The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman

The rare book that will make you laugh out loud, gasp with disbelief, cringe, and ultimately, cheer. A book that reminds us to have fun, that restores “fun” to its rightful place as a virtue of reading. Anna’s descent into a Randian abyss is spiked with so much humor and insight, you’ll almost forget whose side you’re on. Freiman is a writer of breathtaking talent, and fans of her first book will adore this one.

The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman, (List Price: $27, Catapult, 9781646221929, November 2023)

Reviewed by Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books in Birmingham, Alabama

unOrdinary Volume 1 by uru-chan

A Webtoon classic! I was wondering when this would get unscrolled. I love fantasy or sci-fi with overpowered protagonists who have some reason to hold themselves back or conceal their strength. This does that concept well and with great pacing.

unOrdinary Volume 1 by uru-chan, (List Price: $27.99, HarperAlley, 9780358467786, November 2023)

Reviewed by Lana Repic, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Be That Way by Hope Larson

Hope Larson’s Be That Way is a charming coming-of-age story told in mixed formats of journal entries, illustrations, and comic strips. High school junior Christine is determined that 1996 will be the year she shines. From friendship fallouts to heartbreak and betrayal to first jobs, Christine tumbles through adolescence with snark, wit, and–ultimately– optimism as she finds herself through her art and the support of the people who matter most. Be That Way is the perfect read for when you need a reminder that the awkward teenage moments aren’t forever and that being your true self is the best thing you can be.

Be That Way by Hope Larson, (List Price: $22.99, Margaret Ferguson Books, 9780823447619, October 2023)

Reviewed by Charlie Williams, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

This is an absolutely promising and thought-provoking thriller debut that questions numerous sensitive issues, including racism, underage sex, teenage pregnancy, corruption, white privilege, and child abuse.

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill, (List Price: $12.99, Ember, 9780593568576, December 2023)

Reviewed by Michelle Weiler, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais

To me, Little Red Riding Hood has always been the forbearer of modern children’s stories. The warnings of: listen to your adults, not to stray from the path dictated, and not talk to strangers emanate from every version of this story. In this tale, these messages are still here, but are challenged. In the end, our hero is rescued and the evil defeated, themes of misunderstanding being our main take-away.

The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais, (List Price: $9.99, Oni Press, 9781637152430, October 2023)

Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This bestseller sat on my shelf for two years before I had the courage to read it. I knew it would wreck me, and wreck me it did. Through a son’s letter to his mother, we learn the story of Little Dog and the meaning of love, loss, family, and belonging. Ocean Vuong creates a surreal experience of the senses, redefining the meaning of narrative — each page more breathtaking than the last. As someone who rarely keeps fiction past the first read, this one has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, (List Price: $18, Penguin Books, 9780525562047, June 2021)

Reviewed by RC Collman, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Rosewood Hunt by Mackenzie Reed

A fun treasure hunt! It reads like an adventure movie – Knives Out with the gang from Scooby Doo. Lily, soon to be 18, literally falls into the birthday cake for her Gram, leaves embarrassed, and finds the next morning that her Gram is dead. She teams up with three others to follow the clues all over town in search of Gram’s fortune. The adults – except Gram – are the “bad guys” in close pursuit as Lily’s gang, chasing them all over Rosetown as they piece together clues Gram left in invisible ink. I love happily-ever-after suspense novels and this didn’t let me down. I hope Reed writes more!

The Rosewood Hunt by Mackenzie Reed, (List Price: $19.99, HarperTeen, 9780063287600, October 2023)

Reviewed by Ashby Rushing, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Wintergarden by Janet Fox

Gorgeous illustrations and sweet story about a mother and child who grow a winter garden. Complete with instructions of starting your own winter garden. Love this one!

Wintergarden by Janet Fox, (List Price: $18.99, Neal Porter Books, 9780823451012, November 2023)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

The Apartment House on Poppy Hill by Nina LaCour

Fans of Ramona Quimby will love Ella, the unofficial ambassador of Poppy Hill. She’s lived in the building her whole life and knows the ropes, so she’s happy to help new neighbors Cleo and Leo when they move in. This darling book is full of quirky characters and is LGBTQ-positive and really heartwarming. I am already looking forward to more in the series!

The Apartment House on Poppy Hill by Nina LaCour, (List Price: $14.99, Chronicle Books, 9781797213736, November 2023)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

This is a really quick but rich read with several unique voices narrating the story of Alice Franklin, a teenage girl in a small Texas town who may or may not have slept with two different guys at a party one night. Whether or not it’s true, the rumor propels the story into several directions, including a fatal car accident, a vandalized bathroom stall, and an unlikely friendship. Each character has a distinct voice, and they somehow transcend the high school stereotypes that they’re all so desperate to conform to. The Truth About Alice is a thoughtful look at the delicate balance of high school hierarchy and how a few words uttered by the right person can change–and potentially ruin–someone else’s life.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, (List Price: $16.99, Roaring Brook Press, 9781596439092, June, 2014)

Reviewed by Lelia Nebecker, One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia

Cross-Stitch by Jazmina Barrera

A delicate coming-of-age story that is both elegiac and an ode to craftwork, womanhood, and friendship. Much like the characters in Cross-Stitch, Barrera and translator MacSweeny have yet again come together to craft another gift to treasure. One of my favorite reads of the year.

Cross-Stitch by Jazmina Barrera, (List Price: $24, Two Lines Press, 9781949641530, November 2023)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Being Henry by Henry Winkler

I wanted to reach through the pages and hug this little boy who wasn’t loved by his family. Henry was born to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. The trauma must have been horrible for them, but a child is innocent. Henry was a funny kid who got away with so much outside his home and was grounded for life always inside it His parents called him dumb dog in German. He had no idea he had dyslexia until his early 30’s but was able to complete college and ended up gettin into Yale Theater Group for his masters. He is not to be kept down. They took a chance on him with Happy Days but what happened on that show and after leaves you cheering him on. I can’t wait to meet him again. Last time he stole my wine and I want it back.

Being Henry by Henry Winkler, (List Price: $30, Celadon Books, 9781250888099, October 2023)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

I Want 100 Dogs by Stacy McAnulty

Getting a new pet is always a delicate negotiation between the pet want-er and the ultimate pet-care-for-er. This delightful new tail tale from kids nonfiction genius Stacy McAnulty hilariously yet poignantly digs into the how, what, when, and why of pet ownership. Fun for anyone considering adding a furry family member.

I Want 100 Dogs by Stacy McAnulty, (List Price: $17.99, Chronicle Books, 9781797214405, October 2023)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast

Roz Chast gives us a deeply personal (and, naturally, hilarious) view of the meaning of her own dreams and their influence on her work, in cartoon form, of course. Includes a fascinatingly nerdy section on the history of dreaming and dream interpretation, across many cultures.

I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast, (List Price: $27.99, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781620403228, October 2023)

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

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