The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Adult Nonfiction

My America by Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwuachi went from Top Chef Kwame to Author Kwame for me with Notes from a Young Black Chef, one of my favorite books of 2019. My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef blends chef and author to create a rich exploration of the food that influenced Onwuachi and he has been inspired to create. Featuring not just recipes but family history, travel stories, and anecdotal tales, My America is a celebration that deserves in place in everyone’s cookbook collection.

My America by Kwame Onwuachi, (List Price: $35, Knopf, 9780525659600, May 2022)

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

Child by Judy Goldman

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.

Child by Judy Goldman, (List Price: $28, University of South Carolina Press, 9781643362830, May 2022)

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

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang

Filled with incredible nuance, beautiful writing, and deep sympathy; Putsata Reang’s stunning memoir Ma and Me is sure to be one of the best books I’ll read this year. Tracing her mother’s story – escaping the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and surviving an abusive marriage – to her own experience; growing up as a gay Khmer-American pulled between to cultures – Reang’s deeply personal book and explores the depth of a mother/daughter relationship and the weight of expectation placed upon future generations. Both full of light and sadness, Ma and Me is a wonder; holding life’s beauty and heartbreak in tandem. I cannot recommend this memoir highly enough

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang, (List Price: $28, MCD, 9780374279264, May 2022)

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

Someone Other Than a Mother by Erin S. Lane

In a society that puts mothers on a pedestal (no greater love than that of a mother!), even if they’re quick to mommy shame them (she lets those kids have too much screen time!), it can be tough and disheartening to navigate the world as a child-free woman. Erin Lane breaks down the Mother Scripts, tackling the origins of what it means to be a mother from biblical times, to the rise of modern motherhood (thanks, Teddy Roosevelt). She interviews women from all backgrounds- women who don’t want kids, can’t have kids, became step-parents, or are raising kids through the foster system. It’s a fascinating insight into the way society perceives women and an important discussion of moving beyond the boundaries of those expectations.

Someone Other Than a Mother by Erin S. Lane, (List Price: $26, TarcherPerigee, 9780593329313, April 2022)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Essential Labor by Angela Garbes

Essential Labor is incredibly timely, but it opens up a timeless approach to mothering as catalyst for change. Speaking from both her experience as a daughter of Filipino immigrants and as a mother, Garbes explores the small, gentle ways we can nudge the dominant narrative, opening a wider world to our children. The Covid-19 pandemic brought down capitalism’s illusory curtain separating labor and the home, yet little changed in societal terms. Garbes argues that the invisible labor that women, mostly BIPOC women, do in the home is the most essential work there is—and that if we embrace a more communal, interdependent, caring way of living, we can make this work not just pleasurable but revolutionary. This is an essential book—it’s challenging, it’s bold, it’s a call to action.

Essential Labor by Angela Garbes, (List Price: $25.99, Harper Wave, 9780062937360, May 2022)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Wired for Love by Stephanie Cacioppo

Wired For Love is part neuroscience and part memoir… but it is ultimately a love story between the world’s foremost authority on the brain’s response to love/loss and the world’s foremost authority on loneliness. Cacioppo includes a lot of scientific information and hard data pulled from years of her research, but she also guides the reader through her own personal story of falling in love and eventually her grief surrounding her husband’s death. She has a way of getting the reader to thoughtfully reevaluate the “common beliefs” surrounding incredibly complex (but purely human) emotions. This book is fantastic.

Wired for Love by Stephanie Cacioppo, (List Price: $28.99, Flatiron Bookss, 9781250790606, April 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón

A May 2022 Read This Next! Selection

A eulogy of sorts to things we are always going to lose, and to the things that are taken from us, this is a beautiful body of work that trembles with hurt, but asks also for its due attention- a wounded thing not yet surrendering. Poems of movement, of worry, of a recognized grief and the subsequent small joys that can bloom out of dirt like small flower heads…Limón never, ever disappoints when it comes to understanding the great and terrible spectrum of emotions that is our cross to bear. It’s as if this newest collection is a honed and finely tuned string of metal hewn from her previous work, singing its own loud and new sound, ever reminding us that she belongs alongside Sontag, Lorde, James Welch, Oliver- the heralds of the Word that have come before and whose worlds will remain long after.

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón, (List Price: $22, Milkweed Editions, 9781639550494, May 2022)

Reviewed by Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Unmasked by Paul Holes

I don’t read a lot of “true crime,” and I honestly struggled with this one until I realized that it had completely captured my attention and I was unable to put it down. Paul Holes has lived a life unimaginable to most of us; facing the depths of depravity and the lengths of evil that exist in this world over the course of his lifetime. Clearly it has affected him…he paints himself as a rather unlikable character, single-mindedly focused on his work at the expense of his relationships, his marriage and his family. Imagine obsessing over one single thing (in his case capturing the Golden State Killer) every day of your life for over two decades. It is no wonder his personal life suffered as a result, but so deep was his obsession with this particular cold case, even his professional life was negatively impacted. I almost wonder if he isn’t affected by Autism or some other syndrome that drove his compulsion to pursue this predator for most of his career. This is a fascinating read not just in the steps it takes to catch a killer, but in how it can affect the lives of so many different people in so many different ways. It is disturbing, but compelling and even if it isn’t something you would normally pick up, it was an amazing read.

Unmasked by Paul Holes, (List Price: $28.99, Celadon Books, 9781250622792,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

This collection is like a candy bag of sweets that will delight you with bright colors, textures, flavors, and then wash over you with strange childhood nostalgia and pucker the sore parts of your cheeks. Swinging from trivialities like ad jingles and jumping on trampolines to deep observations about love, family, and identity, these poems are able to sweep the highs and lows, silly and serious into folded notes you can keep in your pockets like confetti for all occasions.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen, (List Price: $16, BOA Editions Ltd., 9781942683339,  April 2017)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Louise Gluck is just a master, and I kind of feel like that’s all there is to say about it. The technical precision and emotional brilliance she has in this collection is astounding. A poet truly deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to put in the work required to appreciate it.

Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück, (List Price: $16, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374535773,  September 2015)

Reviewed by Juliet Rosner from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Felicity by Mary Oliver

I think this collection would make a great introduction to poetry for anybody. The work is simple and very readable but Mary Oliver does not sacrifice intellectual depth or technique for the sake of accessibility.

Felicity by Mary Oliver, (List Price: $17.95, Penguin Books, 9780143128762,  October 2017)

Reviewed by Juliet Rosner from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi

If Akwaeke Emezi is a “silly little god” then I’m about to become their most zealous devotee. Their debut poetry collection, Content Warning: Everything, lives up to its title, fair warning. This is a HEAVY book. Emezi doesn’t shy away from topics like sexual abuse, suicide, vengeance, and long-term trauma. And they’re absolutely gorgeous. They seem to draw divinity from the baseness of the earth, singing of rivers, eyeteeth, and fucking in fresh graves. Content Warning: Everything rallies against boundaries at every turn, shattering expectation like the trumpets did Jericho’s walls. It careens between heart-smashing and “are you allowed to say that about Jesus?” and yet this collection feels as polished and purposeful as any novel! It’s confusing, frequently concerning, and utterly entrancing. Confessional poet Sylvia Plath once wrote “The Moon is not my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.” Content Warning: Everything goes further, making the Virgin Mary a beloved auntie who “moves in with my mother / they are not so lonely now” Not content to stop at confessing, Akwaeke Emezi has sculpted a book of poems that christen, excommunicate, and heal.

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi, (List Price: $16, Copper Canyon Press, 9781556596292,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Terrance Hudson from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón

Reading this collection made me feel like I was standing outside with my bare feet in the grass, scrunching my toes in the soil, feeling the breeze on my face, and pondering the oneness of everything.

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón, (List Price: $22, Milkweed Editions, 9781639550494,  May 2022)

Reviewed by LeeAnna Callon, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, Louisiana

The Modern Proper by Holly Erickson

A chapter devoted to dips, spreads, and dressings… and a chapter on meatballs? We were instantly smitten! And we continued to return to this collection of unfussy, from-scratch recipes designed for family meals or entertaining (but definitely scalable down: I’m talking about you, Saucy Grilled Cheese with Asparagus.) The Modern Proper will bring fun, imaginative food into your world.

The Modern Proper by Holly Erickson, (List Price: $32, S&S/Simon Element, 9781982177669,  April 2022)

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

Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott

An April Read This Next! Book

It’s more tempting than ever to want to build a bomb shelter and retreat from the upheavals of life. But with this memoir, Mary Laura Philpott convinces us that, like Frank the turtle, we have to poke our heads out from time to time, confront the challenges, and keep going. Thank you, MLP, for making all of us worriers feel seen, and for helping us put into words the emotions (so very many emotions) that go along with being not just a parent but a person.

Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott, (List Price: $27, Atria Books, 9781982160784,  April 2022)

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

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