The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Fiction

Spotlight on: Which Side Are You On? by Ryan Lee Wong

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More and more I believe that in the face of a political situation or in the face of an emergency, you have to ask the questions, ‘Which side are you on? Where do I stand in relation to this?’And at the exact same time, ultimately, there are no sides.” ―Ryan Lee Wong, Interview, Los Angeles Times

 

Which Side Are You On? by Ryan Lee Wong

What booksellers are saying about Which Side Are You On?

  • A son returns home to LA for his grandmother’s last few days, and opens up to learn of his parents’ history as activists. He compares his own experiences with theirs as he struggles to figure out his future as a college student and self-proclaimed radical. Perfect for this moment, when so many of us are studying history to blaze new trails forward. I found this book very thought-provoking, and the family’s story refreshing.
      ―Alissa Redmond from South Main Book Co. in Salisbury, North Carolin | Buy from South Main Book Co.

  • Ryan Lee Wong packed so much into fewer than 200 pages! I loved the story of his family and how everything was revealed to him. I walked away still thinking of how Reed, the protagonist, learned that we have to allow stories to change us, not just to reinforce our own opinions. As someone who also lived in Los Angeles, I could envision exact places the author was describing; this also felt like a love story to his hometown.  ―Amber Taylor from One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia | Buy from One More Page

  • Ryan Lee Wong’s debut Which Side Are You On is something special. This is a serious book with funny moments that centers around a young college student’s relationship with his mom. Reed is a young Asian American activist working to confront racism in America but he’s been shielded from the roles his parents played in the Korean-Black coalition in L.A. When he comes home from college in a life crisis, Reed’s mother pushes him to truly examine what he is doing to change the world.  ―Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia | Buy from Avid Bookshop

About Ryan Lee Wong

Ryan Lee Wong was born and raised in Los Angeles, lived for two years at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, and currently lives in Brooklyn, where he is the administrative director of Brooklyn Zen Center. Previously, he served as program director for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and managing director of Kundiman. He has organized exhibitions and written extensively on the Asian American movements of the 1970s. He holds an MFA in fiction from Rutgers University–Newark. Which Side Are You On is his first book.

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Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

The story of family and how lives intersect over time, Signal Fires is a quiet portrait of neighbors who lived near a 500-year-old oak tree during a large chunk of their lives. How those in the two families live and people chose to intersect or not to, choose to acknowledge weakness or tragedy- or do not- as they move through lives stages and across the country are central to this novel.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593534724, October 2022)

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead is a brilliant retelling of the David Copperfield story from the perspective of the poor son of a teenage mother living in rural Appalachia. From the first sentence, Demon’s voice grabs us and takes us on an unforgettable journey through his early life. This novel about a resilient boy develops empathy for families and children so frequently dismissed in the national discourse. It is a masterful American story

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, (List Price: $32.50, Harper, 9780063251922, October 2022)

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)

Reviewed by Cheryl Lafaye Lee, 44th & 3rd Bookseller in Atlanta, Georgia

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Which Side Are You On is a dialogue-heavy book with prose that is sharp, thought-provoking, and humorous at times. The reader sees the subjects of race, policing, politics, & privilege through the eyes of a young activist as he pries into his parents’ own personal history of activism in their younger days. Filled with interesting anecdotes and hard-learned lessons, this book shows that sometimes personal growth is best attained through deep conversation and self-reflection.

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong, (List Price: $24, Catapult, 9781646221486, October 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Oh, I hope and pray this is the runaway blockbuster of the year, as it deserves to be. Dystopian, centered around concept the US government can re-home children on the basis of anonymous reports of seditious parental behavior. One woman uses poetry to combat this, and the rampant anti-Asian hate that is taking over society. With hero librarians behind the scenes attempting to keep fractured family ties documented – SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS. ALL OF THIS. I AM SO HERE FOR IT. Celeste Ng is now officially a literary force. I’m calling Our Missing Hearts my one and only official book recommendation of 2022 – no others will come close.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, (List Price: $29, Penguin Press, 9780593492543, October 2022)

Reviewed by Alissa Redmond, South Main Book Company in Salisbury, North Carolina

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

There is something that happens when you take an age old trope (age-gap or best friend’s dad) and make it queer that breathes new life into the story. So many chili peppers for this book. Sheesh.

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner, (List Price: $16.99, St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250841001, October 2022)

Reviewed by Katie Garaby, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela

A full-hearted homecoming story of reckoning with the past as it hits you hard and fast all while trying to carve a way forward–when for so long it looked like the only way was straight. Bounces around the lives of late 30s queer Latino and his former classmates and family to map out the landscape of the suburbs and the inner lives America so often pushes aside. Astute, enraged, and charming as hell.

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela, (List Price: $27, Astra House, 9781662601033, March 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Nobody Gets Out Alive : Stories by Leigh Newman

This collection of occasionally-interlinking stories simmers with personalities hardened by the harsh wilderness, by the survival of the everyday and the illusion of escape. Some of the stories connect to follow a character from childhood through adulthood while others follow young women into motherhood, one frenetic event building into the next and illuminating a range of once-peripheral characters alongside them. The effect is absorbing, an abstract portrait of a community shaped by their landscape, remote and reckless, fissured and cruel and coping.

Nobody Gets Out Alive : Stories by Leigh Newman, (List Price: $26.99, Scribner, 9781982180300, April 2022)

Reviewed by Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Rabbit Hutch by Tessa Gunty

The Rabbit Hutch is about 18 year old Blandine Watkins, who has recently aged out of the foster care system and hopes soon to escape her earthly body like the female mystics who obsess her. It’s also about a dying Midwestern town, formerly home to an automobile manufacturer with a cultishly devoted customer base whose bankruptcy left the town in financial ruin and poisoned by toxic chemicals. And The Rabbit Hutch is also about the Rabbit Hutch, a low-income housing experiment full of residents living lives of varying degrees of quiet desperation, all of whom are brought sharply to life by Tess Gunty’s intricate, precise, dishy prose. It’s dark, but funny. It’s tragic, but affirming. And I didn’t want to skim over a single sentence, the writing is just that good. I will read anything Gunty publishes in the future.

The Rabbit Hutch by Tessa Gunty, (List Price: $28.00, Knopf, 9780593534663, August 2022)

Reviewed by Kat Leache, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

Spotlight on: Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

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One of the biggest conundrums was to get the sense of time,” Strout said of the grocery-washing era of 2020, when calendars went blank and sinister. “It’s like time just imploded. The sense of a day was strange and the sense of a week was even stranger, because what was a week? I wanted to get that down on the page somehow.” ―Elizabeth Strout, Interview,New York Times

 

Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

What booksellers are saying about Lucy By the Sea

  • This is a story of loss, and coming to terms with it, and realizing that we are all just trying to do the best we can and get through it all. Another fabulous Elizabeth Strout novel!―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina | Buy from this store

  • I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Lucy Barton! Set in the early days of the COVID pandemic, Elizabeth Strout puts Lucy and her ex-husband (and still close friend) William together in a cabin in Maine. William is “saving Lucy’s life” by getting her out of Manhattan. For her part, Lucy doesn’t know what the big deal is. The two of them navigate this new world, and we are drawn back to that uncertain time when so much was unknown. In Lucy’s singular voice, Strout continues Lucy’s story with a keen eye and sharp prose.
      ―Lynne Phillips from Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas | Buy from this store

  • “I could not stop feeling that life as I had known it was gone. Because it was. I knew this was true.” Lucy Barton feels this as the global pandemic took over all our lives… and didn’t we all feel this? Reading Lucy by the Sea leads the reader through the horrors and hopes of this strangest and most horrifying time of our collective lives. The unknown was with us every minute of lockdown and, as all our lives changed, we changed forever.  ―Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia | Buy from this store

  • Strout explores grief in a new way in this pandemic-era novel. ‘Lucy By the Sea’ centers around the outbreak of COVID and everything that followed during the year after. I instantly fell deeply immersed in this story because I (and we all) lived through that year. I felt emotionally involved with Lucy and her world. I struggled with Lucy while she came to grips of the new reality that was COVID, my heart broke as her relationship with her daughters changed, and I rolled my eyes along with her at William. You are not invisible Lucy, we see you.  ―Jenny Gilroy from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia | Buy from this store

  • Elizabeth Strout brings her character, Lucy, back just as the world is shut down by the pandemic. Lucy finds herself quarantining with her ex-husband William in a small town in Maine and begins to see him from a different point of view. Lucy’s fresh outlook extends to her two daughters and their own life challenges. Told in Lucy’s clear, no-nonsense voice, the lockdown provides the backdrop for how to deal with a world in turmoil without losing hope.  ―Mary Jane Michels from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina | Buy from this store

About Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Oh William!; Olive, Again; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name Is Lucy Barton; The Burgess Boys; Olive Kitteridge, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine.

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Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

A thought-provoking and riveting look at the difference between keeping things secret and keeping things private. Mad Honey is told in alternating voices and timelines by Olivia, the mother of Asher, and Lily, Asher’s new to town girlfriend. Both Olivia and Lily are familiar with starting over. Olivia by leaving an abusive husband and Lily by moving for her last year of high school. When Lily is found dead, all eyes focus on Asher as a likely suspect. The layers of both Lily and Olivia’s lives are revealed as the investigation and trial bring long-held secrets to light. This is a page-turner that will leave you wondering how far you would go to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult, (List Price: $29.99, Ballantine Books, 9781984818386, October 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Jane Michels, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw

Aleen Cust was born an English noblewoman in 1868 but developed a love for animals and a strong desire to be educated and become a veterinary surgeon. This ambition was unheard of in a woman, and it resulted in her mother and her siblings shunning her for life. Despite her family’s hatred of her desire to be educated and many societal obstacles , Aleen successfully trained in Scotland but was prohibited from qualifying because of her sex. She persisted in the field working with an Irish vet, Willie Byrne, with whom she developed an intense love relationship. She practiced veterinary science for 22 years before she was granted her diploma. Where would women be today if not for the brave, independent women who paved the path?

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw, (List Price: $16.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728257709, October 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has a wonderful way with words, combining laugh-out-loud wit with unexpected pathos. I gobbled up Shrines of Gaiety – which features a motley crew of characters in 1920s London, including a nightclub boss, a chief inspector intent on weeding out corruption in the police, a teenage runaway in search of fame, and a former WW1 nurse in search of said missing teenager – in just a couple of days. Recommended.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, (List Price: $29, Doubleday, 9780385547970, September 2022)

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

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

This intertwined collection of short stories is a powerful and engrossing American debut from Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. The stories travel from 1920’s Nigeria to modern day New York and back again, following multiple characters all interconnected by strong women whose choices echo on for generations. Very well paced and structured, each story moves quickly and seamlessly into the next. Romance, power struggles, day-in-the-life: this novel has something for everyone.

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, (List Price: $27.99, Amistad, 9780063117044, September 2022)

Reviewed by Alex Einhorn, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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