries. With sly humor and lively prose, Doyle systematically punches through all the familiar straw-man arguments and convincingly illustrates that the 'harmless fun' of Internet clickbait and TMZ gossip are merely modern forms of public shaming. A must-read.

    Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why by Sady Doyle (Melville House, $25.99), recommended by Matt at The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN.

  • Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride

    In the hands of such a great writer (and fellow musician) the story of The Godfather of Soul becomes not just a portrayal of one of the most important figures in musical history but in American history.

    A book that will make you crave that unmistakable James Brown sound.

    Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride (Spiegel & Grau) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

    Augusten Burroughs ALWAYS delivers.

    I love his madness, his romanticism, his hopeless inability to correct himself mid-stream and his hapless drive to overcompensate long after he's crossed the stream, and I love the way he writes about all of it.

    This was an Augusten Burroughs memoir with a happy ending.

    Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Clara at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith

    From Cindy: An essential thread in the tapestry of FDR and his legacy, Missy LeHand was intuitive, pragmatic and totally devoted to this controversial president. Kathryn Smith's impeccable research and reader-friendly narrative give us an intimate look at this extraordinary woman and an historical perspective on the pivotal role she played in American politics. The facts, the feelings, and the frictions of the years Missy was a primary player in Roosevelt's inner circle are woven together in this biographical gem.

    From Rosemary: I lived for many years in Hyde Park, so an almost yearly expedition to the FDR Presidential Library down the street was in order. The 'extended family' that he invited into the White House was essentially on a 24/7 on-call status for years, and this eclectic mix of staff, family, and friends (some belonging to multiple categories) always fascinated me. I am delighted to finally find material on Missy LeHand, a woman ahead of her time. Her story also reveals inner circle anecdotes about FDR's band, and indeed, on FDR himself. The pre-presidential accounts of his battle with polio, and Missy's efforts toward his recovery are new to me, and worth the book alone.

    The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith, ($28, Touchstone), recommended by Cindy and Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

    “The question of what you want to own is actually a question of how you want to live your life!” Kondo exclaims. While I am still working my way at decluttering my space, following the advice of this book has been fairly straight forward. The concept is pretty simple: get rid of physical baggage so you can focus on living your life (and maybe cutting some other types of baggage too). It’s empowering, it’s not being beholden to material possessions, it’s learning how to make your space serve you, and it’s deciding what you want for your life as the person you are today. Now that is life-changing.

    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed $16.99), recommended by Ceewin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Plague on All Our Houses: Medical Intrigue, Hollywood, and the Discovery of AIDS by Bruce J. Hillman

    A Plague on All Our Houses examines the AIDS epidemic and the doctors behind the discovery of its cause and the tangled motivations of the search.  Readers delve into knowledge about how academia works, and whether the work is for ego or for helping the sick. The book also details how Hollywood and the government would not acknowledge what was happening as the crisis developed.

    A Plague on All Our Houses by Bruce J. Hillman (Foreedge, $29.95), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross

    Desperation Dinners has been one of the most influential and necessary tools in my kitchen for many years. This book may persuade you to believe you've found another 30 to 60 minutes during the dinner hour. It provides authentic and realistic tips, instructions and recipes to help even the most harried cook create tasty, nutritious and satisfying dishes in 20 minutes or less. Really--20 minutes or less. Mom's Mini Meat Loaves defy belief by tasting every bit as good as traditional meat loaf with 2/3 less prep/cook time, and the So-Simple Salsa is so good and so fast to prepare, that you will never let let another chip go without it. You owe it to yourself, and your overworked day planner app, to welcome this book into your kitchen.

    Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross (Workman $13.95) by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, recommended by Belinda at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson

    I obsessively checked out campaign coverage this election season, and it was a relief to examine turning points in past presidential campaigns and already know how everything turned out.

    Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson, (Twelve, $30.00), recommended by Niki at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard

    It turns out that Vivian Howard, in addition to being an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and star of the PBS show A Chef's Life, is also a talented writer. She tells the story of her life and community through each chapter devoted to a different vegetable. While our event with Vivian later this month has sold out, we do have plenty of signed copies of this big, beautiful and delicious tribute to the food, farmers and cooks of eastern North Carolina.

    Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard ($40, Little Brown), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 by Nicholas Stargardt

    This one really grabbed me, a 570-page history of WWII, The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945, by Nicholas Stargardt, an historian at Oxford. It explores the feelings and changing beliefs of ordinary Germans and their reactions to the war as it progresses. It's incredibly well-written, not text-bookish at all, and I couldn't put it down. It is based on correspondence between, for example, German soldiers and their wives, mothers, fiancées as well as memoirs. I hesitated to recommend this book because of its length, but that was not an impediment to me as I got into it. It's not your ordinary history book.

    The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 (Basic $35), by Nicholas Stargardt, recommended by Mari Lu, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • 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.

  • The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

    The Genius of Birds is a splendidly written account of the remarkable ways, many of which are newly discovered, that birds gossip, eavesdrop, exact revenge, manipulate, sympathize, use tools, and communicate in myriad ways.

    This smart and entertaining narrative appeals to bird geeks and the commonly curious alike with anecdotes, science, and new insights into what birds know about our frighteningly changing world.

    The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin) Recommended by Richard at Square Books Oxford MS

  • Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard

    There seems to be a new Bowie book out about once every two months these days and I am such a big fan that I have read just about every one. But there is a law of diminishing returns and even I feel that at this point there is very little left to say. Luckily this biography takes a refreshing new tack. It concentrates on the two years that Bowie lived inside his greatest creation, the fictitious and otherworldly Ziggy Stardust. About half the book is gone before you get to Ziggy's rise and it's all context and subtext. Just like Stanley Crouch's book on Charlie Parker Kansas City Lightning it really helps you understand the time, the place and the preceding history and therefore get a better understanding of the work itself. It puts you dead center in the insane whirlwind that burgeoning stardom can bring and the leaves you with a half broken Bowie saying, "Who can I be now?"

    Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard (Ebury Press) Recommended by Chris at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif

    All the intimacy and power that Anne Frank's war diary gave us--the real breath and thoughts and fears of a human living under inhumane circumstances--are aged and magnified in Saif's account of war in Gaza.

    For 51 days he and his fellow Gazans live--and die--with the knowledge that life and death are a game of luck, controlled at the hands of an Israeli drone operator. Peace is not permitted for the people of Gaza, restricted by birth to a nation of contested land and continued acts of terror, violence, and grief. This was sixty years of life savings!- a man screams atop the rubble of his home. Ambulances screech all day long, gathering body parts of children and families that moments ago were survivors of the war, and now are its casualties.

    Saif and his friends flip a coin on the street--heads, the truce ends, tails, the truce continues. The children fight to plug in their iPads when the electricity comes on, while the adults watch the news to hear which of their friends has been obliterated in their homes this week.

    This is the fourth war Saif has lived through, and he knows that it is only by luck that he has lived, and that this war will not be the last--that one day his luck may run out. This is an essential read for those in search of peace in the midst of modern-day warfare, and even more essential for those who aren't sure which side they stand on.

    The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif (Beacon Press) Recommended by Clara at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • White Rage by Carol Anderson

    What the hell is wrong with white people?

    Seriously, what is going on in the white community that white folks all over the nation express; one, a sense of surprise by the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore; and two, complete ignorance of their role in the continued devaluation of black and brown life?

    What level of denial must one operate to miss the connection between their neo-liberal, fascist, white supremacist policies and the continued killing of black and brown bodies all over this country and beyond? How can a people and its government founded on the principles of chattel slavery privatize prisons (and fill them disproportionately with black and brown bodies), de-fund then close mostly black and brown schools, and concentrate wealth among a small number of white males while pretending it has achieved a "post-racial" society?

    Carol Anderson's newest book examines the latest iterations of white rage, and uncovers the deep layers of white denial that continues to fuel racial violence in this country.

    White Rage by Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury) Recommended by Manny at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

    In her first time writing entirely about the road, Steinem encourages us to free ourselves from the either/or binary thinking that proliferates the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and instead embrace the AND rooted in inclusion and balance. Yet as Steinem says, "On campuses, I saw young men wearing t-shirts that said TOO BAD O.J. DIDN'T MARRY HILLARY." All the wearers I saw were white.

    Clearly, folks--especially white males--are far from unlearning the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal fantasies that permeate our entire culture.

    This book illustrates key insights to aid this work. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (Random House) Recommended by Manny at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw by Elissa Altman

    Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw is a universal love letter to a childhood spent in a religiously observant and unorthodox household.

    It’s a joyous, and sometimes heartbreaking, look at family, love, the food that keeps us together and the traditions that can tear us apart.

    Author Elissa Altman sets a beautifully written table.

    Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw by Elissa Altman (New American Library) Recommended by Beth at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Women Explorers: Perils, Pistols and Petticoats by Julie Cummins, Cheryl Harness

    This children’s book tells the story of 10 women explorers, all of whom were born in the 1800s.

    The women in this book explored the Artic, the Outback, the wilderness areas of Canada, the US and Mexico, the Amazon jungle, islands in the South Pacific, the desert in the Middle East and led African safaris. These women made important contributions to science, geography and cultural understanding, but history books have hardly mentioned their stories.

    This book is perfect to read to younger elementary studies or for older students to explore on their own.

    Women Explorers by Julie Cummins, illustrated by Cheryl Harness (Puffin Books) Recommended by Christina at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville, NC

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

    A recent U.S. Department of Education survey found that high school girls take the same number of math and science classes as boys and earn slightly higher grades, but only 15 percent of U.S. collegiate women major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

    Encouraging young women and girls to pursue STEM career tracks has never been more important. Women in Science highlights notable women's contributions to various scientific fields. A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, the book features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women in STEM from the ancient to the modern world, and also contains infographics about interesting and relevant topics such as lab equipment and rates of women currently working in STEM fields.

    Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky (Ten Speed Press) Recommended by Bookstore1Sarasota Sarasota FL

  • 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History by Andrew Morton

    Treat yourself to a riveting and real life royal war time thriller! 

    Was American born and twice divorced Wallis Simpson truly in love and trying to win the heart of King Edward VIII, who was then demoted to a mere Duke as penance for loving her in return?

    Author Andrew Morton provides sizzling and shocking details to provide some compelling answers to this key question, while raising many other questions along the way.

    17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History by Andrew Morton (Grand Central Publishing) Recommended by Diane at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann

    This beautifully written memoir cuts right to the heart of what it means to be an artist in the American South, and how the region’s history has molded the creative types it has produced.

    The Virginia native shares family history and thoughts on her controversial work.

    Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann (Back Bay Books) Recommended by Carl at Fountain Bookstore Richmond VA

  • Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era by Dan Berger

    Much like his previous book, The Outlaws of America: the Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, Berger focuses herein on the radical edge of the 1960s/70s movement.

    His argument, hardly a new one, is what caused the radicalization of the civil rights movement was the attempt to imprison its most impassioned voices. The leadership of what came to be the Black Power movement was schooled for revolution behind the walls of the American supermax prison system.

    Perhaps the most influential name of Black Power, George Jackson did not leave prison alive, yet he remains a powerful symbol near half a century after George Jackson was shot down in the prison yard at San Quentin.

    Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era by Dan Berger (University of North Carolina Press) Recommended by Glen at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

    A history book that is eminently readable, this is a great book for any anglophile to learn about British History from Henry II and Thomas Becket through Richard II and the houses of York and Lancaster.

    The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones (Penguin Books) Recommended by MB at Octavia Books New Orleans LA

  • The Last of the Hippies: An Hysterical Romance by Penny Rimbaud

    The Last Of the Hippies by Penny Rimbaud is a wonderful short book revolving around the story of Phil Russell (better known as Wally Hope) a British freethinker and revolutionary who was a great influence upon Rimbaud and his anarchist punk band, Crass.

    This short title was originally written as an insert to the wonderful Crass double LP, "Christ, the album", and the book manages to tell much about the period of its original publication (circa 1982): its music, its politics, the band Crass, Wally Hope and much more in little more than 100 pages.

    The Last of the Hippies: An Hysterical Romance by Penny Rimbaud (PM Press) Recommended by Glen at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA.

  • But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking about the Present as If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

    Whether this is the most philosophical pop culture book I’ve ever read or the most pop-culture drenched philosophy book I’ve ever read, I don’t know.

    But I do know I can’t stop thinking--and as my family and co-workers can attest, talking--about the ideas Klosterman ponders here. Whether reflecting on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or the internet’s reaction to the death of Dusty Rhodes, Klosterman has a breadth and depth of knowledge to cover a lot of cultural ground here.

    A most rewarding read!

    But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking about the Present as If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman (Blue Rider Press) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

    If you’ve ever been interested in what your dog or your cat really thinks about your tuxedo t-shirt (or whether they think at all), then Frans de Waal’s new book is a must-read for you.

    De Waal is the renowned primatologist and writer of The Bonobo and the Atheist, as well as other essays on morality and intelligence in the animal kingdom. And in this book de Waal argues that certain animal intelligence–though different—is not inferior or superior to others (including us human folk).

    De Waal makes it clear that we should examine animals in relation to their own specific traits and capabilities in order to understand their true intelligence, rather than comparing them to the things that we humans excel it.

    By trying to get us to embody a point of view outside of our own species', this book will forever change the way we look at animal intelligence and consciousness.

    Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal, F. B. M. De Waal (W. W. Norton) Recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture by Pamela Haag

    With a focus on the manufacturers rather than the consumers, Haag’s book helps unravel the mythic existence of the American gun. 

    And don’t worry, the book is also completely free from Second-Amendment-bashing tirades. Instead, Haag offers a clear-eyed historical account of how guns became so pervasive in our culture and what we should do moving forward.

    This book makes clear that Americans were not inherently gun-happy, that they had to be sold on them like any other product. This book is essential for anyone interested in what’s actually being said in the current debate over guns.

    The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture by Pamela Haag (Basic Books) Recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum

    An around the world tour of all of the tangible workings behind that seemingly intangible construct known as the internet.

    Lots of great information on where and how your news, emails and favorite adorable kitten videos are stored and transmitted to your computer monitor. Great for techies but also great for readers interested in history or just good non-fiction. No computer science degree required.

    Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (Ecco Press) Recommended by John at Cavalier House Books Denham Springs LA

  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

    In this fascinating history, big personalities emerge.

    Benedict Arnold, charismatic, arrogant, and reckless, verges on madness in battle.  George Washington, indecisive at first, evolves into a strategic military leader and eventually figures out how to win.

    You realize that things like the direction of the wind or when a river freezes or who gets promoted determine victory or defeat.

    This book includes 100 pages of notes and sources, lots of maps, many portraits, and Benedict Arnold's treasonous coded letter!

    Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolutionby Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas

    What an adventurous life it was! Louisa married John Quincy Adams when she was 21, and followed him to diplomatic posts in Germany, Prussia, St. Petersburg and eventually the United States. 

    You share her struggles through multiple miscarriages, the deaths of two babies and years of separation from her children. You're there at the high points, such as her presentation to the court of the tzar. In Washington her parties and balls became legendary. 

    Full of first person accounts, from Louisa's memoirs to John Quincy's diary...Louisa makes you feel as if you know this woman. Fabulous history!

    Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas (Penguin Press) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats by William Geroux

    In Sea Fever, John Masefield's sailors go down to the sea and ask in part for quiet sleep and a sweet dream.

    The sailing men of Mathews, of whom there were many, had no illusions about what they were getting into when they flooded the Navy and Merchant Marine during WWII. The Mathews Men is the story, long too-quiet, about usually poor men who stepped up for the sake of their country and their families – and who also had an almost uncanny affinity for seamanship.

    If you loved The Boys in the Boat, you'll also fall for these men on ships.

    The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats by William Geroux (Viking) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

    This nonfiction picture book will make it fun to learn about the water cycle, from water to steam and from clouds to rain and back again.

    Younger kids will like the poetic, rhyming text, and older kids will learn something new with all the water cycle facts.

    And the beautiful illustrations add something even more.

    Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul (Roaring Brook Press) Recommended by Melissa at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

    Steven Pinker has been a favorite of mine for a long time.

    How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature have hugely influenced my thinking about consciousness, human behavior, and ethical issues. One of his greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to untangle difficult topics and clearly present them to the reader.

    Here, he offers common sense advice to writers who want to improve their writing.

    The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker (Penguin Books) Recommended by Brian at Malaprops Bookstore Asheville NC

  • Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

    Goldstein is a highly regarded philosopher who also happens to be a distinguished novelist, and her manifold talents are on display in this entertaining and thought-provoking book about the relevance of philosophy in the 21st century.

    Through Plato's dialogues with a diverse cast of modern-day characters, we learn that the value of philosophy isn't necessarily in the answers that it provides but the questions that it poses.  

    Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away by Rebecca Goldstein (Vintage) Recommended by Brian at Malaprops Bookstore Asheville NC

  • Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible by Jerry A. Coyne

    Many people assume that the subtitle of this book suggests something that is clearly false.

    After all, if Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, is an accomplished scientist and avowed Christian, how could religion and science possibly be incompatible?  Well, here's how.

    One of the greatest virtues of many religions is faith, which, by definition, is belief in something in the absence of evidence.  Far from being a virtue, faith is considered to be a great sin (irony intended) among scientists.  Science gets us closer to truth.  Religion never has.

    As Coyne makes painfully clear, basing one's life in religion has serious consequences for the well-being of children, women, and society at large.  Read this book if you disagree with Coyne, but, even if you're already a member of the choir, read the book anyway.

    It never hurts to read an author, especially one as gifted as Coyne, making arguments based on reason and science.

    Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatibleby Jerry A. Coyne (Viking) Recommended by Brian at Malaprops Bookstore Asheville NC

  • The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson

    It seems that a key driver to inventing higher mathematics over the centuries has been the desire to predict where planets go.

    Isaac Newton's theory of gravity enabled astronomers to reliably chart their orbits, and later to discover Neptune right where it was predicted to be, based on the way it perturbed the orbit of Uranus. However, when Mercury's path was observed to be a smidge askew of the equations, the new planet posited to explain this, Vulcan, proved quite elusive. Thus, Albert Einstein was inspired to develop his theory of relativity to explain why Newton's math failed in that case.

    I love books like this that remind us how math and science continually empower our desire to describe the universe.

    The Hunt for Vulcan:...and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson (Random House) Recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

    Clementine and Winston Churchill, both from aristocratic families, had the wedding of the year. 

    Photos in the papers, people lining the route to the church, and reports of a six hour wedding dress alteration session.  Because Clementine and Winston exchanged over 1,700 letters, we get a fascinating, up close look at their relationship through the years. 

    Winston was impulsive, defensive and rash.  Clementine was thoughtful, strong and strategic.  During World War I, she organized canteens for munition workers.  During World War II, she volunteered as a fire watcher, sitting on rooftops and calling in fires during air raids.  She and Winston went out in the dark after the bombing stopped and toured the bomb sites with flashlights. 

    Clementine is an extraordinary love story against the backdrop of tumultuous history.  I loved it!

    Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell (Viking) Recommended by Helen at 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

  • Pacific by Simon Winchester

    Simon Winchester takes on the Pacific Ocean in his latest popular history.

    To tackle a topic that is too big to adequately cover in a one volume, Winchester instead tells 10 different stories that all have the Pacific as a common thread. From nuclear testing on Bikini Island to the transfer of Hong Kong from Britian to China, Winchester illustrates the wide and varied impact the Pacific has had and continues to have on our planet.

    Whereas the Mediterranean was the focus of the ancient world and the Atlantic the center of current times, the author convincingly argues that the Pacific will be the most important ocean in our future.

    Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision by Simon Winchester (Harper) Recommended by Andy Brennan at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

    Remember The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls? If you liked that, you might like this harrowing true story that likewise never tips into maudlin territory.

    Ruth Wariner shows amazing sentimental restraint in recounting her years as a poor, hungry, confused, and often terrified child growing up in a fundamentalist (and polygamous) religious colony in rural Mexico.

    Amazing.

    The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner (Flatiron Books) Recommended by Mary Laura Philpott at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • 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

  • Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

    I loved this account of the precocious 19-year-old French marquis who was determined to join George Washington and the Americans against the British.

    Dry history this is not. Just as in Unfamiliar Fishes (the story of the American takeover of Hawaii), Vowell's writing is a constant reality check on history; her narrative is liberally peppered with her own irreverent, yet spot-on observations, and she is so good at showing how we are always linked to our past.

    In Lafayette, the marquis succeeds, though in the process he discovers a more fragmented people than he'd imagined, and through him, Vowell reveals the particular magic of our country's union and disunion.

    Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead Books) Recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy by William Doyle

    You read spellbound as young JFK swims miles behind enemy lines in shark infested waters with the life jacket strap of his oldest and most injured crew member clinched in his teeth, leading his sailors to safety on a deserted island. 

    He goes back out alone in the black sea, treading water for hours hoping to flag down a passing American ship.  JFK was only 25 years old, on his own, having volunteered for combat.  Years later he kept a glass paperweight on his desk in the oval office that contained the coconut that he had carved a message in and sent to his base alerting his commander to his crew's location.

    Fabulous history!

    PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy by William Doyle (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Our Man In Charleston by Christopher Dickey

    Britain’s Consul in Charleston before and during the early years of the Civil War painted one picture for the Southern in Charleston where he lived and quiet another for England.

    Robert Bunch’s secret correspondence with the British Foreign Office made clear his hostility to slavery and was credited by some as the reason the British did not become involved in the War. Robert was an unlikely spy.

    Our Man In Charleston by Christopher Dickey (Crown) Recommended by Vickie at Litchfield Books Pawley's Island SC

  • Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman

    Author, illustrator, and cultural commentator extraordinaire Kalman gives us a book about dogs that is, of course, about so much more. To her, dogs are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love. And it is very true, that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our being blossoms, without any effort, when it comes to the love of a dog.

    Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (Penguin Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts

    In Capital Dames, Cokie Roberts introduces us to the fascinating women from the north and south living in Washington DC. As you read you find the Civil War not only changed Washington DC but also changed the lives of women living in America.

    As the city evolved into a sprawling union Army camp many of the southern belles fled to confederate territory while some became nurses and spies. At the same time many other women moved to the capitol to fill positions previously held by men who were now fighting the war.

    The details of the lives of these women and their contribution to history before, during, and after the war help you understand just how important they were to America.

    Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts (Harper) Recommended by Vickie at Litchfield Books Pawley's Island SC 

  • The High Line by James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

    The High Line is a one-and-a-half-mile-long public park on an elevated stretch of obsolete freight railway on the West Side of Manhattan.

    Before I had actually visited (and then immediately fallen in love with) the High Line, somebody tried to describe it to me and I just couldn't envision it. If only this book had existed then, I may have understood something of the magic that awaited me.

    Documenting in exquisite detail the design, development, and construction of the project, as well as the history of the area, the book is a perfect little window onto a very special place. And like everything that Phaidon does, it is elegant, sumptuous, and stunning.

    The High Line by James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio, Renfro (Phaidon Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George by Kelly Carlin

    A vivid and compelling insight into the family life of one of the most brilliant and revered comics of the last half century.

    On a purely narrative level, Kelly Carlin's book is wholly engrossing; as a companion to her father's body of work, it's indispensable.

    A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George by Kelly Carlin (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Ike at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

    Marked by excess and jazz, the 1920s was also a time of séances and Spiritualism, of reconnecting with lives claimed by the Great War.

    One beautiful and uncannily talented Boston medium called Margery won countless devotees and skeptics alike. When a rivalry ensued between Margery and Harry Houdini, the nation was captivated.

    Her story is now unearthed by a writer whose ability to give voice to the dead must surely rival her own.

    The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher (Crown Publishing) Recommended by Carla at Square Books Oxford MS

     

  • Taxidermy Art by Robert Marbury

    Ok, so taxidermy seems creepy, but this book is just wonderful.Not only does it showcase truly talented artists, there is also a brief history of taxidermy and its major players throughout history.

    TAXIDERMY ART doesn't stop there. There is a wonderful guide to getting started on taxidermy in the back. Art, history, and DIY all in one book.

    Taxidermy Art: A Rogue's Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself by Robert Marbury (Artisan Publishers) Recommended by Al at Square Books Oxford MS

     

  • The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook by Rosanna Pansino

    Don't let the title fool you, this cookbook is fun for all ages.

    Pansino starts with the building blocks of baking, using easy to follow recipes that will be used throughout to create deliciously nerdy desserts. Rather than grouping her creations by pies, cakes, and cookies, she groups them by interest, allowing readers to quickly find their obsession of choice.

    It can be complex at times, but overall this is a solid, fun cookbook.

    The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino (Atria Books), recommended by Andrew at Square Books Oxford MS

     

  • The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories from the editors of Garden & Gun


    I hesitate in calling this a cookbook as it's really more of a celebration of Southern culture with a few recipes thrown in.

    That said, it's a marvelous cookbook brimming with delicious dishes and info about the people and places that created them, or at least lay claim to. The dishes can be complex at times, but it is definitely worth it.

    The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories by Garden & Gun (Harper Wave) Recommended by Andrew at Square Books Oxford MS

  • Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick

    Resnick, a former writer for Late Night with David Letterman is anti-social and proud of it.

    These stories explain in hilarious detail the who, what, when and how he came to be the funny man that hates parties and small talk. I read this one out loud to anyone that would listen and laughed myself silly. A memoir without pretense or self-congratulation. Just honest straight-up true stories of the dysfunction that shapes us all. You want a funny book? Read this.

    Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolationby Adam Resnick (Plume Books) Recommended by Stefani at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

    This should be required reading in any US history class for any age. Steve Sheinkin is a master at taking the most complex historical events and issues and rendering them personal and accessible. He not only makes the scope of this long, long war manageable, but personifies it in the evolution of Ellsberg from deeply patriotic analyst into an equally patriotic anti-war activist.

    If you are too young to have lived during the Vietnam War era, you will soon appreciate what it did to this country. If you lived then and think you knew what was going on, you will be surprised by the revelations Sheinkin has unearthed.

    Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Last Season by Stuart Stevens

    Stuart Stevens has written five books on politics and travel, but this one’s personal.

    The Last Season is an account of the year the author and his 95-year-old father set out to see every Ole Miss game in 2012, a year that came on the heels of Mitt Romney’s losing presidential campaign, in which Stuart Stevens served as its director. Stevens investigates the destinations life has taken him, especially regarding his relationship with his dad.

    As Pat Conroy, who knows something about the father-son thing, says, "It’s nuts, it’s Ole Miss, it’s outrageous, it’s got depth and emotion, it's one of the best father-son books I’ve read in years. Hotty Toddy is the only phrase you need to know to love this book."

    The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football by Stuart Stevens (Knopf) Recommended by RH at Square Books Oxford MS

  • Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, MD

    Damon Tweedy brings us a very personal view of the role race has played for him as a student, a doctor, and even as a patient.

    He starts with his time as one of only a handful of black students attending Duke University Medical School, where one of his professors asks if he is there to fix the lights.

    Through his internship and on to psychiatric training and practice, he sheds a light on how easy it is for us to see each other through the lens of race instead of as individuals, and how that leads to bad outcomes for everyone, but especially for black patients.

    Tweedy has written a thoughtful, provocative, and very readable account, full of engaging stories of real people whose well-being, and even survival, are affected by racial perceptions.

    Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy (Picador) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh 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

  • Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President by David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler

    The men who surrounded Washington during his two terms as president included powerful minds like Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison, and soldiers such as Henry Knox, Lafayette, and the traitor Benedict Arnold.

    In the middle was Washington, weary of politics and longing to retire.  He worried that people thought he was not smart enough to understand Hamilton's financial ideas, and he named his greyhound Cornwallis.

    Washington emerges as a very human leader.  Fabulous history!

    Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President by David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler (Random House) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

     

  • Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg

    I don’t read many biographies, but I love memoirs and this is one of my all-time favorites.

    Journalist Steve Luxenberg discovers that his mother had a sister, Annie, who was disabled and institutionalized. She had kept it a secret for over 50 years.

    His search for the truth about is a story of family, the depression, the Holocaust and the nation’s treatment of disabled adults.

    Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg (Hachette) Recommended by Allison at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville NC

  • The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe by Bob Spitz

    In the blink of an eye, Bob Spitz turned fifty, finished an eight-year book project and a fourteen-year marriage that left him nearly destitute, had his heart stolen and broken on the rebound, and sought salvation the only way he knew how.

    He fled to Europe, where he hopscotched among the finest cooking schools in pursuit of his dream.

    The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe by Bob Spitz (W. W. Norton )Recommended by Douglas at Octavia Books New Orleans LA

  • Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine

    This probably isn’t the first book you’ve seen that promises to help you see Jesus’ parables in a new way, but the book is unlike any other, and Amy-Jill Levine is like no other author. Levine is a Jewish New Testament scholar who uses her knowledge to show the parables in their original context.

    Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine (HarperOne) Recommended by Allison at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville 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

  • H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

    Distraught over her father's death, Macdonald decides to train a goshawk. Mabel enters her life.

    This stunning book is resonating with readers everywhere. Macdonald is willing to feel, to the depths of her soul, and to share those feelings with the world. And, with her command of language, she has the ability to enable us to understand her hawk's, and her own, thoughts, emotions, moods and instincts and their extraordinary bond.

    This book is about so much: grief, identity, relationships with humans and other species, and tolerance of, and respect for, all living beings - including oneself.

    H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald (Grove Press) Recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports by Jay M. Smith, Mary Willingham

    It's been in the news for years, but Jay Smith & Mary Willingham's Cheated lays out the UNC academic/sports deception and prime players in all its breathtaking scope.

    Follow the timeline and see how the dots are connected. While I'd read about the scandal, Cheated was full of revelations. Even more than for UNC, the authors make clear how this fits into a history of multi-institutional disgrace.

    What happens next is urgent for the landscape of collegiate money-making sports and its players.

    Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports by By Jay M. Smith, Mary Willingham (Potomac Books) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall

    I like a certain amount of surprise in my life, but when it comes to getting older I've found I'd like to have fair warning about what to expect.

    Donald Hall, a former Poet Laureate and National Medal of the Art winner, has written a beautiful collection of essays from the vantage point of 86 years old.

    They are funnier than I imagined they would be, as well as inspiring and heartening, and the prose is pitch perfect.

    Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL 
    9780544287044

  • An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

    In 2006 when Elizabeth McCracken and her husband were living in France, she gave birth to a stillborn son.

    An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is an intimate look at the tragedy. McCracken is very clear about the things that helped and the things that made healing more difficult. She tells without holding back about delivering the infant after learning he had died, and about her second pregnancy and the ways it was influenced by the first.

    I gained great insight from this book into what grieving people need, and although I know all of us grieve differently, McCracken’s book will help me support those in my life who suffer from the death of a loved one. In one of my favorite quotes from the book, McCracken says, "The dead don’t need anything.  The rest of us could use some company."

    An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by  Elizabeth McCracken (Back Bay Books) Recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Death Class: A True Story about Life by Erika Hayasaki

    A former nurse, Norma Bowe decided to teach a college class on death. She never expected a three year waiting list for the class or that her students would be called to help others in transformative ways while saving their own lives. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book is inspiring and life-affirming.

    Hayasaki is a gifted journalist who spent time as a student of Professor Bowe’s to gain a unique insight into her life and the lives of the students she teaches each day.

    The Death Class: A True Story about Life by Erika Hayasaki (Simon & Schuster) Recommended by Stefani at Inkwood BooksTampa FL

  • By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul, Scott Turow

    Like many of you, By the Book is one of my favorite parts of the NYT Book Review.

    Compiled here by Pamela Paul, editor of the Book Review, are 65 author interviews (uncut and in their original format) all about writing habits, favorite authors and books and - one of my favorites - books they'd wish the president would read.

    The authors range from Michael Chabon and Khaled Hosseini to Anne Lamott and Hilary Mantel, making this a delectable treat for any book lover.

    By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul, Scott Turow (Henry Holt and Co.) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • 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

  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

    Upon finding success as a writer, director, and actress, Dunham releases her autobiography as an exciting look into the events that shaped her.

    She offers an unedited look at her life through a series of personal essays, some humorous and others quite painful, in hopes that her stories will keep readers from repeating her mistakes. With brutal honesty, she gives detailed accounts of her hardships in love and work, without shame or apology.

    Her ability to share without excuse shows the strength that makes her such a relatable artist and celebrity.

    Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned by Lena Dunham (Random House) Recommended by Emily Catherine at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC