The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Biography & Autobiography

This Boy We Made by Taylor Harris

This Boy We Made is heart-wrenching. I couldn’t put it down. As a mother I was absolutely enveloped in the author’s journey through this incredibly difficult time in her life. At every turn I was in awe of her grace in dealing with what life continued to throw at her.

This Boy We Made by Taylor Harris, (List Price: $26.00, Catapult, 9781948226844, January 2022)

Reviewed by Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, Louisiana

Going There by Katie Couric

Katie Couric—her name brings to mind that fabulous smile and the many times we have all viewed her on CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and the Today Show as well as her own show Katie. What we all knew about her skills and intelligence on air, we knew little of her personal life before this revealing book. Yes, we knew about her husband Jay and his tragic passing from cancer and her successful efforts in cancer awareness. What’s revealing in Going There is the behind-the-scenes Katie—her childhood, her eating disorders, her love life, her daughters, her wishes of what she could have done better and her accomplishments. We also relive the past forty years of news stories with her takes on history. This book is our story of the past forty years through Katie Couric’s knowledgeable view. And after reading this book, we have all spent time with a friend we may never meet personally.

Going There by Katie Couric, (List Price: $30.00, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316535861, October 2021)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Like Crazy by Dan Mathews

I don’t know whether to call this an ‘end of life’ story…or a memoir…or a roomie rom-com…or a family saga.. but I do know I couldn’t wait to see what happened next in Perry & Dan’s Great Adventure/Social Experiment. Such wide ranging appeal I’m not sure if it will go in our non-fiction section…or our Pride shelves.. or the memoir table…humor…maybe all of them!! Zaniest, craziest true story of a boy and his momma…and yes, it will bring you to tears—of laughter, joy and a wee bit of sadness.

Like Crazy by Dan Mathews, (List Price: $27.00, Atria Books, 9781501199981, August 2020)

Reviewed by Jamie Anderson, Downtown Books in Manteo, North Carolina

Dear William by David Magee

David Magee’s profoundly personal memoir grabbed my attention from the first page and wouldn’t let go. Dear William is part Southern story, part family story, and it opened my eyes to a crisis I didn’t know enough about. My heart broke into a million pieces while reading it, but I’m so glad I did.

Dear William by David Magee, (List Price: $28.00, Matt Holt, 9781953295682, November 2021)

Reviewed by Annie Jones, The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia

The Boys by Ron Howard

The Boys is the best memoir I’ve read in 2021. Ron and Clint Howard’s story of their show business childhoods is mesmerizing. The brothers share in alternating sections about their work with legends such as Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and George Lucas, as well as their zany antics on set. But the real stars of the book are their parents, whose calm guidance and strong example led the boys to find fulfilling lives. A great holiday gift for the classic TV and movie lover in your life.

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

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

Taste by Stanley Tucci

This book is as delightful as you would think. Actually, scratch that, it is 10 times more delightful than you would think. Filled to the brim with Tucci’s signature charm, TASTE amazes with both its storied family recipes and the moving personal journey it takes us on. Tucci recognizes that so often food is more than just a source of basic nourishment; it is a form of self expression and an act of love. This revelation is evident in every word of the book. Read this and you’ll fall in love with the food, the stories, and of course, with Stanley Tucci himself.

Taste by Stanley Tucci, (List Price: $28.00, Gallery Books, 9781982168018, October 2021)

Reviewed by Jessica Baker, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Way She Feels by Courtney Cook

Cook shares her journey with Borderline Personality Disorder and how it affects her life in a funny and heartbreaking graphic novel memoir. She talks about the symptoms and diagnosis in a way that feels so sincere and touching, I had to find and follow her on social media. You will feel for her and root for her, while learning about a disorder that most people “grow out of” as they get into adulthood. This is a beautiful read to understand people that aren’t exatly like ourselves.

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

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Smile by Sarah Ruhl

When she is struck with Bell’s palsy after giving birth to twins and suffers from complete paralysis of the left side of her face, Sarah Ruhl realizes the importance of a smile…and the struggle to convey emotions without one. Being a playwright, she recounts her 10-year experience with this mysterious condition through beautiful words, drawing on art and literature to help make sense of her condition. Through unflagging support from her husband and many years of trying a myriad of therapies/treatments, she perseveres through this oftentimes depressing and frustrating condition and offers her readers a raw, emotional look into her story.

Smile by Sarah Ruhl, (List Price: $27, Simon & Schuster, 9781982150945, October, 2021)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

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


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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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