GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • Women Talking by Miriam Toews

    Women Talking by Miriam ToewsThis novel is definitely true to its title, made up almost entirely of women talking--illiterate Mennonite women of a remote colony who have recently realized that the nighttime terrors the men of the colony have told them are dreams or demonic possessions or punishment for sins were actually these men, their relatives and neighbors, tranquilizing and then raping them.

    Inspired by real events, this novel isn’t interested in the horrors of this Handmaid’s Tale-esque story but rather how these women come together to grapple with what they will do about this injustice, in light of their values, their faith, and their own limited understanding of the world. What may not come across in the elevator pitch of this book is how full of sparks the conversation is between these women, at turns funny, philosophical, biting, and real. This book was certainly thought-provoking but it was also a joy to read. Praise be women talking.

    Women Talking by Miriam Toews ($24.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor

    Holy Envy by Barbara Brown TaylorTaylor, a Christian professor emeritus at Piedmont College, discusses how she brought the world's religions to the doorstep of her classroom in a small Georgia college town. Most students had only been exposed to Christianity, and the field trips to mosques and synagogues as well as speakers from various traditions broadened many minds. Brown's explanation of why we should be open to other religions instead of protective of our own should resonate well with the reader.

    Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor ($25.99*, HarperOne), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times by David Stronberg (ed.)

    In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times by David Stronberg (ed.)I love fables and folk tales and was excited to read this collection. Not knowing much about Yiddish folklore, I found this interesting. The stories are told in a way that adults and young readers will enjoy and I think makes the case that folk tales are still an important part of storytelling.

    In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times by David Stronberg (ed.) ($17.99*, Delacorte Books for Young Readers), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Just Breathe by Mallika Chopra, Brenna Vaughan

    Just Breathe by Mallika Chopra, Brenna VaughanSimple, accessable and fun, Just Breathe is certain to become THE mindfulness and meditation go-to book for children, young adults and even adults interested in dipping their toe into the mindfulness lifestyle.  

    Just Breathe by Mallika Chopra, Brenna Vaughan (12.99*, Running Press Kids), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

    Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-ZecherThis devastating, beautifully wrought story reminds us that the mentality of Us vs Them can only end badly for both. Make any effort to get to know Them, and We realize that They are just like Us. They are Us with different clothes, accents, hair, skin. I am also reminded that a love story isn’t any good unless it breaks your heart.

    Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher ($26.00*, Atria Books), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • This Narrow Space by Elisha Waldman

    This Narrow Space by Elisha WaldmanThis Narrow Space is incredibly well written, honest, and compelling! While dealing with some very delicate issues, namely the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and life-threatening pediatric illness, Dr. Waldman manages to express his observations and views without voicing any obnoxious political opinions! He is idealistic, yet humble; brilliant, yet ever eager to seek and to learn. He speaks of everyone with respect. I went into this book interested in the cultural and medical experiences of an accomplished physician; I came out blown away by the reflections of a profoundly gifted writer.

    This Narrow Space by Elisha Waldman ($25.95*, Schocken Books), recommended by Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, FL.

  • Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

    Three Daughters of Eve by Elif ShafakShafak crafts a novel that is highly philosophical and entertaining. There are themes that speak to world politics and feel so right in their timing as well as timeless questions about God and love. A propulsive read that will leave you wanting more of Shafak's skill with language.

    Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak ($27.00*, Bloomsbury USA), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

  • From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair

    From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis BlairThis book is...so...COOL! Maybe I'm just a macabre soul, but Caitlin Doughty argues that much of Western culture has grown too apart from death by avoiding it as much as possible. This prevents us from grieving in proper ways. She takes us around the world studying a variety of different death practices that may leave some of you more squeamish types squirming, but the result is very profound and beautiful and whimsical. It certainly has me thinking about how I would like to go, and now I have so many more ideas (again...macabre)!

    From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair ($24.95*, WW. Norton & Company), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • 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.

  • Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

    Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown TaylorDescribed as a spiritual memoir, this book is more than that. It’s a meditation on understanding and learning to appreciate those periods when our lives are not what we'd like them to be: we're facing difficulties in our work, or our relationships, or we're depressed, or stressed, or simply not able to perform in our lives in the way we want to or think we should be able to. The author, an Episcopal priest, believes that there is much we can learn from the dark—both literally and metaphorically--from the simple act of being able to truly see the stars, to learning about ourselves and others as a way of reaching love, understanding, and joy. Often, she says, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most.

    Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor ($14.99, HarperOne), recommended by Malaprops Bookstore, Asheville, NC.

  • Hallelujah Anyway Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

    Anne Lamott again finds a way to teach us life lessons by looking at the remarkable and unremarkable things around us. Her take on mercy is one that many will find relevant. And who doesn't need to have a little mercy in these times?

    Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott ($20, Riverhead), recommended by Linda, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

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

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

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

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

  • The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William J. Barber

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

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

  • The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Author Elissa Altman sets a beautifully written table.

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

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

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

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

    A most rewarding read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

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

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

    Amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

  • Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia

    Fans of magical realism and international literature will love Cristina Garcia's Dreaming In Cuban.

    Following the lives of three generations of women, her story shows how culture, family, and spirituality shape who we are and the place we choose to call home. Garcia pulls from Santeria, using the religion's relationship with color to create vivid imagery that mirrors the characters' lives. This book is truly entertaining and readers of all ages are sure to find a heroine.

    Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (Ballantine Books) Recommended by Emily Catherine at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer


    Australian philosopher Peter Singer has written a book that is short, provocative, and both philosophical and practical.

    He tackles the thorny questions of why we should give to charity, to whom we should give, and even how much each of us should give. His ideas on the psychological barriers to giving, and the philosophical reasons for doing so, are especially compelling.

    The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer ($16.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC