The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Short Stories

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

A black professor uses his own son in a study comparing him to ACMs (American Caucasian Males) in “Control Negro.” A single mother lists what to do when “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.” A young woman changes herself in an attempt to leave behind her past. An immigrant widowed father finds himself distanced from his children. And, a group of Charlottesville neighbors flee white suprematists seeking refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home. Each story examines what happens when “home” is not very hospitable. This collection—the characters and the writing will stay with me. An emotional and brilliant must read.

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, (List Price: $26.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781250807151, October 2021)

Reviewed by Kelley Barnes, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

American Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

So grateful for this collection of 70 diverse and extraordinary stories from our friends at Library of America and editor Connie Willis. This collection features voices from across the American experience an centuries and contains stories of mystery, horror, western, inspirational, fantasy, humor, and more! This would make a great gift and is long overdue. Shirley Jackson and Jack London, Amy Tan and Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain and Nalo Hopkinson. Very excited to put this into the hands of those who celebrate.

American Christmas Stories by Connie Willis, (List Price: 29.95, Library of America, 9781598537062, October 2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar

I just spent a guilt-free rainy day with these high calorific, double-stuffed short stories. Located within: A traffic jam turned tribal via survival, some playful narrator juggling, an escapist daydream that turns O. Henry into an R. Serling nightmare, and fiery relationships that literally burn to literal litter. Looking forward to more rain.

All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar, (List Price: 15.95, New Directions, 9780811229456, April 2020)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite by Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker

These stories are well-written, fresh, and compelling – they explore what it means to consider and consent to becoming a vampire; how human bodies, with all their imperfections and different abilities, are and aren’t changed by vampire magic; and how individual identity might be enhanced or overridden by the new identity of Vampire. I think the introduction says it best:

“Of the vampires in our collective imagination, which is admittedly Western-focused, nearly all resided in stories about power. Despite rampant queer subtext and outstanding nonwhite examples like Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, the vampires were predominantly men, white, cisgender, straight, and able-bodied, and we were ready for stories that reimagined that default.”

This collection doesn’t seek to negate the appeal and influence of classic vampire stories – I think, instead, it reworks some of those ideas with sharper, more politically and socially aware eyes. And the book as a whole feels like the beloved creation of people who just love vampires – love the idea of them, love the lore, love the good and bad of them, the romantic and the frightening. To me, the sheer joy of everyone involved just shines through each page.

Vampires Never Get Old : Tales with Fresh Bite by Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker (List Price: $17.99, Imprint/Macmillan, 9781949199734, 9/22/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans.)

We are undoubtedly experiencing a golden age of surreal fiction, much of it translated, and the best of it written by women. For short story junkies like myself it is a particularly good time to be stuck at home avoiding other humans. Each story in this amazing collection connects with me viscerally, yet each one connects differently, like a smell, a taste, or a texture. Some are mysterious and subtle while others are brazen and bold, grotesque even. Each one is exquisitely crafted and exhilarating to read!

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro, Christina MacSweeney (Trans (List Price: $19.95, Two Lines Press, 9781949641097, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Tony Peltier, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor’s book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a bright shining explosion of beautiful writing. Six of the eleven stories are linked and dipping back and forth into Lionel’s relationship with two dancers, Sophie and Charles, which is hypnotic. These stories about human relationships range from those between lovers, friends, and family. How is it that Taylor can write so that we can see the interior crevices of these character’s souls?

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (List Price: $26, Riverhead Books, 9780525538912, 6/22/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus by Allan Gurganus

This book makes living right here and right now all worth it. Here’s a real writer: style and heart and wit and depth–nothing’s missing. His great talent: reminding you and me of joy. These stories, collected from The New Yorker and Harper’s and more, describe fathers and sons, country doctors, rural cops, and miracles, and once you read one, you’ll re-read it in your mind forever. The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus is a true beauty from one of our greatest writers.

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus by Allan Gurganus (List Price: $25.95, Liveright, 9780871403780, 1/12/2021)

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

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I find that I’m very hit or miss with short story collections but The Office of Historical Collections is a total gem. It’s full of captivating stories and characters; there wasn’t a single story that didn’t suck me in! Evans tackles topics like race, womanhood, and the human condition with nuance and grace. So good!

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9781594487330, 11/10/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Having grown up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist church, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I saw the secret double lives of some of us. Rebelling against the submit-to-authority messages on Saturday night, but sitting pious and submissive come Sunday morning services was de rigueur. Deesha Philyaw’s book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies gives voice to secret lives that I know for sure are lived and true. The need for acceptance, for absolution, for grace is ever-present in familiar relationships as well as those in the church. These short stories are divine.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (List Price: $18.99, West Virginia University Press, 9781949199734, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken

Each of these twelve stories felt like a gift. Elizabeth McCracken has such insight into our ugliest, most deep-seated emotions that she dresses up with just a touch of delightful weirdness. Highlights include a story of a distraught mother finding comfort in challah bread that reminds her of her dead children; interconnected stories about a young couple working through various family baggage; and a story about two men confronting their fears of commitment and fatherhood during a day trip to Schlitterbahn (the iconic Texan German-themed waterpark, for those who don’t know). I tried to savor every story, but I couldn’t resist reading more than one every time I picked up this book!

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken (List Price: $26.99, Ecco, 9780062971289, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

I opened this book’s beautiful cover to sample one story from the collection, but I couldn’t stop until I had read them all. Each piece packs a different sort of power, examining the subtleties of relationships—between friends, parents and children, husbands and wives, mothers and unborn children. The writing is raw and visceral, just as the title “Milk Blood Heat” suggests, and the characters’ feelings and bodies often can’t be contained, no matter how hard they might try. This collection will dazzle and unsettle you at the same time, and I highly recommend it!

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802158154, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Communication is a key ingredient to our daily life. Even choosing to avoid it says multiple somethings about us. Be the relationship cave painter and archaeologist or mother and son, down to the nanosecond most of us (speaker and auditor) repeatedly fudge it up. In that last sentence, for example, the subject choices and use of the word “fudge” paint both a true-ish and false-like picture of this reviewer. But this isn’t about me (or is it?). [Ahem] Through a panoply of pitch-perfect analogies, George Saunders puts the writer/reader at the reader/writer’s La-Z-Boy/typewriter. With hang-out-sesh tonality, he weighs the beauty in misunderstanding against how utterly frustrating it can be to simply get what you’re being told. Fans of Understanding Comics or How to Read Nancy might enjoy placing turn-of-the-century Russian masterpieces under the microscope. It’s been over a week since I finished A Swim… (“not about me,” eh, me?) and like a kid home from camp, not a day has gone by without a few thoughts of this deep moment or that fond element. All that’s missing from that analogy is me repeatedly checking the mailbox to see if George wrote me a postcard, but that would be a downer of an ending to this wonderful book’s review (not to be confused with a wonderful book review), so it’ll surely be edited out.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (List Price: $28, Random House, 9781984856029, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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