GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • Last Day by Domenica Ruta

    TITLEAuthor Domenica Ruta builds a wonderful and complex narrative around the fictional holiday of Last Day, a superstitious holiday of cleansing celebrated every year on the supposed eve of the apocalypse.

    Last Day follows a collection of misguided characters as they navigate their relationships and the events leading up to the next Last Day celebration. Ruta builds dynamic characters who are always capable of surprising you, no matter how wrong they seem to be about everything.

    Last Day by Domenica Ruta ($27.00*, Spiegal & Grau), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler

    Light from Other Stars by Erika SwylerNedda Papas is eleven and space-obsessed in Easter, Florida, when Challenger explodes in the sky overhead, sending shock waves through the small NASA-adjacent town. Nedda’s father, a scientist grieving the death of his infant son, the passing of his daughter’s youth, and the degeneration of his hands, has been conducting fragile and dangerous experiments, sent over the edge and altering the fabric of time in wondrous and tragic ways after Challenger’s demise.

    Years later, Nedda has achieved her dream of spaceflight, hurtling toward a distant planet when a dire malfunction causes her to reckon with her past in order to preserve the possibility for a future. Light from Other Stars is a thrilling journey through space and time and a deeply moving exploration of the bond between parent and child.

    Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler ($27.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

    Miracle Creek by Angie KimWow! What a powerful story and terrific courtroom drama from a debut novelist. Kim’s background as a trial lawyer and a teen aged immigrant from Korea really brought to life the struggles the Yoo family face trying to get to America for the sake of their daughter and makes the courtroom drama so intense that you wish you were there to hear the lawyers’ interrogations in person.

    Miracle Creek is a remarkably written story about families and what sacrifices are made and what lies are told to try and protect those near and dear. But, the lies – which seemed harmless by themselves – stack up like dominoes and soon cascade to a tragic end, one that might not have happened if just one small seemingly insignificant act or one small seemingly insignificant lie had not occurred.

    Miracle Creek by Angie Kim ($27.00*, Sarah Crichton Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Editor by Steven Rowley

    The Editor by Steven Rowley

    The Editor opens with a nervous meeting between debut novelist James Smale and a potential editor who turns out to be none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

    Rowley perfectly captures the charm and grace of this American icon while portraying her in the role of devoted editor completely invested in helping her author find his true story. In turn, Smale’s journey to confront his past and repair his relationship with his mother resonates on a personal level with Onassis’s most personal role as a mother.

    This is the first book in a very long time that kept me reading far past my bedtime! Rowley perfectly aligns these two characters’ stories, creating a heartwarming story perfect for readers who appreciate a powerful family story with a touch of history and intrigue.

    The Editor by Steven Rowley ($27.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Sing to It by Amy Hempel

    Sing to It by Amy HempelAmy Hempel has mastered the short story, and Sing to It is no letdown, and brimming with the kind of simple, glorious humanity one comes to expect from her writing.

    Sing to It by Amy Hempel ($25.00*, Scribner), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore Café, Asheville, NC.

  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

    The Other Americans by Laila LalamiThe first word I thought as I finished this book was "beautiful." With the precision of a surgeon, Lalami crafts a terrific follow up to The Moor's Account. Told in succinct chapters from many characters perspectives, she doesn't discredit their accounts or create unreliable narrators as much as she simply delves into human nature. As a young woman returns home with the news of her father's sudden death in a hit and run, she finds much more about herself and family secrets than she intends. Each character is wonderfully crafted and important to the story so that most of all I came away with the knowledge that you can never fully know all sides of a story. I have a feeling this will hold up through the year as a favorite.

    The Other Americans by Laila Lalami ($25.95*, Pantheon), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

    Gingerbread by Helen OyeyemiCalling this a fairytale retelling does not do Gingerbread justice. Oyeyemi twists the story of Hansel and Gretel and the lore surrounding gingerbread in so many ways that you almost feel you have consumed the fabled treat yourself and are reawakening in the world of Druhastrana. The heart of this story is the relationships, between family, friends, and one's idea of self. It's a crazy ride and oh so delicious.

    Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

    The Secret of Clouds by Alyson RichmanWhat an impact a loving and caring teacher can make on the life of a child. This is definitely a love letter to all the amazing teachers who go above and beyond each and every day to teacher our precious children.  Teachers have that special something that digs deep to bring out the best in each child. Alyson Richman does it again. A sure winner.

    The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • The Heavens by Sandra Newman

    The Heavens by Sandra NewmanBen and Kate meet at a party in a progressive NYC in the year 2000. They begin to fall in love but Kate has had these dreams since childhood that take her back to Elizabethan England where her actions change the reality she wakes up in each time. As her current world gets worse and her friends get more skeptical of her sanity, Kate tries to figure out what paths to choose in her dreams to save the future. A very intimate, emotional and at some moments downright heartbreaking look at perception, morality, and humanity, this book shook me and will be one of the best of 2019. 

    The Heavens by Sandra Newman ($26.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

    Lost Children Archive by Valeria LuiselliA heady yet accessible exploration of family and America's collective past that reaches into a variety of texts and art forms for inspiration. But it's the ambition of Luiselli's writing and its overall impact that makes this novel such a monument.

    Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli ($27.95*, Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

     A Winter 2019 Okra Pick

  • Crudo by Olivia Laing

    Crudo by Olivia LaingWith any luck, Crudo will be one of most talked about books this year. I sure hope so. Crudo asks questions about narrative proximity and perspective, as it emerges from recent events (Brexit, the 2016 presidential election, the solar eclipse) to articulate what we've felt, what we're feeling. Plus, it's a story. It's a fictionalized memoir by Kathy Acker, not written by Kathy Acker. I found comfort in this book, which is brave to trouble waters of form and subjectivity, and to ask about empathy. 

    Crudo by Olivia Laing ($21.00*, W.W. Norton & Company), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

    America for Beginners by Leah Franqui This book was a delight. America for Beginners is a story about acceptance as well as the immigrant experience. Franqui delves into cultural prejudice and biases in an accessible and subtle way. This would be a good vacation read!

    America for Beginners by Leah Franqui ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

    The Great Believers by Rebecca MakkaiThe Great Believers is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book. 

    The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai ($27.00*, Viking), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

    A Spring 2018 Read This! Next pick

  • A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen MirzaI have been ensconced in this book for a week and I don't want it to end. Such a beautiful story weaving a family new to this country and surviving children as the first generation in the USA, the 9/11 attacks while living as Muslims in California and the everyday angst of trying to please parents, siblings, community and finding yourself. So full of love for family and an intricate, in-depth knowledge of the reality of living as Muslims in present day America. I loved and understood each character and could relate to how they saw the world after living inside their heads. Reminiscent of The Kite Runner, this novel will resonate for years to come.

    A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza ($27.00*, SJP for Hogarth), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Varina by Charles Frazier

    Varina by Charles FrazierIf you think there is nothing new or even useful left to be said about the Civil War, you need to read Varina. Frazier uses the real First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis, to tell the story of the war and its sad denouement. The broad outlines of the story are true: Mississippi-born Varina Howell married much-older Jefferson Davis after having been educated in Philadelphia. She never thought the South could win and secretly considered the war folly from the outset. In a scandalous show of indifference, she went home before the end of Davis’ inauguration ceremony. Once installed as the First Lady in what was known as the Grey House in Richmond, Varina rose to the occasion, helping with the war effort in various ways. As Richmond fell, she and her children fled, but were captured, along with Jefferson Davis. She spent time with the children in Savannah under house arrest, then at Fort Monroe in Maryland with her husband. She lived alone abroad, then with her husband near Biloxi, Mississippi until his death, then moved to New York City and wrote a regular column for the New York Times.

    Varina, as Frazier conceives her, is smart and bold, often using morphine to soften her edges. She was never quite what the South wanted her to be, nor was she keen to become so. After she loses her best friend, Mary Chestnut, she muses that you don’t get to choose who you outlive. And, indeed, she outlived all but one of her seven children, as well as her husband and, of course, the Confederacy itself. It is true that she took in a mulatto child during her time in Richmond, raising him alongside her own children for a time. “Jimmie” was one of the children who fled with her after the fall of Richmond. History doesn’t record what happened to him after he was separated from Varina in her capture and taken North. In Frazier’s re-telling, however, the adult Jimmie reads an account of Varina and her mulatto ward in a (very real) book called “First Days Among the Contrabands,” published in 1893. Based on hazy memories, he believes himself to be the Jimmie in the book. He visits Varina at a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY, where they are reunited. Their series of meetings grounds the book, which is told in flashback.

    If you enjoyed Cold Mountain, you must read Varina. Frazier’s virtuoso prose is infused with melancholy, but his Varina is surprisingly relatable, recognizable to anyone who’s felt powerless over a situation. The real Varina is said to have admitted that the South deserved to lose, and of course she was right. But this book asks us to understand, if not to forgive, and to move on. Faulkner famously wrote that “the past is never dead.” Varina attempts to put a stake through the heart of the Lost Cause.

    Varina by Charles Frazier ($27.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld

    You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis SittenfeldThere is a certain feeling I have reading Curtis Sittenfeld's work, like I'm a little drunk and oversharing with someone who happens to be a great writer. These stories do not disappoint. Her characters are refreshingly unlikable, brash, imperfect, funny, and Sittenfeld is a genius at placing them in perfectly fraught situations; not physically dangerous, but challenging and deliciously complicated. What these stories have in common is that they all contain moments of thrilling transparency, when, for a brief, satisfying time, we are allowed to see these people (and all people) for who they truly are.

    You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan HollinghurstThe Sparsholt Affair is a novel about time and memory. As you read each section, you see how time has changed England and these characters. Hollinghurst is so good at moments, I found myself slowing down so I wouldn't miss anything. Somehow, he's attuned to the frequencies of human interaction invisible to most writers. Such a pleasure to read.

    The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst ($28.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto UrreaThis book is beautiful in its writing, voice, and sadness. His books continue to get better with each new one. I am excited to hand this over to our customers who are already fans of his and I'm looking forward to creating new fans of Urrea through this book. 

    The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea ($27.00*, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen

    The Sea Beast Takes a Lover Michael AndreasenMasterfully combining otherworldly magic and mystery with ordinary awkwardness and unease, Andreasen tells us stories of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, sea beasts and lovers as if they were our own fantastic lives.

    The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen ($25.00*, Dutton Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

    Blood Sisters by Jane CorryBlood Sisters opens with a radio announcement that a murder has occurred at a men’s prison, with details to come. Allison is leading a lonely single life barely making ends meet teaching art lessons when she sees an advertisement for a job teaching art in a men’s prison takes the job. She is guilt ridden and unhappy and we slowly discover why as the story of Allison and her younger half-sister Kitty is told in flashbacks from two points of view.

    Blood Sisters is a sad story of sibling rivalry, parents who don’t always do the right thing, teen violence, and a childish prank all of which probably contributed to the tragedy which occurred when Kitty was 11 and Allison was a senior in high school, and which kept Allison so filled with guilt. We think we know what happened 15 years ago, and we think we know what just happened at the prison. But, as the story is slowly revealed we find that truths and lies become totally intertwined and what really happened both at the time of the accident and in the present at the prison is a total surprise.

    Blood Sisters by Jane Corry ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    The Woman in White by Wilkie CollinsAnother classic I'd never read! Although The Woman in White received mixed reviews when it was published in the mid-19th century, it was an immediate hit with the reading public. I can see why. For one thing, Wilkie Collins is a master of the cliffhanger: I lost count of how many there were throughout the book, and each was put to excellent use. For another, he draws wonderful characters, making them beautifully (and horribly) specific, and thus, hard to forget. I admit that I had little patience with Laura Fairlee, the book's angelic ingenue, who seems always on the verge of fainting, but I recognize that she is a contrivance of the age in which the novel was written, and the other characters are all so deliciously wrought that it seems unfair to quibble over Laura's "girly" characteristics.

    The Woman in White is not only a mystery but a true thriller, and it was said at the time that Collins had written "something completely new." It's not often that I am moved as I was when reading this novel: in fear, anticipation, sadness, and excitement. Ultimately, Collins is simply a marvelous storyteller. Aspiring writers can learn much about how to engage readers' interests and emotions effectively; readers will find a novel that they can completely and gladly lose themselves in. And isn't that something we all want and need from time to time?

    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ($12.99*, MacMillan Collector's Library), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani A huge best-seller in France, The Perfect Nanny packs a punch that its brief length belies. It addresses issues both topical and enduring through the lens of the relationship of a young professional Parisian couple and the caregiver they hire for their two young children when the mother has a chance to return to work.

    The shock of the novel's chilling first sentence, "The baby is dead," is elegantly balanced by the complex issues Slimani addresses: our expectations of mothers' responsibilities, our connection to the people we employ, our view of immigrants, and the ways in which how see ourselves differs from the realities of who we really are.

    This is a striking, powerful novel that, rightly, leaves us with more questions than answers. It's a book that doesn't let go easily, and as a reader, I was the better for that.

    The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani ($16.00*, Penguin Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

    An American Marriage by Tayari JonesI fell in love with Tayari Jones's writing when I read Silver Sparrow in 2011, and I've been waiting somewhat impatiently for Tayari's next book, An American Marriage, to be published. It was well worth the wait. An American Marriage is a beautifully crafted story of love, loyalty, and loss in the midst of an undeserved but all too common tragedy. What does it mean to truly love someone? How can marriage vows be kept when something so unexpected comes between spouses? Just read this. Do not read the jacket copy. Do not read a synopsis. Just trust me.

    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

    The Immortalists by Chloe BenjaminFrom Lemuria Books blog:
    "The year is 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side and the Gold siblings have heard rumors of a mystical psychic living in their area. This rumored gypsy-lady claims to be able to tell anyone the exact date that they will die. The siblings, all under the age of thirteen, decide to visit the woman together and then–one at a time–learn the exact date of their death. Such is the setup for Chloe Benjamin’s new novel, The Immortalists [...]Each story holds your attention, even though you know the outcome. It’s almost impossible to not become emotionally invested in each sibling. Benjamin has written a rich and thought provoking novel on the nature of believing. How does learning when you will die, even if it could be untrue, determine how you live your life in the present? Is our time of death predetermined, or can we play a part in changing our destiny? This fascinating read leaves you dreaming for long afterward."

    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

    TITLEI'm presently gobsmacked by and head-over-heels in love with Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon, a gorgeous, searing first novel that takes on themes of grace, God, desire, truth, and family. Told in an array of tenses and forms that range from poetry to email (and everything in between), Fire Sermon takes great risks stylistically, as well as topically, and leaves nothing stable in its wake. It is unsparing and uncompromising; it is singular; it is innervating and strong; and it is a deeply, wonderfully stirring work of art.

    Fire Sermon is a force. With the power of a sacred text, and the intimacy of a confession, Jamie Quatro lays bare marriage, sex, art, parenthood, everything. I am in awe of this book.

    Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

    The Afterlives by Thomas PierceJim Byrd is not really obsessed with death, mortality, and ghosts, but after a peculiar health scare, he can't avoid them. From cryonics to psychic mediums, he seems haplessly fated to encounter the full range of mortality cures. Central among them--and deservedly central in this book--is a staircase at the back of an old house where supernatural physics seem to be in control. As a mini-prologue to each chapter, Pierce lays out a montage of events in the life of previous residents and their families. At first these vignettes seem to support a little ghost story. But by the end, they resolve brilliantly into a poignant comment on Jim's misadventures, and what at first was a story concentrated on death and the hereafter satisfyingly becomes a novel about the ephemeral fragility of life itself.

    The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Turnrow Books, Greenwood, MS.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

    Rich and Pretty by Rumaan AlamRich and Pretty reads like a romance between two friends, exploring the ups and downs that occur in any long friendship. Since they were eleven, Lauren and Sarah have been best friends, and now in their thirties, Sarah is getting married and their relationship will evolve once again. Alam gets the little things right, building and surveying their relationship perfect detail by perfect detail, including their lives and secrets separate from one another. By the end, we know these two women as individuals, as a unit, and feel lucky to have seen their friendship in all its iterations and, truly, its beauty.

    Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam ($25.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise WolasThis is the kind of book that changes the reader alongside the change of the characters. I felt the coin drop just as the characters did and marveled at the skill displayed on each page by Wolas. This is a feminist novel through and through--one that fits the time we are in now--but this is all subtext. The story and the characters are why I couldn't bear to put this down until I followed it through to the end.

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas ($27.99*, Flatiron Books), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’NeillTwo orphans with artistic souls survive poverty in Montreal during the Great Depression. Separated as teenagers, they spiral into a dark underworld but are eventually reunited to revisit a shared childhood dream. I was enchanted by this novel from the moment I started it. O’Neill’s writing is whimsical and haunting — the most cinematic reading experience I’ve had in a long while.

    The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

    Future Home of the Living God by Louise ErdrichA young, unmarried pregnant woman. Sound familiar? I started the year reading about one in Kevin Wilson's Perfect Little World. But the main character in Louise Erdrich's new dystopian novel Future Home of the Living God, Cedar Hawk Songwriter, faces completely different obstacles for her and her unborn child. A descendant of Ojibwe Indians and adopted by a liberal white couple, Songwriter's world is one where evolution has stopped and the days are full of uncertainty and strange, threatening people and creatures. As she wrestles with what the future holds, she juggles relationships with the father of her child, her birth family and her adoptive family. Food for thought about what the world might look like in the not-too-distant future.

    Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich ($28.99*, Harper), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

    The End We Start From by Megan HunterThe great flood has come to London. Through short, poetic paragraphs we see flashes of the chaotic conditions and the different shades of insanity it breeds, but the world-building of the apocalyptic flood and its aftermath is not the point. Instead it is the narrator's relationship with her newly born son - the primal centrality of motherhood and the demands it makes on survival - even as the fallout from the disaster surrounds them. This is a book you will read in a sitting but will stay on your mind for days afterward.

    The End We Start From by Megan Hunter ($22.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

    The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman You don't have to have read Practical Magic to enjoy Hoffman's prequel, although I imagine it would add to the experience. I am not a fan of magical realism or fantasy. But, I decided to read this timely novel this week; Halloween week. And it worked for me. What's more Halloween-like than a story about a family of witches? Well, nothing. Three siblings live in NYC and are visited by their cousin who is also a witch. There's a curse on the Owen's family. Any man who falls in love with them is doomed. And they know this. But they decide to test the waters... So to speak.

    The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman ($27.00*, Simon & Schuster), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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

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

  • An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

    An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih AlameddineOn the first page, a 72-year-old woman in Beirut starts to tell us how she accidentally shampooed her hair blue. I fell in love with her and the book soon after. Aaliya tells us about her family, her city, and her beloved books in one of the most irresistible voices in modern literature.

    An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine ($16.00, Grove Press), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

    Forest Dark by Nicole KraussRemarkable. I remember reading W.G. Sebald for the first time and feeling that I was in the headspace, for a moment, of some type of uber-thinker. What an amazing montage she's created here: of theology and politics and the ancient and the ever-present. And what's more, it gets you right where you live. We've all yearned; we all yearn--right up until the end. That's what she's written: that story. I'd like to congratulate her but I'm a little scared of her--what a mind to have inside one's head.

    Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss ($27.99, Harper), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

    My Absolute Darling by Gabriel TallentMy Absolute Darling is a brand new debut novel that you will be hearing a lot about. Abbe and I found it remarkable and compelling, as have a host of other readers, while some have been repulsed by it. A disturbing, authentic, and suspenseful account of the worst and best that can coincide in the world, My Absolute Darling contains gorgeous descriptions of the natural world of the California coast, original and complex characters, and encounters with intimate, inescapable evil. Fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston is the hero and she and her father are individuals you will not be able to get out of your mind.

    My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanAs I began Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a novel by Gail Honeyman, I thought I'd encountered a cute little story about a quirky young woman whose unfiltered observations of, and responses to, people in her world were laugh-out-loud funny. But my illusions faded quickly. I learned that Eleanor's social ineptness, and a physical deformity, led to her isolation and profound loneliness. And behind the physical scar were the emotional scars inflicted by an abusive mother. This is a sober book but it's not depressing. Eleanor copes with her situation with the help of another quirky soul and professional counseling. Honeyman does a masterful job of using wit and first person narrative to create a powerful story of innocence, in spite of pain, and the possibility of recovery.

    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman ($26.00*, Pamela Dorman Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn WardIn Parnassus Books’ blog Musing: a laid-back lit journal, several popular authors wrote about the books they recommend for fall. Novelist Caroline Leavitt (Cruel Beautiful World) recommends Summer 2017 Okra Pick Sing, Unburied, Sing by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (publishing September).

    Leavitt writes: "This is Ward’s first novel since Salvage the Bones, which I reread so many times, I can practically recite it. I knew I would love this novel about an African-American boy, his younger sister, and his drug addicted mom, who go on a perilous road trip to meet the kids’ white father as he’s released from prison. This one promises to be a punch to the heart, a sensation I like in my books.” Discover more great reads for fall.

    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward ($26.00*, Scribner Book Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

    Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinLike many other readers, I quickly got swept up in Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, and I was similarly helpless against Young Jane Young's charms. Zevin's talent is to take characters we think we know--the smitten intern, the wife who stays with her cheating husband--and to give them wholly original life. This book will have you marveling at Zevin's ingenuity and sharp ear as you compulsively turn the pages.

    Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin ($26.95*, Algonquin Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick!

  • All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

    All Grown Up by Jami AttenbergIn the hands of an average author, a novel like All Grown Up, could be summarized in its first chapter. But Jami Attenberg is no average author. In this story about a 39-year-old single, childfree woman who defies convention, she utilizes each chapter to flesh out our characters from one-dimensional stereotypes into fully realized characters, emphasizing depth and richness that makes them feel so real. Perfect testament to the idea that one cannot truly know everything about anybody in one chapter.

    All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg ($25.00*, Houghton Mifflin), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer

    Less by Andrew Sean GreerIn Andrew Sean Greer's new novel, Less, novelist Arthur Less, on the brink of turning 50, runs away from an ex-boyfriend's wedding to go on a world tour. "Despite all his mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings, and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story." The voice is charming, the characters are hilarious and delightful, and you cheer for Less through this entire anxiety-ridden trek across the globe to find himself and what will make him truly happy. A perfect feel-good literary beach read for 2017!

    Less by Andrew Sean Greer ($26.00*, Lee Boudreaux Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

    The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati RoyRecently I sat in an Adirondack chair in the North Carolina mountains, and was transported to a graveyard in India through Arundhati Roy's haunting new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness . Each of the main characters―Anjum, a transgender woman; Tilottama, a woman involved with many men but in love with only one; and Musa, the man with whom she is obsessed―were complex and fascinating people. It has been many years since the publication of Roy's last novel, The God of Small Things. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness will sustain us while we wait for more of her engaging characters and beautiful writing.

    The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy ($28.95, Knopf), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

    The Light We Lost by Jill SantopoloIf you loved Me Before You, you will devour this well crafted story with a clever twist.

    The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo ($25.00*, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song) by Ryka Aoki

    He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song) by Ryka AokiIf summer 2017 won’t actually take you to Hawaii, travel via the written word! Aoki’s novel is filled with love and food and dancing and family drama. This book is perfect for: anyone who wants to sink into a character-driven read suffused with Hawaiian culture.

    He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song) by Ryka Aoki ($18.95, Topside Signature), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

    Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile MeloyFrom Parnassus Books’ blog: "I’m pretty sure that what Maile has written is a blockbuster, a bestseller, the hot book of summer. Do Not Become Alarmed is too well-written to be written off as a mere thriller, and yet it’s undeniably thrilling. It’s the story of two families, old friends, who decide to take a cruise and wind up losing their children. That’s big, and still the book is bigger than that: it’s a novel about race and class, poverty and privilege, marriage and desire, and the quest to be a perfect parent while still being yourself. It’s a book filled with rage and guilt in which the most casual actions have lasting consequences. Maile knows how to get the reader’s adrenaline pumping, but she also assumes the reader is as smart and complicated and curious as she is.” Keep reading...

    Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy ($27.00, Riverhead Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

    A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob ProehlFrom the publisher: "Valerie Torrey took her son, Alex, and fled Los Angeles six years ago--leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way.

    As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.

    A knowing and affectionate portrait of the pleasures and perils of fandom, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is also a tribute to the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son--and to the way the stories we create come to shape us.”

    A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl ($16.00. Penguin Books), recommended by Writer’s Block Bookstore, Winter Park, FL.

  • The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

    The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel"Everyone's life is a disaster." The thing that Patricia Engel does in The Veins of the Ocean is explain with her brutal honesty and beautifully flawed characters is how we all survive. Buy this for yourself or someone you love or even someone you don't. We all have regrets, buying this book won't be one of them. One of my top 5 books of the summer.

    The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel ($17.00, Grove Press), recommended by Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace

    Extraordinary Adventures by Daneil WallaceIn Daniel Wallace's new novel, Extraordinary Adventures we meet dutiful, unassuming (and lonely) Edsel Bronfman, who is suddenly galvanized into action when he must find a companion in order to be eligible for an all-expenses-paid trip to the beach. Whether you see a bit of yourself in Edsel, or you know someone like him, you'll be routing for him as remarkable events and characters unfold. A funny, perfect read for the summer!

    Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace ($25.99, St. Martin’s Press), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

    Before We Were Yours by Lisa WingateLisa Wingate is a master storyteller, and I am particularly attached to her historical fiction. Each time I read one of the books, I learn of a part of our southern past that is mostly forgotten, or in the case of the Tennessee Children's Home, swept under the rug. Rill is an amazing child faced with horrors most of us will be unable to imagine. We have Lisa Wingate to bring them to life and paint a picture of horrible corruption and poverty, but also show the amazing determination that can survive anything. The book is an expository and deeply moving family history. Any fan of southern history, especially South Carolina and Tennessee, will enjoy this book.

    Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ($26.00, Ballantine Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

    Words in Deep Blue by Cath CrowleyIt's hard to find a book that skillfully combines emotional honesty with a truly delightful tone--but Cath Crowley does just that with Words in Deep Blue. Rachel's wounded and grieving heart comes through beautifully. Her connections with Henry and her family, and her emotional growth and change feel authentic, meaningful, and memorable. As a book lover, of course I fell hard for Henry, his family, and Howling Books. I was enchanted by the idea of the Letter Library and wished so badly for a place I could communicate with other readers in the same way. I loved growing closer to Rachel, Henry, George, Martin, Cal, and the Howling Books book club through Cath Crowley's words.

    Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley ($17.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers), recommended by Johanna, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

    Grief Cottage by Gail GodwinFrom Sarah: Gail Godwin takes on the voice of a bereaved 11 year old boy in this, a gentle ghost story with understated humor and appealingly unorthodox characters, set on a South Carolina barrier island. The precocious Marcus has recently lost his mother and has his hands full with his artist great aunt who relies on a steady diet of red wine to cope with her own ghosts. Godwin does a beautiful job of exploring the unlikely pairing, the natural elements of the coast, and Marcus's growing obsession with the run down "grief cottage" and the boy who disappeared there in a hurricane 50 years earlier.

    From Belinda: The analytical Marcus, a fascinating boy with insights and poise that few adults possess, becomes convinced that he feels, and even sees, the boy who went missing from a crumbling beach house dubbed Grief Cottage. I will not soon forget Marcus; his struggle to define his sense of self and belonging leads to a crisis with profound effects to himself and those in his present, and past, life.

    Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin ($27.00, Bloomsbury USA), recommended by Sarah and Belinda, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

    Inheritance from Mother by Minae MizumuraI just finished reading an amazing new novel in translation: Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter). It’s a long novel that was published over a two-year period in a Japanese magazine, as a homage to earlier Japanese serial novels. It follows a middle-aged woman named Mitsuki and her attempts to rearrange her life upon her realization that her husband is cheating on her, that her mother will soon be dying and leaving she and her sister a sizable inheritance, and her constant ruminations on money and the ways she will fill her time and economize her savings until she, too, dies. If that all sounds morbid and dark, it is, but there is also a subtle humor at work during the novel, with both sisters talking about how they’ll celebrate when their mother finally dies--their relationship to her is fraught, to say the least--and the many flashbacks into the past add a lot of depth to the characters and the family history overall, leaving me with the feeling of really knowing these characters and of feeling sad to have to leave them by the end of the novel. Luckily, it’s relatively long, and Mizumura’s writing style is simple but elegant, not forcing you to get too bogged down in deciphering the beauty of each sentence, and really letting you enjoy the characters and the plot.

    Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura, translated by Julia Winters Carpenter ($27.95, Other Press), recommended by Jacob, Malaprops Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

    No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell WattsNo One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts is a brilliant recasting of The Great Gatsby among African-Americans in a small town in North Carolina. But I am here to tell you that you don't have to know anything about Gatsby to be completely entranced with this great new novel. Stephanie Powell Watts can flat out write.

    No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts ($26.99, Ecco Press), recommended by The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

    There Your Heart Lies by Mary GordonAward-winning author Mary Gordon's new novel, There Your Heart Lies, follows Marian as she leaves her wealthy family behind after her brother's death and volunteers to serve during the Spanish Civil War. As things become more and more volatile under Franco's regime, Marian's relationships do also. The story takes us back and forth between her time in Spain and her present life, where she is a ninety-something widow, dying of cancer. She shares her past with her granddaughter, whose observations of Marian deepened my feelings of empathy for all that had transpired over the course of her full and eventful life.

    There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon ($26.95, Pantheon Books), recommended by Mamie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)

    Dreamy and philosophical and bittersweet, this book makes me wish I could get my paw-hands on more memoirs written by polar bears.

    "After the death of all living creatures, all our unfulfilled wishes and unspoken words will go on drifting in the stratosphere, they will combine with one another and linger upon the earth like a fog. What will this fog look like in the eyes of the living? Will they fail to remember the dead and instead indulge in banal meteorological conversations like: 'It's foggy today, don't you think?'"

    Memoirs of a Polar Bear By Yoko Tawada; Susan Bernofsky (translator) ($16.95, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Elizabeth, Avid Bookstore, Athens, GA.

  • The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

    The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

    It is so easy to see people who commit acts of terrorism as nameless, soulless people, and that is why this novel is so important. I came to see intimately the lives of three young boys and their families who were deeply affected when one of the boys sets off a bomb in a crowded Delhi market. The tragedy is not to be dismissed, and Mahajan forces us to starkly examine that also. An important book, timely and necessary if we are ever to look terrorism in the face and put an end to it.

    The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan ($16.00, Penguin), recommended by Mamie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

    A heartbreaking, soul-wrenching, lovely and poetic book. Sekaran's two protagonists, Soli and Kavya, play tug of war with your heart and it's impossible to divide their stories into black and white. A politically important novel, because of its portrayal of immigration issues and the people affected by our failing policies, but Sekaran's story is much more than that; it's about love, and the storms we weather to protect it.

    Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran ($27, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Rachel, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie

    The novel could be the black comedy I've been waiting for all my life! While employing unique strategies to cope with the recent death of his wife, K. becomes quite literal-minded and loses his bull filter. Through a series of absurd events he becomes the host of a reality TV show in which he confronts people with the truth, with disastrous and hilarious results. Currie walks a tightrope of comedy over a gaping chasm of heartbreak. This is a perfect satire of modern American culture.

    The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie ($26, Viking), recommended by Tony, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

    So, the title. "Ghachar ghochar" is an untranslatable phrase uttered when things become hopelessly tangled. Like the knot on the cover. Like the lives of Vincent's family after a sudden, collective change in financial status. Like their relationship with the relentlessly imperturbable ants that have invaded the family's living quarters. Translated from Kannada (a southern Indian language), this novella-length book will grab you from the first pages and hold you until the end. A compelling, engrossing family drama that I would call delightful, but for the ending …

    Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag ($15, Penguin Books), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

    In the Babbitt house bustling like a rabbit hutch, you'll find a cast of characters you simply will not forget: a sleep-eating sister and sleep-swimming mother, a father exploring femininity, a parental parrot, and a daughter named after Elvis Presley. By attempting to understand herself, Elvis frames her life in beautiful juxtapositions, her then-life with mom and now-life without running deep and parallel. Honest with youth and grief, Elvis looks hard at what makes us human, perfectly mixing whimsy and absurdity. She exists at the intersection of science and wonder, willing to live in the face of death. Rabbit Cake is cause for celebration.

    Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett ($15.95, Tin House Books), recommended by Amanda, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Outline by Rachel Cusk

    From the publisher: Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

    Outline by Rachel Cusk ($16.00, Picador USA), recommended by Angie, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    George Saunders is too good for this world. His first novel spans just one night, and is one of the best explorations of love and death I have ever read. In a graveyard, the night Willie Lincoln is interred, we enter the bardo: a world between life and afterlife. As Lincoln mourns the death of his son, a chorus of voices share their own lives, deaths, griefs, and hopes. Like Lincoln, the novel is tender and humane, and delivers a message we all need to hear over and over again: to be as good as we can to each other.

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders ($28, Random House), recommended by Tyler, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

    Quail Ridge Books recommends Mohsin Hamid's latest book, Exit West, a beautiful yet unsettling love story of refugees, set in unnamed countries in an unnamed time. Mamie says: "In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid places us in an unnamed country (as he did in How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia), and in doing so makes what happens there a universal metaphor for war-torn countries in the Middle East. Saieed and Nadia are refugees from one such country, navigating not only the landscape but their developing love affair. They have had to leave much behind in their homeland, including Saieed’s beloved father. Reality and the fantastical blend together as they migrate from one place to another. Hamid once again sheds light on the plight of the refugees who inhabit our world. The book is full of discussable material for book clubs."

    René says: "Exit West is one of the most devastating but hopeful books I have ever read. It could not be more relevant for our times. Mohsin Hamid brings us right into his characters’ lives and makes us see that we are much more similar than different. It is a book that everyone should read."

    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ($26, Riverhead Books), recommended by Mamie and René, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

    From the publisher: When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she's fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she's left searching. Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a "perfect little world" called The Infinite Family Project--to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. Damita at The Country Bookshop says, "In the Infinite Family Project, ten babies are raised collectively with shared parents --doomed from the start! This is a compelling book with so much food for thought."

    Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson, ($26.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Damita, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Burmese Days: A Novel by George Orwell

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

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

  • Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

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

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

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

  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

    Two little girls meet in dance class and become fast friends, until one proves to be a much better dancer and a much less stable person and the whole thing falls apart. Zadie Smith proves that great literature can also be a great read. This book is a joy.

    Swing Time by Zadie Smith ($27, Penguin PRess), recommended by Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto

    Renowned for her novella Kitchen, Yoshimoto is back with the story of a love murder-suicide's aftermath. An ode to life after death-part jagged family portrait and part mystery with tugs of the surreal. As always, Yoshimoto delves into the psychology of her characters with tender attention, exploring grief and its warped passage. Murakami fans with enjoy Yoshimoto's trademark style, her prose as cleansing as steam water slipping off a mirror.

    Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto ($25, Counterpoint Press), recommended by Elese, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

    Lyrical yet endlessly gut-wrenching, History of Wolves soars on so many levels. It is a psychologically astute coming-of-age novel about a young girl who lives on the outskirts of a small Minnesota town, but it becomes much more once a classmate reports sexual abuse by a teacher, and a mysterious family moves into the new house—the only other house nearby—just across the lake. While the novel is wonderfully layered and emotionally deep, Fridlund also creates suspense just about as well as any crime writer in recent memory. If you’re looking for something exciting yet deeply fulfilling, pick this one up; but be warned, this is one of those books that you won’t be able to shake for a few days after you’ve finished it.

    History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund ($25, Atlantic Monthly Press), recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Nutshell by Ian McEwan

    A modern-day reimagining of Hamlet, as told by a third-trimester fetus. No, really! From his cramped quarters in the womb, our yet-to-be-born narrator overhears his mother and  uncle plotting to murder his father. Sure, the premise is far-fetched, but you'll be amazed how McEwan pulls it off. Nutshell is an ingenious, hilarious page-turner of a novel.

    Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese, $24.95), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, (John Batki & George Szirtes, translators)

    The Last Wolf is one fabulous sentence that runs for 70 pages. Afterwards, you can turn the book over and read the novella Herman. This book is beautiful, difficult, and absolutely worth it.

    The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, $15.95), recommended by Nathan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

    Perfume River is a haunting reflection on the psychic scars inflicted by the Vietnam War on three men. There are brothers Robert, who went to Vietnam, and Jimmy who went to Canada. And there's Bob, whose father was a Vietnam vet. In economically direct prose, Butler finds his way into the souls of men and the way they deal with their thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of the complex relationship of father and son. It took just one paragraph for me to understand why Butler is a Pulitzer winner.

    Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly $25), recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

    In Heroes of the Frontier, the main character, Josie, is a dentist by trade. When a patient sues her for malpractice, Josie grabs her kids and escapes from her work troubles and her no-good husband Carl. What she can’t escape are her invisible burdens: her past―her parents were scandal-ridden nurses―and her lack of self-confidence and sense of direction. Whether she’s running 'toward' or 'away,' the reader and her endearing children―Paul, an eight-year-old with an old soul (the adult of the family most of the time!), and Ana, who is a handful―go along for the ride.

    Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (Knopf $28.95), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    Exuberant grandiosity! A poet's belief that the world will be changed by a literary movement! You'll find people you know so well you can practically touch them despite the fact they live in Mexico City in the 1970s. I've not had more fun reading a book in ages!

    The Savage Dectives by Roberto Bolaño (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $27), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays

    There are passages in this novel that make me cry every time I read them, but not because of the great

    sadness (of losing a loved one to Alzheimers) but because of its beautiful depiction of marital and familial love.

    The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays (St. Martins Griffin) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

    In the 1970s, Joan is a professional ballerina. Her company features the Russian breakout star, Arslan Ruskov. Joan is the reason he is in the United States--she even drove the get-away car. Despite the fact that she loves Arslan, he is engaged to another woman and Joan knows she will never be a soloist, so she decides to leave the ballet world. Joan marries her high school boyfriend and they live a nice life, but when their son begins to study dance, Joan is forced back into the lifestyle. Will her secrets be exposed or will her son be able to follow his dreams?

    Astonish Me is written with a style similar to a performance. It is divided into different acts and the narration sets the scene as the events unfold. Several different topics are broached in this book, ranging from parenting styles to marriages to work ethics. This is a book that you will want to read with someone else, as the ending will leave you desperate to discuss with a friend who understands.

    Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Risen by Ron Rash

    A 2016 OKRA PICK
    I'd be happy to read Ron Rash's grocery lists. Rash stays centered in western North Carolina in his new novel, The Risen. But he moves from the sweeping forest vista of Serena and the moral issues of WWI (The Cove) to a more intimate setting. Two brothers have taken very different paths. When the events of a long-ago summer literally rise up, their family history and dynamics come bubbling up, too.

    The Risen by Ron Rash (Ecco $25.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

    The more things change, the more things stay the same. Or so it seems in this novel by Armistead Maupin. Set in 1970s San Francisco, we follow a dozen city dwellers chasing their version of their dream life in this bustling metropolis. While certain details are amusingly out-of-date, the main themes still ring true todayfriendship, companionship, heartbreak, loss, deciding what type of life you want to live and what type of person you want to be.

    Tales of the City (Harper $15.99) by Armistead Maupin, recommended by Ceewin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

    Don’t be put off by the strong sexual language at the beginning of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. It leads you to the skillfully told story of Jacob Bloch, his wife Julia, and their three sons. The growing tension and a destructive earthquake in the Middle East parallel the deterioration of the Blochs’ marriage. Having waited over a decade for a novel by Foer, author of two of my favorites--Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated--I realize that Foer has only become a more eloquent and empathetic storyteller, willing to take on the difficult issues of our time.

    Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $28), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Pond by Claire-Louise Bennet

    Interesting, contemplative, lovely, and full of exquisite prose, Pond is hard for me to define. It's low on plot but high on character development and imagery, and I appreciated how the lead character was revealed little by little through her actions and not-necessarily-reliable brand of honesty.  Also: THAT COVER! #swoon.

    Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Pub, $00), recommended by Janet at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    This is the story of Cora and her escape northward from a plantation in Georgia. Her means is the Underground Railroad, a literal underground network of tunnels and rails. Each time she surfaces, Cora finds herself in a different cultural landscape, all strange and dangerous in their own ways. It is a narrative built on true horror, spun into a fascinating but awful dystopic alternate history. Completely brutal, ingenious, and powerful.

    The Undergound Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday $26.95), recommended by Tyler at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

    If you've been in the store recently it's no secret that we've fallen in love with Ann Patchett's new novel, Commonwealth. This story of two families broken and reformed, parts blended and others shattered, feels like the book she was meant to write: complicated, intimate, ambitious, and uncomfortably true. The opening scene of the novel, a christening party at the Keating house, is such a pitch perfect rendition of the suburban '60s it could be used in virtual reality games. When an altered version of the two families moves to the Virginia Commonwealth I felt like Patchett had been secretly hanging out in my own Virginia neighborhood and was in on every conversation, gathering, and childhood excursion, back when we ran free all day, as long as we were home by supper. The story of this heartbreaking and lovable family, covering five decades, is as messy and real and beautifully told as one could wish.

    Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, ($27.99, Harper), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

    I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time! In A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Count Alexander Rostov, one of the great characters in modern fiction, reads like he leaped off the pages of a Tolstoy novel and landed in 1922, where he is placed under house arrest in Moscow's grand Metropol Hotel. The Count is elegant, sophisticated, erudite without being stuffy, wickedly funny, and in love with life. Towles takes you through 32 years of Russian history with a wonderful cast of characters, and a delightfully suspenseful plot. After 480 pages you will still mourn when you reach the end. Even better than his delightful debut, Rules of Civility.

    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking $27), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

    I can’t account for the historical accuracy of the story, but The Danish Girl is based on the true story of a young transgender woman (Lili) in the 1920s/30s.

    Born a male, Einar struggles with the secret of wanting to be a woman. His wife Greta encourages his transition and Einar becomes Lili. Lili was the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the 1930s. 

    It’s a beautifully written story about love, trust and self-discovery.
     
    The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Penguin) Recommended by Christina at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville, NC

  • Miss Jane by Brad Watson

    A subtle, yet powerful portrait of an extraordinary character, Miss Jane thrills with some of the most gorgeous prose I have ever encountered.

    Jane Chisholm is born with a genital defect that, in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century, somewhat limits her prospects for a “normal” life. Populated with lovingly wrought characters, sly humor, and keen observations of the human heart, Watson's novel is a beautiful and rare bird indeed.

    Miss Jane by Brad Watson (W. W. Norton & Company) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Zero K by Don DeLillo

    A new novel by one of the greatest authors of all time, need I say more? I needn’t… but I’m contractually obligated to. 

    With this new book, DeLillo packs the intellectual punch of White Noise or Mao II—big, expansive books that are seemingly about everything—yet this one reads as quick as his slimmer late novels. It’s all about cryogenic preservation of the brain/body, while still managing to be funny and absurdly entertaining.

    So read it. Death is not the end.

    Zero K by Don DeLillo (Scribner) Recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

    Nancy and I loved Adam Haslett's story collection, We Are Not Strangers Here. His new novel incorporates the same exquisite writing and intriguing characterization.

    He has created a beautiful story of a family haunted by mental illness. Early in the book, the father commits suicide to escape his demons, and the family is left to pick up the pieces. The oldest son suffers from the same demons, the youngest son is the peace-maker of the family, and the daughter struggles with balancing the needs of the family with a troubled but safe relationship.

    There is a Christmas scene that makes me think Haslett was eavesdropping in my living room this year! The characters are so vibrant and their situations so moving that I continue to think of them now that I've read the book to its compelling ending. Haslett has been a Pulitzer and National Book Award Finalist; I predict this will make top ten lists for 2016.

    Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (Little Brown and Company) Recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson

    Do not be fooled by the length of this book. It is short but powerful.

    It brought me right into the world of a young African-American girl and her friends in language that is both compact and lyrical. Publishers Weekly gave Another Brooklyn a well-deserved star review and said: Woodson…combines grit and beauty in a series of stunning vignettes, painting a vivid mural of what it was like to grow up African-American in Brooklyn during the 1970s…Woodson draws on all the senses to trace the milestones in a woman’s life and how her early experiences shaped her identity.

    It is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

    Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson (Amistad Press) Recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

    Written with surprising clarity and insight, this novel gives a heartbreaking account of life in England before the US joined in World War II.

    Mary North comes from an aristocratic family who detests her involvement teaching the children who have no way of escaping the violence in the city. Mary learns about love and trust through her time as a teacher and later as an ambulance driver helping victims of the relentless bombing of the city. Her boyfriend, Tom, and his roommate, Alistair, learn that doing your part in the war effort often becomes the greatest sacrifice.

    This novel will stay with you for a long time!

    Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

    A realistic look at life in 1890s New York. 

    Callaway's prose will awaken all your senses to everyday life in the growing city. She tells the story of Virginia, a writer in a family full of creativity. Virginia finds that you can never forget your first love and that finding love elsewhere can also be problematic.

    The society of artists that Ginny discovers helps her find a new focus on her life. Through several tragedies, she finds purpose in her writing even while losing those who are closest to her.

    The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway (Harper) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

    A coming of age novel reminiscent of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Mimi is a precocious young girl who struggles to survive under emotionally difficult family circumstances. Mimi wonders if she will ever achieve her dream of leaving Miller's Valley and making something of her life.

    Beautifully written!

    Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen (Random House) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

    If you are looking for a somewhat irreverent novel, don't mind some raunchy humor and language, but love a good story despite all this, you will love this novel.

    A cast of misfits comes together to form a wacky softball team and in the process learns about forgiveness and starting over. The novel centers around Jake, a 12-year-old whose love of vintage clothing and romance novels irritates his mom's live-in boyfriend. A neighbor befriends Jake and provides the things he needs to be himself. Jake soon becomes an asset that The Flood Girls, the softball team, can't afford to lose.

    The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield (Gallery Books ) Recommended by Linda H. at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

    When Alice is sent from her desk job at a New York publishing house to the Bel Air mansion of M.M. Banning, a reclusive one-hit wonder in the literary world, she relishes the idea of doing something new and helping Mimi write her next great novel.

    But it turns out, she's mostly wanted to take care of Frank, Mimi's 9-year-old son, a precocious genius who loves old Hollywood movies and dresses better than anyone you've ever met, but who can't seem to bring himself to socialize with other kids.

    As Alice is charmed by Frank, she starts to wonder about the life Mimi has built for the two of them and whether she actually has a place in it, however temporary. Fans of Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project will be drawn to Frank and his social awkwardness that somehow manages to also be endearing.

    Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson (William Morrow) Recommended by Melissa at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC.

  • The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson

    A sweeping novel about a young girl who lives with her father in Jerusalem prior to World War II She is eleven and has an absurd amount of freedom, and with that comes the potential for disaster. We follow Prue through her marriage and birth of her child. The focus of the book is the incredible way tragedies in childhood can impact your entire life. Parts of the novel are hard to read, but the brutality that exists in the world is brought to life by the author's words.

    A strong historical aspect but the main story is that of Prue's life. For any fan of wartime historical fiction.

    The Photographer's Wife By Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury USA) Recommended by Jackie at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

    I have read Kate Alcott's previous books, so I had high expectations for this novel.

    I believe this is my favorite of all the books. The view of Old Hollywood portrayed through the making of the film Gone With The Wind is captivating. Adding in the rise of the Nazi party and war in Europe gives a rare glimpse into two very separate places and how one impacts the other.

    Kate's female characters never disappoint and Julie is no exception. When you reflect on how truly unusual her path was for a Smith educated heiress she becomes even more engaging. Historical fiction fans, movie fans and readers who want to disappear into a book must read this book.

    A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott (Doubleday) Recommended by Jackie at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

    Okay, y’all. This is the most addictive, unflinching, smart book I’ve read so far this year.

    And, believe me, I could go on with the adjectives. Instead, I’ll let Joshilyn herself tell you what kind of books she writes: Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence for Smart People Who Can Catch the Nuances but Who Like Narrative Drive, and Who Have a Sense of Humor but Who Are Willing to Go Down to Dark Places.

    The Opposite of Everyone’s Paula Vauss joins Arlene Fleet, Ro Grandee, and Shandi Pierce in Joshilyn’s pantheon of incredible female protagonists. Do yourself a favor. Get to know all of them. Start with Paula.

    The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Cindy at Malaprops Bookstore Asheville NC

  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

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

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

  • Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

    I loved Katy Simpson Smith's Free Men (Harper $26.99), a novel set in 1788, in what will become Alabama, and based on the true story of an escaped slave, a white orphan, and a Creek Indian who are on the run together after committing a serious crime. As in Smith's first novel, The Story of Land and Sea (Harper $15.99), set on the NC coast during the Revolution, and which I also loved, she demonstrates a remarkable ability to fully immerse the reader in a bygone era. Free Men is part crime thriller and part meditation on freedom and the personal cost of clashing societies in a new world. Joseph Ellis has called Smith "the most sophisticated historical novelist of her generation."

    Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith (Harper), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books | Raleigh, NC.

  • My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

    Everyone else can stop writing sentences and paragraphs and even books now, because it’s impossible to beat these. Compared to this perfectly distilled little novel, bigger books seem waterlogged. If you’re a human with a family, read it. 

    My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Random House) Recommended by Mary Laura Philpott at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

    As in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Hamid ingenuously uses the 2nd person to bring you straight into the characters' lives.

    This is the story of a boy, born poor, who wants more.

    His road to wealth and love is messy, morally ambiguous and long. This is a carefully, intelligently, appealingly written story of universal truths. Do seek out interviews with Hamid, he is fascinating and learning his thought processes made me appreciate his writing even more.

    How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead) Recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC