Lady Banks' Commonplace Book: the weekly newsletter for people interested in Southern literature, sponsored by booksellers who are members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and featuring an overview of the literary news and events found on Authors 'Round the South.






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Week of November 14, 2019
The Commonplace Book | Read This! | Okra Picks | Southern Indie Bestsellers | Events
{Home is home.}
In which Mr. Leighton Ford considers his similarity to the mockingbird, Mr. Michael Twitty puts himself--and his dinner-- under the microscope, Ms. Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne believes that home is always home, and her ladyship, the editor, decides to shut her bedroom window.


Dearest Readers

"I think home is home. I've been a long time gone, but East Tennessee is still my home. And, perhaps because our childhoods are so formative, my brain and heart still beat with stories and characters, both real and imagined, from there." —Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne.

Outside her ladyship, the editor's library window, the season has changed. Her ladyship has watched the signs: The first hard frost has killed the late morning glories, which were lavender-blue the previous evening, and have crumpled, sodden, in the cold wet morning. The painted buntings that graced her ladyship's feeder right through a warm October have disappeared and left the field to the chickadees, cardinals, and Carolina wrens. There are apples, oranges and pomegranates in bowls on the table instead of the peaches and blueberries she is never without in the summer. There is a large pot of vegetable soup simmering on the stove and her ladyship no longer leaves her bedroom window open at night, even though she likes to listen to the owls.

Instead, she has spread her electric blanket on the couch, added to the stack of books she keeps in arm's reach and curled up with a pot of coffee to read away the dark evenings while her four cats and two dogs systematically inch their way onto the warm blanket and onto her lap. Her feet will fall asleep under the weight but her mood is one of contentment.


Read independently, and shop local.

her ladyship, the editar
her ladyship, the editor
Lady Banks' Pick of the Week
Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
Excerpted noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.


Lifestyles of Gods and MonstersJeptha Taylor had bee n in love with Lucy Kilgore since he was sixteen and her smile was the reason why. She had a smile that made people feel safe. Jeptha, particularly. He wasn’t sure why exactly — he just knew a warm, contented feeling stole over him that struck him as exactly the kind of silent bliss a newborn baby feels when his mama feeds him. But when Jeptha pulled his Camaro, dark and shiny as a pond at midnight, into the parking lot behind Judy’s Bar on a hot Friday night in June, he had no idea that Lucy’s smile would be for him tonight, that it would spark through him and spread to her like a hay blaze — fiery, fast, and destructive.

No, as far as Jeptha was concerned, tonight was only about bluegrass and ass, if he could get it. It was his first time at Judy’s Bar, and he felt a bit disloyal for being there. The bar had been open for four months and — being run by a Yankee — had been in disfavor for all those months with the local drinkers. Except for the real drunks, neighbors all, whose loyalty extended only to Jack, Jim, and whatever bar gave them the best shot at driving home shit-faced without getting caught. For those who could afford to be principled in their place of vice, the bar of choice was Avery’s Place, owned by a hometown boy named Avery who had spent ten years fighting the Pentecostals and the Baptists, both Freewill and Southern, for the right to open a bar in what previously had been a dry county. That a Yankee swooped in five years after Avery’s long fight finally ended and made use of the same provisions he had fought so hard to establish was enough for Jeptha, his friends, and the rest of the town to stay well clear of Judy’s Bar. Until, that is, four boys, so far unnamed in the paper even though everyone in town knew who they were, got high behind Avery’s Place one night in early July, lit a small fire in a patch of grass already dried out in the summer’s drought, and ran like hell when it whooshed into a patch of wiring that snaked up the outer wall of the bar. The fire caught hold in the electrical system and sparked its way from wire to wire, finally nesting in a box of receipts that Avery kept under a couple of bottles of 151-proof Everclear, reserved for the worst of the worst drunks. Within minutes, there was only a wall of flame where once there had been a bar, and Avery’s customers ran, taking their principles with them.

--Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, Holding On to Nothing (Blair, 2019)

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Amy Greene Talks to Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Veteran novelist Amy Greene (Bloodroot and Longman) and debut novelist Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne have several things in common: both are native Appalachians, both write about their mountain origins, and lucky for us, they both have a book coming out from Blair this fall. Elizabeth’s debut novel is Holding On To Nothing (pub. date 10/22/19). Amy Greene, with her husband Trent Tompson, edited Step into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia, a collection of essays and photographs in which writers write about each other and their homes in Appalachia (pub. date 12/1/2019).

Amy and Elizabeth sat down recently for a chat about their upcoming books.

Amy Greene: Elizabeth, I've had the good fortune over the past year to become familiar with you and your writing. We grew up in the same mountains, but you left East Tennessee to study at Amherst College and have now settled in Massachusetts with your husband and children. What moved you to return, as a storyteller, to your Appalachian roots?

Holding On To NothingElizabeth Chiles Shelburne: I think home is home. When people ask me where I'm from, I still answer “East Tennessee,” even if they are actually asking what town I live in now so we can arrange for school pickup.  It's just not a choice to give another answer. I've been a long time gone, but East Tennessee is still my home. And, perhaps because our childhoods are so formative, my brain and heart still beat with stories and characters, both real and imagined, from there. At some point, maybe I'll catch up and start telling stories from the place I've lived for a while now, but it hasn't happened yet. I also think that there may never be enough stories about our region, which is a shame given that through music and storytelling it's occupied such a formative place in American history. I just never tire of the people there, of how hard-working, joyous, and hilarious they can be, even when circumstances might dictate otherwise. It was such a gift to be from there, and I miss it every day. 

Now, from me to you: What made you and Trent want to explore Appalachian writers through pictures and words? It is an absolutely stunning book, and I can't wait to put it out for people to read.  Why did y'all want to explore that topic now and have other writers profile each other (which I loved!)? 

AG: When Trent and I met at a writers' colony in the Tennessee mountains, we connected both because of our Appalachian roots and our love of literature. Since then, we've had countless conversations over coffee about how the arts—particularly the literary and visual arts—have given our people voices to tell their own stories, through words and images, in ways the media from outside the region often gets wrong. Those conversations over morning coffee became a vision for a coffee table book combining the literary and visual arts to show how the literature of Appalachia has helped to progress its entire culture.

ECS: I love that. Those conversations over morning coffee are sometimes the most universal ones! And I couldn't agree more about the portrayals of Appalachia. I started writing my book because I felt that the media from outside the region just didn't portray the people I knew accurately. When people tell their own stories, the full complexities of their lives get portrayed. That's what I tried to put on the page with Jeptha and Lucy's story. 

AG: Now, a fun question: How did you celebrate when you learned that your debut novel would be published by Blair?

ECS: I celebrated the news the way I celebrate all good (and bad!) days in our house: I popped the top on a beer! Like Jeptha, my main character, I very much enjoy a good beer. I've gotten a taste for super hoppy New England-style IPAs over the years, and I always keep some craft IPA in the fridge. They are my go-to for celebrations! I especially love one from a local Cambridge brewery called Lamplighter, and my favorite of theirs is called Birds of a Feather. (I edited much of Holding On To Nothing after my kids went to bed while sitting at Lamplighter, nursing one beer over three hours and listening to bluegrass.) 

AG: A very fitting way to celebrate! When I got a book deal for Bloodroot, I bought a pair of leather boots I'd had my eye on—but they were on sale, which probably speaks volumes about where I come from and how I was raised.

Step Into the CircleECS: I love that. And yes, the on-sale part definitely does speak volumes about growing up where we did, doesn't it? One thing I loved so much about Appalachian Reckoning, the amazing book edited by Meredith McCarroll and Anthony Harkins, was that I learned the word bricoleur, a person who makes new things of the things they've collected around them. It was a fancy word for the way I grew up and the way I saw people all around me live. 

Back to you:After writing such gorgeous fiction (Bloodroot and Long Man) for so long, how was it to be immersed in nonfiction, both the writing and the editing, for a while with Step Into the Circle? Was it hard to transition between the two? 

AG: It wasn't too hard to put on my editing hat. For me, revising is more than half the writing process. It doesn't hurt that I learned from the best. My editor at Knopf, Robin Desser, is brilliant at what she does. Her editorial voice lives in my head, and I listened while reading the essays included in Step into the Circle. To be fair, there wasn't much editing to do, given the caliber of the writers involved in this project.

Read the full interview

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Read This! Books with Street Cred
Recommended reading from Southern Indie Booksellers

The Deep by Rivers SolomonHave you ever had a rough-patch with your spouse? Do you love love? Are you yearning for a romance novel that tackles toxic masculinity? Are you dating one of MLB's biggest stars? Whatever the case is, The Bromance Book Club has a little something for everyone. Gavin Scott has a mission: woo Thea (his wife), gain her trust back, and make sure their impending divorce isn't finalized. How's he going to do it? By joining a secret romance book club with some of the hottest Nashville bachelors. Strap yourself in for some laughs, adorable twin toddlers, and a romance that will make your cheeks blush and heart warm.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams ($16*, Berkley), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

The Grace Year"The Grace Year" is an unparalleled story. We've all ready dystopian future novels where the protagonist is uniquely qualified to save his or her entire society. But this one is different and it. is. good. Tierney and her fellow sixteen-year-old girls are banished to the forest for a year to burn off their magic--a magic that can drive men mad and cause insane jealousy in their wives. But as they make the trek to the woods, they start to realize that this won't be a vacation. The young women are in charge of policing each other. And when Tierney discovers the real secret of their magic, how can she convince others of the source?A gripping, fast-paced work of feminism, group hysteria, and violence is a must-read. Seriously, pick that one up now.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett ($16.99*, Wednesday Books), recommended by M. Judson, Greenville, SC.


More bookseller recommendations
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News of a literary nature

The Cooking Gene"I wanted to show how an American family’s story could be told through food, specifically a family whose majority were people who made the Middle Passage from Africa to America,” he says. “I wanted to put myself under the microscope as well and look for the parts of me that are buried under the weight of history."


keep reading: Culinary History with Michael Twitty

"For someone who describes herself as being “risk averse,” opening up a brick and mortar bookstore in 2019 may not seem like a natural move, but Lee said this chapter in her own story seemed to write itself"


keep reading: Atlanta bookstores on the rebound



One Soul at a TimeA Life of Listening"Ford’s book is about listening for God in others’ voices and eventually in your own. Reflecting on poet Mary Oliver’s description of the mockingbird as “the thief of other sounds,” Ford writes about how he started off wanting to sound like Graham. “Like many young would-be preachers of my generation,” writes Ford, who is now in his 80s, “I wanted to be like Billy, following his cadence, copying his gestures.”"


keep reading: Two books offer a deeper understanding of Billy Graham




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The Okra Picks: The Fall Season


Southern Independent booksellers have chosen the 2019 Fall Okra Picks – a collection of the best forthcoming Southern books of the season. Add a bit of tasty reading to your literary diet. Serve yourself a helping of Okra Picks.


" If you want characters to cheer for, read this book. If you want to be surrounded by a rich and vaguely familiar backdrop of people and places, read this book. If you want to cry, either a little or a lot, for people you know in your brain are fictitious but can sense in your heart are very real, read this book. " —Olivia Gacka, Novel, Memphis, TN

Holding On to Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles ShelburneLucy Kilgore has her bags packed for her escape from her rural Tennessee upbringing, but a drunken mistake forever tethers her to the town and one of its least-admired residents, Jeptha Taylor, who becomes the father of her child. Together, these two young people work to form a family, though neither has any idea how to accomplish that, and the odds are against them in a place with little to offer other than bluegrass music, tobacco fields, and a Walmart full of beer and firearms for the hunting season. Their path is harrowing, but Lucy and Jeptha are characters to love, and readers will root for their success in a novel so riveting that no one will want to turn out the light until they know whether this family will survive.

In luminous prose, debut novelist Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne brings us a present-day Appalachian story in the tradition of Lee Smith, Silas House, and Ron Rash, cast without sentiment or cliché, but with a genuine and profound understanding of the place and its people.

Blair | 9781949467086 | October 22, 2019 | Read the first chapter!

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Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending November 10. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.


Southern Indie Bestsellers

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

1. The Starless Sea
Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541213
2. The Dutch House
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
3. Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens, Putnam, $26, 9780735219090
4. The Guardians
John Grisham, Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385544184
5. The Water Dancer
Ta-Nehisi Coates, One World, $28, 9780399590597

1. Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, $30, 9780316478526
2. The Body
Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 9780385539302
3. Catch and Kill
Ronan Farrow, Little Brown, $30, 9780316486637
4. Blowout
Rachel Maddow, Crown, $30, 9780525575474
5. Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family
Mitch Albom, Harper, $24.99, 9780062952394
Special to the Southern List
  This Tender Land William Kent Krueger, Atria, $27,The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street Karen White, Berkley, $26,The Secrets We Kept Lara Prescott, Knopf, $26.95,Becoming Michelle Obama, Crown, $32.5,How to Be an Antiracist Ibram X. Kendi, One World, $27,Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero Christopher McDougall, Knopf, $27.95,A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler, St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99,The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, HarperOne, $16.99,My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite, Anchor, $14.95,Flights Olga Tokarczuk, Riverhead Books, $17,Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson, Spiegel & Grau, $16,The Crying Book Heather Christle, Catapult, $16.95,How to Change Your Mind Michael Pollan, Penguin, $18,The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home Denise Kiernan, Touchstone, $17,Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 Max Hastings, Harper Perennial, $22.99,Shoe Dog Phil Knight, Scribner, $20,The Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen, $12.95,
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What's happening at Southern Indies across the South?
See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you.

Laura Kaomie, Eliza Knight and Heather Webb, Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution  (author appearance)
Heather Webber | 11/17/2019, 2:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Kids Event: Pet Partners Read With Me  (author appearance)
11/17/2019, 11:00 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Cooking School: New Ideas for Thanksgiving Sides and Desserts with Sheri Castle  (author appearance)
11/17/2019, 3:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Children's author event with Megan Alexander, author of One More Hug  (author appearance)
Megan Alexander | 11/17/2019, 7:00 PM | Parnassus Books | Nashville, TN

Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin  (author appearance)
Jean | 11/18/2019, 6:30 PM | Oxford Exchange | Tampa, FL

Hear Men Read Aloud 'The Apology' by Eve Ensler  (author appearance)
11/18/2019, 6:00 PM | Firestorm Books & Coffee | Asheville, NC

Author Event: Ribbons of Scarlet  (author appearance)
Laura Kamoie | 11/18/2019, 06:30 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Author Event: Ribbons of Scarlet  (author appearance)
Heather Webb | 11/18/2019, 06:30 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Author Event: Ribbons of Scarlet  (author appearance)
E. Knight | 11/18/2019, 06:30 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Book Signing & Talk • Cassandra King Conroy  (author appearance)
Cassandra King Conroy | 11/19/2019, 04:30 pm | Ernest & Hadley Booksellers | Tuscaloosa, AL

Maulik Pancholy  (author appearance)
Maulik Pancholy | 11/19/2019, 6:30 PM | Oxford Exchange | Tampa, FL

Jonathan Blum and Sabrina Orah Mark  (author appearance)
Sabrina Orah Mark | 11/19/2019, 6:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Einat Admony - SHUK - in conversation with Alon Shaya  (author appearance)
Einat Admony | 11/19/2019, 7:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Children's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/19/2019, 10:30 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Book Your Lunch with Mary Whyte  (author appearance)
Mary Whyte | 11/19/2019, 12:00 PM | Fiction Addiction | Greenville, SC

The Crying Book with Heather Christle in conversation with Kamilah Aisha Moon  (author appearance)
Heather Christle | 11/20/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Shane Leif and John McCusker - JOCKOMO: The Native Roots of Mardi Gras Indians - launch  (author appearance)
Shane Leif | 11/20/2019, 6:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Frank LaRue Owen signs The Temple of Warm Harmony  (author appearance)
Frank LaRue Owen | 11/20/2019, 5:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Karen Humeniuk Launch Party  (author appearance)
Karen Humeniuk | 11/20/2019, 1:30 PM | Fiction Addiction | Greenville, SC

Book Signing & Talk • Lynn Cullen  (author appearance)
Lynn Cullen | 11/21/2019, 04:30 pm | Ernest & Hadley Booksellers | Tuscaloosa, AL

Ace Atkins  (author appearance)
Ace Atkins | 11/21/2019, 6:30 PM | Oxford Exchange | Tampa, FL

Rebecca Lang: Pecans: Recipes & History of an American Nut  (author appearance)
Rebecca Lang | 11/21/2019, 6:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

M. Randal O'Wain on Thacker Mountain Radio with MEANDER BELT at The Lyric  (author appearance)
M. Randal O'Wain | 11/21/2019, 6:00 PM | Square Books | Oxford, MS

Courtney Lix  (author appearance)
Courtney Lix | 11/21/2019, 06:00 pm | Blue Ridge Books & News | Waynesville, NC

Bookends Bookclub discusses Philip Roth's novel, The Plot Against America  (author appearance)
11/21/2019, 3:30 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Ibram X. Kendi  (author appearance)
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | 11/22/2019, 6:30 PM | Oxford Exchange | Tampa, FL

Authors Doris Payne & Zelda Lockhart in Conversation on the Making of Diamond Doris  (author appearance)
Doris Payne | 11/22/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Anne Byrn Author of Skillet Love  (author appearance)
Anne Byrn | 11/22/2019, 11:00 AM | Litchfield Books | Pawleys Island, SC

Charles D. Thompson, Jr., Going Over Home: A Search for Rural Justice in an Unsettled Land, with special guest host Marcie Cohen Ferris  (author appearance)
Charles D. Thompson | 11/23/2019, 4:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Emily Wallace, Road Sides: An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the South  (author appearance)
Emily Wallace | 11/23/2019, 11:00 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Dale Neal, Appalachian Book of the Dead, with Marjorie Hudson  (author appearance)
Dale Neal | 11/23/2019, 2:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Author Event: Kathryn Taylor  (author appearance)
Kathryn Taylor | 11/23/2019, 02:00 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia  (author appearance)
11/24/2019, 3:00 PM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

Deboleena Roy Presents: Molecular Feminisms  (author appearance)
Deboleena Roy | 11/25/2019, 06:00 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Science Fiction Book Club  (author appearance)
11/25/2019, 7:00 PM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

Author Event: Jim Hamilton  (author appearance)
Jim Hamilton | 11/25/2019, 07:00 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Social Justice Book Club  (author appearance)
11/26/2019, 7:00 PM | Firestorm Books & Coffee | Asheville, NC

Children's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/26/2019, 10:30 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Miss Malaprop's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/27/2019, 10:00 AM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

"selfcarefully" Book Launch  (author appearance)
Gracey Obuchowics | 11/29/2019, 6:00 PM | Firestorm Books & Coffee | Asheville, NC

Children's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/29/2019, 10:30 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Jon Sealy Author of The Edge of America  (author appearance)
Jon Sealy | 11/29/2019, 11:00 AM | Litchfield Books | Pawleys Island, SC

Indies First Small Business Saturday  (author appearance)
11/30/2019, 9:00 AM | Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe | Asheville, NC

Authors Round the South |
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