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The latest reviews and recommendations directly from your favorite Southern indie booksellers

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Current favorites of Southern indie booksellers. [FULL LIST]

Adult Fiction

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans.)

We are undoubtedly experiencing a golden age of surreal fiction, much of it translated, and the best of it written by women. For short story junkies like myself it is a particularly good time to be stuck at home avoiding other humans. Each story in this amazing collection connects with me viscerally, yet each one connects differently, like a smell, a taste, or a texture. Some are mysterious and subtle while others are brazen and bold, grotesque even. Each one is exquisitely crafted and exhilarating to read!

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans (List Price: $19.95, Two Lines Press, 9781949641097, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Tony Peltier, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Adult Nonfiction

Bress ‘n’ Nyam by Matthew Raiford, Amy Paige Condon

Chef and sixth-generation farmer Matthew Raiford presents us with a deeply personal and refreshingly practical cookbook, with recipes rooted in his Gullah Geechee heritage and uniquely honed by his world travels and formal culinary education. Chef Raiford includes classic low-country dishes such as Shrimp and Red Gravy (served with grits, of course) and Chicken ’n’ Dumplings as well as his own takes on jerk goat, naan, and gelato. He also offers advice on hosting an oyster roast, and how to cook a whole pig for Georgia-style barbecue. Bress ’n’ Nyam (“bless and eat” in the Gullah Geechee language) finds the perfect balance between great Southern storytelling and recipes that are both accessible and mouth-watering.

Bress ‘n’ Nyam by Matthew Raiford, Amy Paige Condon (List Price: $30, Countryman Press, 9781682686041, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

Young Adult

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Waylon can’t wait to start his post-high school life. Being a fat, gay teen in a small Texas town has been tough, but he’s always had his best friend slash sister to help him through it. So when he gets dumped and also finds out that his sister is bailing on their college plans to go to a school in Georgia, he’s upset, to say the least. But after he’s disappointed with the ending of his favorite reality tv show about drag queens, when the fat queen is once again snubbed, he makes his own video to send in. But when the video gets spread around school, he thinks his life is over. Little does he know…Julie Murphy, how do you keep doing this to me? Every single book ends and I just feel uplifted and happy! Every bit of goodness in the world is packed into a Julie Murphy book and if you don’t read them, you’re missing out.

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062880451, 5/25/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

Middle Grade

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ann Xu (Illus.)

My daughter and I loved this graphic novel about a girl who moves to Seattle from Taiwan. Like many immigrant stories, this one had multiple examples of the prejudices immigrant children can experience. Cici made friends, but there were times they thought they needed to speak slowly to her (they didn’t), that her lunch was gross (because it wasn’t “American”), and there were multiple times when people referred to her as Chinese and didn’t bother to remember her correction to “Taiwanese.” Cici’s struggles to both fit in as well as maintain her delight in her culture came through in the pages. My daughter, six, loved the cooking aspects and the story segued into a good discussion about culture and identity.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ann Xu (Illus.) (List Price: $12.99, HarperAlley, 9780062973863, 10/27/2020)

Reviewed by Jenny Luper, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Children

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li

Benji is a comic-book-loving artist whose dad abruptly left his family. Ro is a list-making rocket scientist whose father tragically died in a car accident. When they team up to build a rocket for Science Fair and Ro becomes determined to track down Benji’s father, the two become friends. I love how one main character is artistic and the other scientific. Lots of fun space science facts in Ro’s chapters. It’s a good blend of personalities and disciplines. The two deal with grief left by their fathers, bullying, and what it means to be a friend to others as well as yourself. I also really enjoyed the plot/character thread of the kids developing a deeper understanding and friendship with a neighbor, Mr. Voltz, who suffers from PTSD as a veteran from WWII & Korean War.Lots of good stuff in this heart-warming story, including Ro embracing her Chinese heritage as a half Chinese, quarter Scottish, quarter Irish, as she describes herself.

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780063008885, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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Spring 2021 seasonal favorites of Southern indie booksellers. [FULL LIST]

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