Read our latest staff reviews and recommendations featured in the The Southern Bookseller Review.

Holy cow, I love this ‘un! I saw in Ben Fountain’s preface that the author discovered Donald Barthelme during a stint in a Texas prison (marijuana, meh.). Well, I discovered DB while dumpster diving, broke and living in an attic in Tallahassee, so dingdingding I checked it out! The title story reads like a great conspiracy zine from the 70s, about JFK’s assassination (including Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald) all being one elaborate work of performance art created by Ruby to introduce internationally acclaimed avant-garde art to stingy Dallas. But that’s just a preview for the main attraction. The bulk of the book is around 20 short stories that all revolve, in some way, around a beer bar (you want liquor, you gotta bring it yourself). The bar is a safe-ish haven in the belly of the beast (1960s Dallas) that lives in the mouth of the king of beasts (anytime Texas). Every style of story lives inside this collection. I’d say it’s equal parts Donald Barthelme, Terry Allen and W.G. Sebald. It comes out in November and I will be talking this one up a ship ton! That’s right: tonnage is different on ships. A ship ton different!

Jack Ruby and the Origins of the Avant-Garde in Dallas by Robert Trammell, (List Price: $16.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646050499, December 2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

I just spent a guilt-free rainy day with these high calorific, double-stuffed short stories. Located within: A traffic jam turned tribal via survival, some playful narrator juggling, an escapist daydream that turns O. Henry into an R. Serling nightmare, and fiery relationships that literally burn to literal litter. Looking forward to more rain.

All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar, (List Price: 15.95, New Directions, 9780811229456, April 2020)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

This beautiful character-driven book set in the American Midwest covers many contemporary topics like racism, fracking, sexual harassment, and the immigrant experience. I loved the messy protagonist Elinor Hanson, a Korean American who grew up in South Dakota. A former model with a new career later in life as a journalist, Elinor has baggage that needs unpacking so badly her clothes are spilling out of her metaphorical suitcase at a rapid pace. Korean American author Jung Yun has written a fantastic novel in O Beautiful that surprised me over and over, especially by book’s end.

O Beautiful by Jung Yun, (List Price: 27.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250274328, November 2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia


This should be required reading for any and all roommates (from siblings to college freshmen)! Featuring an odd diametrically opposed hamster duo, this vibrantly illustrated, darkly funny tale will leave even the crankiest readers holding in giggles as they learn all about the art of compromise.

Hamsters Make Terrible Roommates by Cheryl Klein, (List Price: 17.99, Dial Books, 9780593324233, November 2021)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Island of Missing Trees is a beautiful, sweeping tale of enduring love, grief, and the ways in which we move forward from intergenerational traumas. Split between a cold London winter and the midst of the Cypriot civil war of 1974 and narrated by a fig tree, the story aches with a love for the natural world, giving voice to the voiceless. Its quiet profundity opens a world beyond borders and human conflicts, a world where truths are uncovered and healing is possible.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, (List Price: $27.00, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635578591, October 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

[ALL REVIEWS FROM AVID BOOKSHOP]


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