The Southern Bookseller Review 10/17/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of October 17, 2023

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The week of October 17, 2023

How a book gets on the bestseller list.

Book Stack Art by Yana Lobenko

…here’s a hint: It’s all about pure indie bookseller love!

It is a fact of internet life that people rarely read all the way down to the end of email newsletters, so SBR readers may not realize that is where they can find the pot of gold at the end of this newsletter that is the Southern Independent Bestseller List.

Unlike other book bestseller lists, the Southern Indie list is specific to what books are selling best at indie bookstores in the South. And what’s even more interesting, there are always several books on the list that have been highlighted as Read This Next! books. Read This Next! is a monthly list of books-to-watch-out-for because they are getting exceptional "buzz" from Southern indie booksellers. In this week’s bestseller list, there are no less than five current or past Read This Next books:

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
I would give a million stars to this one. I loved it so much. Everyone should read this book. It is gorgeous. –Monie, Square Books

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
It’s hard to think of a more compassionate writer than McBride. This story is captivating, funny, exciting and absolutely wonderful. — Christine, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff
An amazing meditation on what it means to be alive, to want to stay alive, and the big question, why do we live at all.–Jessica, E. Shaver, bookseller

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel
It doesn’t read like fiction because it isn’t- everything actually happened! And none of this is to say it was boring or uninteresting. Quite the opposite! — Laney at Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (now in paperback)
Oh, I hope and pray this is the runaway blockbuster of the year, as it deserves to be. — Alissa at South Main Book Company

There is a lesson here: The books indie booksellers are really excited about are the ones they will be recommending to their customers, and the ones worth taking a chance on.

See all the October Read This Next books and browse through the past selections.

Read This Now | Read This Next | Book Buzz | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Our Strangers by Lydia Davis


Our Strangers by Lydia Davis
Bookshop Editions / October 2023

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

Picking up the same one-to-three-page story by Lydia Davis ten times gives the reader ten different experiences, like taking a plate of gourmet food from a fussy child with her right hand, passing it behind her back to the left hand and returning it to the child saying “fine, eat your magic boopie beans” to the child’s ravenous delight. And the beauty of a book full of one-to-three-page, multidimensional gems is that you’ve got a book jam-packed with multidimensional gems.

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare, photo credit Cassandra Clare

Usually for me, the first thing that comes in a story is the characters, and then the story weaves itself around them. With Sword Catcher, for the first time the people and the place came at the same time, in a sort of burst of images and color…from the beginning of my working on it, Sword Catcher has been a story about adults rather than about teenagers, so it was always going to be an adult fantasy.

The big difference to me is that in YA, your characters are working on problems of identity: What kind of person am I? What are my values? What does it mean to love someone new? But the characters in Sword Catcher are in their early twenties, and they’re facing a different question: What does it mean to take on the responsibilities of adulthood?
― Cassandra Clare, Interview, Paste Magazine

What booksellers are saying about Sword Catcher

Cassandra Clare by Jason Reynolds
  • Get ready to be pulled headfirst into a beautiful, rich world full of life, magic, and history. In Sword Catcher, concepts of identity and loyalty take on new life with characters who are viciously human. (Not to mention, there’s a very healthy dose of spice.) You’ll fall in love with Cassandra Clare all over again.
      ― Tori Finklea, Union Ave Books in Knoxville, TN | Buy from Union Ave Books

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Clare’s foray into the adult book world. Sword Catcher is a fantasy of rich city-states, magic inspired by Jewish mysticism, and characters who find themselves in tangled webs of secrets and loyalty. I was absolutely TICKLED by Lin and Conor’s banter, and appreciated how much character depth Clare gave to Kel. The ending about did me in so I cannot wait for The Ragpicker King.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • I’m utterly obsessed with this book, but, who is surprised! I grew up reading Cassandra Clare, and now here I am as an adult, getting to read her adult debut, a masterwork of world building and beautiful respect for her own history woven through the pages. The queernormativity makes it even more beautiful, setting the stage for every reader to feel comfortable and at home as they dive into a world that promises adventure, love, and lore that begs you to get lost in it. Sword Catcher is brilliant- the next unstoppable force of nature in the world of adult fantasy.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare is the author of the #1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestselling Shadowhunter Chronicles. She is also the coauthor of the bestselling fantasy series Magisterium with Holly Black. The Shadowhunter Chronicles have been adapted as both a major motion picture and a television series. Her books have more than fifty million copies in print worldwide and have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Cassandra lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and three fearsome cats.

Family Meal by Bryan Washington


Family Meal by Bryan Washington
Riverhead Books / October 2023

Adult FictionComing of AgeFictionLGBTQ+Literary
More Reviews from Epilogue Books

Read This Next!

An October Read This Next! Book

There are two things I expect from a Bryan Washington narrative: food rendered so exquisitely I could lick the page and an emotional excavation so expansive it swallows the book and me with it. Family Meal delivered on these expectations and more. It’s propulsive and harrowing, the brittle edges of its characters encapsulating a world and giving way to its perfectly tender center.

Reviewed by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue: Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Omega Farm by Martha McPhee


Omega Farm by Martha McPhee
 Scribner / September 2023

More Reviews from Page 158 Books

When you return home, everything looks smaller. When you go home after a messed up childhood, you go back to an almost fetal position. You feel like the child you were-not the adult who has been successful. This memoir by Martha McPhee will lead you down her rabbit hole grieving for what she lived through while taking care of her mother during the pandemic. It is not all sad though, there are so many layers of hope, love and forgiveness.

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson


Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson
Heartdrum / September 2023

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

My favorite YA book of the year! I went into this thinking it would be a bit like Empire Records with a twist of mystery, but this book is so much more. Three teens are struggling with the disappearance of their friend Kiki, who has now joined a long line of missing Indigenous girls and women. One night at the pizza shop they all work at, Berlin thinks she catches a glimpse of Kiki, and so begins the story of trying to save a girl, a community, and a pizza shop. This book is raw and real and unforgettable, the author lending an #OwnVoices perspective that needs to be heard.

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Hellaween by Moss Lawton


Hellaween by Moss Lawton
Razorbill / August 2023

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

For a very special few days each October, young witch/skater Gwen gets to hang out with her best friends: a werewolf and vampire from the monster realm who can only cross over right around Halloween. Together, they do spooky things like go to the mall and haunt normies! A super fun series opener (I hope), perfect for whatever the Zoomer/Alpha version of Hot Topic tweens is.

Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive by Melanie Watt


Scaredy Squirrel Gets Festive by Melanie Watt
Random House Graphic / October 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

Children (and their adults) will love reading about Scaredy Squirrel’s approach to the holidays! Once again, Melanie Watt gives us a way to treat a child’s nerves with gentleness and humor. We love displaying our Scaredy Squirrel books alongside the plush stuffed animal at Main Street Books!

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

Decide for Yourself

Books that appear on PEN America’s list of challenged books.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Attal


The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Balzer + Bray / April 2021

More Reviews from Story on the Square

The Black Flamingo is a poetic look into the coming of age and coming out stories of a young biracial teen in England. When he goes off to university, he explores who he is through the beauty of drag. This novel is a raw look at the complexity of identity with the beauty of poetry.

Reviewed by Nannette Matthews, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Vaster Wilds Why We Love Baseball Trust
Indigenous Continent Enchanted Symphony

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
— P.J. O’Rourke

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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