Southern Indie Bestsellers 9/11/16

HARDCOVER FICTION

1. Commonwealth
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062491794
2. Razor Girl
Carl Hiaasen, Knopf, $27.95, 9780385349741
3. The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead, Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385542364
4. Nutshell
Ian McEwan, Nan A. Talese, $24.95, 9780385542074
5. A Great Reckoning
Louise Penny, Minotaur, $28.99, 9781250022134
6. A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles, Viking, $27, 9780670026197
7. Here I Am
Jonathan Safran Foer, FSG, $28, 9780374280024
okra8. The Risen
Ron Rash, Ecco, $25.99, 9780062436313
9. The Nix
Nathan Hill, Knopf, $27.95, 9781101946619
10. The Woman in Cabin 10
Ruth Ware, Gallery/Scout Press, $26, 9781501132933
11. The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah, St. Martin's, $27.99, 9780312577223
12. The Jealous Kind
James Lee Burke, S&S, $27.99, 9781501107207
13. All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr, Scribner, $27, 9781476746586
14. Truly Madly Guilty
Liane Moriarty, Flatiron, $26.99, 9781250069795
15. Three Sisters, Three Queens
Philippa Gregory, Touchstone, $27.99, 9781476758572

HARDCOVER NONFICTION

1. Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance, Harper, $27.99, 9780062300546
2. Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan
Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard, Holt, $30, 9781627790628
3. The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class
Edward Conard, Portfolio, $29, 9781595231239
4. Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum
Neil Patel, et al., Rodale, $26.99, 9781623367169
5. Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland
Dave Barry, Putnam, $27, 9781101982600
6. Love Warrior
Glennon Doyle Melton, Flatiron, $25.99, 9781250075727
7. A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery
Kathryn Hall, Craig Hall, Center Street, $26, 9781455535767
8. Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau, $25, 9780812993547
9. The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo
Amy Schumer, Gallery, $28, 9781501139888
10. The Hidden Life of Trees
Peter Wohlleben, Greystone Books, $24.95, 9781771642484
11. Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction
Elizabeth Vargas, Grand Central, $27, 9781455559633
12. Being Mortal
Atul Gawande, Metropolitan, $26, 9780805095159
13. When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi, Random House, $25, 9780812988406
14. The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics
Maureen Dowd, Twelve, $30, 9781455539260
15. Forward: A Memoir
Abby Wambach, Dey Street, $26.99, 9780062466983

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There seems to be a new Bowie book out about once every two months these days and I am such a big fan that I have read just about every one. But there is a law of diminishing returns and even I feel that at this point there is very little left to say. Luckily this biography takes a refreshing new tack. It concentrates on the two years that Bowie lived inside his greatest creation, the fictitious and otherworldly Ziggy Stardust. About half the book is gone before you get to Ziggy's rise and it's all context and subtext. Just like Stanley Crouch's book on Charlie Parker Kansas City Lightning it really helps you understand the time, the place and the preceding history and therefore get a better understanding of the work itself. It puts you dead center in the insane whirlwind that burgeoning stardom can bring and the leaves you with a half broken Bowie saying, "Who can I be now?"

Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard (Ebury Press) Recommended by Chris at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

All the intimacy and power that Anne Frank's war diary gave us--the real breath and thoughts and fears of a human living under inhumane circumstances--are aged and magnified in Saif's account of war in Gaza.

For 51 days he and his fellow Gazans live--and die--with the knowledge that life and death are a game of luck, controlled at the hands of an Israeli drone operator. Peace is not permitted for the people of Gaza, restricted by birth to a nation of contested land and continued acts of terror, violence, and grief. This was sixty years of life savings!- a man screams atop the rubble of his home. Ambulances screech all day long, gathering body parts of children and families that moments ago were survivors of the war, and now are its casualties.

Saif and his friends flip a coin on the street--heads, the truce ends, tails, the truce continues. The children fight to plug in their iPads when the electricity comes on, while the adults watch the news to hear which of their friends has been obliterated in their homes this week.

This is the fourth war Saif has lived through, and he knows that it is only by luck that he has lived, and that this war will not be the last--that one day his luck may run out. This is an essential read for those in search of peace in the midst of modern-day warfare, and even more essential for those who aren't sure which side they stand on.

The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif (Beacon Press) Recommended by Clara at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

What the hell is wrong with white people?

Seriously, what is going on in the white community that white folks all over the nation express; one, a sense of surprise by the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore; and two, complete ignorance of their role in the continued devaluation of black and brown life?

What level of denial must one operate to miss the connection between their neo-liberal, fascist, white supremacist policies and the continued killing of black and brown bodies all over this country and beyond? How can a people and its government founded on the principles of chattel slavery privatize prisons (and fill them disproportionately with black and brown bodies), de-fund then close mostly black and brown schools, and concentrate wealth among a small number of white males while pretending it has achieved a "post-racial" society?

Carol Anderson's newest book examines the latest iterations of white rage, and uncovers the deep layers of white denial that continues to fuel racial violence in this country.

White Rage by Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury) Recommended by Manny at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

In her first time writing entirely about the road, Steinem encourages us to free ourselves from the either/or binary thinking that proliferates the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and instead embrace the AND rooted in inclusion and balance. Yet as Steinem says, "On campuses, I saw young men wearing t-shirts that said TOO BAD O.J. DIDN'T MARRY HILLARY." All the wearers I saw were white.

Clearly, folks--especially white males--are far from unlearning the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal fantasies that permeate our entire culture.

This book illustrates key insights to aid this work. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (Random House) Recommended by Manny at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

Okra Picks

New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash demonstrates his superb narrative skills in this suspenseful and evocative tale of two brothers whose lives are altered irrevocably by the events of one long-ago summer—and one bewitching young woman—and the secrets that could destroy their lives.

While swimming in a secluded creek on a hot Sunday in 1969, sixteen-year-old Eugene and his older brother, Bill, meet the entrancing Ligeia. A sexy, free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach banished to their small North Carolina town until the fall, Ligeia will not only bewitch the two brothers, but lure them into a struggle that reveals the hidden differences in their natures.

Drawn in by her raw sensuality and rebellious attitude, Eugene falls deeper under her spell. Ligeia introduces him to the thrills and pleasures of the counterculture movement, then in its headiest moment. But just as the movement’s youthful optimism turns dark elsewhere in the country that summer, so does Eugene and Ligeia’s brief romance. Eugene moves farther and farther away from his brother, the cautious and dutiful Bill, and when Ligeia vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, the growing rift between the two brothers becomes immutable.

Decades later, their relationship is still turbulent, and the once close brothers now lead completely different lives. Bill is a gifted and successful surgeon, a paragon of the community, while Eugene, the town reprobate, is a failed writer and determined alcoholic.

When a shocking reminder of the past unexpectedly surfaces, Eugene is plunged back into that fateful summer, and the girl he cannot forget. The deeper he delves into his memories, the closer he comes to finding the truth. But can Eugene’s recollections be trusted? And will the truth set him free and...or destroy his damaged life and everyone he loves?

BUY FROM AN INDIE | READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

The award-winning author of The Last Town on Earth delivers a riveting and elegant police procedural set in 1948 Atlanta, exploring a murder, corrupt police, and strained race relations that feels ripped from today's headlines.

Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers; they aren’t allowed to arrest white suspects, drive squad cars, or set foot in the police headquarters.

When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Their investigation sets them up against a brutal cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood as his own, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world—a world on the cusp of great change.

Set in the postwar, pre-civil rights South, and evoking the socially resonant and morally complex crime novels of Dennis Lehane and Walter Mosley, Darktown is a vivid, smart, intricately plotted crime saga that explores the timely issues of race, law enforcement, and the uneven scales of justice.

BUY FROM AN INDIE

The 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize Winners

Bull Mountain
by Brian Panowich 
G.P. Putnam's Sons, Hardcover, 9780399173967, 304pp.

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws. For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family's criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can. But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton's office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, the novel brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the mountain and its inhabitants: forbidding, loyal, gritty, and ruthless. A story of family the lengths men will go to protect it, honor it, or in some cases destroy it "Bull Mountain" is an incredibly assured debut that heralds a major new talent in fiction.

BUY FROM AN INDIE

 alt= Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta
by Richard Grant; Richard Grant 
Simon & Schuster, Paperback, 9781476709642, 320pp.

Mississippi's #1 Bestseller of 2015 (The Clarion-Ledger) and a Southern Indie Bestseller. Adventure writer Richard Grant takes on "the most American place on Earth" - the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta.

Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.

On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters - blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta's lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families - and good reasons for hope.

Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It's lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer's flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It's also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America.

BUY FROM AN INDIE

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Lady BanksIn which her ladyship, the editor, has a new apron, Ms Deshanta Hairston thought something was missing in her community so she did something about it, and Mr. Ron Rash wrote a book because he kept dreaming that he'd killed somebody. 

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Turn the Page with Southern Writers

Barbara O'Connor & Monika SchroederChildren’s authors Monika Schröder and Barbara O’Connor have been friends for years, brought together when they shared the same editor, Frances Foster at FSG. After communicating by email for a year or so, they finally met in person at a librarians’ conference in Washington, DC. But their bond grew closer when Barbara moved from Boston to Asheville, North Carolina, a short distance from Monika. Now they enjoy chatting all things book related while walking their dogs once a week in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Making the bond even more special is the fact that they each have new children’s novels being published just days apart.

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Ron Rash
Ron Rash
When Ron Rash visited Portland, Oregon in April, 2006, he sat down in the stately Benson Hotel for an Author-2-Author interview with author Karen Spears Zacharias. Rash and Zacharias share a common Appalachian ancestry. His people come from Western North Carolina. Her people hail from East Tennessee.

 

 

Rash’s latest novel, THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT, follows Travis Shelton, a high school dropout, as he gets caught, literally in a bear trap, while stealing marijuana plants from Carlton Toomey, a menacing tobacco-farmer-turned-drug dealer.
Disgusted by his son’s waywardness, Travis’s father kicks him out and Travis takes up residence with Leonard Schuler, a half-assed drug dealer and former schoolteacher. Leonard and the boy bond over books and a shared fascination over a local Civil War incident – the Laurel Shelton massacre – that divided their town
.

                                                                              

World Made Straight

 

 

ZACHARIAS: Do you think storytelling is something you’re born to or can just anyone cultivate the craft?

 

RASH: I think some people have a gift for it. That’s been my experience, but obviously, you can get better. But I think the intuitive sense of drama and how to move a story along is a natural thing.

 

ZACHARIAS: When did you discover you wanted to be a storyteller?

 

RASH: As a kid, I spent a lot of time by myself in the woods, daydreaming. I would make up narratives, telling stories to myself. It was either storytelling or a kind of madness. (laughing).

 

ZACHARIAS: Why did you spend so much time alone?

 

RASH: I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, a widow woman. She lived on a marvelous place, in many ways beyond technology. No car or truck.

I spent my time out in the woods, and with my older relatives, who were all great storytellers. I grew up hearing an Appalachian dialect that you don’t often hear today.

 

ZACHARIAS: Your previous novels, SAINTS AT THE RIVER and ONE FOOT IN EDEN, especially, capture the old-timey language of mountain people. Do you grieve the loss of that talk?

 

RASH: There’s a part of me that grieves. A part of what art does, I believe, is keep alive what is disappearing. So I’m trying to capture the language I heard as a boy and preserve it as art. To create a portrait of the beauty of it. It’s a beautiful language..

 

ZACHARIAS: When I visited Vietnam in 2003, I was struck by how much the Central Highlands reminded me of East Tennessee and my father’s people. The mountains. The subsistence way of life.

 

RASH: Something interesting happened to me while I was reading at a community college in western North Carolina. A number of Hmongs came out to hear me. They were very responsive to the reading and approached me afterwards. They said that they understood the part of the world I was writing about. I was fascinated by that.

 

ZACHARIAS: I guess mountain people are mountain people, no matter where they’re from.

 

RASH: A lot of my new novel, THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT, deals with landscape as destiny. How where you were born affects how you see the world and how you see yourself. I think because of that people born in the mountains respond to the world in a different way.

ZACHARIAS: Your writings carry a message about our connectedness to and stewardship of the earth. Do you consider yourself an environmental champion? 

 

RASH:  It’s an important issue to me. We are inextricably linked to the natural world. If it dies, we die with it. I think it is stupid and shortsighted not to recognize this fact.

.

ZACHARIAS: What about the writing life appeals to you?

RASH: The difficult joy of writing. Doing something that you feel compelled to do. Of the actual writing, for me the best thing is when I feel the story or poem start to come together. There’s a joy in having the characters and place come alive.

      I enjoy meeting other writers. Writers are the most interesting people I know to talk to. It’s kind of like being a member of a cult.

 

ZACHARIAS: So much of a writer’s life is internalized. Do you fret over being too self-absorbed?

 

RASH: That’s why we have families and children. (chuckles). They won’t allow us to do that, at least too much. But there’s always that danger that you’ll get too self-absorbed.

 

ZACHARIAS: Where does the title of your latest novel, THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT, originate?

 

RASH:  It comes from Handel’s Messiah. There’s a line about the crookedness of the world made straight. It’s about having this injustice – the Shelton Laurel Massacre, a civil war massacre –  and trying to set it right. Leonard is trying to help Travis become a man. They are both trying to do something redemptive.


ZACHARIAS: There’s none of the young Ron Rash in Travis is there?

RASH: I think we write about the lives we might have had, if they had gone another way. Most males experience a certain amount of recklessness when they go through adolescence, I think.

Travis is a smart kid. He just doesn’t have a lot of possibilities. He’s never encouraged. I was a poor student in high school. Very poor. I liked the forestry and shop classes. (laughs). I wasn’t taking any advanced placement courses. I barely got out of high school.

Travis is a reader. He just doesn’t want to read what’s being assigned in class. I was like that. The kid sitting in the back of class, reading CRIME & PUNISHMENT, and failing French.

 

ZACHARIAS: Do all the boys and girls growing up in North Carolina learn about the Shelton Laurel Massacre? How did you learn of it?

 

RASH: It’s not taught as much. It was so traumatic and the feelings so deep, people tended not to talk about it for fear of bringing up those old feelings and old hatreds. I didn’t even know my own connection to it – I had ancestors on both sides of it. I never heard much about it until I was 12.
In the past, bragging about such things could get a fellow killed in Western North Carolina. I think that’s the reason why a lot of people kept silent.

 

ZACHARIAS: Then why did you pick the massacre to focus on?

RASH: I think it’s a meditation on violence. I’ve always been horrified and fascinated over people, who live in close proximity to each other, turning on one another. During Pol Pot’s reign in Cambodia. In  Bosnia. Rwanda. It’s unsettling to see people fall back into a tribal mentality.  To me it’s horrifying and one of the most depressing things humans can do to each other. The hope is that there will always be people who fight against it. People like Bonheoffer in Germany.

 

 

ZACHARIAS: What truths have you learned about yourself from writing?

 

RASH: I’ve learned to follow my obsessions. I’ve certainly done that. I’m obsessed with history and landscape. A quote about my work that pleased me was when a critic said landscape was a major character in my novels.

 

ZACHARIAS: That is a great compliment.

 

RASH: Nature is our most universal language. If you live in Rwanda, you know what a river looks like, and you certainly know what it smells like. No matter where you go, a waterfall is a waterfall. When you use the natural world in your writing, you’re using the most universal references there are. We are all surrounded by nature. Even if you live in the city, you can get to nature pretty quick.

 

ZACHARIAS: What’s next for you?

RASH: I’ve got a collection of short stories coming out April 2007 with Picador and I’m working on a new novel about timber barons in the North Carolina mountains, set in 1930s.

 


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Southern Indie Lit Crossword Puzzle Book

Do you know your Southern lit?

The Southern Indie Lit Crossword Puzzle Book

We dare you to use a pen on these crossword puzzles, each inspired by one of the winning titles of the SIBA Book Award, honoring ten years of the very best in Southern literature as chosen by the people who would know...Southern Independent Booksellers!

A great gift for your book club, for puzzle-lovers, and anyone who loves Southern literature. $9.95 paperback. Available at Southern Indie Bookstores.