The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Literary Fiction

Family Lore \ Sabiduría familiar por Elizabeth Acevedo

La primera novela para adultos de Acevedo es un homenaje al intermedio, ocupando los espacios entre los sueños y la realidad, la vida y la muerte, y la República Dominicana y los Estados Unidos. Contadas desde las perspectivas de las mujeres Marte, cuatro hermanas y sus dos hijas, toda la familia contempla las historias y las mujeres que las formaron, mientras se preparan para que su hermana mayor les diga que alguien está a punto de morir. Escrito en la tradición de Sandra Cisneros y otras autoras latinas, Acevedo teje una historia que te abraza con la fuerza de las limas de Yadi, negándose a soltarla mucho después de voltear la última página.

Sabiduría familiar por Elizabeth Acevedo, ($18.99, Ecco, 9780063207318, November 2023)

Reseña escrita por, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews en Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo’s first adult novel is a homage to the in-between, occupying the spaces between dreams and reality, life and death, and the Dominican Republic and the United States. Told from the perspectives of the Marte women, four sisters, and their two daughters, the whole family contemplates the stories and women who shaped them, as they prepare for their eldest sister to tell them someone is about to die. Written in the tradition of Sandra Cisneros and other Latina authors, Acevedo weaves a story that embraces you with the strength of Yadi’s limes, refusing to let go long after the last page is turned.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo, (List Price: $30, Ecco, 9780063207264, September 2023)

Reviewed by Sydney Mason, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Rouge by Mona Awad

A September 2023 Read This Next Book!

Reading this book felt a lot like moving through a dream. The surreal horror and red-soaked imagery stuck with me long after finishing the book. Mona Awad does an excellent job making commentary on beauty standards and the beauty industry in a very unique way. Plus, Tom Cruise!

Rouge by Mona Awad, (List Price: 28, S&S/ Marysue Rucci Books, 9781982169695, September 2023)

Reviewed by Hallee Israel, Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Spotlight on: Those We Thought We Knew by David Joy


David Joy, photo credit Ashley T. Evans

“I think there’s a great deal of that blend of horror in the tradition where my work is rooted. I think about a writer like William Gay and a story like “The Paperhanger,” O’Connor and a character like the misfit or McCarthy’s Lester Ballard. That’s to say that is the tradition. With this book specifically, though, it was very much a treatise on violence. I wanted there to be moments the reader put the book down because they couldn’t face what was happening on the page. I wanted there to be moments that very same reader cheered the violence on with a fiery sense of vengeance and justice. I wanted the reader to recognize those moments and reactions and question the difference. Those were lofty goals that may very well have been unreached, but that was the intent. The difference in those two reactions speaks a great deal to our humanity.” ― David Joy, Interview, Daily Yonder

Those We Thought We Knew by David Joy

What booksellers are saying about Those We Thought We Knew

  • As another white North Carolinian tired of the nodding heads and silent, complicit racism dominating each environment I’ve ever lived in, I am so proud to know works like this can come from here. David Joy has reached a new level of expertise with this stunningly crafted work of art. He creates so many fully-fleshed voices and turns out a story that can only come from this place and this time. By the last line, I was ready to nominate him for a Pulitzer.
      ― Alissa Redmond from South Main Book Co in Salisbury, NC | Buy from South Main Book Company

  • David Joy understands the human condition and, in particular, the complexities, pain, love, and loyalty that live in so many rural areas of our country. His latest novel is a brilliant exploration of the things we cherish and the things for which we fight, the way we hold memories close, and the lies we tell ourselves to ensure the past remains pure.
      ― Leslie Logemann from Highland Books in Brevard, NC | Buy from Highland Books

  • I love David Joy’s books. They are raw and gritty and always give me a different perspective. His books can be quite full of violence (always fits well into the story), and this one at first did not appear as violent. However, I did reflect on what transpired in this new novel and realized it was actually full of racism and violence; it reminds the reader that whether you are in a big city or a small town, the same things are happening. His attention to detail, his ability to capture the talk of western NC locals, and his use of historical events all made me thoroughly enjoy and appreciate Joy’s newest novel.
      ― Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books

About David Joy

David Joy is the author of When These Mountains Burn (winner of the 2020 Dashiell Hammett Award), The Line That Held Us (winner of the 2018 SIBA Book Prize), The Weight of This World, and Where All Light Tends to Go (Edgar finalist for Best First Novel). Joy lives in Tuckasegee, North Carolina.


The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book is a Harvest of Stories

The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for August, 2023

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The Southern Bookseller Review: A Book for Every Reader

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August 2023

Stories are food for the soul.

SBR Harvest Issue illustration creid Hleb Krykov

A book is a harvest of stories. This month’s special edition of The Southern Bookseller Review celebrates that which sustains us; food for both body and soul.

More books tagged "Cooking" at SBR

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." — J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies…

Butcher On The Block : Everyday Recipes, Stories, and Inspirations from Your Local Butcher and Beyond by Matt Moore


Butcher On The Block : Everyday Recipes, Stories, and Inspirations from Your Local Butcher and Beyond by Matt Moore
Harvest / April 2023

Sometimes, the best way to get the best recipes is to just talk to your butcher. It’s an age-old adage that Matt Moore, author of Serial Griller and South’s Best Butts and grandson of a butchertook to heart—he’s traveled around the country and beyond to do just that. In Butcher on the Block, he shares stories, coveted family recipes, and expert tips from the people behind the counter who sell your meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and trimmings.

"Compelling stories. Drop-dead gorgeous photos. And recipes that not only make you hungry but make you think. Matt Moore’s book will make the heart of every serious griller beat faster and make you want to run, not walk, to fire up your grill."  -Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue Bible cookbook series and host of Project Fire and Project Smoke on PBS, on Serial Griller

Bacon Bloody Mary

4 ounces tomato juice
2 ounces Bacon-infused Vodka (see below)
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Ice cubes, to fill glass 3/4 full
Cooked bacon, crumbled as garnish
Lime wedge, as garnish
Pickled okra, as garnish

Combine the tomato juice, vodka, lime juice, horseradish, celery salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire in a shaker and shake a few times to combine. Strain the mixture into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with the bacon, lime wedge, and okra. Serve.

Bacon-infused spirits

Combine the drippings from 8-10 strips of baked bacon and one 750-milliliter bottle of bourbon or vodka in a large pitcher. Stir the mixture, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Next, place the pitcher in the freezer for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. The fat will congeal, separating it from the spirit. Using a spoon, remove the congealed fat. To finish, pour the spirit through a fine-mesh strainer line with cheesecloth to remove any particles. The infused spirit is best kept cold and stored in the freezer.
Matt Moore photo credit the author

About the author

Matt Moore is an entrepreneur, cook, musician, host, pilot, and the quintessential Southern gentleman. He is the author of Serial GrillerSouth’s Best Butts, and A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen. His food writing has garnered critical acclaim from publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times. His Southern charm has landed him on the TODAY show, Fox & Friends, VH1, and CBS.

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang


C Pam Zhang, photo credit Clayton Cubitt

And then there was this moment when the food actually came to the table. And everything just changed; the tenor of the conversation paused and when we started eating, I could just see both of us fall out of our anxious brains back into our bodies. ― C Pam Zhang, Interview, This Is TASTE 271

What booksellers are saying about Land of Milk and Honey

Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane
  • Land of Milk and Honey is a feast for the senses. C Pam Zhang’s control of language is simply remarkable; her words pour off the page like peach juice drips down your arm in the heat of the summer. Lush descriptions of fresh fruit, aged cheese, and fragrant wine mixed with the heady rush of queer desire in a broken, fragile ecosystem works to create a landscape so vividly rich and complex that I wanted to eat it all with a spoon. Good food can light up the palate; this book lit up mine.
      ― Gaby Iori from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • I can’t stop thinking about this sensuous fever dream of a novel. A deadly smog has decimated earth’s food supply in this dystopian novel about pleasure, gluttony and greed. Land of Milk and Honey will make you savor and appreciate the bounty we have and think about ways to be better stewards of our resources. Excellent writing.
      ― Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • Set in an eerily plausible near future ravaged by climate catastrophe, Land of Milk and Honey takes readers on a journey alongside a chef who accepts a rare opportunity to not only escape dismal environmental conditions but also use some of the world’s most coveted ingredients cooking for some of the world’s wealthiest individuals in a private mountaintop community. This story celebrates the joys of food and pleasure while exploring themes of privilege, humanity’s role in science, and our complex relationship with nature. Zhang’s writing moved me to tears more than once; this book celebrates food in a way that Station Eleven celebrated the arts. This is my favorite book of 2023, and I expect the same will be true for many readers!
      ― Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

C Pam Zhang is the author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold, winner of the Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award and the Asian/Pacific Award for Literature, longlisted for the Booker Prize, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the National Book Critics’ John Leonard Prize, and one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellow.


Skilletheads : A Guide to Collecting and Restoring Cast-Iron Cookware  by Ashley L. Jones


Skilletheads : A Guide to Collecting and Restoring Cast-Iron Cookware by Ashley L. Jones
Red Lightning Books / May 2023

"If you want to learn more about cast-iron cookware, this book might be your Bible. Ashley traces the history of the cast-iron cookware industry, shows us how to restore and care for our cast iron, and leaves us with some amazing recipes so that we can put our favorite pans to use. This book is a celebration of what we Skilletheads love about our tools." ~Isaac Morton, founder of Smithey Ironware

From Ashley L. Jones:

Before Skilletheads, there was Modern Cast Iron: The Complete Guide to Selecting, Seasoning, Cooking, and More. As the title implies, this was written as a complete guide to cast-iron cookware. But there were two big topics it only briefly addressed: the collection and restoration of cast-iron cookware. And that is what I’ve set out to explore in this book…Whether you’re interested in finding the perfect skillet for your kitchen, or you’d like to start restoring cast iron as a hobby or side-job, then this book is for you. In these pages, you’ll find side-by-side comparisons of modern companies, step-by-step restoration guides, and helpful collection and restoration tips from the pros. And no cast iron book is complete without recipes, so you’ll find plenty of recipes, as well, all contributed by those who know cast iron the best.

But I do have to warn you: if you’re not already interested in collecting and restoring cast iron, you will be after reading this book. So gas up the car and clear a few Saturdays on the calendar, because you’re about to have some fun with cast-iron cookware!

You might be a Skillethead if…

  • You spent your vacation traveling out of state to purchase a bunch of cast iron from an old collector you met online.
  • You look for creative ways to use your cast-iron collection, such as hanging them in the garden as wind chimes.
  • You have a strong opinion about “textured versus smooth surface” and you’re ready to share it with anyone who will listen.
  • You spend all your extra money “rescuing” rust buckets.
  • You have a lot of pieces in your cast iron collection . . . and they all have names.

Henry Lodge’s Favorite Cornbread
Recipe courtesy of Lodge Cast Iron

This cornbread recipe has been in the Lodge family for decades and is often made for family meals by former CEO Henry Lodge’s wife. While there’s no sugar in it, the addition of creamed corn brings a hint of sweetness to the savory bread. Plus, the corn and sour cream keep the cornbread moist and prevent it from drying out, making it just as good leftover as it is fresh.

10.25” Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet

½ cup canola oil, divided
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 8-ounce can creamed corn
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. While oven is preheating, pour ¼ cup of oil into a 10.25” Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet and place in oven to preheat.
3. In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients together. Remove skillet from the oven and pour out the hot oil into the cornmeal mixture. Stir together.
4. Pour cornmeal mixture into the hot skillet and bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Ashley L. Jones

About the author

Ashley L. Jones is author of Modern Cast Iron. An author, blogger, and teacher based in Tallahassee, Florida, Jones enjoys exploring the art of collecting and restoring cast-iron cookware. Learn more at

Family Meal by Bryan Washington


Family Meal by Bryan Washington
Riverhead Books / October 2023

More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

At times heartwarming, others heartrending, this tender work from Washington is delectable. Lust, hunger, grief, and a longing for belonging squeeze up against the forces that seek to tear us apart, but, what Family Meal serves is a generous familial communion made up of the people we love and those who, despite our flaws, love us back. A restorative novel to be shared, undoubtedly set to bring its readers together.

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

A Very Gay Book by Jenson Titus


Still We Rise by Erika Council
 Clarkson Potter / August 2023

More Reviews from Main Street Books

A good cookbook needs inviting recipes and clear instructions. A great cookbook goes beyond to provide context, history, and a singular voice. Still We Rise is a great cookbook that elevates the humble biscuit while paying homage to African-American chefs and home cooks and expanding American foodways history. Council writes with sass, reassurance, and authority. Her introductory section on ingredients and tools made me both laugh and believe I could bake these gems. Great recipes (for fillings and butters as well as biscuits), beautiful and functional photographs, and historical notes make this a kitchen shelf essential.

Reviewed by Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Welcome to Our Table by Laura Mucha


Welcome to Our Table by Laura Mucha
 Nosy Crow / August 2023

More Reviews from Bookmarks

Now I’m hungry! A Gastro Obscura for kids — and not so much on the obscurity but more on the shared experiences and comparing differences around the globe. And much like every time I handle the adult book, I get hungry. Kids are so willing to try things if they’re presented by people with a love of sharing neat stuff.

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

Raw Dog by Jamie Loftus


Raw Dog by Jamie Loftus
Forge Books / May 2023

Adult NonfictionCelebrity & Popular CultureHumorTopic
More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

America’s guiltiest pleasure: the hot dog. Following a road trip Loftus and her then-partner took in the summer of 2021, this is so much more than just a history book with a suggestive title. Stories of meth motels, the hunt for the best hotdog in the country, and brilliant musings on organized labor and the food industry in the United States, all wrapped into one, clever, laugh-out-loud book. Loftus’ humor transfers onto the page so well, it makes for a history book like no other.

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Parting Thought

“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.”
—Charles Baudelaire

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
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The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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Family Meal by Bryan Washington

At times heartwarming, others heartrending, this tender work from Washington is delectable. Lust, hunger, grief, and a longing for belonging squeeze up against the forces that seek to tear us apart, but, what Family Meal serves is a generous familial communion made up of the people we love and those who, despite our flaws, love us back. A restorative novel to be shared, undoubtedly set to bring its readers together.

Family Meal by Bryan Washington, (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9780593421093, October 2023)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Spotlight on: Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa


Satoshi Yagisawa, photo credit the author

“From late summer to early spring the next year, I lived at the Morisaki Bookshop. I spent that period of my life in the spare room on the second floor of the store, trying to bury myself in books. The cramped room barely got any light, and everything felt damp. It smelled constantly of musty old books.

But I will always remember the days I spent there. Because that’s where my real life began. And I know, without a doubt, that if not for those days, the rest of my life would have been bland, monotonous, and lonely.

The Morisaki Bookshop is precious to me. It’s a place I know I’ll never forget.

When I close my eyes, the memories still come back to me so vividly.

It all began like a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky. No, what happened was more shocking than that, more shocking even than seeing frogs raining from the sky in a downpour.” ― Excerpt, Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa, translated by Eric Ozawa

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa, translated by Eric Ozawa

What booksellers are saying about Days at the Morisaki Bookshop

  • Books about bookshops can be an absolute delight and Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa did not disappoint. Takako is suffering from an extreme broken heart and an offer from her distant uncle to come live above his bookshop seems out of the blue. When reluctantly agreeing, she has no idea how much her life will change. This book was a joy to read.
      ― Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA | Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is a lovely slice of life novel. An ode to books and how they can and do in fact change our lives for the better. It’s a heartwarming and comforting story and will make you long for a place you’ve never been and people you haven’t met yet but will surely come to love. I fell in love with Takako, the way she grows throughout the book and her sense of humor. I’ll certainly read it again as I’d like to spend more time with it. It’s a lovely book!
      ― Aicha Barry from Birch Tree Bookstore in Leesburg, VA | Buy from Birch Tree Books

  • Calling all booklovers! This short, sweet, charming, and delightful story is the perfect love letter to books and bookworms everywhere. We follow our protagonist, Takako, as she makes a major change in life and goes to work at her uncle’s small, used bookstore. Here she discovers a passion for reading that is sure to resonate with anyone who fancies themselves a bibliophile. With themes touching on family and self-acceptance, this book is a comfort and a joy to read.
      ― Elizabeth Findley from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books

About Satoshi Yagisawa

Satoshi Yagisawa was born in Chiba, Japan, in 1977. Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, his debut novel, was originally published in 2009 and won the Chiyoda Literature Prize.


How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

What a good book! Beautifully written and so forcefully told this is a story of the power of corporations over people and governments. And the setting! So alien from what we’re used too but at the same time recognizable from our own small town battles with corporate malfeasance. A very thought provoking book that will be great for book clubs and one that reminded me of how I reacted to Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, (List Price: $28, Random House, 9780593132425, March 2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

Spotlight on: Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead


Colson Whitehead , photo credit Chris Close/Penguin Random House

“I think, you know, I was coming of age in the late ’70s and consuming TV and movies, and that was, like, you know, plenty of time for the revolutionary fervor of Black national thought of the late ’60s, early ’70s to trickle into, you know, pop culture…So it’s through pop culture, and obviously, the history of the Black Panther Party was not being taught in my high school. I think – I assume most high schools. And now it’s, you know, I think, illegal to teach Black history in certain states and cities. So it wasn’t till college I, you know, got sort of more grounding on some of the real arguments and what different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement actually meant and what they did.” ― Colson Whitehead, Interview NPR Fresh Air

Crook Manifesto
 by Colson Whitehead

What booksellers are saying about Crook Manifesto

  • Whitehead continues his epic series started in Harlem Shuffle with Crook Manifesto exploring the hot mess that is 1970s Harlem. After being square for years, Ray Carney gets back in the game while trying to get Jackson 5 concert tickets for his daughter. This book is even more fun than the first with a cast of characters including fire-obsessed criminals, crooked politicians, dirty cops, and the cast and crew of a Blaxploitation film. Highly recommend.
      ― Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA | Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Take a trip to 1971, when times were turbulent. Ray Carney is in the black market with stolen furniture. That is until he turns to the straight and narrow. He will not make that mistake again he says. Well his precious daughter needs tickets to the Jackson 5 and what is a dad to do? This darkly funny tale searching for the meaning of family, is remarkable. Colton is just a phenomenal author.
      ― Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books

  • Ray Carney, the protagonist of Harlem Shuffle, is the perfect vehicle for Colson Whitehead’s masterful storytelling, and I’m thrilled that he’s back, in Crook Manifesto’s 1970s New York City. The author has created a sharp, endearing, and morally complicated character, but the city itself, in its decaying glory, is also a star here.
      ― Anne Peck from Righton Books in St Simons Island, GA | Buy from Righton Books

About Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of eleven works of fiction and nonfiction, and is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, for The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, which also won the National Book Award. A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he lives in New York City.


Spotlight on: Banyan Moon by Thao Thai


Thao Thai, photo credit the author

The seed of Banyan Moon was an image of a locked trunk I used to see in my mind, from a Bluebeard-like folk tale my mother used to tell me as a child. I come from a great line of storytellers and we’d often spend evenings listening to the stories of my family’s lives or the tales that’d be handed down to them over the generations. Folklore has always felt to me as less of a practice, and more of a space of the imagination that you can return to. The shared, communal aspect of a folk tale, as well as its oral nature, creates a different sort of narrative magic that can feel larger and more epic than other storytelling modes. One day I’ll tell my daughter the same folk tales I was told as a child, and I imagine it’ll feel like a sort of homecoming. ― Thao Thai, Interview, Indies Introduce

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

What booksellers are saying about Banyan Moon

  • I loved this beautiful and expansive debut from Thao Thai! Spanning across timelines and continents, Banyan Moon is gorgeous story of mothers and daughters.
      ― Lindsay Lynch from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus

  • In Banyan Moon, debut novelist Thao Thai weaves together stories from three generations of Vietnamese Americans into a stunning story about the power of secrets, loss and hope, the unknown and unexplained. The house serves as its own mysterious character, working to reunite and reforge the bonds of family. This will undoubtedly be a favorite of 2023! 
      ― Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks Books

  • Banyan Moon is a beautiful and atmospheric novel that highlights the complexity of mother-daughter relationships while also shining a light on the immigrant experience.
      ― Kandi West from Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, AR | Buy from Wordsworth Books

  • A compelling first novel with a beautiful cover. Three generations of the Tran women have lived in the Banyan House on the Gulf Coast of Florida, each generation hiding their secrets. Ann, the youngest, has moved far away and is living a fairytale life with a perfect boyfriend and beautiful lake house. When her grandmother Minh passes away she is called home to the Banyan house where she is forced to examine her “perfect life” and spend time with her estranged mother. In the end this book is about making your own happy ending despite the trauma you have encountered. .   
      ― Kathy Clemmons from Sundog Books in Santa Rosa Beach, FL | Buy from Sundog Books

About Thao Thai

Thao Thai is a writer living in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Her work engages with tangled family relationships and the intersections of motherhood and identity. She’s been published in Cup of Jo, Eater, Catapult, Sunday Long Read, and more. A recipient of the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, she has also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and earned fellowships in creative writing. She received her MFA from The Ohio State University and her MA from The University of Chicago. 


Spotlight on: Girlfriend on Mars by Deborah Willis


Deborah Willis, photo credit Memotime Photography

One of my friends said (the story) came from anger, which is so interesting. Sometimes we think of anger as negative and not productive. But, for me, the story came from a sense of anger that we were watching our amazing planet suffer to a degree that is just unbelievable. Then we have people talking about moving to Mars and turning Mars into a habitable planet. To me, it seems like such a bizarre mindset. ― Deborah Willis, Interview, Calgary Herald

Girlfriend on Mars by Deborah Willis

What booksellers are saying about Girlfriend on Mars

  • The concept of this book grabbed me right away! Amber is competing to be on a reality show about the first people to colonize Mars – without telling her boyfriend. While she’s filming, Kevin sinks further into depression and a cloud of weed smoke. Added complications are the feelings Amber is having for her co-star and the ulterior motives of the shady millionaire funding the whole ordeal. This is fresh, funny, and contemplative. I haven’t read anything else like it and I love it!
      ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • After Amber gets cast on MarsNow – a satirical take on Elon Musk’s SpaceX by way of The Bachelor – her boyfriend Kevin withdraws into a weed-fueled hibernation at home. Kevin wants to escape his life. Amber wants to escape the whole planet–and maybe also just escape Kevin?? What starts as a punchy, laugh-out-loud romp through the land of reality tv gradually evolves into a stirring hit of climate fiction you’ll feel deep in the pit of your stomach.
      ― Talia Smart from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • What a fun concept for a novel. I loved how many layers there are to this story. It can be a funny read about a stoner boyfriend and his reality TV star girlfriend, and it can be a deeper contemplation on finding purpose and meaning in life, and how relationships can inhibit and/or promote personal growth.   
      ― Daniel Jordan from Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, AR | Buy from Pearl’s Books

About Deborah Willis

Deborah Willisis the author of Girlfriend on Mars and two acclaimed collections of short stories, including The Dark and Other Love Stories. Her work has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Walrus, and Zoetrope, among other publications. She lives in Calgary, Canada.


Spotlight on: Open Throat by Henry Hoke


Henry Hoke, photo credit Myles Pettengill

I call my cat Hecate, as sort of a – it’s formed a separate identity for me, you know, from the actual lion. But Hecate feels this community in this space, these people who are living adjacent to each other in tents and, you know, sharing food, taking care of each other. Calling it town is like this is the first encounter of, like, people in place and people forming a small civilization on the cat’s terms. It’s outside of the horror of a freeway that it’s crossed and the violent past it’s had with its own kind when its father sort of, you know, rejects it and hunts it.. ― Henry Hoke, Interview, NPR

Open Throat by Henry Hoke

What booksellers are saying about Open Throat

  • I do not need much convincing to read a book whose narrator is a queer mountain lion, and neither should you. This firecracker of a novel is a tale of a big cat living under the Hollywood sign; where witnessing gay hookups, therapist debriefings, and vent sessions about the social scene of “ellay” are normal occurrences. When a fire breaks out in the hills he calls his home, the mountain lion is forced to move closer to civilization. Our unconventional protagonist successfully and skillfully delves into themes of gender, familial issues, and loneliness in this flawless, fever-dream novella.
      ― Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • As a bookseller, it’s pretty rare to say “I’ve never read anything like this before”, but in the case of Open Throat, it’s 100% true. I absolutely inhaled this beautiful, darkly funny, propulsive prowler of a book. Told from the POV of a mountain lion in pseudo-verse and using language acquired from the hikers under the thicket where it lives, near the Hollywood sign, this story made me think hard about how we treat the animals – wild and domestic- in and around our cities. Love love love!.
      ― Rachel Knox from Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, FL | Buy from Tombolo Books

  • Savage and gentle, the protagonist of OPEN THROAT sees the best of us—but mostly the worst. At only 156 pages, this short but powerful novel packs in a captivating meditation on queerness, climate disaster, and looks at just how little humans tend to care for their fellow man. I loved the nameless, ambiguously gendered, lonely mountain lion whose world we looked through. One of the most thoughtful and unique books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.   
      ― Gaby Iori from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

About Henry Hoke

Henry Hoke is an editor at The Offing and a writer whose work has appeared in No Tokens, Triangle House Review, Electric Literature, and the flash noir anthology Tiny Crimes. He co-created the performance series Enter>text in Los Angeles, and has taught at CalArts and the UVA Young Writers Workshop. He lives in New York City.


Spotlight on: The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller


Claire Fuller, photo credit the author

[Memories] are absolutely vital! Just look at what happens with those suffering from dementia. Lose your memory and you lose a fundamental part of who you are. But memories are an illusion. They become more fixed the more you think of them, and each time you remember, you are recalling remembering the memory rather than the memory itself. This is why Revisiting is so addictive for Neffy. She’s gets to see everything, not just her circumscribed memory. ― Claire Fuller, Interview, Bookanista

The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller

What booksellers are saying about The Memory of Animals

  • An eerie, strangely satisfying pandemic story. A study in human behavior and interaction that Fuller weaves into a compelling story with surprising twists. An engrossing read with rich characters and drama.
      ― Jamie Fiocco from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

  • Undoubtedly, COVID-19 inspired a whole host of dystopian pandemic novels—but none like this. Neffy, a 27-year-old marine biologist, finds herself volunteering for an experimental vaccine trial that was previously never tested on humans. While in-clinic, she writes letters to her octopus muse amid her frightening, disorienting experience in captivity. Imagine The Soul of an Octopus meets How High We Go in the Dark.
      ― Sydney Bozeman from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books

  • Neffy is a disgraced marine biologist obsessed with octopuses since childhood. She and four other people are trapped on an upper floor of a hospital in London as a mysterious plague causing memory loss, sensory damage, and death sweeps the world. They are volunteers in an experimental vaccine trial, but all the hospital staff have disappeared leaving them alone with with an air conditioning system broken at the coldest setting, little food, and each other. All are there escaping or searching for something. What would you do to protect yourself and those you love, especially when there is almost nothing left?   
      ― Kelly Justice from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

About Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller is the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize; Swimming Lessons; Bitter Orange; and Unsettled Ground, which won the Costa Novel Award and was a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester and lives in Hampshire with her husband.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Through the eyes of precocious 9-year-old protagonist Oskar Schell, Foer grapples with questions like why do tragedies happen, how to handle loss and grief, and how to keep going. As he asks these impossible questions, he takes you through a kaleidoscope of a quest through points in history and through New York. It’s a tale of loss and searching, but also light and hope.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, (List Price: $16.99, Mariner Book Classics, 9780618711659, March 2006 2023)

Reviewed by Julia Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Say So by Julia Franks

A June 2023 Read This Next! Title

This is such a smart novel about the true power of our choices. It made me think about my own mother and daughter, and how the act of motherhood is as fundamental as it is complex. It’s also a sharp picture of transformation in our little corner of the South. What a great book for book club discussion!

The Say So by Julia Franks, (List Price: 28, Hub City Press, 9798885740074, June 2023)

Reviewed by Ashley Warlick, M. Judson Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina

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