The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Psychological

Spotlight on: I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

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Rebecca Makkai, photo credit Brett Simison

“This is a book where if you read it, by the end, you’ll know what happened. But not everything is tied up in a neat bow. My job is not to give answers. My job is to ask questions. My job is to, in fact, take the questions that I already have and to complicate those even for myself. I should be confusing myself greatly as I write. I should be banging my head on the wall. I shouldn’t be coming in already knowing what I want to say.” ―Rebecca Makkai, Interview, NPR

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

What booksellers are saying about I Have Some Questions for You

  • Another brilliant book from Rebecca Makkai. I love the way she emotionally manipulates me as a reader — in the best possible way! She makes me feel so much by creating rich characters and drawing you in to their lives. This is so timely and the brilliance of the narration is complex and daring. You cannot read this book without stopping and reflecting on the moral dilemmas Bodie faces and asking yourself what you would have done. It’s a brilliant look at the stories we tell, how those change as we grow, and how we see the world from different perspective as society progresses. I will be thinking about this book for a long time!
      ―Jamie Southern from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • I should’ve known that Rebecca Makkai taking on a true-crime mystery would knock me off my feet, but I was not prepared for I Have Some Questions For You to hold me captive for days straight while I devoured every chapter. To put it mildly, I am obsessed with this book—it’s gripping, character-driven, and just ridiculously well-written.
      ―Lindsay Lynch from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus

  • Man, do I have some questions after finishing this absorbing story. So. Many. Questions. If a high school friend was murdered long ago on the campus of your boarding school, how many years would you continue thinking about it? Would you get involved decades later if you believed the wrong person was convicted? What if it brought pain to the victim’s family and disrupted the lives of other former students? If you believed you knew who the real murderer was, would you expose him? And what if, in your quest for justice, you realize that your own perspective may be biased and your logic may be faulty? Get ready, because this novel asks you to reflect on so many questions, about power and privilege, media and the me too movement, sexual relationships and friendships. It’s the must-read of the season.
      ―Lady Smith from The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, AL | Buy from Snail on the Wall
  • An immaculate feat of story-telling, I Have Some Questions for You takes on complicated contemporary issues and tropes with propulsive verve and moral clarity that gets buried in our Twitter-fied, new-as-infotainment world.
      ―Matt Nixon from A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA | Buy from A Cappella Books

About Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is the author of the novels I Have Some Questions for YouThe Great BelieversThe Hundred-Year House, and The Borrower, and the story collection Music for Wartime. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, The Great Believers received an American Library Association Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other honors, and was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times. A 202 Guggenheim fellow, Makkai is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is the artistic director of StoryStudio Chicago. She lives on the campus of the midwestern boarding school where her husband teaches, and in Vermont.

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Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada

If there’s one thing you should know about me – it’s that I adore a book about an unhappy housewife, not because I like seeing women unhappy, but because I love to support women fighting wrongs. Seeing how a woman reclaims her space, life, and situation – even if she goes about it in questionable ways, is a ride I want to be on. Kashimada’s novel is a prime example of all these elements, with the perfect blend of sparse, deeply impactful prose that explore themes of religion, tragedy, identity, and isolation.

Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada, (List Price: $17, Europa, 9781609458195, March 2023)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Findley, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Spotlight on: The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

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Julia Bartz, photo credit Savannah Lauren

It was very fun to write Roza because she makes her own rules and she has certain boundaries and in other ways she doesn’t have any boundaries at all, she’s very intimidating. I started to write this book was really to explore my "shadow parts" those are the parts of ourselves we repress, usually when we’re young. And for women and girls a lot of those parts have to do with anger, aggression, sexuality…and when we do experience those feelings it can bring a lot of shame. So I wanted to really focus on a character who feels no shame.” ―Julia Bartz, Interview, She Wore Black Podcast

 

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

What booksellers are saying about The Writing Retreat

  • You know how sometimes you think ,”If someone would just make me do this, I’d really knock it out and do great”… well be careful what you wish for! This twisty novel of mind games and winter weather will leave you gasping. Loved that it was as much about the craft of writing as it is an unsettling thriller.
      ―Susan Williams from M. Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, SC | Buy from M. Judson, booksellers

  • OK, I thought this was going to be a particular type of thriller with a predictable albeit revamped plot- dear lord was I incorrect. Halfway through, I’m reading a passage about drug induced sex with a demon with kaleidoscopic eyes. Heck yes! More of this! More of these terrifying, queer, uncomfortable books. I am so delighted and surprised. And this is a debut? Isn’t it kind of hard to write a successful mystery? Let alone, an expose on queer shame, toxic relationships, and social nuances? Dang, Julia. When this book comes out, it’s going straight to my staff picks.
      ―Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books (NC) in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • The Writing Retreat explores what happens when Alex, a horror writer experiencing a wretched bout of writer’s block finds themself at their idol’s estate for an amazing chance of finally being published. Oh yeah, did I mention her ex-best friend and source of said writer’s block is also in the house? A wildly imaginative psychological thriller that explores the question: who do our stories and memories really belong to?
      ―Eden Hakimzadeh from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • Nightmares, sleepwalking, poisons, drugs, dark basements, ghosts, secret passageways, hauntings, and dangers await talented young women as they step into the mansion Blackbriar for a month-long writing retreat. Roza Vallo, a successful feminist horror writer, is the owner of this magnificent mansion and promises that in the month one of these participants could win a million dollars and fame and fortune for writing the best story. What would these women do to become wealthy and realize their dream of being a famous writer? Beginning with the mysterious necklaces, these women become discombobulated as they dwell in Blackbriar and face terrors and secrets and dangers in the spooky, horrifying situation. No reader will forget this thriller or easily put down this shocking story until the last page.
      ―Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Julia Bartz

Julia Bartz is a Brooklyn-based writer and practicing therapist. Her fiction writing has appeared in The South Dakota ReviewInDigest Magazine, and more. The Writing Retreat is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaBartz and Instagram at @JuliaBartz.

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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

The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera

It’s a great debut, spooky, atmospheric, with family drama, and full of small town secrets. Gotta love a strong female main character, who is unafraid of danger. There are twists and turns in every moment…the suspense is palpable. This book is impossible to put down.

The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera, (List Price: $27, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593540213, January 2023)

Reviewed by Amy Loewy, Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, Louisiana

Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong

A beautifully odd and weird story, full of imagination, obsession, and layers upon layers of intrigue. Katrina Kim is living on the edges of life, barely able to afford her shared apartment, struggling with her temp job, and lowkey stalking her coworker Kurt. There’s something about him and his strangeness that compels her to watch him. Then one night she sees Kurt jump off a bridge, drawing Katrina into the mystery that was his life. I can’t recommend this strange book enough!

Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538723562, January 2023)

RReviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

I have never really felt like the target reader for Cormac McCarthy, but this one really spoke to me. Alternating perspectives between two siblings in the past and present, The Passenger is the story of Bobby Western, a deep sea diver overcome with grief by the death of his sister whom he carried romantic feelings for. Many chapters flesh out in a very dialogue-heavy interview style with an eccentric cast of characters, some more likable than others. Experts in quantum mechanics such as Dirac, Einstein, and Oppenheimer (who worked alongside Western’s father) take on roles as symbols, legacies, and even characters unto themselves. All the while, Western gets wrapped up in a conspiracy he doesn’t know the questions to let alone the answers. McCarthy writes beautifully of the alchemic fires of devotion and the beyond, and I suspect this is a novel I will be returning to throughout my life.

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy (List Price: $30.00, Knopf, 9780307268990, October 2022)

Reviewed by Amanda Depperschmidt, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

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I started this book in Argentina many years ago, knowing I would move to Europe soon, and finished it during my first couple of years living in Berlin. So for me it works as a bridge between two very different worlds and lives. I couldn’t see that during the writing process, but these stories are full of moving boxes, abandoned clothes, lost objects, people feeling nostalgic and lost or out of place, even when the plots have little to do with that. How tricky fiction can be…I thought I had hidden my private life behind these stories, but it doesn’t matter what I am writing about, I’m always working with material taken from my own life and experience.” ―Samanta Schweblin, Interview, Words Without Borders, National Book Awards

 

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

What booksellers are saying about Seven Empty Houses

  • At the root of a “good” nightmare is prime comedy and just like the dash of cinnamon to chili enhances the spicy without tasting like a seasonal cookie, a pinch of humor enriches the story’s scary without reading like a seasonal cookie. Each entry for this year’s Samanta Schweblin Chili Cookoff is wonderfully all over the flavor map, which makes for a enjoyably quick read. Always leave ‘em wanting more!
      ―Ian McCord from Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA | Buy from Avid Bookshop

  • Seven Empty Houses finds Samanta Schweblin in top form. Each story is imbued with a striking precision, as the author is funny, ominous, heartfelt, and brutal often in quick succession. Many of the scenes in this collection feature characters that aren’t often the focal point of any given story, Schweblin gives us a glimpse into their worlds and the results are stunning.
      ―James Harrod from Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC | Buy from Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe

  • Short Stories are always an odd thing to get into because they tend to drop you in a story quite in the middle of them and unceremoniously eject you before the story is truly complete. They are more snapshot than feature film. Schweblin’s snapshot stories are unsettling and comforting all at once. They speak to the tender strangeness of family and the simultaneous fear/desire for death. I want to give this book to someone as a book hangover cure for Sue Rainsford’s Follow Me to Ground.
      ―Annie Childress from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA | Buy from E. Shaver, bookseller

About Samanta Schweblin

Samanta Schweblin is the author of the novel Fever Dream, a finalist for the International Booker Prize, and the novel Little Eyes and story collection A Mouthful of Birds, longlisted for the same prize. Chosen by Granta as one of the twenty-two best writers in Spanish under the age of thirty-five, she has won numerous prestigious awards around the world. Her books have been translated into twenty-five languages, and her work has appeared in English in The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine. Originally from Buenos Aires, Schweblin lives in Berlin.

Megan McDowell has translated books by many contemporary South American and Spanish authors; her translations have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Words Without Borders, and Vice, among other publications.

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The Cloisters by Katy Hays

The Cloisters by Katy Hays is what I imagine Mary Shelley might write if she lived in the 21st century. There are elements of horror, a little romance, an eerie setting, characters that will keep you guessing, and an ending you won’t see coming. But more than that, The Cloisters seems to play with a lot of the same themes that Mary Shelley did – ambition and fallibility, romanticism in nature, dangerous knowledge, secrecy, and isolation. But where Shelley writes about what makes us human (or not), Hays writes about what agency we have as humans. Do we have free will? Is anything predestined? Or is everything just fate?

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.

Sound intriguing?

Come tiptoe through the hushed hallways of The Cloisters, teeming with dark academia that whispers ancient secrets from the shadows. Mysteries smolder at the edges. What begins as a slow burn will have you holding your breath as you race to the end. The Cloisters is chock full of art history, architectural delights, and occult vibes.

This was one of those books that took over my world while I was reading it – casting a thin veil of darkness and tension over everything until I was so immersed in the characters and story that I was thinking about them and what would happen next throughout the day. Even almost a week later, I’m still pondering… the secrets we all hold, the dreams we have for ourselves and how far we’re willing to go to reach them. And whether any of that is our choice… or just fate.

Get ready to break out your tarot cards -I sure did!

The Cloisters by Katy Hays (List Price: $28.00, Atria Books, 9781668004401, November 2022)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

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

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

The story of family and how lives intersect over time, Signal Fires is a quiet portrait of neighbors who lived near a 500-year-old oak tree during a large chunk of their lives. How those in the two families live and people chose to intersect or not to, choose to acknowledge weakness or tragedy- or do not- as they move through lives stages and across the country are central to this novel.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593534724, October 2022)

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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

We Spread by Iain Reid

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

I adore the way Iain Reid can make you feel so clueless and enthralled at the same time. During most of We Spread I had no idea what was going on and it was completely fine by me. The way he writes, even the most horrifying feeling, is soothing. I found myself trying to read slower as I neared the end because the experience passed too quickly.

We Spread by Iain Reid, (List Price: $26.99, Gallery/Scout Press, 9781982169350, September 2022)

Reviewed by Mary Salazar, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Hawk Mountain by Conner Habib

Hawk Mountain is a meditation on how toxic masculinity can lead to trauma and how that trauma can manifest itself into violence & horror. Additionally, Habib points to the manner in which consequences of our actions can cycle through generations as well and he does so with propulsive prose that continually ratchets up the tension with every page. This novel is pure psychological horror and it takes gaslighting to a whole new level of craziness that is tough to witness, but impossible to look away from.

Hawk Mountain by Conner Habib, (List Price: $26.95, W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393542172, July 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

I watched the Netflix Series Behind Her Eyes and loved the suspense and supernatural themes. So, when I saw that Sarah Pinborough wrote Insomnia I knew that I had to read it! The story itself reminded me of Behind Her Eyes and the movie Hereditary. You have a mother as the main character who is doing everything she can to find out about her estranged mother’s life as she tries to uncover family secrets to protect her family. But, is she protecting her family from the impending danger, or is she the danger her family needs protecting from? The whole story you are in just as much disbelief as the main character…she doesn’t know if she is awake or asleep, if she is sane or going mad like her mother, and as things twist and turn deeper into the story a mind-bending and time-bending twist is added!

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough, (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062856845,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Kait Layton, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

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