The Southern Bookseller Review 11/21/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of November 21, 2023

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The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

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The week of November 21, 2023

November is Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month Collage

A picture book is worth a thousand memories.

As the beloved children’s illustrator Anthony Browne says in the quote at the end of this newsletter, picture books are "not books to be left behind as we grow older." Our introduction to the magic world of books and reading, our first picture books stay within us as those fun beach-read romances we consume by the dozen never will.

This coming weekend, when you are doing some of your holiday shopping at your local bookstore on Small Business Saturday, spend some time with the picture books in the Children’s section and let yourself remember the magic.

Some recent picture books Southern booksellers have loved:

The North Wind and the Sun by Philip C. Stead
This beautifully retold fable is a celebration of endurance and compassion. — Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Okra Stew by Natalie Daise
You can almost smell the salt marsh in this stunning homage to Gullah culture, father-son love, and Okra. — Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

The Garden Witch by Kyle Baudette
A delightful read about how the love you give finds its way back to you in unexpected ways. — Daniel Tyler, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds has a way with words that maybe no one has had SINCE Langston Hughes. — Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

When the Moon Became the Moon by Rob Hodgson
The moon, as a "work in progress." Love this. — Jilleen Moore, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Truth about Dragons by Julie Leung
The lyrical story told by the mother to the child at bedtime is just so sweet, and each page is full of beautiful detail. — Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Find more picture books recommended by booksellers at SBR.

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

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
Harper / August 2023

Adult FictionComing of AgeSouthern Book Prize Finalist
More Reviews from Square Books

Southern Book Prize Finalist

2024 Southern Book Prize Finalist
See all | Vote Now!

Ann Patchett does it again! Tom Lake is so good it’s like eating a favorite dessert. Do you gobble it up quickly, or slowly savor it so that it lasts longer? I would give a million stars to this one. I loved it so much. Everyone should read this book. It is gorgeous. Tom Lake is a heartwarming tale about a woman recounting her youth to her daughters who see her as their mother, not as a girl who navigated the trials of early love, the temptations of Hollywood, and the love of a man who became a star. It explores family bonds, parental love, sisterly love, and the very events that make us who we are. A fantastic read for parents and young adult children alike. You will see yourself in many of the characters. Absolutely delicious.

Reviewed by Monie Henderson, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman

Dann McDorman, photo credit Lisa Blaschke

Q: Why set the novel in the 70s?
A: The superficial reason is that it was fun! The hairstyles alone defy belief…The zeitgeist of the 1970s felt intensely familiar to me. We’d lost trust in institutions and in each other; the old solutions didn’t work; the new ones seemed inadequate; a creeping disillusionment had overtaken the best of us, while the worst seemed full of passionate intensity. As an era, the 1970s seems extraordinarily relevant to writers and readers today.
― Dann McDorman, Interview, Bloomsbury UK

What booksellers are saying about West Heart Kill

West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman
  • This one is an absolute must read for devotees of the classic mystery genre. Unique in concept while at the same time holding true to the classic formulae that make the mystery novel so intriguing to us. In this tale we join Adam McAnnis, a somewhat sketchy private eye who joins a list of colorful characters on a long weekend getaway to a private hunting lodge. As the weekend progresses and the bodies start piling up we partner with Adam as he investigates the twisted relationships and subtle clues that will help him find the killer (or killers?). Interspersed in the story are vignettes by the author who leads us on an academic study of the mystery novel that at times almost seems to mock both the reader and the genre itself while at the same time crafting an entertaining and thoroughly complex and mesmerizing mystery thriller. If for nothing more than for it’s unique approach to story telling, for true fans of the mystery novel, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this one.
      ― Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Wow! This book is entirely captivating and such an interesting take on the mystery genre. Adam McAnnis, detective and friend of one of West Heart Hunting Club’s founding family members, is allowed to join the Bicentennial weekend at the exclusive club. All seems relatively normal, but with a mystery it never really is normal, is it? Murder, lies, old money, infidelity, and an unreliable narrator voice guide this story, and McDorman bends the book’s structure in a way that I have never seen before, making comments about the genre, plot, characters, and reader as it moves along to make for a fully immersive experience. Loved it!
      ― Kalynn Simpkins, Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • Everything about this novel was new and invigorating. I’ve never come across storytelling in this way especially with mysteries. The author subverts the status quo of mystery point of view. Always have the focus on one person or never give in depth insights into the detectives thoughts. With West Heart Kill, we are integrated into every single part of the story. The use of first, second, and third omniscient POVs was a little jarring at first, but once you get used to it, you can understand the utilization of them. Mysteries lay out the clues so that the reader can solve the crime along with the detective, but with this novel, you’re the detective. You are in the book. You’re being guided by the author as if he was writing YOUR story. You are given quizzes, clues, and questions from the character themselves. Though we do follow the main character, we are also the main character, and that experience made this one of my favorite novels I’ve read this year.
      ― Ae Fuller from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel

  • This book is a ball to read. For obvious reasons: because it scratches that edge-of-your-chair itch, because it’s a 1976 period drama, because it’s full of rich people behaving badly, etc. And for not so obvious reasons: because the narrator acknowledges our presence as readers (!), because McDorman offers us a history of the mystery genre (!!), because well it’s so darn funny and surprising (!!!)
      ― Laura Cotten from Thank You Books in Birmingham, AL | Buy from Thank You Books

About Dann McDorman

Dann McDorman is an Emmy-nominated TV news producer, who has also worked as a newspaper reporter, book reviewer, and cabinet maker. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney


How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney
Biblioasis / November 2023

 21st CenturyAdult FictionComing of AgeFictionHumorousIrelandLiteraryWorld Literature
More Reviews from Page 158 Books

I feel very fortunate to have had read this beautiful book. Autism is so hard and not having anyone in my family with it, I only know what I hear. When these 3 characters come together to help build a boat they bond and learn so much about themselves and each other. People are afraid of what they don’t understand and autism is one of those things we just don’t know enough about. It’s hard enough to be a freshman in high school, compound that with being different. This is a love story for the 3 generations involved. I guarantee you will see the world a bit differently after.

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

Class by Stephanie Land


Class by Stephanie Land
 Atria/One Signal Publishers / November 2023

Adult NonfictionBiography & AutobiographyPersonal Memoirs
More Reviews from Main Street Books

Read This Next!

Land once again takes readers into the lived experience of poverty and class divides. She calls out the emotional and physical cost of being a single parent and a student and the bizarre barriers courts and agencies throw up. An education in inequality and perseverance, you will never think of resilience in the same way again.

Reviewed by Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

With or Without You by Eric Smith


With or Without You by Eric Smith
Inkyard Press / November 2023

RomanceRomantic ComedyYoung Adult Fiction
More Reviews from Bookmiser

Jordan and Cindy are at war. They’re also in love. One of these statements is false. Jordan and Cindy’s families clashed when they both opened food trucks at the same time, parking them in the same spot. They’ve been feuding ever since. Well, for the internet. The families are secretly friends and Jordan and Cindy are dating. But when they’re approached by a reality show that wants to make them into a series, things just get more complicated.

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Wintergarden by Janet Fox


Wintergarden by Janet Fox
Neal Porter Books / November 2023

ChildrenFlowers & PlantsJuvenile FictionScience & Nature
More Reviews from Main Street Books

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!

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

Ruined by Sarah Vaughn


Ruined by Sarah Vaughn
First Second / November 2023

Comics & Graphic NovelsRomance
More Reviews from Bookmarks

When I came across this historical romance in the form of a graphic novel I knew I had to read it. I fell in love with both Catherine and Andrew through the charming illustrations and heart-filled story. I think this graphic novel will charm the hearts of Bridgerton fans and I hope to see more like it in the future!

Reviewed by Keeshia Jacklitch, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Decide for Yourself

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

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Riverhead Books / September 2015

Adult FictionBanned BooksFamily LifeLiteraryWomen
More Reviews from M. Judson

Fates and Furies offers a sharp portrait of a modern marriage, an eminently flexible partnership, still full of dark corners and locked rooms. We follow first Lotto’s perspective and then Mathilde’s through the full arc of this for-better-or-worse, and the result is a dynamic and quick-footed novel, Lauren Groff at the height of her powers. Lotto and Mathilde’s physical connection is hot and brutal and sometimes strange. The echoes of Shakespearean tragedy, of mythology, even allegory give their relationship resonant heft, while the storyline keeps the dirt of real life under their nails. I really, really loved Mathilde: her sheer darkness and fierce love for Lotto, her deep flaws and careful veneer. She was sympathetic and awful and familiar and pragmatic and true. This book is smart—about women and wives, marriage and art—and beautiful, and going to be talked about for a long, long time.

Reviewed by Ashley Warlick, M. Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Holly A City on Mars A Little Life
Killers of the Flower Moon What the River Knows

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book. ”
— Anthony Browne

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
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