The Southern Bookseller Review 3/1/22

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 22, 2022

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March 1, 2022

The joy in telling stories that honor the complexity of the human heart.

Read This Next!

The first book featured on this month’s Read This Next! list is Lee Cole’s new novel, Groundskeeping. This is one five books that Southern booksellers have selected as "favorite hand-sells" — the books they are really looking forward to pushing into the hand of their customers.

Books don’t make the Read This Next! list because of one very enthusiastic review. Every book has at least several, and usually a double-fisted handful of excited "five stars!" notes from booksellers. Readers can find out in detail just why Josh from Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia loves it below, but Lindsay from Parnassus in Nashville says "Lee Cole’s debut novel is a superb take on the messiness of writers’ lives and relationships."

And Jude at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi wrote that "Debut author Lee Cole has written such an assured novel that it’s hard to believe it’s his first…Cole’s characterization is particularly strong, with even the smallest bit part coming alive on the page. A tender, nuanced novel that will earn its place in your heart and mind."

Behind every great book at SBR is one…two…maybe even ten great booksellers!

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler


Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / March 2022

More Reviews from Snail on the Wall

Booth is about more than resurrecting a villain from the history books, though it does shine a spotlight on John Wilkes Booth from birth to his infamous assassination of President Lincoln. This is a tale of the entire Booth family, who might be remembered for their theatrical celebrity — from father Junius Booth to his three thespian sons, Edwin, John, and June — but for the crime that brought shame to the clan forevermore. The story takes its time, meandering through births, deaths, and sibling conflicts, and focusing much of its attention on the sisters who had to live in their brothers’ shadow. In the background throughout is Abraham Lincoln, who was gradually making his way to the White House, while the issue of slavery increasingly divided the country. We know about the big battles, from Gettysburg to Antietam, but here we also see the smaller riots and uprisings that inflamed someone like Booth to take matters in his own hands.

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman


Rebecca Kauffman

"I think character development will always be my first love. It wasn’t until the characters in this book became distinct to me that the story itself began to sweep me up as well. Whatever type of story I’m engaging with as a reader or a writer, and whatever sort of craft challenge I undertake, my primary interest is always in people. Whether my books are plotty or meandering, I think I’ll always take the most joy in telling stories that honor the complexity of the human heart. "—Rebecca Kauffman (via Guernica)


What booksellers are saying about Chorus

  • Chorus captured my heart in a way that only a family drama can! I became complete obsessed with the seven Shaw siblings and their shared but distinct memories of two pivotal moments in their family’s history: their mother’s death and their sister’s pregnancy. Told throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the additional layer of historical fiction in this story makes it the perfect selection for any book club. Rebecca Kauffman has landed the first spot on my Best Books of 2022 List!   ―Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC
    Buy from Bookmarks

  • Magnificent. The writing is somehow both simple and decadent. I had to pause multiple times throughout just to appreciate the depth of understanding of human beings, the beauty of the words chosen to convey it. This isn’t East of Eden, but it will be compared to it. Instead, Chorus brings a contemporary style and consciousness to a family in the depression era. It explores the mysteries of family, choices, secrets, anger, grief, connection, but it does not solve them. This book was devastating and incredible. You should read it. ― Becca Sloan from Novel in Memphis, TN
    Buy from Novel.

  • A terrific family saga that questions the meaning of home and the changing roles that family members play over time as they age and experience loss. Through shifting perspectives and over back and forth time periods, the author unravels the mysteries and motivations of the Shaw family in perfect syncopation. I couldn’t put it down! ―Maggie Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NCL
    Buy from Flyleaf Books

About Rebecca Kauffman

Rebecca Kauffman received her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University. She is the author of Another Place You’ve Never Been, which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, The Gunners, which received the Premio Tribuk dei Librai award, and The House on Fripp Island. Originally from rural northeastern Ohio, she now lives in Virginia.

Listening Still by Anne Griffin


Listening Still by Anne Griffin
St. Martin’s Press / March 2022

More Reviews from Novel

Simply beautiful! This is the story of Jeanie Masterson, who can hear the newly dead, and it is not cheesy or cliché or gimmicky; it is beautiful in its entirety. I had the pleasure of listening to an advanced copy of this, narrated by Nicola Coughlan, which only elevated my experience with this book. Kudos to Coughlan who incorporated small pauses and breaths and the sound of tears in one’s eyes, during dialogue, creating realistic-sounding conversation. The production studio’s attention to detail was on point as well, as characters who were on the other end of a phone call sounded tinny and small. Really well done!

Reviewed by Jill Naylor, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Catalina Incognito by Jennifer Torres, Gladys Jose (illus.)


Catalina Incognito by Jennifer Torres, Gladys Jose (illus.)
 Aladdin / March 2022

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Catalina Incognito is the first book in what’s sure to be a charming new chapter book series. Gifted with a magic sewing kit on her eighth birthday, shy and reserved Catalina learns about taking chances and trying again — and also solves the mystery of her aunt’s missing ruby. I loved the way Spanish phrases are mixed in throughout the book.

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan


An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / April 2022

More Reviews from The Haunted Book Shop

I picked up this book because 1. it has a full moon on the cover. I’m a complete sucker for a moon and as I have yet to be steered wrong by this, it will continue to be an indicator of a great story to me. And 2. I am adoring this retelling trend YA is on right now. Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology had me swiftly plucking this from the arc box. Other favorite motifs include: unearthly fireflies, a mysterious and magical book, & unexplainable “natural” happenings. The romance between Luna and Hunter is so sweet and swoon-worthy and doesn’t veer outside the plot (which is a pet peeve of mine).The story takes place in the early 90s which I forget until someone mentions a windbreaker, lol. I learned SO MUCH about Chinese versus Taiwanese culture–I never knew there was/is an identity issue and found it fascinating as Pan expertly weaves it into the Romeo & Juliet narrative. And speaking of R&J, the closer I got to the ending, the more anxious I was about how close to the play Pan would go. No spoilers here, but the ending is chef’s kiss.

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi


Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi
Dey Street Books / March 2022

More Reviews from Square Books

Reading might not seem the most obvious of radical acts – but in Read Dangerously, Iranian-American writer Azar Nafisi shows that it can be. Drawing on her experiences of living in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in today’s America, and citing authors as diverse as Plato, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and Elliot Ackerman, the bestselling writer of Reading Lolita in Tehran illustrates how literature can counter oppression. An erudite, accessible and inspiring book.

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

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies…

Groundskeeping by Lee Cole


Groundskeeping by Lee Cole
Berkley / February 2022

More Reviews from Underground Books

A March 2022 Read This Next! Title

Every character in this book felt so much like someone I’ve known. I have lived most of my life in southern college towns, where professors and liberal arts types live in tense bubbles amidst a sea of religious conservatism and working class anti-intellectualism. This familiar setting forms the backdrop of Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping, which is at its heart a love story between Owen and Alma, from two very different backgrounds. But more than a simple love story it is also a pitch perfect exploration of the nuanced ways race and class form the boundaries of relationships in these communities. I laughed, I cheered, I cringed with recognition, I shared the characters’ pains and sorrows, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Reviewed by  Josh Niesse from Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

Moon Witch Spider King The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman All That She Carried by Tiya Miles
The Bone Track Maybe by Kobi Yamada

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.”
– Maya Angelou

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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