The Southern Bookseller Review 11/9/21

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of November 9, 2021

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November 9, 2021

What is the best Southern book of the year?

The Southern Book Prize

Southern booksellers have selected the finalists for the 2022 Southern Book Prize. The Prize, representing hand-sell favorites from 2021, is awarded to “the best Southern book of the year” as nominated by Southern indie booksellers and voted on by their customers.

Voting for the 2022 Southern Book Prize winners takes place between November 2021 and February 1, 2022. Winners are announced February 14, Valentine’s Day.

VOTE here, and you can be entered into a drawing for a collection of the SBP 2022 Finalist books.

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on Reader Meet Writer

Volunteers: Growing Up in the Forever War with Jerad W. AlexanderVolunteers: Growing Up in the Forever War with Jerad W. Alexander
Thu Nov 11th 7:00pm – 8:00pm | REGISTER

Jerad W. Alexander has written for Esquire, Rolling Stone, The Nation, Narratively, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Literary Reportage from the New York University Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism. From 1998 to 2006, he served as a U.S. Marine, deploying to the Mediterranean, East Africa, and Iraq. He grew up on military bases, from the east coast of the United States to Japan. He currently lives in New York City, but calls Atlanta home.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Still Life by Sarah Winman


Still Life by Sarah Winman
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / November 2021

More Reviews from M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers

Sarah Winman’s Still Life is the balm needed to medicate against the last year and a half of the global pandemic. Set in post-WWII London and Florence, Winman creates a lush world full of tangible characters who break your heart in all the best ways. It begins with a chance encounter on a small country road in war-torn Tuscany. There, Ulysses Temper, an idealistic twenty-something English soldier, and Evelyn Skinner, a sexagenarian art historian meet and share an adventurous evening celebrating wine, art, and newfound friendships. The two diverge and set course upon two parallel paths that spiral inward and outward along a trajectory that is never truly separate. During the course of forty years, Winman manages to enliven both post-war London and Florence and captures their resilience and specific beauties with rapturous prose. Within each city, there is suffering, there is collapse, there is pain, there is poverty. But, life goes on, and so do the powerful humans who occupy these spaces. The people are real, you know them and you feel their pain and suffering, joy, and happiness. You root for them and you cry with them. This is a book about chance encounters, magical evenings around Italian tablesides, changing societies, found family, chances taken and missed, grief, forgiveness, and the profoundly sacred space of human connection. Still Life reminds us that, after a year of isolation, we both owe it to ourselves to allow others in from time to time.

Reviewed by Joce Mallin, M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle


Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

Maggie Tokuda-Hall finds inspiration for her books all around her and from her own life. Her last novel, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was inspired by a nine-year-old girl who used to come into the children’s bookshop where she worked.

Her new book, Squad, comes out of her own experiences in high school, where rape culture was normal, even rampant. What if, she wondered, there was a squad of teenage girls who turned into werewolves once a month and went after all the really bad boys — the sexually aggressive ones, the ones who don’t think "no" counts if you are at a party and everyone is drinking.

"When I was [in high school] it was extremely white." she remembers. "It’s very rich — that’s still true. It’s really privileged. Rape culture was really rampant, and I was really mad about it. Some of the things that I saw or the things that happened to me were kind of traumatizing, but I don’t feel like a traumatized person. I don’t feel like a victim, and I wanted to write a story that reflected that as well."

What follows is more than a revenge fantasy and more than a horror story. Tokuda-Hall turns a critical, yet compassionate eye on the issue of rape culture, patriarchy, and the meaning of consent.

"In my books," she says, "love is salvation. And I believe very fully in my heart that when we allow ourselves to love outside of what patriarchy has dictated for us, this entire other world of being, where all of these other systems of oppression are no longer relevant, can start to take shape."

Fight Night

What booksellers are saying about Squad

  • Sharp and smart, this dark graphic novel is all about the relentless hunger of teenage girls, partying,
    revenge, and doing whatever it takes to run with the coolest pack at school. Best enjoyed in one satisfying
    gulp. ― Julie Jarema from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA
    Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Mean Girls mixed with Teen Wolf? Squad is beyond words, but if I had to use some, these would be it. After Becca transfers to a new school, she worries about fitting in until she meets Marley, Arianna, and Mandy. At first she thinks they’re unnervingly perfect, but turns out their secret is even more intriguing than they are. I am absolutely blown away by Squad, I was thinking teen slasher flick from the cover, but it was so much more. It was a bloody coming of age with a dark twist of how things can go wrong when power gets out of control. The art work is gory and beautiful, this is going to be a breakaway hit. ― Katlin Kerrison from Story on the Square in McDonough, GA
    Buy from Story on the Square

  • Move over, Plastics, there’s a new girl squad in town. Squad is a high school tale about transformational
    friendship, belonging, and what we’ll do to fit in. It will absolutely sink its claws into you from the very first
    page. (Puns ALL intended.)   ― Abby Rice from Foggy Pine Books in Boone, NC
    Buy from Foggy Pine Books

About Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

Maggie Tokuda-Hall is the author of the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal–winning Also an Octopus and the young adult novel The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. She received her BA in studio art from Scripps College and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco, and has worked both for independent bookstores and for Apple Books. She is the host of several popular podcasts and lives in San Francisco with her husband, son, and objectively perfect dog. 

Lisa Sterle is an artist with work spanning from comic books to concept designs to pop-culture-fueled illustration. She is the co-creator of the monthly comics Long Lost and Submerged, as well as the creator of The Modern Witch Tarot Deck. She received her BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design and currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig


The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig
Simon & Schuster / November 2021

More Reviews from Midtown Reader

A hug of a book. Koenig pulled me in with the idea of new words, but I kept reading because this book is more about assigning new words to feelings. It’s about how we are not alone in our feelings or alone in the world. By the end you realize you’ve read a philosophical book on living and all that includes. Very encouraging and needed in this time.

Reviewed by Tanya Corbella, Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, Florida

Bok’s Giant Leap by Neil Armstrong


Bok’s Giant Leap by Neil Armstrong
Crown Books for Young Readers / November 2021

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Astronaut Neil Armstrong has written a beautiful story about the creation of the Moon and the Earth as told from the perspective of Bok, a very special moon rock. A combination of science, history, Armstrong’s personal story, and vivid, movie-like illustrations, Bok’s Giant Leap will inspire another generation of young readers to dream of the moon!

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards


Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards
Sourcebooks Fire / November 2021

More Reviews from Story on the Square

This is a great, tight little YA mystery! information is revealed slowly but not too slowly, so you’re drawn into the plot and want the characters to solve the puzzles. The “ticking clock” mechanic is never exactly explained, but it gives the story a sense of urgency that makes it feel more intense than your average scavenger hunt. It touches on sensitive topics (such as domestic violence and parental abuse) but I think the author does a good job of pulling the question of “what would you do for your brother?” all the way through the story. Totally unexpected twist ending, which wasn’t really set up but was entertaining nonetheless!

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

His Name was Death by Rafael Bernal


His Name was Death by Rafael Bernal
New Directions / November 2021

More Reviews from Square Books

How do mosquitoes communicate? What does their society look like– and how would they view ours? “Wise Owl,” thus dubbed by the indigenous tribe he lives with in the Mexican jungle, is a misanthrope disgusted with society at large. When he figures out the language of the mosquitoes, Mosquil, Wise Owl hatches a plan to take ultimate revenge on human civilization. Heavy themes of faith, modernity, free will, and meaning are filtered through an ecological sci-fi sieve. Vonnegut’s Galapagos meets the Island of Dr. Moreau, with even more merited cynicism.

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw


Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Tor Nightfire / October 2021

More Reviews from The Haunted Book Shop

A Fall 2021 Read This Next! Title

Well. That was nuts. Khaw threw together a fast-paced ghost story, the bitter lyricism of her writing conveying the complexity of feelings when you have History with someone, as well as the surreal when an offended ghost decides it’s making an example out of you.

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Oh William Capote's Women The Thursday Murder Club
Entangled Life Boo Stew

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“ A story can always break into pieces while it sits inside a book on a shelf; and, decades after we have read it even twenty times, it can open us up, by cut or caress, to a new truth.”
– Andre Dubus

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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