The Southern Bookseller Review 6/13/23

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of June 13, 2023

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The week of June 13, 2023

The Bookstores with the Buzz

Bee, illustration by Ratsanai

Each week SBR publishes a Book Buzz feature highlighting a book which is receiving exceptionally excited reviews from booksellers. We gather all — or at least some! — of those reviews together to give readers several points of view about the books. "Book Buzz" is one of the most popular features in the newsletter and on the website.

But who are these bookstores who write such enthusiastic things? This week’s buzz is humming around Deborah Levy’s new novel, August Blue. Here is a little bit of information about who is doing the buzzing:

Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia has been an institution in the city since 1978, and says they host more author events than any other entity in the entire state. The current owner, Kelly Justice, considers herself more of steward of "a gem that belongs to the city." The Just Cause Statement on their website proclaims, "We exist to create experiences of joy, discovery, laughter, and connection."

Adah Fitzgerald, owner of Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina, is also conscious that she "carries the torch" of a business that is at the heart of the town. She took over ownership seven years ago, but Main Street Books has been in operation since 1987. The store’s philosophy? "We strive to feed the imaginations of our readership with books that act as windows and mirrors."

Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia, is a bright and cheerful store that regards itself as "a place for discovery." It was started in 2019 by Darryl Peck, who dreamed of creating an independent bookstore like the ones he grew up with in Upper West Manhattan. They proudly claim to have the largest collection of cookbooks in the southeast.

Thank You Books in Birmingham, Alabama is also opened its doors in the fall of 2019, just a few months before the pandemic. Started by three friends (Laura Cotten, Kristen Iskandrian and Elizabeth Goodrich) who found the area’s tradition of storytellers and writers something worth nurturing. Woman-owned and community-minded, Thank You Books sought to make Birmingham a regular stop for touring authors — something it has succeeded in doing. At the heart of the store is the belief that "Reading is an act of listening" — a core principle the follow to make the bookstore "a place of respite" in a changing world.

Read This Now | Read This Next | Book Buzz | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Zero Days by Ruth Ware


Zero Days by Ruth Ware
Gallery/Scout Press / June 2023

Adult FictionPsychologicalThrillers
More Reviews from Copperfish Books

Gabe and Jacinta are professional "hackers" hired by companies to investigate security weaknesses. After one such investigation, Jacinta returns home to find Gabe murdered. When Jacinta realizes she’s the prime suspect, she runs, trying to survive long enough to discover who murdered Gabe and why. You will be racing with her, pursuing the culprit in an effort to prevent his escape and stop Zero Day and disaster. You may recognize this story as a 21st century version of the movie, The Fugitive, with similar action and suspense. Zero Days…another exciting thriller by Ruth Ware!

Reviewed by Karen Solar, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: August Blue by Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy, photo credit Amanda Benson/BBC/PA

I used to write better early in the morning. If I had it my way I would be up at 4 a.m., and I would write until 2 p.m., and then that would be the end of the writing day. Mornings are so soft, and everything’s still, everything’s quiet, nothing’s really begun early in the morning. They suit me. The perfect life would be to stop at 2 p.m. and for there to be blazing sunshine and to just be able to swim and frolic. Frolic, I think that’s a lovely word, frolic, and I think we should all do more frolicking. ― Deborah Levy, Interview, The White Review

What booksellers are saying about August Blue

August Blue by Deborah Levy
  • This is a truly magical book, one that feels like an ode to all the versions of yourself and a masterclass in subtle suspense.
      ― Emily Tarr from Thank You Books in Birmingham, AL | Buy from Thank You Books

  • After a concert pianist has a breakdown during a performance, she leaves her professional life to try to rediscover herself. Fans of Deborah Levy’s spare and offbeat writing style will not be disappointed in this book, which explores weighty issues through dream-like episodes
      ― Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA | Buy from Righton Books

  • Deborah Levy’s newest is a slow-burning, David Lynch-esque novel that follows a talented young pianist named Elsa. After a devastating performance leads her to take up smaller tutoring jobs across Europe, she begins spotting an enigmatic woman who bares a resemblance to herself. Country across country, Elsa attempts to come to terms with her work as an artist, her familial relationships, and most importantly, her own self. Written with razor-sharp prose that cuts through the hazy cigar smoke that cloaks this mysterious book, this is Levy at her finest.  
      ― Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • A dreamy, intentional meditation on identity and how it does and doesn’t form us. In pure Deborah Levy style, the narrative feels as if it’s floating, a shimmering haze of words transcribing into feeling. For fans of Jenny Offill and Clare Pollard.
      ― Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

About Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, broadcast on the BBC, and widely translated. She is the author of highly praised novels, including The Man Who Saw Everything (long-listed for the Booker Prize), Hot Milk and Swimming Home (both Man Booker Prize finalists), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl; the acclaimed story collection Black Vodka; and two parts of her working autobiography, Things I Don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living. She lives in London and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

All Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby


All Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby
 Flatiron Books / June 2023

Adult FictionAfrican American & BlackCrimeFictionMystery & DetectiveSmall Town & RuralSouthernThrillers
More Reviews from McIntyre’s Books

Read This Next!

A June 2023 Read This Next! Title

Mr. Cosby has upped the ante once again! Instead of down at the heel ne’er do wells searching for something better he has segued to a sheriff fighting the ills permeating the air of his small town. Bad air that wasn’t know until a school shooting that opens up a veritable Pandora’s box of evil and depravity. Written in his inimitable style, strong yet compassionate, he gets deep into the heart and soul of his characters and makes them come alive like no one else writing today.

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop by Alba Donati


Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop by Alba Donati
Scribner / June 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

The myths of Shakespeare are so deeply ingrained that I didn’t realize how many of the things I "know" may not be correct. Winkler makes an excellent case that the Shakespeare we read may not be the Shakespeare of Avon, and she makes it very clear that not every anti-Stratfordian is a crank. I am not convinced but I am intrigued, and I will keep digging for myself. To me, that makes this book successful–I am hooked and I want to know more.

Reviewed by Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

An Echo in the City by K. X. Song


An Echo in the City by K. X. Song
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / April 2023

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

A bittersweet story told by two teens on opposite sides of the 2019 Hong Kong protests. Phoenix is an upper-class prep school student who gets swept up in the protests; Kai is a recent immigrant from mainland China who joins the police force to gain the approval of his HK officer father. This book is beautiful, propulsive, and important–I’d recommend it highly to older teens, with the note that it includes some really intense, difficult scenes that may be too much for younger readers.

Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Snug as a Bug? by Karl Newson


Snug as a Bug? by Karl Newson
Happy Yak / June 2023

AnimalsChildrenInsectsJuvenile FictionSpiders
More Reviews from Quail Ridge Books

A hilarious read that had me giggling with every page!

Poor bug has quite the day dodging one creature after another. Just when you think bug is safe- WHAM they find themselves in another pickle.

The repeating phrase and rhyming words are sure to make this a fun read aloud for children of all ages. It is sure to be a story time favorite.

Snug as a bug indeed!

Reviewed by Michelle Weiler, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Mighty Bite by Nathan Hale


The Mighty Bite by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams / April 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

A trilobite has a dream to become famous and it gets silly from there; what’s not to love? Nathan Hale has crafted a delightfully wacky, hilarious, and clever graphic novel filled with ape gods, extinct animals, Amber the walking whale, a video-making contest, and a floating talking cat head. Pure fun!

Reviewed by Caleb Masters, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Decide for Yourself

Books that appear on PEN America’s list of challenged books.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
 Quill Tree Books / March 2020

Banned BooksNovels in VerseYoung Adult
More Reviews from Main Street Books

Beautiful coming age story that follows a teenager in Harlem as she copes with questions around family, religion and relationships through finding herself in poetry.

Reviewed by Melissa Summers, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What’s popular this week with Southern Readers.

All the Sinners Bleed Poverty, by America Trust
Killers of the Flower Moon The Moth Keeper

[ See the full list ]

Parting Thought

“Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien

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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