The Southern Bookseller Review 12/13/22

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of December 13, 2022

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The week of December 13, 2022

A light in the dark.

The Country Bookshop during the country blackout, photo credit The Southern Pines Pilot

On Saturday December 3rd, a gunfire attack on two power substations in Moore County, North Carolina plunged the entire county into darkness. The attack damaged equipment that regulates the power grid, making repairs complicated and slow. And while Duke Energy’s crews worked around the clock, the country was without power for over a week. A curfew was implemented. Schools and businesses had to close. People without power had to go to shelters for food, warmth, and medical assistance. Most disturbing, it was determined that this was not a case of simple vandalism, but a deliberate attack on the power grid.

One of the damaged substations was located near Pinehurst, NC, the home of The Country Bookshop, the area’s long-standing and much-beloved local bookstore. On the Tuesday following the attack, with the lights still out, store manager Kimberly Daniels Taws opened the shop and distributed free children’s books, as well as hot soup, chili, and snacks.

"We wanted today to bring a little spirit to everybody," she said to The Shelf Awareness newsletter, noting that the attack had demoralized the community. Daniels Taws worked with a local bank, which provided the funds to donate the children’s books.

The response from the community was "heartwarming." People flocked to the only open store in downtown Southern Pines, as much to be a part of the gathering as to have a bowl of chili. The store ran out of food, exceeded their donation in books given away. The community rallied around Country Bookshop, which was determined to stay open throughout the blackout as a place for people to come together.

Daniels Taws noted that bookshop staff set out to "remind people of what our community really is and who we really are." They did.

Exhortations to "Shop Local" are familiar to shoppers in the holiday season, and the great "Blackout Book Bonanza" at Country Bookshop last week is an example of why. Country Bookshop is not unique in its impulse as a local business to give back to its community in a crisis. Local businesses thrive and fail as their neighborhoods and towns thrive and fail. When you buy a gift at a local business, you aren’t just giving something to a friend or a family member, you are also giving something to your own community.

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Southern Book Prize Finalist!

What’s the best Southern book of the year?

Child by Judy Goldman


Child by Judy Goldman
University of South Carolina Press / May 2022

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

Southern Book Prize Finalist

In her lovely memoir, Judy Goldman reflects on what it was like to be a young Jewish girl raised by a Black nanny in the 1940s and 50s south. Mattie Culp became a part of the Kurtz family: sleeping in young Judy’s bedroom, using the family bathroom, celebrating holidays with them—things unheard of in the Jim Crow south. Now in her 80s, Goldman reflects on what Mattie had to give up—including her own child—in order to make the Kurtz family’s life so much easier.


Reviewed by Linda Hodges of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir


Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Grove Press, Black Cat / December 2022

More Reviews from Bookmiser

Olafdottir takes us to Iceland a few days before Christmas where a midwife, Domhildur, has just delivered her 1,922nd baby. She comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and her father’s family work as undertakers. Her family deals with beginnings and endings, life and death, and sunlight and darkness. “I have come to the conclusion that the one who calls himself the master of all creatures is in fact the most vulnerable of all animals…the most fragile of the fragile on the planet.” These words, written by Domhildur’s great-aunt, are discovered in some manuscripts left in a closet after her death. Domhildur reads her great-aunt’s reflections on humans, life, and loves, while a storm is moving into Reykjavik. Will the prediction in these pages come to be reality? Will mankind be “the most short-lived species on earth”?

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung


Bora Chung, Photo credit AFP Jung Yeon-je

I think urban legends, myths and folktales constantly tell us that what you know is not all, and you shouldn’t be arrogant enough to think that what your five senses can sense is all there is to feel and perceive and think.” ―Bora Chung, Interview, The Korea Herald

What booksellers are saying about Cursed Bunny: Stories

Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung
  • Cursed Bunny is a fantastically weird and thought-provoking collection of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories that had me ruminating long after I had finished them. Bora Chung takes the bases of human nature (and a lot of the worst ones) and puts them on display like an open wound for the reader. Along with covering individual issues like greed, despair, or love… the stories also tackle societal issues regarding feminism and poverty as well. This book is perfect for horror fans that also enjoy literary fiction.
      ―Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.

  • A fantastic, Korean story collection that includes nightmarish tales you won’t be able to put down. Bora Chung is bringing a new depth of not only gore and terror to traditional horror but also something more provocative as well. Tales that range from heads emerging from toilets, body horror that you’ll remember for days, and even some more sci-fi elements as well, this story collection is not for the faint of heart. An unforgettable book that’ll keep you thinking for days.
      ―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Delightfully gruesome, disarmingly weird, and incredibly sharp; Bora Chung’s debut collection Cursed Bunny is an incredibly memorable trip into the mind of an amazing new voice. From a head growing out of a toilet wanting to be free, a snared fox that bleeds gold, or the titular cursed bunny; each of Chung’s amazing stories reads like a dark fable that would give the Grimm brothers a run for their money. With themes of gender, greed, and technology, Cursed Bunny is a must read for those who take their humor black and their ideas big. So very good!
      ―Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Bora Chung

Bora Chung has written three novels and three collections of short stories. She has an MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University. She has taught Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.

Anton Hur was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He won a PEN Translates award for Kang Kyeong-ae’s The Underground Village and his translation of Sang Young Park’s Love in the Big City was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2022. He lives in Seoul.

The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch


The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch
Berkley / November 2022

More Reviews from E, Shaver, bookseller

Meet Frankie and Ezra. They’re about to ‘Party Like It’s 1999,’ if they can remember what happened during the last 24 hours. Find out what happens when you mix exes at a wedding, throw in a little college shenanigans, and stir up a decade-old hatred. Filled with ’90s nostalgia (including dial-up, pay phones, the start of Google, and, yes, online dating), you won’t put this down simply because you’ll want to know what exactly Frankie and Ezra did that night. If you’re looking for a light romance to bring in 2023, here it is! (Only thing missing: A curated list of songs mentioned in the book.)

Reviewed by Jenny Gilroy, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Whorephobia by Lizzie Borden


Whorephobia by Lizzie Borden
 Seven Stories Press / December 2022

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

A gorgeously done collection of all things stripping and sex work told by those who know it best. With stories told by 20-some contributors to this essay collection, the lessons and experiences recounted in this span decades. Focused first on the strip clubs that populated New York City in the late 80s and 90s, the switch to more modern accounts is refreshing and makes this a current and fantastically well-done anthology on pro-sex work.

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow


How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow
HarperTeen / November 2022

More Reviews from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

This is the book I, a Jewish lesbian nerd with bushy hair and a love of corgis, needed as a teen. How to Excavate a Heart has all of the tropes us hopeless romantics love- a meet-cute, enemies-to-lovers, and kissing in the snow. It also has really great advice that teenage me would’ve benefited from: your partner should add to your life, but they shouldn’t be your whole life. There’s so much beauty in the world, and part of that can be your kind of mean, hot Jewish girlfriend, but she doesn’t need to be all of it! Besides the invaluable lessons in the book, the love story is compelling and well-paced, and sweet. Shani and May are learning about themselves and love and how to deal with parents and fish fossils together, which is what love is really about. Fill yourself with holiday cheer and read this book!

Julia Hirschfield from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

How We Say I Love You by Nicole Chen


How We Say I Love You by Nicole Chen
Knopf Books for Young Readers / December 2022

More Reviews from Bookmarks

How We Say I Love You reminds readers there are many ways to show love in your family. The story follows an Asian American girl through a day with her family, who show their love through actions like packing a homemade lunch or doing their best at school. This book is a beautiful way to talk about love and families with even the youngest of readers.

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

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

My Darkest Prayer by S. A. Cosby


My Darkest Prayer by S. A. Cosby
 Flatiron Books / December 2022

More Reviews from Union Ave. Books

A December 2022 Read This Next! Title

In this novel, readers are introduced to a story where religion, region, karma, and race intersect. Nathan, (former marine and ex-cop) has experienced loss of his own, and he’s dealt his own hand of karma to others. So, when the local sheriff’s office doubles down on corruption, he takes the case of a local minister’s death into his own hands in an attempt to bring peace to the congregation. This novel is full of twists and turns that will leave your jaw on the floor. This novel dissects the weight of loss on a person’s moral compass. In this small Virginia community is where the darkest secrets are revealed–where the darkest prayers are heard. S.A. Cosby is a force to be reckoned with.

Reviewed by Leo Coffey, Union Ave. Books in Knoxville, Tennessee

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

A World of Curiosities A Book of Days The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
The Best American Food Writing Odder

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
– S.I. Hayakawa

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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