The Southern Bookseller Review 11/23/21

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of November 23, 2021

View this email online. | unsubscribe | SBR Archive | SUBSCRIBE TO SBR

facebook  twitter  instagram 

sbr logo

November 23, 2021

The National Book Awards: Bookseller Perspectives

November for most people is a time of leaves turning color, of family gatherings, arguments about stuffing, and the sound cranberry sauce makes when it slides out of its can with a shlorp! to land, jiggling, on a serving plate.

It is also, for people in the book industry, the month the National Book Foundation announces the winners of the National Book Awards. Here’s what Southern booksellers thought about some of the finalists and winners:

Hell of a Book

Hell of a Book by Jason Mott: Fiction Winner

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. Fantastic writing, and meaning, and it should be read by the masses. "Memory and death are countries that know no geography." – Amber Brown from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr: Fiction Finalist

Whether you come to this book for the author, the cover, or the reviews, you will stay for the beautiful storytelling as Anthony Doerr weaves together the stories of three very different time periods and characters. The character development is nothing short of genius, and the story is full of history, heart, and heroism! – Mary Patterson from The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, VA


Matrix by Lauren Groff: Fiction Finalist

Medieval lesbian nuns — need I say more?! But seriously, this novel is about Marie of France (described very similar to the Brienne of Tarth), her relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine (AKA one of the most badass queens of history), and her journey of coming into her own power. If you’re looking for a book in which women take power in a world where that’s not easily done, this is the novel for you. –Christine Schwarz from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC


Zorrie by Laird Hunt: Fiction Finalist

I was completely enamored with this incredibly moving novel. Zorrie like its main character, is full of heart. In under 200 pages, Hunt masterfully portrays her and her world with a deep and resounding richness which reflects the power and beauty of our own humanity. – Cody Morrison from Square Books in Oxford, MS

When We Cease to Understand the World

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, trans. by Adrian Nathan West: Translated Literature Finalist

In this fascinating blend of essay and fiction, Labatut explores the nature of scientific discovery and the consequences of coming face to face with what we cannot understand. While there was quite a bit that I didn’t understand (quantum mechanics!!) I was fascinated and transfixed. Labatut’s prose is mesmerizing and I cannot wait to see what he does next – Gaël LeLamer from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

A Little Devil in America

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib: Nonfiction Finalist

Anything new by Hanif Abdurraqib is something to celebrate. He’s quickly become one of my favorite writers. This book, which highlights some of the many, many black performers in American history, is my favorite so far. 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

Last Night in the Telegraph Club

Last Night in the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo: Young People’s Literature Winner

Lily Hu and Kath Miller are gorgeously rendered against the glittering backdrop of San Francisco, escaping into the night for The Telegraph Club where they find themselves staring down a sort of freedom that they know they cannot leave behind. From the very first page, this is a novel that feels so incredibly full and rich with historical details and simmers with yearning and tension— I simply could not put it down. – Cristina Russell from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves


Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves
St. Martin’s Press / October 2021

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

I really enjoyed The Girl He Used To Know, so reading this book was an easy decision. Layla and Josh are both adjusting to life as singles rather than couples. They ended up single due to very different circumstances, it’s hard not to understand growing apart when you married as a teen. Layla does not have that situation and is torn over her divorce, but more anguished about her marriage and how she was diminished. Josh has no idea how to be single and the online dating scene is portrayed in frightening detail. As they emerge from the turmoil of separation the evolution as individuals and a couple is charming, poignant and entertaining.

Reviewed by Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten


Helene Tursten

There are many reasons a crime writer with a successful series might leave their main character behind and launch themselves into something new. The Swedish author Helene Tursten had a long series of successful books behind her featuring her well-liked, married-with-two-kids detective Irene Huss when she decided to write about a completely different character, the absolutely not-married-and-no-plans-to-be Embla Nyström. "After 10 books about Irene, I strongly felt that I had to recharge my batteries," she said in an interview.

Readers may well wonder what else Tursten might have been trying to work out when she came up with her other literary character, Maud.

Maude is not a detective, not a young woman, and certainly not interested in "justice." Although she’s not shy about dealing out just desserts. An octogenarian who makes full use of people’s tendency to underestimate little old ladies, Maud is rather like a slightly evil Miss Marple. The result is both oddly charming and oddly unsettling. Even sort of scary. An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed is Tursten’s second book of Maud stories. It includes everything you might expect from one of Sweden’s best noir writers: Dead bodies. Ruthless criminals. Desperate victims. Cookie recipes.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

What booksellers are saying about An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

  • You definitely wouldn’t want to meet the heroine of An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed in a dark alley late at night. Maud may be pushing ninety, but she is a force and has spent her life exacting her own brand of justice that may or may not have resulted in more than a few murders. Translated from Swedish, this was charming.. ― Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA
    Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • I met my favorite octogenarian killer in An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed! This cozy and elegant murder mystery makes the perfect gift for the mystery-loving people in your life (fits perfectly in a stocking!). ― Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • Hilarious and darkly sinister, this book is satisfying and entertaining. Maud is not someone you want to cross seeing as those who do don’t survive. ― Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Maud is back and better than ever in this second tale of murder and revenge! This collection of stories takes us back to her youth and how she became who she is – and what happened to those left in her wake! Picking up where we left off in her previous collection, Maud is trying to evade the authorities that won’t leave her alone. This pocket-sized book is perfect for the mystery lovers in your life!   ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Helene Tursten

Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing. She is the author of the Irene Huss series, including Detective Inspector Huss, Night Rounds, Who Watcheth, and Protected by the Shadows; the Embla Nyström series; and the short story collection An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, which also features Maud. Her books have been translated into 25 languages and made into a television series. She was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband.

Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You by Misha Collins


Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You by Misha Collins
Andrews McMeel Publishing / October 2021

More Reviews from Parnassus Books

I loved this collection. Collins lets his reader know that he is writing for himself, fully knowing he is not an established poet. I normally do not read poetry, and I felt relaxed and ready to see what he had to say. It was a treat to see a very public person open up like this.

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson


My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Henry Holt and Co. / October 2021

More Reviews from Page 158 Books

A black professor uses his own son in a study comparing him to ACMs (American Caucasian Males) in “Control Negro.” A single mother lists what to do when “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.” A young woman changes herself in an attempt to leave behind her past. An immigrant widowed father finds himself distanced from his children. And, a group of Charlottesville neighbors flee white supremacists seeking refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home. Each story examines what happens when “home” is not very hospitable. This collection—the characters and the writing will stay with me. An emotional and brilliant must read.

Reviewed by Kelley Barnes, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Cat Dog by Mem Fox,


Cat Dog by Mem Fox,
Beach Lane Books / October 2021

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

A delightfully silly picture book highlighting the differences between cats and dogs, Cat Dog follows a cat who is busy chasing a mouse around the house, while the dog…stays asleep all afternoon. A quirky, entertaining book for all cat and dog lovers.

Reviewed by Jen Minor, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed by Saraciea J. Fennell


Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed by Saraciea J. Fennell
Flatiron Books / November 2021

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

These are the voices. The voices we need to hear, to represent the voices that need to be heard. This collection from fifteen influential Young Adult writers from the Latinx diaspora is the perfect launch pad for conversations and the perfect door to new ideas.

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

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit


Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit
Viking / October 2021

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

A Fall 2021 Read This Next! Title

Jumping off from a mention in a 1946 essay by George Orwell about fruit trees and roses he had planted ten years earlier, Solnit begins a meandering path through a garden of antifascism, art, and the ways in which they intertwined in Orwell’s life. In the span of about 270 pages, coal mining and climate change, mass rose production in Columbia and the invisibility of capitalism’s machinations, Orwell’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, and his ancestral connection to the slave trade are all explored deftly and, in the ususal Solnit style, with lines beautifully drawn to our current condition. Whether you are deeply interested in Orwell and his milieu or just a fan of Solnit’s incisive writing, you will find this biography/essay collection bears flowers scented with hope, resistance, and pleasure.

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Cloud Cuckoo Land The Storyteller A Thousand Ships
The Apples of North America The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.”
– Sherman Alexie

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

SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805
You have received this email because you are currently subscribed to receive The Southern Bookseller Review. Please click @@unsubscribe_url@@ if you no longer wish to receive these communications.


Scroll to Top