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Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

Jumping off from a mention in a 1946 essay by George Orwell about fruit trees and roses he had planted ten years earlier, Solnit begins a meandering path through a garden of antifascism, art, and the ways in which they intertwined in Orwell’s life. In the span of about 270 pages, coal mining and climate change, mass rose production in Columbia and the invisibility of capitalism’s machinations, Orwell’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, and his ancestral connection to the slave trade are all explored deftly and, in the ususal Solnit style, with lines beautifully drawn to our current condition. Whether you are deeply interested in Orwell and his milieu or just a fan of Solnit’s incisive writing, you will find this biography/essay collection bears flowers scented with hope, resistance, and pleasure.

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit, (List Price: $28, Viking, 9780593083369, October 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia


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Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa is the story of Anna, an African British woman who never knew her father. Anna discovers clues to her African father’s identity only after her mother dies. This is fortuitous. What follows as Anna acknowledges and accepts her father, a man with a vast reputation and many secrets, is the healing and melding of Anna’s two identities and a new beginning. A master storyteller, Onuzo’s third novel is an epic story of belonging and identity.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220830, October 2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Hao by Ye Chun

Each story in Hao pulses with life—with all its pain and beauty—and the power of language to transform it. They all, in a way, revolve around Chinese women past and present and their entanglements with motherhood, migration, and trauma. Ye’s prose is searingly honest, paying close attention to those tiny gaps in relationships where loneliness and love reside, and the ways in which we try to bridge those gulfs with communication. Both meditative and fierce, these stories will hold your heart long after you close the book.

Hao by Ye Chun, (List Price: 26, Catapult, 9781646220601, September 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Kate Kitamura’s Intimacies details a few months in the life of an interpreter at The Hague who is looking for belonging to a place and perhaps to a partner. Just as she has to see beyond the words in her work, she has to interpret the actions of her married lover as well as the alleged atrocities of a war criminal she works with at the International Court. This novel is both quiet and thrilling.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, (List Price: 26, Riverhead Books, 9780399576164, July, 2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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On the Day the Horse Got Out by Audrey Helen Weber

On the Day the Horse Got Out is one of those books that feels like a classic—it’s got the rhythm and nonsensical vibe of a nursery rhyme, and beautifully rendered illustrations that recall Tomie dePaola, Sergio Ruzzier, and Carson Ellis. Perfect for reading aloud, especially at bedtime—it’s a recipe for dreams filled with beribboned comets, giant flowers, and horses leaping through starry, cloud-puffed skies.

On the Day the Horse Got Out by Audrey Helen Weber, (List Price: 18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316459846, June 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

While the ghosts of genocide lurk in the heart of many of the characters in Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties, what comes through in this beautiful collection is the liveliness, humor, love, and tenderness in every character navigating growing up, sex, loss, and family. A wonderful portrait of being a queer child of immigrants, bearing the weight of history, while trying to carve out a new way of life. Each and every story is a joy to read.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, (List Price: 27.99, Ecco, 9780063049901, August 2021)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Give My Love to the Savages by Chris Stuck

Stories built on foundations of unbalanced karma, the self identifying itself and male douchebaggery where (oftentimes) the inner pessimistic optimist lets the outer optimistic pessimist’s joy really bum him out, only to then retaliate with focused blind passion. I was introduced to the term “get your poops in a group” in this collection, and that, in a nutshell, is the goal of its protagonists, though some poops do get lost here and there.

Give My Love to the Savages by Chris Stuck (List Price: $25.99, Amistad, 9780063029972, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Sometimes it’s the mundane that’s the most fascinating. Kristen Arnett’s novel With Teeth takes the everyday marriage challenges of staying in love, being faithful, having patience with an unknowable child, and figuring out what to make for supper, tosses that with a dose of bizarre behavior which gives us what becomes to one queer family’s happily ever after. Arnett’s characters are infuriating and I think you’ll puzzle over Sammie, Monika, and Samson well after you finish the last page.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780593191507, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler

I’ve never finished a book and immediately started rereading it, but this is how I read Edie Richter is Not Alone. I’m dazzled by the way Rebecca Handler channels so much noticing and emotion into her carefully curated (sometimes sparse) prose. Handler has written Edie’s interior monologue so that seeing a spider in a church, hearing possums on a roof, or regarding a cockroach in the grass makes you inhabit Edie’s brain. This is a book about the loss of a parent to Alzheimer’s disease that is funny and sad and extremely entertaining.

Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler (List Price: $23, The Unnamed Press, 9781951213176, 3/9/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Popisho by Leone Ross

Popisho is pure magic. While it’s clear that Ross pulls influence from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison among others, the beautifully rendered setting and fully-realized characters (and their magical powers) are unique and wholly refreshing. The musical language makes this novel sing—a song of lost love, fate-determining meals, political intrigue, winged drugs, and lots of sex and strange occurrences. Popisho is sparkling and saucy and sensual, and readers will find themselves hankering for its food, crying at its heartbreaks, and laughing (oh, there will be a lot of laughing) at its sly wit.

Popisho by Leone Ross (List Price: $28, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 9780374602451, 4/20/2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

The chosen one goes off to magic school and heroically fights in an epic battle. You’ve heard that story a million times before. But have you ever wanted the snarky take, the irreverent, self-aware version that flips these tropes upside down and lovingly pokes holes in some of the logical gaps in the genre’s conventions? Clever, refreshing, and full of heart, this hilarious adventure full of pesky magical creatures, golden boy warriors, angsty nerds, and elfin knights will leave you thinking that you might be perfectly alright living in this (mermaidless) land.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (List Price: $16, Big Mouth House, 9781618731661, 8/6/2019)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham

I found myself underlining something on nearly every page of this slim volume—Lanham’s distinctive voice sings with awe of the natural world and clear-eyed candor of the obstacles a Black man faces in engaging this awe. Here is a writer who can perfectly express the emotive effect of a wood thrush’s 3-part song, someone who finds joy the exuberance of wrens, someone who finds solace in (and solidarity with) winged beings. This is a beautiful, necessary book.

Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham (List Price: $16, Hub City Press, 9781938235818, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor’s book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a bright shining explosion of beautiful writing. Six of the eleven stories are linked and dipping back and forth into Lionel’s relationship with two dancers, Sophie and Charles, which is hypnotic. These stories about human relationships range from those between lovers, friends, and family. How is it that Taylor can write so that we can see the interior crevices of these character’s souls?

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (List Price: $26, Riverhead Books, 9780525538912, 6/22/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Flatiron Books, April

A testament to the enduring bonds of struggle and love that tie us together beyond generations and borders. Truly the work of a measured poet, as Garcia shows the power of form, language, and structure in creating enduring scenes and images that I will carry with me for a long time. As these characters face heart-first the most dire concerns of our time—misogyny, xenophobia, hegemony, addiction—what comes to light is the beauty of the moments they share when they think about birds with claws, the ocean air, and the joy of being told a good story. Truly lovely and, ultimately, fortifying.

– Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA

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You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane

Admittedly, I am a robot-fearing Luddite human who tried to buy a flip phone last year. This book quelled my fears about any imminent robot revolution, while also informing me of a different set of fears I should have regarding AI. Through this humorous and accessible book, research scientist Janelle Shane presents the weird experiments humans create and even weirder solutions robots find with pure nerdy enthusiasm that made me laugh many times. While being entertaining and informative, this book also critically points out the harm in programming AI and beliefs surrounding its capabilities. When your robot isn’t falling over or doing the can-can, perhaps you can program it to read this book to you (but you’ll probably still have to turn the pages yourself).

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane (List Price: $17.99, Voracious, 9780316525220, 3/23/2021)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Hare by Melanie Finn

The Hare hits all the notes for a great novel you will read obsessively. Melanie Finn has written the breathtaking story of the life of Rose Monroe whose entire trajectory was determined at age eighteen by a chance (?) meeting with an older man at MOMA. However, Bennett isn’t who he claims to be. Because of this, despite this, Rose grows into a powerful woman who isn’t diminished by her dire circumstances. She is a survivor. This brilliant book contains a subtext involving dark, abhorrent behavior.

The Hare by Melanie Finn (List Price: $16.99, Two Dollar Radio, 9781937512972, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

Returning to his hometown on military leave, Mick walks into a whole slew of family problems that he initially attempts to avoid, secluded in a cabin and chock-full of bourbon. Being called on to assist in tracking down a murderer puts him hesitantly back on his feet. It’s a distraction and we immediately see that he’s equally brilliant and broken enough to solve (kinda sorta) the mystery with ease. But even with a name like The Killing Hills and a body discovered in the first few pages, I still look back on the murder mystery as the book’s B-plot. Chris Offutt paints Appalachia so brilliantly, that, though pleasantly so, it’s distracting. The towns in which growth just means a larger hospital, diners exchanged for faster food, a new prison and improved state roads that aid travelers in quickly passing through without noticing much more than the aforementioned. Populated for generations by a handful of families who in turn depopulate via hard living and occasional vengeance. Driven by conflicting nostalgia, ill-defined chivalry and a hangover, Mick’s story is either one of a farewell visit or a return towards retirement

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt (List Price: $26, Grove Press, 9780802158413, 6/15/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese

From the publisher: “Until now, Outer Banks native Evie Austin has been the baddest girl on the planet. What comes next?”

I really enjoyed this novel–the pacing is good, the characters’ stories are compelling, and the small beach town setting is so well-described I can picture it clearly.

The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese (List Price: $25.95, Blair, 9781949467161, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Having grown up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist church, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I saw the secret double lives of some of us. Rebelling against the submit-to-authority messages on Saturday night, but sitting pious and submissive come Sunday morning services was de rigueur. Deesha Philyaw’s book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies gives voice to secret lives that I know for sure are lived and true. The need for acceptance, for absolution, for grace is ever-present in familiar relationships as well as those in the church. These short stories are divine.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith

I listened to this on audio (from libro.fm/avidbookshop) and really loved it. I’m a longtime lover of being outdoors, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I started growing potted plants on my own in earnest. This book highlights the ways in which gardening, in all its forms, has a demonstrably positive impact on your mind, your body, your relationships, and the world. Just a lovely tome no matter if you’re never planning to take care of plants or if you’re a master gardener.

The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith (List Price: $28, Scribner, 9781476794464, 7/7/2020)

Reviewed by Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib’s exploration of Black performance in America is a cultural keystone that is chillingly relevant. Whether discussing the fact that a knowing look or advice on a route from a cashier is a form of a living Green Book that still exists because there are places Black people are not safe, to the origin of the card game spades or the difference between showing out or showing off, at the heart A Little Devil in America circles back to the fact that Black Americans have been forced to survive in places they were not welcome. The section on Black funerals pierced my heart. This book needs to be read, taught, underlined and discussed.

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (List Price: $27, Random House, 9781984801197, 3/30/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.)

A 2021 Southern Book Prize Winner!

I AM EVERY GOOD THING written by Derrick Barnes with illustrations by Gordon C. James is a beautiful book that celebrates Black Boy Magic and it is spectacular. It is a celebration of all that Black boys are and can become. Highly recommend.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Illus.) (List Price: $17.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780525518778, September 2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

Read This Next A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands is a whip-smart Victorian murder mystery featuring a remarkable cast of characters. Young girls are going missing and Inspector Cutter’s on the case with the help of a fake police officer (Cambridge drop out Gideon Bliss) and a young female journalist determined to write more than society pages. The disappearances seem to have a spiritual element to them and the first death scene is puzzling and compelling. O’Donnell’s 1893 London is so brilliantly written you’ll find yourself shivering instinctively.

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (List Price: $26.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142247, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Communication is a key ingredient to our daily life. Even choosing to avoid it says multiple somethings about us. Be the relationship cave painter and archaeologist or mother and son, down to the nanosecond most of us (speaker and auditor) repeatedly fudge it up. In that last sentence, for example, the subject choices and use of the word “fudge” paint both a true-ish and false-like picture of this reviewer. But this isn’t about me (or is it?). [Ahem] Through a panoply of pitch-perfect analogies, George Saunders puts the writer/reader at the reader/writer’s La-Z-Boy/typewriter. With hang-out-sesh tonality, he weighs the beauty in misunderstanding against how utterly frustrating it can be to simply get what you’re being told. Fans of Understanding Comics or How to Read Nancy might enjoy placing turn-of-the-century Russian masterpieces under the microscope. It’s been over a week since I finished A Swim… (“not about me,” eh, me?) and like a kid home from camp, not a day has gone by without a few thoughts of this deep moment or that fond element. All that’s missing from that analogy is me repeatedly checking the mailbox to see if George wrote me a postcard, but that would be a downer of an ending to this wonderful book’s review (not to be confused with a wonderful book review), so it’ll surely be edited out.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (List Price: $28, Random House, 9781984856029, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith

 

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.

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