The Southern Bookseller Review 2/14/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 7, 2023

View Online | Unsubscribe | SBR Archive | SUBSCRIBE TO SBR

The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

facebook  twitter  instagram 

The week of February 14, 2023

The 2023 Southern Book Prize Winners

The Southern Book Prize

As a "valentine" to people who love Southern Literature, Southern indie booksellers and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance are pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Southern Book Prize (SBP).

This year’s winners are Lark Ascending by Silas House (Algonquin Books) in Fiction, Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott (Atria) in Nonfiction, and Nigel and the Moon by Antwan Eady and Gracey Zhang (illus.) (Katherine Tegen Books) in Children’s. Winners receive a donation in their name to the charity or nonprofit of their choice.

The Prize, representing Southern bookseller favorites from 2023, is awarded to “the best Southern book of the year” as nominated by Southern indie booksellers and voted on by their customers. Winners were chosen by popular vote from a ballot of finalists in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. Over 1800 ballots were cast making each Southern Book Prize winner a true Southern reader favorite.  

The Authors:

Silas House“This award is particularly special to me because it comes from Southern indie booksellers and readers–the two main groups that have given me a writing career for more than twenty years now,” said Silas House. “I cannot thank them enough for everything. To me Lark Ascending is a warning about what is already happening but it’s also a meditation on the way hope survives, and how we must always fight back. For those reasons I am especially grateful for it to receive the increased visibility this recognition will provide.” House requested that his donation go to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “as a tribute to Seamus, the good beagle in Lark Ascending who has found a place in the heart of many readers.”

Mary Laura Philpott, photo credit Heidi RossMary Laura Philpott said “Oh, wow! What could mean more to a writer than an award granted by readers and booksellers, the people who know and love books more than anyone? I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t believe that when my books leave my head, they land in the hands and hearts of such thoughtful human beings. It’s an honor to play a tiny part in the grand and ever-evolving Southern literary tradition―not to mention to be in the company of this year’s brilliant fellow nominees. Thank you so much.” Philpott chose to have her donation go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Gracey Zhang, phot credit Gracey ZhangAntwan Eady, photo credit Antwan Eady“Thank you all for receiving Nigel into your hearts and homes, and may dreamers of all ages feel seen, heard, and loved," wrote Antwan Eady. "Nigel, as we know him today, would not exist without the incredible, hardworking team from Katherine Tegen Books at HarperCollins Children’s Books, the über talented Gracey Zhang, and the people who’ve championed us along the way: our agents, families and friends. We’ve given Nigel a story, but all of you have given him a life.”  Eady has asked for his donation to go to Readers to Dreamers, while Gracey Zhang has requested hers be given to AKUT, an NGO currently doing search and rescue in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.

Read more about the winner books

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel


On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel
Knopf / February 2023

More Reviews from Square Books

I honestly can’t think of another novel that had quite the emotional impact on me that reading On The Savage Side did. Searing, brutal and unflinching in its portrayal of addiction and the devastation that it wreaks, the novel ripped my heart out and stomped all over it. In telling the story of identical twins Daffy and Arc, McDaniels gives voice to countless marginalized women, and her beautiful, lyrical prose reveals the humanity among the wreckage of lives, hopes and dreams lost to drugs.

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka


The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
Anchor / January 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

New in paperback!

Brilliant, sublime and surprising. On my forever favorite shelf. Julie Otsuka has the mystical gift of telling just as much of a story with what she doesn’t say. Reader, treat yourself with care if you have or have had a loved one with dementia…but I think The Swimmers is more than worthy of the heart ache.

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

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz


Julia Bartz, photo credit Savannah Lauren


It was very fun to write Roza because she makes her own rules and she has certain boundaries and in other ways she doesn’t have any boundaries at all, she’s very intimidating. I started to write this book was really to explore my "shadow parts" those are the parts of ourselves we repress, usually when we’re young. And for women and girls a lot of those parts have to do with anger, aggression, sexuality…and when we do experience those feelings it can bring a lot of shame. So I wanted to really focus on a character who feels no shame.” ―Julia Bartz, InterviewShe Wore Black Podcast

What booksellers are saying about The Writing Retreat

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
  • You know how sometimes you think ,”If someone would just make me do this, I’d really knock it out and do great”… well be careful what you wish for! This twisty novel of mind games and winter weather will leave you gasping. Loved that it was as much about the craft of writing as it is an unsettling thriller.
      ―Susan Williams from M. Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, SC | Buy from M. Judson, booksellers

  • The Writing Retreat explores what happens when Alex, a horror writer experiencing a wretched bout of writer’s block finds themself at their idol’s estate for an amazing chance of finally being published. Oh yeah, did I mention her ex-best friend and source of said writer’s block is also in the house? A wildly imaginative psychological thriller that explores the question: who do our stories and memories really belong to?
      ―Eden Hakimzadeh from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • OK, I thought this was going to be a particular type of thriller with a predictable albeit revamped plot- dear lord was I incorrect. Halfway through, I’m reading a passage about drug induced sex with a demon with kaleidoscopic eyes. Heck yes! More of this! More of these terrifying, queer, uncomfortable books. I am so delighted and surprised. And this is a debut? Isn’t it kind of hard to write a successful mystery? Let alone, an expose on queer shame, toxic relationships, and social nuances? Dang, Julia. When this book comes out, it’s going straight to my staff picks.
      ―Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books (NC) in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • Nightmares, sleepwalking, poisons, drugs, dark basements, ghosts, secret passageways, hauntings, and dangers await talented young women as they step into the mansion Blackbriar for a month-long writing retreat. Roza Vallo, a successful feminist horror writer, is the owner of this magnificent mansion and promises that in the month one of these participants could win a million dollars and fame and fortune for writing the best story. What would these women do to become wealthy and realize their dream of being a famous writer? Beginning with the mysterious necklaces, these women become discombobulated as they dwell in Blackbriar and face terrors and secrets and dangers in the spooky, horrifying situation. No reader will forget this thriller or easily put down this shocking story until the last page.
      ―Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Julia Bartz

Julia Bartz is a Brooklyn-based writer and practicing therapist. Her fiction writing has appeared in The South Dakota ReviewInDigest Magazine, and more. The Writing Retreat is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaBartz and Instagram at @JuliaBartz.

Victory City by Salman Rushdie


Victory City by Salman Rushdie
 Random House / February 2023

More Reviews from Righton Books

A woman who suffers a horrifying childhood trauma is transformed into the creator of a city, buildings and denizens alike. Who else but Salman Rushdie has the imagination required to create this woman, who has an almost endless imagination? Rushdie is a modern, male Scheherazade, spinning his fanciful tales of romance, religion, politics, and corruption, with dollops of laugh-out-loud humor and magical realism.

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

Dyscalculia by Camonghne Felix


Dyscalculia by Camonghne Felix
One World / February 2023

More Reviews from Epilogue Books

Where this book shines is the author’s ability to almost tangibly describe the emotions she’s experiencing through multiple parts of this book. Along with that, it viscerally relays the experience of dealing with mental illness from a young age, having that impact your life and relationships, and trying survive amidst all of that. This will be enjoyed by people who like these sort of lyrical writings (especially if you like poetry).

Reviewed by Ndobe Foletia, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb


Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / February 2023

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

Wow, what a beautifully written book that deals with a lot of complex issues while still feeling like a wonderful fantasy novel. What was so beautiful you may ask?

First of all, the characters. Normally I find childhood best friends/lovers turned enemies to be very unbelievable but M.K. Lobb found the best way to do it. Roz and Damian were very believable characters with trauma that manifests in very different ways. PTSD isn’t always hiding in a corner or freaking out at loud noises.

Second of all, the plot of which I’d say there are really two plot lines and then a third of when they finally converge together. A murder mystery and a rebellion don’t really seem to fit together until they finally do and I was excited for every second. This book didn’t feel like it was almost 400 pages because I just kept wanting to find out what happened next.

Third of all, that twist. The villain of this story honestly blind-sided me. I went for the obvious choice because no one else met the qualifications for the big bad. Now don’t get me wrong, my guess was a very terrible person but they just weren’t the real villain we were looking for.

This book also handled multiple point of views very well. There’s really only two points of view for this book, Damian and Roz, and they don’t spend time recapping events that happened in the other character’s chapter, they just move on with a maybe a line saying "I don’t know what they’re thinking so I’m just going to continue to solve this mystery" and that was it. Which I really appreciate. I don’t like being told things and M.K. Lobb delivered the story brilliantly.

Reviewed by Cass W, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Lasagna Means I Love You by Kate O’Shaughnessy


Lasagna Means I Love You by Kate O’Shaughnessy
Knopf Books for Young Readers / February 2023

More Reviews from M. Judson, Booksellers

So much love for Lasagna Means I Love You! A lovely novel about how food tells our stories and what means family. When sad circumstances leave Mo alone in the world, she discovers the path to a new beginning is filled with tears, frustration, laughter, love and a full tummy!

Reviewed by Susan Williams, M. Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Good Night, Planet by Liniers


Good Night, Planet by Liniers
TOON Books / March 2023

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

Gorgeous drawings meet a classic childhood tale of a toy who comes to life at night. A wonderful early graphic novel to introduce young children to the format.

Reviewed by Jill Hendrix, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn


When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn
 Bloomsbury Children’s Books / February 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

An February 2023 Read This Next! Title

When Sea Becomes Sky is a book that needs to be read spoiler free, but what I can tell you is that this is Gillian McDunn at her finest. The intersection of science and art is a perfect complement to the interpersonal relationships in the book, every single detail adds a layer and a complexity the story that makes this one to sit and think about. I love how careful McDunn is with her characters and their emotions – and the experience of her readers. Bex and her family will stay in my heart for a very, very long time.

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

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Remarkably Bright Creatures The Half Known Life In Search of Paradise Violeta
Here is Flesh The Last Mapmaker

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories.”
– Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet

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