Read This Now
What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!
RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...
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.
The prologue of Erik Larson's long awaited new novel is where he reels you in. Citing a recent move to New York City, he envisioned how it would have felt had he been a native New Yorker during 9/11, and how the people there dealt with the panic, tragedy and a new normal. He then reflected on what London would have gone through during WWII with bombings 57 nights in a row. Mr Larson relays these graphic details with his strikingly phenomenal new novel and gives you the shocking minute details never provided in school or the news. Most history books are dry. Mr. Larson's read like a novel and the facts will astound you.
This is a well-researched powerful story beginning on Churchill's first day as Prime Minister: the same day Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. We follow Churchill for the next year and examine his actions under a microscope, including insight into his family life, how he needed to convince Roosevelt to enter a war the American public refused to be involved in, and how he was able to change the course of history by trying to combat a madman and his cohorts.
Churchill was not always reasonable or even nice. In fact some of his demands, like twice daily, 98-degree baths were eccentric, but we learn who he was--warts and all. Churchill was a great leader for many reasons, especially in uniting many to defeat evil. While we go through your life it is the decisions we make that define us. We hope we make the right ones and are on the right side.
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (List price: $32.00, Crown), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.
Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Flatiron Books | List Price: $26.99.
Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
Oona Out of Order was an incredible, heart warming surprise, one that I do not regret staying up late to finish all in one go. Oona turns 19 and ends up years in the future in her 52 year old body and life, and then the next year she jumps to another, then another. Her mind aging normally, her body differently. She's forced to realize that nothing is in her control, and just because she knows what's to come, it doesn't mean that she can change it. It's terrifying, and full of hope at the same time. Warm and funny, everything anyone could want in a book. Readers of general fiction and sci-fi alike will delight at Oona Out of Order, left to wonder how no one has considered time travel in this way before and how no one will be able to do it as wonderfully as Montimore has.
Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
On her 19th birthday, Oona discovers that she will not live her adult life chronologically. At the stroke of midnight each January 1st, she time-hops in her life to different years -- from 1982 to 2015 to 1991, and back and forth, never knowing when she'll end up or how old her body will be or what will change or stay the same throughout the years. A compelling read that shows how love, connection, and family tie people together and create a life worth living, despite the intransigence of time.
Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
I love love loved this story! Oona is an unwilling time traveler who wakes up in a different year of her life every January first, 12:01am. With only the notes she leaves herself to go by (plus a little help from her mom), she must navigate being tossed into the middle of situations blind and figure out how to move forward. This book explores how we change from year to year and minute to minute, and teaches us that what we want is fluid, and that's OK. I cannot recommend this enough.
Kate Weinberg's debut novel of suspense weaves a tale of obsession, deception, and misguided love. Jess Walker is a young woman who enters an uninspiring university in East Anglia for the sole purpose of being a student of the charismatic professor of literature, Lorna Clay, who seems to have taken the position under a cloud of suspicion from her past. Clay will be conducting studies on the life and work of Agatha Christie, with an underlying theme, "People disappear when they most want to be seen."
Jess not only falls under her thrall, but also that of her three new friends who introduce her to a lifestyle of excess and awakenings, with tragic and life-altering consequences.This is a moody, mesmerizing, and literary read.
The Truants by Kate Weinburg (List price: $26.00, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.
Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL
I could not stop reading this book, even though at one point I wanted to stop, because I knew it wasn't going to end well. A blend of Romeo and Juliet with Hatfield and McCoy, set in a "nice" contemporary American neighborhood where "these things shouldn't happen." A heart-breaking, eye-opening must-read!
McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC
...A tragic story that so exactingly encapsulates this era of entitlement we are muscling our way through, where McMansions sprout like weeds, money talks more than reasons, and lives are changed irrevocably because of cultural distrust. Frankly, the best description I can provide for this powerful novel is: WOW!
Story on the Square, McDonough, GA
I can't put into words the emotions I feel after reading this book, but I what I can say is that Therese Anne Folwer has written a masterpiece. This powerful story is about the Whitmans, a white family, who have just moved next door to a black family, the Alston-Holts. Juniper Whitman and Xavier Alston-Holt are teenagers who fall in love with each other, but tension arises after Xavier's mother Valerie files a lawsuit against Juniper's stepdad Brad. Fowler's writing from the African-American perspective and experience was done beautifully and right. I want everyone to read this book!
Processed Cheese is a hilarious trip into what our money driven society looks like from a third person. From adoration of guns and porn to the names of every character, Wright puts a mirror in front of all us and makes us question what we really value.
Processed Cheese by Stephen Wright (List price: $28.00,Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.
Nyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.
If you loved The Hunger Games, you'll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.
Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99,Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.
Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Flatiron Books | List Price: $27.99.
The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
...Propelled by fear and weighing the terror of what lies behind you against what lies ahead of you, to what lengths would you go to ensure the survival of your child? The urgent and precise prose forbids you to stop reading until the end, then lingers long afterward.
WordsWorth Books, Little Rock, AR
This is a gripping novel of loss, love, incredible bravery as a Mexican woman and her young son are forced to leave their home in Acapulco and, fearing for their lives, make the perilous journey north to the US...[A] literary novel with the pacing and action of a thriller.
Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Cummins has written a real tour de force with American Dirt. The story follows Lydia and her son as they run north to the US to escape the drug cartel leader who killed the rest of their family in Mexico. But it becomes something much more universal as it explores the journey that so many migrants have undertaken, whether in search of jobs or a better life or to escape certain death, and all the ways that this journey can impact lives.
Novel, Memphis, TN
An incredibly important novel with beautiful, real characters. A truly human story. This is indeed a story that needs to be told through as many voices as possible.
Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC
...American Dirt is a raw exploration into the lives of people willing to sacrifice everything for a chance at happiness. You will not be able to put this book down as you become entranced in their lives...an important book demanding our attention with stories of drama and humanity. You will not want to put this down unless it is to share with a friend so you can talk about it
The Third Rainvow Girl is part true crime, part memoir, and fully compelling. On the frame of the unsolved Rainbow Murders Eisenberg hangs a discussion of Appalachian life and the complicated history its people have with one another, their history, and the rest of the nation. Traditional true crime reads may find the structure off-putting at first, but the alternating of past and present day events give a richer picture of a community defined by the murder of outsiders.Content warning for discussions of violence, bigotry, alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault.
The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg (List price: $27.00, Hachette Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Winston-Salem, NC.
Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.
Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Big Lies in a Small Town is the story of the artist Anna Dale in Edenton, NC in 1940. It is also the story of the artist Morgan Christopher in Edenton, NC in 2018. Each story is a fascinating look at a small Southern town including the social mores that prevailed. Each story is a fascinating character study of women who have faced tragedy and hardship and how they overcame it. Each story is a story of love and friendship. Each story could have stood on its own but they are woven together brilliantly to produce a novel that will make you just as curious as Morgan was to find out what happened to Anna and why in the world did she paint such gory things into a mural that was supposed to be hung in the town post office as a representation of the town of Edenton. If you love great Southern fiction, if you love a mystery, if you love rich characters, and if you love history and art you will not want to miss this fabulous novel.
Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
This caught my eye because it's my usual fave (twisty mystery!) and it's set in Edenton, NC--a tiny coastal town where my in-laws happen to live. I love the town so I knew I'd love a book set there and I was right. This story stands on its own even despite the family connection and I was taken by it from the start. Morgan is released from a prison sentence under the condition that she restores an old mural from the 40s that has been badly damaged. She has no background in art restoration and is surprised to find out that she was chosen by a late artist she had admired but never met, and his conditions were strict so she has no choice but to accept. Anna, the original artist on the mural, tells her half of the story in flashback alternating chapters. We learn that she was chosen to paint the mural over some local artists and she has to deal with that fallout once she arrives in town to start work. She takes on some students to assist and becomes close with one in particular. Anna's story takes us down a dark path of racism and violence in the small town and as Morgan works on the mural, Anna's secrets unfold in a twisted, sad tale. The characters in the book leap off the page and weave a tale of family, friendship, death, and despair that will keep you glued to the pages until the final secret is revealed.
Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC
Diane brings to life two strong women in different times struggling against the constraints they have imposed on themselves. Morgan Christopher takes the fall for a crime she did not commit, and is serving a three-year stint in a North Carolina prison. Desperate to leave prison she agrees to restore a mural in a small town, shrouded in secrets. What she finds under the layers of years of dirt and neglect is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, a conspiracy and maybe clues to a 1940s disappearance of the original mural painter. Diane writes with such a keen eye to detail and this book will take you for a ride while making you understand the why of someone's mistakes.
Sunrise Books, High Point, NC
Switching between 1940 and 2018 in the small town of Edenton, NC, this story slowly unfolds to reveal the slow decline (into insanity?) of artist, Anna Dale, (1940). Anna was from New Jersey, and some folks felt she had no place painting a mural depicting their small Southern town; especially when they had a talented local artist! Anna bucks against the social racism of the day when she "hires" a young African-American teen to help in her work, and runs afoul of the "movers and shakers."
Morgan Christoper, just released from prison (2018), is given the job of restoring the mural that Anna painted decades ago. Chosen for the job even though she has NO experience in art restoration, and there is a nearly impossible deadline imposed on the completion of the restorative process. Seems a set-up for failure, but failure is not an option for many reasons. Diane Chamberlain delivers another superb novel for her loyal followers!
Just like Mama would, Mama Rose makes sure Olivia learns to ride a bike, has her hair braided just so, and that she plays outside every day. Just like Mama would, Mama Rose tells Olivia one day she will grow her own wings and fly, and Just like Mama, Mama Rose tells Olivia she is loved. Just Like a Mama is the perfect way to honor everyone who fills the gap when Mama cannot always be there.
Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator) (List price: $17.99, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
This lush and lovely novel has heartbreaking prose, gorgeous imagery, and a story that connects ancestors through threads of red satin. McLemore's razor-sharp focus cuts through the inherent racism of small-town superstition; even in a town with a magical "glimmer," darker skinned people are held at arms length and watched with suspicion. This book, as all McLemore's books are, is for outsiders bereft at the close-mindedness of the status quo and provides substantial comfort that no one is alone.
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna Marie McLemore (List price: $17.99, Feiwel & Friends), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.
As the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his parents and brother, Edward Adler has a difficult path to navigate. Learning to live in a world without his parents and brother, finding a new home with his aunt and uncle, and grappling to figure out what his own future will look like, Edward's journey is a heartbreaking and hopeful story. I was immediately drawn into this book and couldn't stop reading until I finished, and I can't wait to share Dear Edwardwith readers.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (List price $27.00, The Dial Press), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.
I usually don't laugh out loud while reading but this book had me at a whole new level. Hilliard weaves her journalism background with her messy childhood to produce a surprisingly well-researched memoir filled with food and admirable naiveté. I loved getting a glimpse into her hilarious, insightful world.
F*ck Your Diet by Chloé Hilliard (list price: $27.00, Gallery Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.