The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Coming of Age

Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli

Over seven days in a psychiatric ward in 1994 in Italy, the main character Daniele Mancarelli (who shares the author’s name and some life experiences) documents his involuntary committal. We spend most of our time on the ward itself with occasional flashbacks of the six patients’ and staff’s pasts. Mencarelli (author and character) is also a poet, and the language is beautiful and delicately translated by Wendy Weathly. While not dismissing the need for the truly suffering or dangerous to be treated, the author presents much to be considered about the way society categorizes those who are simply different or passing through a difficult phase of life.

Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli, (List Price: $22, Europa Editions, 9781609458065, January 2023)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Begin Again by Emma Lord

A January 2023 Read This Next! Title

Emma Lord brings the feels in her new novel, Begin Again. Andie didn’t get into her first choice college with her boyfriend, but she has a plan. She works really hard and ends up getting in as a transfer student after her first semester at community college. The problem is that she planned her transfer as a surprise for her boyfriend….who did the same thing, transferring to the school Andie WAS at.

Begin Again by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250783363, January 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

Now is Not The Time to Panic covers that wry space between childhood and adulthood – how we want to be seen and how others see us. Frankie and Zeke ask the questions about the nature of art both to the maker and the viewer, what does obsession really look like, and how do things spin out of control so smoothly. All against an early 90s world that may as well be a thousand years ago. The questions of consequences, family and what lies in front of us through a 90s era time warp. The writing is amazing. Sentences that stop you in your tracks. I loved everything about the novel!

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson, (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780062913500, November 2022)

Reviewed by Susan Williams, M. Judson Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Foster by Claire Keegan

Claire Keegan’s books are little, quietly epic works of art. Foster is the story of a lonely child sent to live with relatives one summer, not knowing whether she would return home. The love and compassion shown to her on the Irish farm starkly contrast with the child’s family. Keegan’s prose is gorgeous.

Foster by Claire Keegan, (List Price: $20, Grove Press, 9780802160140, November 2022)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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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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

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

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

They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey

I adored They’re Going to Love You so much that a part of me is convinced that Meg Howrey wrote it for me, specifically. This is such a gorgeous novel about being an artist in the modern world, the sacrifices we make and the people we hurt. When I hit the last page, I didn’t want to let these characters go—I adored every word.

They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey (List Price: $28, Doubleday, 9780385548779, November 2022)

Reviewed by Lindsay Lynch, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

A compelling book about how our family shapes how we are seen and who we become. Touching on themes of generational trauma, poverty, a feeling of belonging and family conflict, this story focuses on the life of Ever, told through generations of his Cherokee, Kiowa and Mexican family members. Honest and powerful, great storytelling.

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah, (List Price: $27.00, Algonquin Books, 9781643751474, July 2022)

Reviewed by Jennifer Privitera, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Slip by Marika McCoola

I love a good metagenre work, so Slip, a graphic novel about visual art, is right up my alley. Slip’s artwork is emotional and striking in its roughness; it’s very reminiscent This One Summer by the Tamakis (which I love). A particularity of Slip’s art I adored is the agelessness of the human drawings, which makes the narrative’s themes feel universal even as the book focuses on young adults. The book is about defining oneself as an individual, particularly when your friends seem to need you. It’s a difficult and necessary topic, and McCool does really well with it.

Slip by Marika McCoola, (List Price: $17.95, Algonquin Young Readers, 9781616207892, July 2022)

Reviewed by Akil Guruparan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Vera grew up in a picturesque town along the mountains where girls become women who become mothers with the caveat that some will vanish. Desperate to determine who is going to encounter this affliction, gossip consumes the small town of who loves their child too much or too little, who hugs their child too long or short, and much more. Eventually, Vera encounters motherhood and begins to question the affliction and her future. Will she be able to watch her daughter grow up or will she disappear? Throughout this book, I was glued to the pages, desperate to decipher Vera’s future, engrossed in the town gossip, and basking in the setting as if I were there. Alexis Schaitkin does a marvelous job bringing readers into this story and feeling as though the affliction could reach them. A beautiful tribute to motherhood and the trials it bears.

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Beautiful and unsettling, Elsewhere is a novel I can’t stop thinking about. Not usually one for dystopian fiction, I started and soon was captivated by this haunting, cloud-covered place and close-knit community from which women occasionally disappear. The families who live here wonder about the world beyond, known only as "Elsewhere," especially when a stranger comes to visit. But, no matter how uncertain the future is for mothers in this place, they wouldn’t consider leaving. Why, you’ll wonder, as you’re drawn in by the mystery of this place and its people. How deep is devotion, and much should motherhood require of a woman? I can imagine book clubs debating this one at length!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

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

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

I loved Saint X so when I saw Elsewhere I knew it had to go home with me. This book is masterfully done in her hands. With a similar tone to Handmaids Tale you will follow Vera through her little town where mothers go missing for no reason. It is just the way things are. What happens when she goes? So good!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Spotlight on: Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

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Douglas Stuart

I think when you’re talking about queerness at that time and you’re also intersecting it with class or with poverty or social mobility, then the stakes are very different for the characters. You know, they can’t just up and leave and go find a different place where they belong in the world. They really have to face the world outside their door because that’s the only world they know.” –Douglas Stuart, interview, NPR

 

 

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

What booksellers are saying about Young Mungo

  • Douglas Stuart has done it again with this heartbreaking, breathtaking, and hopeful story of young love between two boys in working-class Glasgow. I will patiently wait for Middle-Aged Mungo and Old Mungo…I want more! ―Gaël LeLamer from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL
    Buy from Books and Books

  • From Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, this often bleak coming-of-age story shares some of the themes of his winning novel Shuggie Bain, including the darkly lyrical descriptions of a working class childhood at the mercy of an alcoholic mother. A heart-breaking story, with vividly drawn characters, dangerous situations, and forbidden love.   ―Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA
    Buy from Righton Books

  • This is beautiful and hard, a gem hewn from the harshest pressure of Scottish discord and weather. Catholics vs Protestants, children vs adults, adults vs drink, all of them trying to survive under the apathetic Glaswegian skies. Young Mungo drags you down in the mire, and holds your face to the ruin of this community, but also reminds that no matter how dark, there is always love. A brutal, brutal read, but staggeringly empathetic and wonderful. Mungo is our hero, our baby we want to shield, our man we want to see grow up and conquer. He is our queer king whom we want love to keep and to make him greater. I can’t recommend this book enough, I understand know why Stuart won the Booker for Shuggie Bain. This too, deserves the praise it will get, a classic in the making.   ―Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC
    Buy from Main Street Books

  • Douglas Stuart novels have a particular ache to them…you cannot help but love and be in pain for his characters. Poor, alcoholic, living in dire, drab straits, isolated in their worlds, their will to live and love takes my breath away. “Young Mungo” is a tough read, but Mungo himself will tear at your heart…along with lovely James, caring Jodie, violent Hamish and selfish Mo-maw. A sad Romeo and Juliet story for modern times. Violent, tough and absolutely beautiful.   ―Andrea Ginsky from Bookstore Number 1 LLC in Sarasota, FL
    Buy from Bookstore 1 Sarasota

About Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart is a Scottish-American author. His New York Times-bestselling debut novel Shuggie Bain won the 2020 Booker Prize and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was the winner of two British Book Awards, including Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, Kirkus Prize, as well as several other literary awards. Stuart’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker and Literary Hub.

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