Find hundreds of great books—from the hottest new releases and bestsellers to tried and true classics to rare gems—each hand-picked and hand-curated from Southern indie booksellers' websites, newsletters, emails, facebook and twitter posts and from the moments when they stop us in the street, push a book in our hands and say…"YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS!"
RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters, Ellie Snowdon (Illustrator) (List price: $14.99, Walker Books US), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
A haunted manor, star crossed lovers, a good guy to save the day – what more could you ask for in a wonderfully creepy gothic thriller set in the 1940s and in modern day? How about a really great surprise ending?
The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James (List price: $26.99, Minotaur Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.
Our differences should never be hidden as a means of conformity, but fully embraced for their powerful ability to make us unique individuals. It's a simple sentiment, if not a tired one, but TJ Klune has a magical power that allows him to breathe new, exhilarating life into that simplicity. With The House in the Cerulean Sea, he has skillfully crafted a contemporary fable filled with humor, wit, overwhelming delight, and some of the most colorfully drawn characters I've ever had the privilege of meeting in a book. Positively queer and heartfelt, you'll find that TJ Klune is a brilliant writer and a masterful storyteller.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (List price: $26.99, Tor Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
The newest from three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin is an epic tribute to New York City that runs on pure adrenaline with a Lovecraftian back story and a hip hop backbeat. Five New Yorkers, some born to the city and others only recently arrived, find themselves the sudden manifestations of the soul of the Big Apple and the only ones standing between the city and its total destruction at the tendrils and tentacles of an eldritch city-eating horror. A big departure from The Broken Earth trilogy, but with its powerful political commentary, The City We Became is sure to please Jemisin fans, all while embracing superhero and horror fans.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison (List price: $28.00, Orbit), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.
Katie Straw worked at a women's shelter. She was really good at her job because seemed to understand how the residents were feeling as they hide out from, and attempted to recover from their abusive situations.Then Katie is found dead, an apparent suicide, or so the police believe, until they discover that she was NOT who she claimed to be. Told in the voice of "then" and "now" Katie tells her story leading up to her death, and the lead police detective tells his as the investigation continues.This is a debut novel by Jessica Moor, she has created a difficult read at times as the varying themes of abuse are brought to light. A difficult book to read as you come to fear that Katie's killer may just get away with murder!
The Keeper by Jessica Moor (List price: $16.00, Penguin Books), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.
This is an intriguing and touching memoir of James's struggles early in life and how she rose to career highs with hard work and motivation. She suffered abuse as a young woman and throughout her work life simply because she was a female and the way she shook it all off is inspiring. This book really shows the rewards of dedication to one's craft and that you don't need formal schooling to make something of yourself. I am so impressed at her strength and intellect and would love to hear more of her story.
Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James (List price: $26.99, Ecco), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
Laurie has been with her partner for 18 years. He's been her first and only and she's still just as much in love with him now. So she's shocked one evening when he gets home and he tells her that he doesn't want to have kids and he feels trapped. He wants to break up. Laurie is heartbroken and since they work together, she has to see him all the time. It gets worse when he immediately starts dating someone else. And then his new girlfriend is pregnant. Laurie is destroyed, but when she gets trapped in an elevator with Jaime, the office Lothario. They soon concoct a fake romance. She makes her ex jealous and he shows he's more serious to his bosses so he can hopefully snag a promotion. This is a fun romance. Laurie and Jaime are hilarious and fun together. This my first read from this author, but I hope to read many more now!
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (List price: $15.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Bookmiser, Roswell, GA.
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer
How to Be Fine is self-help book guide to reading self-help books. But also just a self-help book for the modern world. Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer have done the heavy lifting of reading and living by popular self-help books and then distilled them down into what worked, what didn't, and what they wished would be addressed more. Readers can use this as a stand alone self-help or a guide to finding more, but anyone with a desire to better themselves will be served by giving this a read. The authors frequently emphasize that "Only you are an expert in you," and that is a message we can all stand to hear more often.
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer (List price: $25.99, William Morrow), recommended by Page 158 Books, Winston-Salem, NC.
Then The Fish Swallowed him is an amazing debut for Iranian author, Amir Ahmadi Arian. The novel is set in modern Tehran and follows bus-driver Yunus from a weekly book-club, to a bus-drivers’ union strike, to an unexpected arrest, and finally to solitary confinement in prison, peppered with days of brutal interrogation. Yunus replays his life in his mind while imprisoned to figure out how he ended up in this position, and even develops a mild version of Stockholm-syndrome as he ends up wanting to please his interrogator, Hajj Saeed. This book is blistering and unforgiving, but it’s also incredibly beautiful in describing the struggle of an everyday citizen in Tehran. It’s a great read to spur discussion for those looking for book-club picks.
Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian (List price: $25.99, HarperVia), recommended by .novel, Memphis, TN.
Night Vale fans rejoice! Here is the latest offering from the talented offbeat minds of Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink – creators of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I don’t want to give anything away because that would spoil your enjoyment of this book. However, I will say this much: If you are already listening to Welcome to Night Vale, get this book. If you aren’t already listening, you need to start listening!! While being a fan definitely helps, it is not ultimately a bar to reading and enjoying this book. It might even get you to start listening!
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor (List price: $21.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.
Four stories wheelbarrowed down a potholed pathway of flawed love 'round the fecund pond in history's horribly funded public park. The cartoon-strength attitudes of the four (or five) wonderfully constructed main characters gave me the strength to accept each of their fates with que sera and a sigh.
The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (List price: $28.99, Harper), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.
Princess Alyrra has lived her life in fear. Between her cruel family and the court games she's been forced to play, she still managed to hold onto her humanity without breaking. So when she's sent to a far away kingdom to be wed, she sees it as a new beginning. That is, until a evil sorceress and a cruel rival get together to steal her identity and her face. This retelling of the Goose Girl was fantastic. Honestly, I don't care for the Goose Girl fairy tale, it distressed me a a child, so I was excited to see a retelling that gave some justice to the princess in a more satisfactory way. I also enjoyed how the prince was smart enough to figure out she'd been replaced. I hated when something was so obvious but no one but the reader saw it.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani (List price: $18.99, Harper Teen), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
Rose Gold Watts has been plotting revenge for a long time. She's had five years to think about it--the amount of time her mother, Patty, has been in prison. For years, Patty had their entire small town fooled into thinking Rose Gold was chronically ill from birth. But it was Patty's literal poisoning of her daughter that caused Rose Gold's frailty. Now a young adult, Rose Gold has a baby, a house, and a plan to make her mother's life a living hell. And as soon as Patty gets out of prison, Rose Gold sets that plan into motion. What follows is an amazing, gripping, twisted novel. I'd tell you more, but it's best if Rose Gold does that.
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (List price: $26.00, Berkley), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.
What happens when wild meets the human race?Author Taylor Brown has flawlessly executed a sweeping story of exotic animal exploitation extending from the savannas of Africa, to a war-torn Baghdad zoo, to the Southeastern United States.
Anse Caulfield is a life-toughened Vietnam veteran and former jockey who, for reasons of his own, uses an ill-gotten windfall to establish Little Eden, a wildlife sanctuary on the coast of Georgia. Here, a collection of unforgettable mavericks, living on the periphery of society, wage an unofficial war of their own to rescue exotic animals from the hands of greed and cruelty.Brown has the rare ability to place his readers into the minds of his characters, allowing them to inhabit their skin. We can tap into their senses, passions, and motivations. Every page explodes and every line is pure poetry.
Pride of Eden is original, sensitive, and unsparing. This novel is one more notch in the belt that is Taylor Brown's literary genius.
Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown (List price: $26.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Coutnry Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Young, handsome, rich and riding high in polling, Congressman Alexander Paine (R) has everything going for him when a stuffed aardvark shows up on his doorstep. Not just any aardvark, but one taxidermied by highly respected Titus Downing in the late 19th century. The story alternates between these two men's lives and the secret they share giving readers a very entertaining ride.
Enter the Aardvark by Jessica Anthony (List price: $26.00, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy is an awesome journey. Hop on a sky-ship with twins, Arthur and Maudie, on an expedition headed for an arctic place yet to be explored, to find out what really happened to their explorer father. Full of excitement, intrigue and suspense, Brightstorm is an enthralling adventure not to be missed.
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (List price: $18.95, Norton Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.
It’s 1949 in Gladiola, Texas. Everyone in town is excited about the Merci train full of gifts rolling through from France as a thank you for America’s help in WWII. Glory Bea is expecting a special gift to arrive on the train, her father. No one can stop her from believing in this miracle, not her mom’s new boyfriend or the grownups who thwart her railroad scouting mission. Blue Skies is perfect for fans of heartfelt middle grade with a twist of humor.
Blue Skies by Anne Bustard (List price: $17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.
Most stories surrounding this era, especially concerning women, come from the Salem witch trials, and largely from the male perspective. It is refreshing to have a novel about early colonial female relationships from their viewpoint. The class and religious arguments Nesbit employs to her narrative add both more intrigue and layers to these previously one dimensional women. Though their circumstances were vastly different from women of today, the love and justice that fueled them remains evident today.
Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit (List price: 26.00, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
Afrofuturism and the unique style of Octavia Butler is reborn! This collection of short stories inspired by the legendary author with a dash of Beyonce's black feminism introduces the empowering concept to new, younger readers. Each story offers enchanting, powerhouse heroines who show readers how independence is life's true magic. Fourteen years after her passing, Octavia Butler continues to amaze and inspire writers and readers everywhere with her daring characters and prose.
A Phoemix Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell (List price: $18.99, Mulholland Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.
Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Last Taxi Driver by Lee Durkee
Tin House Books | List Price: $25.95.
A Winter 2020 Okra Pick!
.novel, Memphis, TN
The Last Taxi Driver is both amusing and discomforting at the same time. The frenetic pace of the novel takes Lou, one of the last drivers of a dying profession, through the darkened corners of the Mississippi Delta, in which almost every character displays some form of codependency. Between the hospital, the liquor store, the local seedy motel, and the nearby city of Memphis... every passenger seems to be going nowhere, even though they have somewhere to be. The main character compares himself to Charon in Greek mythology (and rightfully so) as he ferries meth-heads, drunk prep students, convicts, and elderly women to their destinations. Though it’s a quick read reminiscent of Bukowski, this story will also resonate with lovers of the dark comedy and tragedy so closely associated with Southern literature.
Square Books, Oxford, MS
Lee Durkee’s debut novel Rides of the Midway was published in 2001. This funny and affecting Bildungsroman set in Mississippi perfectly captured the 70s. Almost twenty years later, Durkee delivers his sophomore novel The Last Taxi Driver about a pre-Uber driver, Lou, in a small town. In a fever dream of events, Lou shares his philosophy, knowledge and rules for driving. By turns hilarious, angry and sweet, once again Durkee perfectly captures the mood of our time.
Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
On this hilarious and harrowing tour through small-town Mississippi, criminal misfits, beleaguered addicts, and hospital escapees climb in and out of Lou’s dilapidated cab, leaving behind each time a striking stench, a thoughtful line, or, in one passenger’s case, an entire pizza. As Lou drives and drives (and drives), these encounters slowly sap him of his sanity, such that the borders between reality and imagination, between the present and memory become bleary and permeable. By the time this dizzying, darkly comic taxi ride finally comes to an end, we emerge into the Mississippi night feeling repulsed and exhausted, but also, somehow, revived and grateful.
I loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn't get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.
Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.