Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

An August 2023 Read This Next! Book

In Pottstown, PA in 1972 a skeleton is found at the bottom of a old well. McBride takes us back more than four decades to tell the story of a community of Black and Jewish characters in the Chicken Hill neighborhood, along with the white characters who run the town (and march in the annual KKK parades.) It’s hard to think of a more compassionate writer than McBride. This story is captivating, funny, exciting and absolutely wonderful.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9780593422946, August 2023)

Reviewed by Christine Lavigna, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Quantum Criminals by Alex Pappademas

Perhaps they can’t buy a thrill, but now Steely Dan fans can buy awareness into the lyrics they’ve debated for almost 50 years. With Quantum Criminals, Alex Pappademas and artist Joan LeMay provide cultural context, educated speculation, and bold visuals illuminating the wild rogues and rascals populating the band’s songs. From the famous (Mr. Lapage, Hoops McCann) to the lesser known (Snake Mary, Pixeleen), you’ll have more insight into their memorable cast. Face it, there may not BE just one story behind each song. But Quantum Criminals sure is a fun excursion into what may (or may not) have been in Donald Fagen’s and Walter Becker’s minds.

Quantum Criminals by Alex Pappademas, (List Price: 35, University of Texas Press, 9781477324998, May 2023)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen

Magic, murder, and class struggle blend together in a satisfying start to a YA fantasy sequence. Ren and her classmates are transported to a dark realm through a magical accident. One is dead, but won’t be the last to die. As they fight for survival and a way home, their secrets are their worst enemy. Until they meet one with teeth. I can’t wait for Scott Reintgen’s follow-up.

A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen, (List Price: 19.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781665918688, March 2023)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

Decent People is a compelling mystery that also deftly contends with racism, homophobia, classism and corruption. De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s fluid writing and pacing combine with wonderfully drawn characters–including the glorious busybody Josephine Wright–to make a truly marvelous novel.

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow, (List Price: $28, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635575323, February 2023)

Reviewed by Stephanie Jones-Byrne, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Breathless by David Quammen

David Quammen can make the most complex scientific subjects perfectly understandable and fascinating. We’ve lived through the beginnings of Covid-19, but so much was going on behind the scenes. It’s astounding that vaccines were developed as quickly as they were, and we find out the backstory here. Quammen makes our last two years read like a thriller.

Breathless by David Quammen, (List Price: $29.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982164362, October 2022)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese, Malaprops in Asheville, North Carolina

Good Night, Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix

There’s so much to love about Good Night, Little Bookstore! A charming, delightful bedtime story and an ode to the little bookstores that nurture big dreams.

Good Night, Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix, (List Price: $17.99, Candlewick, 9781536212518, September 2022)

Reviewed by Stephanie Jones-Byrne, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Yoga by Emmanuel Carrère

The latest journey into the mind of Emmanuel Carrere, Yoga, is just as self-effacing, intelligent, and probing as his previous work. But what begins as a book about yoga and meditation soon turns into a book about personal tragedy, making for a surprisingly bittersweet, tender memoir.

Yoga by Emmanuel Carrère, (List Price: $28, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374604943, August 2022)

Reviewed by Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life: Bookmarked by Pamela Erens

A modern-day writer’s engaging appreciation of George Eliot’s Middlemarch and what she’s gained both as a writer and a woman from reading the iconic 19th-century novel over the years. Pamela Erens argues that Eliot’s sophisticated insights into human nature, her boundless compassion for her characters’ frailties, and her acceptance of their inevitable contradictions make her an especially wise guide to the struggles we face today. Erens is most thoughtful in discussing Eliot’s belief in the central role of community in society and of the responsibilities required of its members, and persuades us of its practicality today.

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life: Bookmarked by Pamela Erens, (List Price: $14.95, Ig Publishing, 9781632461315, April 2022)

Reviewed by Clara Boza, Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina

Beyond Innocence by Phoebe Zerwick

Once upon a time, a man was unjustly imprisoned. DNA and dogged work freed him after 19 years. He lived happily ever after. Sorry, that last part didn’t happen. Even with DNA evidence, he almost didn’t get exonerated. Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt details Hunt’s journey from teen to convicted killer, innocent freed man, and activist with many twists. But the saddest part is what happened to him after freedom, and how it illustrates the plight of most of the exonerated. That is not as exclusive a club as you might think. According to author Phoebe Zerwick, “As of May 2021, 2,783 men and women in America have been exonerated since 1989…The National Registry of Exonerations calculate the combined years they lost at 24,915.”

Zerwick wrote about Hunt in the Winston-Salem Journal and has spent years on his case. Hunt was not just railroaded. Police falsified evidence; a judge unbelievably ruled DNA evidence was insufficient to warrant a new trial. A faithful cadre of supporters and the author’s newspaper series resulted in deliberately overlooked evidence being reexamined and finding the true killer. Only then was Hunt released. But Hunt’s case shows how the system continues to fail. Hunt briefly had a foundation to aid released prisoners. Years of prison life and post-release limitations lead to PTSD, depression, and often recidivism. Hunt’s friends realized too late he was leading a double life – calm outside, but in agony inside. They couldn’t stop him from taking his life. But if enough people pay attention to his story, perhaps others can be helped.

Beyond Innocence : The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt by Phoebe Zerwick, (List Price: $27, Atlantic Monthly Press, 9780802159373,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese from Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade

I’ve never before encountered a novel to plunge me into the heart of the Civil War like this. As the War still rages, a Black Union Brigade is formed of recently freed slaves. Dick, semi-acknowledged son of a slave and her master, is an honest and eloquent observer of slave-master relations. Now he fights for Gen. Edward Wild, leading the hunt for rebel fighters as he steels himself to clash with his former master. I felt all of Dick’s emotional journey as he progressed from slave to wartime leader and beyond. The Outer Banks setting for much of the action is beautifully portrayed.

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade, (List Price: $27.00, Grove Press, 9780802159199, February 2022)

Reviewed by Rosemary Pugliese, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, North Carolina



Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Defying the traditional framework the novel, Sheila Heti proves once again she is one the wisest and most imaginative active writers. The story begins innocently enough and then wonderfully morphs, with ruminations on loss, companionship, religion, and the physical form. Ever since reading the book, it has echoed in my brain continuously.


Pure Colour by Sheila Heti, (List Price: $26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 9780374603946, February 2022)

Reviewed by James Harrod, Malaprop’s in Ashevills, North Carolina


Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin

A strange and elegiac little novel, steeped in sadness and decay. A book that’s obtusely about disease and isolation that ties accidentally and snugly into our current world.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin, (List Price: $14.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646050734, September 2021)

Reviewed by Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal

There is so much to be said about this book and why it’s so delightful. I was really excited for the English translation and was not in the least bit disappointed by what Jennifer Croft pulled off. What I would say I most enjoy is the decision to let it be as local as it is. It is such a perfectly quintessential porteño novel, and I’m really glad the translator and editor decided to let it be what it is.

The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, (List Price: 24, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635577334, August 2021)

Reviewed by Charles Lee, Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts

Creating a “page-turner” has always seemed to me to require something beyond writing. An author may be an excellent wordsmith, have brilliant ideas, and yet never achieve the deep understanding of human psychology or the precise timing and rhythm that is needed to hook a reader. My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black is a true page-turner. It took me only two sittings to course through its pages.

Author Terry Roberts sets his propulsive historical murder mystery on Ellis Island in 1920, amid American nativism and White Christian supremacy culture. On the surface is the disappearance of a young white Irish woman with connections in high places, connections who want her found. Stephen Robbins, from Hot Springs, NC, is contracted by a nameless man to solve the woman’s disappearance. It seems that she is not the only person to have gone missing from Island 3, the location of the isolation hospital for immigrants who arrive sick or pregnant at Ellis Island, presenting a potentially contagious situation. At the hospital, Robbins meets Lucy Paul, an undercover nurse who is investigating the high rates of patient death and disappearance. Roberts creates a spookily atmospheric setting in the creepy and mysterious hospital, and Robbins and Paul make a gutsy detective duo. But Roberts offers more than a compelling atmosphere.

My Mistress’ Eyes explores what brings humans to predicate superiority based on genetic expression. What is behind the belief that this assumed superiority excuses the right to commit violence? Roberts intersperses original texts from “scholars” of the time who espoused the superiority of White Christian Americans and proclaimed the dangers of letting immigrants into the United States. These lend credibility to the story, yet never detract from Roberts’ gift for spinning a wonderful yarn-filled humor, romance, intrigue, passion–and murder.

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts, (List Price: 31.99, Turner, 9781684426959, July 2021)

Reviewed by Erin Fowler, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I love love love this book. It’s like Becky Chambers expanded the conversation between the whale and the petunias in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but added 100% more robots.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, (List Price: 20.99, Tordotcom, 9781250236210, June 2021)

Reviewed by Katie Brown, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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