The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Literary

Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Olafdottir takes us to Iceland a few days before Christmas where a midwife, Domhildur, has just delivered her 1,922nd baby. She comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and her father’s family work as undertakers. Her family deals with beginnings and endings, life and death, and sunlight and darkness. “I have come to the conclusion that the one who calls himself the master of all creatures is in fact the most vulnerable of all animals…the most fragile of the fragile on the planet.” These words, written by Domhildur’s great-aunt, are discovered in some manuscripts left in a closet after her death. Domhildur reads her great-aunt’s reflections on humans, life, and loves, while a storm is moving into Reykjavik. Will the prediction in these pages come to be reality? Will mankind be “the most short-lived species on earth”?

Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (List Price: $17, Grove Press, Black Cat, 9780802160164, December 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

What happens when nature isn’t natural? When in the end, Climate Change is unstoppable? Lily Brooks-Dalton renders a shockingly real depiction of this possibility in the harrowing and beautiful novel, The Light Pirate. Florida’s struggle with the aftermath of violent weather has always been a reality, but in this story, the rapidly changing landscape overwhelms the will and stamina of most human beings. Wanda, who was born during, and named after, a particularly vicious hurricane, frequently navigates a new, storm-carved home as the Florida coast shifts and neighborhoods are swallowed by wind, water, and human dereliction. Wanda adapts as nature does, to a strange new world–one dependent not on human infrastructure–but on that which matters most in the end: humility, kindness and bravery. This story is important. This story could happen. This story is happening. A must-read.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538708279, December 2022)

Reviewed by Laura Simcox, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux

Jun-su, a young boy living through the brutality of the North Korean Famine, comes across a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide and falls deeply in love with the worlds he can now create, enormously different from the life he’s used to under Kim Jong-il. The strange book’s cover and themes land him in a brutal prison camp where he has to fight to stay alive and try to hold on to himself in the face of totalitarianism. A well-researched, well-written and beautifully told portrait of a kid growing up different in 1990s North Korea trying to do more than survive.

The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux (List Price: $26.99, Atria Books, 9781668002667, November 2022)

Reviewed by Colin Sneed, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Fab. a. suspenseful page-turner; b. hilariously cringey; c. who doesn’t need therapy including your therapist? d. elegantly creepy; e. a novel perfect for these times but set in those times.

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, (List Price: $17.95, Biblioasis, 9781771965200, November 2022)

Reviewed by Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

An enthralling tale of imaginary monsters, human devils, and two children navigating life’s horrors 360 years apart. In turn harrowing, tender, and hopeful, the adventure follows a fearless Dutch girl in 1628 aboard the Batavia, which ultimately wrecks near an island off Australia. In 1989, a sensitive boy goes to live on that same island with his gruff grandfather after his mother’s death. There, he learns how to be himself and discovers a magical connection with the girl from the past.

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd, (List Price: $28, Atria Books, 9781982180812, October 2022)

Reviewed by Suzanne Carnes, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

I loved the characters in this book especially Civil Townsend. She was my hero! I remember reading about the true story this book is based on and feeling what a tragedy that something like this could happen. This story brought to life the real-life trauma of the two young girls the story is based on. I loved the way Civil championed their cause, and I felt her pain when things would go sideways. I recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in justice.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, (List Price: $27.00, Penguin Random House, 9780593337691, April 2022)

Reviewed by Cheryl Lafaye Lee, 44th & 3rd Bookseller in Atlanta, Georgia

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Oh, I hope and pray this is the runaway blockbuster of the year, as it deserves to be. Dystopian, centered around concept the US government can re-home children on the basis of anonymous reports of seditious parental behavior. One woman uses poetry to combat this, and the rampant anti-Asian hate that is taking over society. With hero librarians behind the scenes attempting to keep fractured family ties documented – SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS. ALL OF THIS. I AM SO HERE FOR IT. Celeste Ng is now officially a literary force. I’m calling Our Missing Hearts my one and only official book recommendation of 2022 – no others will come close.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, (List Price: $29, Penguin Press, 9780593492543, October 2022)

Reviewed by Alissa Redmond, South Main Book Company in Salisbury, North Carolina

Ithaca by Claire North

Ithaca takes place in a time while Odysseus is away, and is narrated by Hera, the goddess of women. Many suitors have arrived to try and take the hand of a could-be widow. It’s up to Penelope and her band of women to hold things together, not just for her, but for the sake of the entire kingdom. From unexpected visitors, suspenseful skirmishes, and a lust for power, this is the story of the not so quickly told, unsung protectors of Ithaca. What an amazing, gorgeous take on what was going on while Odysseus has been gone. Spoken from the viewpoint of Hera, this captivating story brings up many people that are usually left by the wayside as far as Greek mythology is concerned. There were a lot of characters, and at first it was a bit difficult to remember which person was which. For the most part, North solves this by giving insight into what each one of them is doing whenever mentioned. From traitors of the kingdom, to a coming of manhood for my personal favorite character, Telemachus, the suspense and build up never failed. The marathon of the middle was exactly that for me, but that is North’s beautiful attention to detail, pulp, and background building that I love from her writing. The ending was a shot out of nowhere. Wondering who would come out on top at the end was something I questioned during the entire read. All I know is, like with almost all of her books, the last five or six chapters tie everything together and are somehow always better than the rest of the book, if that’s even possible. All of my questions, answered. All loose ends, tied.Six stars out of five; I suggest everyone grab this book when it comes out if you are a fan of Greek Mythology, fiction, suspense, and all around good writing. This is the setup of a series, and it was extremely captivating the way North went out of her way to have all the geography, gods, and goddesses of ancient Greece historically accurate. She definitely showed the conflict between them and how some, if not all, are more “humanly” than I had considered when I went through school learning about Greece. It was really nice to have a change of pace from North’s usual writing, but this had her style all over it. Will be grabbing a physical copy in September, to add to my collection of Claire North books and I cannot wait to see what happens next in the story of Penelope.

Ithaca by Claire North, (List Price: $28, Redhook, 9780316422963, September 2022)

Reviewed by Doloris Vest, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

Jonathan Escoffery’s debut If I Survive You chronicles an American immigration story full of hope, heartbreak, promises broken, and most importantly the constant struggle. Told in interconnected stories, If I Survive You addresses class, race, and economic disparity but is also funny. Mark my words, Escoffery is a rising literary star.

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, (List Price: $27.00, MCD, 9780374605988, September 2022)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Delphi by Clare Pollard

Beautiful at the sentence level, Pollard’s Delphi deftly captured the weird, stagnant time of the early covid-19 pandemic through the first year. Her depiction of the strangeness of everyday life is lovely: the fear but especially the monotony. The main character had been researching divination methods of the ancient world prior to the pandemic; various forms of divination, ancient and modern, frame the short chapters. The methods are sometimes directly discussed or even used by the character to gain some semblance of control, but at other times, the chapter header appears only in an oblique nod: a flight of birds, a television unwatched. Taking a wider lens, the story is largely interior and for large stretches very little happens (though in an interesting way). The main character, her husband, and her son tackle isolation and conflict and the pressure to just go along with extended family’s risk assessments (whether stricter or looser); they take risks to connect with friends and coworkers that often turn out fine. There’s a flurry of the high-stakes plot near the end – even foreshadowed, the introduction of the conflict felt rather sudden, and the resolution arrived so abruptly that I turned the page expecting a denouement to find the acknowledgments page instead. But I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this book for a while.

Delphi by Clare Pollard, (List Price: $26.00, Avid Reader Press, 9781982197896, August 2022)

Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt

A tight, Talented Mr. Ripley-esque mini-thriller where the thrill is in the revelation of the narrator’s psyche through her circumstances. And it has a biting critique of the publishing industry! Helen DeWitt runs away with this priceless gem: a literary thriller that is as exciting as it is intelligent and can be read in an afternoon.

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, (List Price: $17.95, New Directions, 9780811230070, August 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin has written a novel about amazing game developers who the reader will come to know over thirty years. When Sam Masur and Sadie Green meet as children, they become fast intimate friends when playing video games, and as young adults they craft the game Ichigo. Besides seeing the artistry and genius built into designing these intricate and captivating games, we live their lives as they grow and experience loneliness and love, pain and comfort, success and devastating pain and loss. This is ultimately an unforgettable tale of lives finding love and connection in this high tech age and the collaboration in building the worlds of video games.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, (List Price: 28, Knopf, 9780593321201, July 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Booksmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

Three women have shared a bond for decades. When they are reunited for one of their daughter’s weddings, the past comes back in a rush. The story is told in flashbacks and present day in a way that helps them reconcile where they have ended up and where they once dreamed they’d go. A timeless examination of all the dreams you hold for yourself, the dreams your parents and others have for you, and how much you are able to follow your heart.

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593320297, June 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Girls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer

It’s so hard to pin down exactly how I feel about this one. Safe to say, though, to start: I loved reading every page, so there is that! I think part of what makes me feel confused is how close to the bone it could have cut given a few of the similarities between me and Rose and Charlotte. But I was never ambitious. Never really tried to make a go of it as a writer. I was never of New York or the region. Girls They Write Songs About is brilliant, deliciously wry, not afraid to proceed to its destination. It pulls zero punches. It’s mature in a way that is hard to describe. It respects its characters and the reader enough to stay the course on its own terms. And that is a little difficult to accept at times, like real life. I loved it and will have no trouble recommending it to customers. But I’m going to spend between now and June refining my elevator pitch.

Girls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer, (List Price: $27, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374282264, June 2022)

Reviewed by Kat Leache, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

A June Read This Next! Title!

Whew, what a ride. If you are an Ottessa Moshfegh fan, you will love this propulsive and constantly shocking story. The inequality of the medieval fiefdom that serves as the setting and the characters that populate this book are both utterly alien and depressingly familiar. In Lapnova, Moshfegh continues to do what she does best: illustrate unvarnished humanity in all its beauty and depravity.

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh, (List Price: 27, Penguin Press, 9780593300268, June 2022)

Reviewed by Chelsea Bauer, Union Ave Books in Knoxville, Tennessee

Scroll to Top