The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

World Literature

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

Spotlight on: Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung

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I think urban legends, myths and folktales constantly tell us that what you know is not all, and you shouldn’t be arrogant enough to think that what your five senses can sense is all there is to feel and perceive and think.” ―Bora Chung, Interview, The Korea Herald

 

Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung

What booksellers are saying about Cursed Bunny: Stories

  • Cursed Bunny is a fantastically weird and thought-provoking collection of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories that had me ruminating long after I had finished them. Bora Chung takes the bases of human nature (and a lot of the worst ones) and puts them on display like an open wound for the reader. Along with covering individual issues like greed, despair, or love… the stories also tackle societal issues regarding feminism and poverty as well. This book is perfect for horror fans that also enjoy literary fiction.
      ―Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.

  • A fantastic, Korean story collection that includes nightmarish tales you won’t be able to put down. Bora Chung is bringing a new depth of not only gore and terror to traditional horror but also something more provocative as well. Tales that range from heads emerging from toilets, body horror that you’ll remember for days, and even some more sci-fi elements as well, this story collection is not for the faint of heart. An unforgettable book that’ll keep you thinking for days.
      ―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Delightfully gruesome, disarmingly weird, and incredibly sharp; Bora Chung’s debut collection Cursed Bunny is an incredibly memorable trip into the mind of an amazing new voice. From a head growing out of a toilet wanting to be free, a snared fox that bleeds gold, or the titular cursed bunny; each of Chung’s amazing stories reads like a dark fable that would give the Grimm brothers a run for their money. With themes of gender, greed, and technology, Cursed Bunny is a must read for those who take their humor black and their ideas big. So very good!
      ―Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Bora Chung

Bora Chung has written three novels and three collections of short stories. She has an MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University. She has taught Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.

Anton Hur was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He won a PEN Translates award for Kang Kyeong-ae’s The Underground Village and his translation of Sang Young Park’s Love in the Big City was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2022. He lives in Seoul.

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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

Offended Sensibilities by Ganieva Alisa

A novel that takes place in a Russian town where officials are dropping dead after a recent law that stifled forms of expression has been passed, following the real-life events of a Pussy Riot church protest. The neo-noir feel that envelopes this political yet humorous novel fits perfectly and makes this a fantastic and original read. Though this deals with conversations on nationalism, religion, and sexuality among others, the light humor and prose kept this novel more digestible and entertaining.

Offended Sensibilities by Ganieva Alisa (List Price: $16.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646052233, November 2022)

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase

A pastoral fall pick for dog and animal lovers: this quick read throws you into the 5-year journey of Tamon, a German Shepherd, as he wanders in and out of the lives of his many different grief-stricken, down-and-out owners. This is the first translated works of Seishu Hase, a veteran of the Yakuza crime genre, whose teeth are bared in simple but sweet prose with moments of striking intensity. Struggle, plight, and grief are mirrored between human and animal as each character contends for their own survival and place in the world. Bittersweet, but ultimately a story of returning home in both place and spirit.

The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase (List Price: $23, Viking, 9780593300411, November 2022)

Reviewed by Amanda Depperschmidt, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

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I do not deliberately drag my identity to the desk every day, but it turns up. I grew up a Catholic in a small, mostly Protestant town on the shores of Belfast Lough in the seventies. My childhood had a lot in common with that of children in the UK and, in a different sense – the rest of Ireland. But it was stressful in a way I did not understand until later; my generation were reared by nervous wrecks. ” ―Louise Kennedy, Interview, Wasafiri

 

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

What booksellers are saying about Trespasses

  • I am in awe of everything about this incredible debut. Set in Belfast during the 70s, Trespasses explores the roles of violence and chance through the life of Cushla, a Catholic woman in her 20s who finds herself swept up in a love affair with an older, married Protestant lawyer. The narrative grows with a quiet sense of discomfort until it rushes to a startling conclusion that left me breathless.
      ―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books

  • I am fascinated by the Troubles and all the heartache it caused. Cushla Lavery’s struggles to reconcile her loyalties to community and her love for a man forbidden by that community. The daily drama of living for people caught up in this terrible time seems very real in the characters Kennedy develops. I was mesmerized by this story and couldn’t put it down! A must read!
      ―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL | Buy from Page & Palette

  • I am fascinated by the Troubles; it continually boggles my mind that armed occupation of and paramilitary presence in Northern Ireland went on for so long, so recently. So I deeply appreciated the insight into the Troubles that this novel provides, following Cushla, a Catholic schoolteacher living in a small town near Belfast, enamored with an older Protestant barrister who is wrong for her in every way. Louise Kennedy’s story of sectarian violence and tragedy is totally compelling and humanizes this fascinating period of time by focusing on the stories of ordinary people.
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy grew up near Belfast. Trespasses is her first novel. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac. She has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, and BBC Radio 4. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a chef for almost thirty years. She lives in Sligo, Ireland.

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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

Witches by Brenda Lozano

Witches, by Mexican writer Brenda Lozano, features quite possibly the most distinctive voice I’ve come across in fiction this year. Feliciana’s narrative, recounting her life as an indigenous healer – or curandera – is hypnotic, elliptical and utterly absorbing. Her story intertwines with that of Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City sent to report on the death of Paloma, Feliciana’s muxe – or third gender – cousin. Their stories combine to highlight the struggles of women striving to be true to themselves and to find their own voices.

Witches by Brenda Lozano, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220687, August 2022)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes

My favorite Julian Barnes books feature an unremarkable protagonist who attempts to decode the words and actions of a different, more complicated character; the author thereby offers insight into his own process of character creation, from the outside in. Elizabeth Finch is the apotheosis of this type of Barnes book. A former student tries to understand the life of a recently deceased scholar who was his teacher and then friend. Along the way, we are treated to a lengthy essay about Julian the Apostate, which perhaps is offered as a key for us to encode the life of Julian the Author. I thought of Julian, and how the centuries had interpreted and reinterpreted him, like a man walking across a stage pursued by different-coloured spotlights… Well, getting our history wrong is part of being a person.

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes, (List Price: $26, Knopf, 9780593535431, August 2022)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah

Here’s how you take a great sin–maybe The great sin–and particularize it so that our minds can grasp it. The Germans and the British and the Portuguese and the Dutch (and now, of course, the US and China and ad nauseam)–all of these governments have, at one time or another, wanted to get their hands on Africa–really get in there–all the way in–and do what they want to it. Gurnah and his magical Nobel Prize-winning pen tells us the story of a family battered by the complexities of colonialism and their risings and fallings and re-risings. Deep, satisfying, horrifying, wonderful.

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9780593541883, August 2022)

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

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Murata, author of the 2016 indie hit Convenience Store Woman, is back with a collection of weird and weirdly relatable short stories. Cannibalism! Alien bodies! Distant worlds! Getting older, and more alone! These and other strange subjects are blown up to speak about the fundamental problems of living today. I especially loved "Hatchling," a story reminiscent of Osamu Dazai’s classic "No Longer Human," but with a feminist sensibility. Life Ceremony further cements Sayaka Murata as one of the world’s most interesting contemporary writers.

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802159588, July 2022)

Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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

Scary Monsters by Michelle De Kretser

A brilliant, expertly written novel that is at once horrifyingly real and also hilariously overstated. The two stories are surprising and suspenseful as each South Asian immigrant deals with the multi-layered pieces of their lives in the 80s and in the near future. As an Asian immigrant to Australia, the author captures these characters so thoroughly it is a shock to the system to step back out of their stories. Wonderful study on racism and how immigrants are received and perceived around the world.

Scary Monsters by Michelle De Kretser, (List Price: 17.95, Catapult, 9781646221097, April 2022)

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

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi

When Man Booker Prize winner Jokha Alharthi writes, a river of emotions pours from her in the most beautiful way possible. Her latest translated novel features a young Omani student in London attempting to come to terms with the grief and regrets of losing her devoted grandmother by not attending to her when she needed her most. The tale drifts back and forth through time, giving the reader a view into the two strikingly different lives of these women; where both bear the weight of unfulfilled desires. This was an exquisite and haunting read.

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220038, May 2022)

Reviewed by Damita Nocton, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

A feral parable on the violence of racism, misandry, and class from a preeminent, new voice of contemporary Mexican literature. Melchor’s style in Paradais is writhing and slippery, capturing not only a portrait of desperation but the ugliness of the toxic thread that runs through the underside of our collective psyche.

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, (List Price: $19.95, New Directions, 9780811231329, April 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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