The Southern Bookseller Review brings you half a dozen great books to add to your already teetering bedside stack.  Recommended by Southern indie booksellers, in the belief that there is a book for every reader.

Newsletter Archive


The Summer Reading List, reviewed

Obama's Summer Reading List

Last week former President Obama published his summer reading list. This is an event many indie booksellers look forward to — not just because the list always means a surge in sales, (although that is nice) — but because they find the list, well, interesting. This is a group of people who are unapologetically nosy about what other people are reading, so much so they have turned it into a career. “What are you reading?” is a phrase that comes second only to “You’ve got to read this!”

What do they think about the books on Obama’s summer reading list? Read for yourself:

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
“In the stories of 
Land of Big Numbers, change makes its presence known in slow-healing wounds, funny and awkward adjustments, subtle joys, and plain yet devastating loss. Te-Ping Chen portrays contemporary China with a balance of affection and blunt candor.” – Cat Chapman from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
“This book will make an incredible addition to the Katrina literature canon. Nguyen shines a spotlight on the strength and depth of Vietnamese immigrants, a New Orleans community that’s rarely given enough credit or context for their contribution to this city. 
” -Caroline Bergeron from Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, LA | Buy from Garden District Book Shop

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Terrifying, eerie and dripping with suspense, Leave The World Behind haunts me. Trust me, this novel is begging to be discussed. All I can say here is: Flamingos? And teeth?! Rumaan Alam leaves his reader with more questions than answers (about ourselves, race, class, our culture, life) and I am here for it. This one is a genre bender – definitely literary fiction, but also science fiction and mystery/thriller.” – Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
“Georgia in the days immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, Harris’ characters display the best and the worst responses to the new order. Brutal yet hopeful, this one’s a slow burn until you realize you’re so caught up in the story you can’t possibly stop reading.
” -Jamie Fiocco from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Reviews of A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson, Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White, City Problems by Steve Gobler, Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna, The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Click here to read more


The Summer Reading List, energized!

Read This Next, Summer 2021

Southern indie booksellers have selected the 2021 Summer Read This Next! List: their favorite picks for new summer books. Titles are chosen from books publishing from July through September, representing the full range of reader interests. Each of the fifteen has the enthusiastic support of southern booksellers, marking them as hand-sell favorites for the summer. Read This Next! is the “You’ve got to read this!” list of the season.

Some of our favorite comments:

“Mott’s latest is no joke. Charlie Kauffman-esque in its surrealism that devolves into almost fever dream with the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever read.” -Amber Brown of Quail Ridge Books on Hell of a Book by Jason Mott

“It turns out all those hours I spent watching 1980s (and beyond) horror films weren’t wasted. ” -Tracie Harris of The Book House on The Final Girls Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Eerie and chilling to the bone, The River Has Teeth is a razor-sharp novel that had me devouring its secrets late into the night.” – Brad Sells from Parnassus Books, about The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters

See all 15 great summer reads here.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
Reviews of The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler, How to Break an Evil Curse by Laura Morrison, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, The Cruelty Is the Point by Adam Serwer, On the Day the Horse Got Out by Audrey Helen Weber, House of Sticks by Ly Tran

Click here to read more


Inspiration on the hard hat tour.

Reader Meet Writer with Terry Roberts

Last week’s Reader Meet Writer event with Terry Roberts was rather special because it featured Heather Bell Adams (The Good Luck Stone) as guest interviewer and, it was immediately clear, very good friend of the author.

Roberts’ new novel, My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black is a noir thriller set in the 1920s on Ellis Island. The discussion ranged far and wide from matters of craft to the haunting feeling of the abandoned buildings not many people see when they visit. “We took the hard hat tour,” Roberts tells Adams. “It takes you to the parts of the island that are completely unreconstructed, the primary general hospital and the isolation hospital. They are haunting, haunted places.”

It was during that tour that Roberts, already planning his novel, found his setting. Watch the interview.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Hola Papi! by John Paul Brammer
Reviews of Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson, These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan, The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig, If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann, Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Click here to read more


Happy Juneteenth.


A new national holiday is a rare thing, so when June 19th was commemorated as Juneteenth by Congress last week, it was cause for celebration. Juneteenth, also sometimes known as Jubilee Day, marks the day enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.

Congress declared the holiday on the 15th, which didn’t leave much time to make plans for the newly official holiday. But if there is one thing bookstores can do, quickly and with great enthusiasm, it is create a reading list.

Here are some of the Juneteenth reading suggestions from Indie bookstores:

Juneteenth Reading List from Charis Books & More

Black-Owned Bookstores’ Picks for Juneteenth via

Juneteenth Reading List from One More Page Books

The IndyReads Celebrate Juneteenth List

A Juneteenth Celebration List from Books and Books

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond
Reviews of The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel, The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu, Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury, The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim, One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Click here to read more


How to check out more books than you’re allowed at the library.

Watch David Zucchino in converation with Wiley Cash

“Quite aside from being one of our finest storytellers, in his first crime novel Chris Offutt reminds us as always of how much we’ve pushed The Southern Bookseller Review congratulates historian and journalist David Zucchino, who received the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction for his book Wilmington’s Lie.

Next Thursday, June 17th, Chris Offutt will be joining Reader Meet Writer. His new novel, The Killing Hills, is a “debut” of sorts for the author. Zucchino appeared on the Reader Meet Writer series in January, shortly after his book was published in paperback. The book covers the events that lead up to, and the repercussions of what has been deemed the only successful coup in American history — The 1898 Race Massacre in Wilmington, North Carolina.

What booksellers have to say about Wilmington’s Lie:

Rosemary Pugliese from Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC:
“This is truly a book to shake your world view. To know violence could occur so openly in the U.S., and be fairly hidden for decades, is to begin to face how deeply ingrained racism is in our history – particularly in the South. Wilmington’s Lie is a “must read,” even as it sickens, shocks, and educates.”
Buy from Malaprop’s

Samantha Flynn from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC:
“Zucchino brings the high standards of journalistic excellence for which he is known to this exposé of the despicable events of 1898. While there is much we may never know about that painful period, this book provides a long overdue insight into the “white supremacy” movement after Reconstruction, and the horrific treatment of black citizens by its proponents to achieve their ends.”
Buy from Quail Ridge Books

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt
Reviews of The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng, Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

Click here to read more


Overlooking painful stories is part of the problem.

Chris Offutt

“Quite aside from being one of our finest storytellers, in his first crime novel Chris Offutt reminds us as always of how much we’ve pushed away from us—the natural world, kindness, community—and that the time will come when we reach again and it’s no longer there for the asking.”—James Sallis

Next Thursday, June 17th, Chris Offutt will be joining Reader Meet Writer. His new novel, The Killing Hills, is a “debut” of sorts for the author. He is a beloved and admired novelist and short story writer, a voice for Appalachia and the Ozarks, and a memoirist, essayist, screenwriter…the list goes on for so long that it seems impossible “crime novelist” wasn’t on it.

…until now. The Killing Hills is a thriller set in a small Kentucky community where a suspicious death exposes conflicting loyalties, rivalries, and resentments of friends and neighbors.

Offutt is a favorite among Southern indie booksellers:

“This was a blast! Hill country Kentucky noir with characters that both repulse and endear. A tough combo that works well with the plot of familial vengeance that piles up the bodies without understanding the cause that makes the blood boil so hot. Superb.” — Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books, Pittsboro, North Carolina


More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Animal by Lisa Taddeo
Reviews of There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, What Will You Be? by Yamile Saied Méndez, Kate Alizadeh (Illus.), Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles, With Teeth by Kristen Arnett, The Marvelous by Claire Kann, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Click here to read more


Take pride. Read books.

Take Pride, 2021

June is Pride Month. In fact, June 2021 is the 51st such celebration. If the 50th anniversary was subsumed by the pandemic, this year the event seems to carry special significance as people everyone open their doors, step outside, and come out into the sun.

LGBTQ” is a common genre in the reviews published by indie booksellers. It is one of the top ten tags in use at The Southern Bookseller Review. Take pride. Read a book.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Reviews of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin, Like a Dandelion by Huy Voun Lee, Huy Voun Lee (Illus.), The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund, Finding Freedom by Erin French, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Click here to read more


Spend an evening with a writer.

The Soulmate Equation

The Reader Meet Writer Author Series has a rich and exciting June schedule. On June 8th the author duo “Christina Lauren” will be talking about their new romance novel, The Soulmate Equation. This book has been a huge hit with Southern booksellers, see some of their comments below in the “Book Buzz” feature.

On June 3rd, this coming Tuesday, is Will Johnson, whose debut novel If Or When I Call is a favorite with the Reader Meet Writer host Wiley Cash. Some of you may know Johnson as a musician who has played in several bands, including Centro-matic and Monsters of Folk. (He’s also an artist who loves to paint pictures of baseball). Johnson says that If Or When I Call is “… a family story—an account of working people, struggling with their respective battles in a place (rural Missouri) that a lot of people might not ever think about.”

If or When I Call with Will Johnson
Thu Jun 3rd 7:00pm – 8:00pm | REGISTER

On Jun 10th, RMW welcomes Natalie Baszile. Readers may remember her as the author of Queen Sugar, or have seen the mini-series based on that novel. We Are Each Other’s Harvest is a different animal: a collection of essays, poetry, stories, and conversations around the theme of Black farming, land reclamation and legacy, the book speaks directly to many of the communities within the reach of Southern readers. It is also a delicious “foodie” book with a fascinating on-the-ground look at some very creative, visionary, (and stubborn!) people.

Natalie Baszile, author of We Are Each Other’s Harvest, for Thursday, June 10th at 7:00 PM. | REGISTER

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Reviews of Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann, Love in Color by Bolu Babalola, The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts, Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide, Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster by Manka Kasha, Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter

Click here to read more


Don’t complain unless you’re going to be part of the solution.

Friendly City Books

What they are reading at Friendly City Books

Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi recently joined the SBR family of reviewers. Founder Emily Liner opened the store in the fall of 2020, when the town found itself without a bookstore. “We have a saying in my family,” says Emily on the store’s website,“Don’t complain unless you’re going to be part of the solution.”

Friendly City Books focuses on Mississippi writers, and also has its own publishing imprint dedicating to identifying new Mississippi voices.

Read the books they are reading at Friendly City | Visit the store

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
Reviews of The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale, Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins, Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler, Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey, Kafka and the Doll by Larissa Theule, Rebecca Green (Illus.), While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

Click here to read more


Bress ‘n’ nyam! (Bless and eat!)

Laura Dave’s new novel, The Last Thing He Told Me, was just picked as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Selection, sending it rocketing up the bestseller lists. But before that, it was an IndieNext Pick, and a favorite among southern indie booksellers:

Propulsive, heart-warming thriller. Yep, you read that right. A ten on the can’t-put-down scale, with gorgeous, complex characters. Devoured in one sitting; very satisfying. — June Wilcox, M. Judson, booksellers & storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina

I found I couldn’t put it down. With relatable characters and an interesting plot, it will be a perfect choice for summer’s vacation – or staycation. –Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Get ready for a fabulous exploration of motherhood, loyalty and love, all packed in a tense thriller. Bravo! — Pam Crawford, Bookmiser

Meet the author tonight at Reader Meet Writer:
Tue May 11th 7:00pm – 8:00pm EST | REGISTER

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Heaven by Mieko Kawakami
Reviews of Bress ‘n’ Nyam by Matthew Raiford, Amy Paige Condon, Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans), Pumpkin by Julie Murphy, The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz, All of Us by Kathryn Erskine, Alexandra Boiger (Illus), Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Click here to read more


Into the wilderness.

About a month and 245 years ago, Daniel Boone led a group of pioneers into Kentucky to establish a settlement which he called, with his typical sense of modesty, Boonesborough. A week later, the 13 colonies declared their independence from England. And a few weeks after that, some Cherokee and Shawnee canoeing up the Kentucky river kidnapped Boone’s daughter, Jemima. His pursuit of the kidnappers and rescue of his daughter and her friends would later be fictionalized in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Next week’s Reader Meet Writer event with Bob Drury and Tom Clavin takes a new look at a man almost entirely obscured by legend. A restless wanderer in a violent time, Blood and Treasure is a unique portrait of America’s first and arguably greatest pathfinder Daniel Boone—not the coonskin cap-wearing caricature of popular culture but the flesh-and-blood frontiersman and Revolutionary War hero whose explorations into the forested frontier beyond the great mountains would become the stuff of legend. It is also the story of the birth, or birth pangs, of a country, told through the eyes of both the ordinary and larger-than-life men and women, white and Native American, who witnessed it.

Thursday, May 13 at 7:00 PM EST. REGISTER HERE

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Reviews of Mary Jane: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Trans.), Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay, Brat by Andrew McCarthy, The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund, The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Click here to read more


The trouble with werewolves

This evening’s Reader Meet Writer Series features Jaclyn Moriarty, the author of The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst. “I want everyone one to read it,” says Carolyn Roys of Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL, “because it weaves magic, ogres, faeries, intrigue, disaster, heartache, boarding school, sisters, friends and parents into the perfect story you won’t be able to put down. I will place it in the hands of parents, teachers, grandparents and kids coming in to find the perfect book to hold their attention and remind them why they love reading. Moriarty gets it just right.”

Fun fact: Jaclyn Moriarty’s sister is the bestselling novelist Liane Moriarty!

Register here

Next week on May 6th is a conversation with Josephine Caminos Oría, whose book Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses is a perfect Mother’s Day gift. The word refers to a Spanish tradition of relaxing at the table and talking to family after a meal.

“At once a magical matrilineage, recipe book, and love letter to Argentinian culture, Josephine’s Sombremesa is not only a moving culinary memoir, but a timely cultural portrait and call to return to a slower, more sensual relationship with our loved ones and ourselves.”—Allie Rowbottom, author of Jell-O Girls

Watch the beautiful trailer below, and register here.


More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal
Reviews of Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Popisho by Leone Ross, Pop Song by Larissa Pham, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney, and Memory Jars by Vera Brosgol.

Click here to read more


April 24th is Independent Bookstore Day.

To most of the world, April 24th is Shakespeare’s birthday — a day surely deserving of a bank holiday if every there was one.

It is also, this year, Independent Bookstore Day, — a day to celebrate your local bookshop, attend some of the special events they have planned, and take advantage of some of the sales and special items only available on this day, from these stores. Everything from free audiobooks to signed special editions of books, limited edition prints, fun gifts, and in many cases special discounts only available for the day.

Over 750 bookstores are participating, and events range from virtual to socially distanced in-person celebrations. Itinerant Literate in Charleston, SC has “transformed our backyard” for a “Big Monsters Only Garden Party“.

The “store without a store” in Huntsville, AL, Snail on the Wall will have a pop-up store that day and special “Mother’s Day bundles”

Avid Bookshop in Athens Georgia has not yet opened its doors for browsing but has exclusive items for sale on its website, and has created a “donations only sidewalk sale” to benefit a local nonprofit, Help Mutual Aid Athens.

Indie Bookstores in New Orleans: Garden District BookshopBaldwin & Co.Blue Cypress BooksOctavia Books, and Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Bookshop have banded together to create a city-wide Scavenger Hunt. Pick up a Bookstore Passport at any of the stores to play. And yes, there are prizes.

Check the map to find out what your local bookstore is doing. Shop local now, so you can shop local later.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Reviews of Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham, Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke, Clues to the Universe by Christina Li, Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown by Brandon Jew, Tienlon Ho, Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley, and A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Click here to read more


Poetry in community.

April a favorite month among booksellers because it is National POETRY MONTH. Poetry is one of those sections in a bookstore that never sells enough to justify its space, but no bookseller can bear to part with. This is the one time of the year when booksellers have an excuse to talk poetry to all of their unsuspecting customers.

Stores do all sorts of things for the month– they give discounts to customers who recite poems at the cash register. They put out typewriters for patrons to test drive. They hand out little poems like fortune cookies, and invite customers to write poetry with chalk on the sidewalk pavement in front of their shops.

Of course, these are all “in the store” things, and “in the store” for the last year and counting may not yet be possible. Poetry window displays have become poetry Instagram posts. Impromptu poetry readings have turned into virtual events. And April remains a favorite time for new poetry books to be published (and bought). Amanda Gorman’s stirring Inaugural Poem, The Hill We Rise currently tops the bestseller list.

Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi is doing all of it. The are hosting an Earthday Poetry virtual event , have created a Poetry subscription box, and are publishing a new book by Thomas Richardson. And perhaps the coolest thing…they have started a community poem, “What Columbus Means to Me“. If you live in Columbus you can submit the next line by 4/16. It should rhyme with “gold.”

What is your local bookshop doing for Poetry month?

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
Reviews of Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor, The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin, The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale, Bubbles . . . Up! by Jacqueline Davies, Sonia Sánchez (Illus.), The Barbizon by Paulina Bren, and Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia.

Click here to read more


Read This Next! Spring Edition

Read This Next!

The change of seasons is marked by many things — changes in the weather, in the flowers blooming in the garden, in the birds appearing at the feeder, in the transition from football to baseball games on television, in the release of new seasons of favorite shows.

And new readings lists. Every season Southern indie booksellers come up with a list of anticipated books. The 2021 Spring Read This Next! List is a selection of spring new releases generating extra buzz and excitement. Each of the fifteen titles in the list received multiple high ratings and enthusiastic reviews, marking them as hand-sell favorites for the forthcoming season:

“I was not expecting to get sucked into this book so thoroughly, but sure enough I blinked and my Sunday was gone and I had read the entire thing.”  –Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC about Joshilyn Jackson’s novel, Mother May I.

“It made me laugh, it made me angry, it made me think, and it made me look up old clips from Soul Train on YouTube.” –Chelsea Bauer from Union Ave Books in Knoxville, TN on A Little Devil in America.

“Goofy and sweet, full of love and loss, and of course, a deep, nerdy love for movie soundtracks. Better Than the Movies will have you squealing and swooning.”–Brittany Bunzey from Read With Me, A Children’s Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, NC on Lynn Painter’s new novel.

See the full Spring list. Your questions about what to read next have been answered.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

In this issue:
Bookseller Buzz: Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
Reviews of Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, Animals by Will Staples, The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo, Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera, and Malice by Heather Walter.

Click here to read more

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