The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Biography & Autobiography

Shelf Life by Nadia Wassef

Blame it on naivete or my newbie bookseller status, but I did not realize that, culturally, bookselling can vary drastically from country to country, but it can and it does, and thanks to Nadia Wassef, we get to hear first hand how three women got a wildly successful independent bookstore off the ground in Cairo, Egypt, when societal norms suggested that women weren’t meant to open small businesses. A remarkable story!

Shelf Life by Nadia Wassef, (List Price: $27, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374600181, October 2021)

Reviewed by Jill Naylor, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee


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Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

Jumping off from a mention in a 1946 essay by George Orwell about fruit trees and roses he had planted ten years earlier, Solnit begins a meandering path through a garden of antifascism, art, and the ways in which they intertwined in Orwell’s life. In the span of about 270 pages, coal mining and climate change, mass rose production in Columbia and the invisibility of capitalism’s machinations, Orwell’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, and his ancestral connection to the slave trade are all explored deftly and, in the ususal Solnit style, with lines beautifully drawn to our current condition. Whether you are deeply interested in Orwell and his milieu or just a fan of Solnit’s incisive writing, you will find this biography/essay collection bears flowers scented with hope, resistance, and pleasure.

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit, (List Price: $28, Viking, 9780593083369, October 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia


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The Boys by Ron Howard

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

The Boys felt like you were listening in at an extended family reunion of the Howards as Ron and Clint held court, retelling some of their favorite family anecdotes from years gone by, occasionally interruping each other with interjections and sometimes just telling the same story from the other lens. I could not put it down, but now I have an enormous list of classics to rewatch and bit parts (and B-movies) to look up and cameos to watch for.


The Boys by Ron Howard, (List Price: $28.99, William Morrow, 9780063065246, October 2021)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

 

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Mennonite Valley Girl by Carla Funk

After reading the very first page, I knew I’d love this book. Funk’s language is poetic, and the humor is soft and subtle. I braced myself for trauma, but was so delighted to find the interior life of a young girl who wants more out of life than what she sees around her. Universal, old as time, yet fresh and gripping. I saw myself in every page.

Mennonite Valley Girl by Carla Funk, (List Price: 27.95, Greystone Books, 9781771645157, September 2021)

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner

This beautifully written memoir features the intertwined lives of the author, her sister and childhood friend. Written in fresh, understated prose, the author explores how their lives diverge – in ways heartbreaking and hopeful, despairing and redemptive. Three Girls is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I hope it gets the attention and awards it deserves.

Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner, (List Price: 26.99, Simon & Schuster, 9781982107703, September 2021)

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

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Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Qian Julie Wang opens her heart and bares her soul in this striking memoir about an illegal Chinese immigrant family. Wang does a fine job describing the poverty and sweatshops of Chinatown, her parents’ fear of getting deported, and her determination to make something of herself in Mei Guo, America, the beautiful country. The poverty and prejudice her family faced as well as her parents’ marital difficulties created trauma that Wang today is still determined to break through.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang, (List Price: 28.95, Doubleday, 9780385547215, September 2021)

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

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Names for Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

Names for Light is a beautiful book, astonishing and profound. Despite some of its heaviness — war, colonialism, racism, death — there is such openness and grace. Even in displacement — or perhaps through it — Myint creates a rich sense of all the places that help form the story of her family, however imperfectly. Almost like an elegant procession of prose poems, Names for Light is often at its most powerful when exploring these imperfections — the memories that cannot be reconstructed, the words that cannot be translated, the ghosts that cannot be conjured or dispelled. This book is an achievement and a gift.

Names for Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint, (List Price: 16, Graywolf Press, 9781644450611, August 2021)

Reviewed by Steve Haruch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Made in China by Anna Qu

A young Chinese immigrant calls Child Services on her mother. Like the threads whirling through her mother and stepfather’s New York City sweatshop where she was forced to work as a girl, Anna Qu’s debut memoir is full of the fragments of a traumatic childhood and the challenges of piecing together the truth—about trauma and the generational pattern of cruelty, about immigration and identity, labor and self-worth, and ultimately, the love we deserve, awaiting us.

Made in China by Anna Qu, (List Price: 26, Catapult, 9781646220342, August 2021)

Reviewed by Megan Bell, Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia

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Trejo by Danny Trejo

Having been slightly familiar with Danny Trejo as an actor and enjoying some of his films, I picked this book up as a lark and I ended up being utterly fascinated. His personal story is heart-wrenching at times, but it is filled with redemption at the highest level. Composed in a conversational tone by fellow actor Donal Logue, Trejo recounts growing up in LA during the 50’s/60’s and doing several stints in notorious prisons like Soledad, San Quentin, and Folsom. He is brutally honest about his faults, regrets, and crimes…but he also explains how it led to him being a fixture in the drug & alcohol rehabilitation community after he became sober. The actor’s newfound vocation of helping other addicts stay clean eventually led to his film career through an unforeseeable stroke of luck. Now a cultural icon for the city of LA and the Mexican American community, this book shows the reader it’s never too late to make a positive change in one’s life.

Trejo by Danny Trejo, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982150822, July 2021)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

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Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White

Because I work in the book world, sometimes I forget that not every person is a reading-obsessed nerd. This book put into words what I’ve never been able to: reading takes you to another place. Reading changes your entire world in a literal way and in figurative ways. I loved reading quotes from my favorite writers about how reading transformed their worlds.

Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White, (List Price: 25, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374115265, July 2021)

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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King of Ragtime by Stephen Costanza

Gloriously illustrated, this glimpse into the South during Reconstruction made me hear my childhood piano lessons and the syncopations of Scott Joplin’s ragtime melodies. There is so much detail in the multimedia illustrations which include single measures of actual sheet music clippings. It makes me want to pull out my album of The Sting (I know it’s anachronistic, but I love it!).

King of Ragtime by Stephen Costanza, (List Price: 17.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534410367, August 2021)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The Way She Feels by Courtney Cook

When I picked up Courtney Cook’s book, I immediately read from start to finish. Cook’s personality is bright and poppy, friendly and relatable, and somehow this book maintains a level of kindness and vulnerability even when talking about the scary parts of living with Borderline personality disorder, from self-harm to crippling anxiety and depression, obsessive behavior, and more. Although there are 4 million people in the US that are diagnosed, Borderline personality disorder is still so stigmatized, even as people are starting to recognize and normalize mental illness at large. The Way She Feels is the representation of BPD–from confusing and distressing, to joyful and funny–that is needed right now.

The Way She Feels by Courtney Cook, (List Price: 18.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142599, 2021-06-29)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

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Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson

I didn’t want these letters to end so I read only a few pages every day. Willie Nelson shares stories of his life and his music but oh, so much more. The world would be a kinder and more loving and sensible place if we could all follow Willie’s advice on how to get through difficult times and take care of each other. Jokes and laughter fill every page and you will find yourself laughing any crying at his sage advice and hilarious life observations.

Willie Nelson’s Letters to America by Willie Nelson, (List Price: 27.99, Harper Horizon, 9780785241546, June 2021)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond

The moment I cracked this memoir, I knew I should fasten my seatbelt–what a jaw-dropping ride it was! The unconventional childhood of Cheryl Diamond took her and her family all over the world, fleeing INTERPOL from place to place, losing and gaining identities, following highly rehearsed rules to protect their cover, and never quite finding a place to belong. The pages are filled with adventure, humor, and deep sadness. Nowhere Girl is so gorgeously written and impossible to put down. It is truly a tribute to human resilience.

Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond, (List Price: 27.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616208202, June, 2021)

Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg

This book was written as a lasting legacy of the grandfather that author Rick Bragg never knew. Charlie Bundrum was a hard-working, bootlegging carpenter and roofer who loved one woman, raised a passel of children and grandchildren, and even took in a battered misfit for decades. He lived a remarkable life, evading the law and surviving misfortune. What a beautiful work – a grandson discovering his grandfather through tales from his mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. The writing is vivid and the character descriptions witty. As Southerners, we embrace the uniqueness of our people. To that end, this book is a winner.

Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg, (List Price: 16.95, Vintage, 9780375724442, 2002)

Reviewed by Helen Adkins, Story On the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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