TIRED OF AN  ALGORITHM  TELLING YOU WHAT TO  READ ?

Find hundreds of great books--from the hottest new releases and bestsellers to tried and true classics to rare gems--each hand-picked and hand-curated from Southern indie booksellers' websites, newsletters, emails, facebook and twitter posts and from the moments when they stop us in the street, push a book in our hands and say..."YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS!"


THE LATEST RECOMMENDATIONS FROM GREAT SOUTHERN INDIES...

  • My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Rutch Reichl

    Books and food are two of my favorite things, so when an author flawlessly combines the two, I'm sold. I've found myself perusing the pages of this book multiple times and have recommended it to dozens of shoppers here at the bookstore. It's truly a crowd pleaser! Reichl seamlessly blends cookbook and memoir, resulting in a beautiful writing, gorgeous photography, and delicious recipes. With a focus on working through difficult life changes and making it through to the other side, we can all use a little of this book at this time of the year! If you're shopping for someone who loves a great cookbook, enjoys diving into a memoir, or can't help flipping through books on photography, this book is a winner. You'll definitely want to try her simple recipe for Congee - trust me, it's amazing!

    My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Rutch Reichl ($35, Random House), recommended by Amanda, Hooray for Books, Alexandria, VA.

  • The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

    I love that it combined historical fiction with a strong female character's search for self. It appealed to both the nerd and the dreamer in me.

    The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church ($25.95, Algonquin Books), recommended by Nancy, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Not I I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

    Parker is blind and has been for years. She copes by not caring what anyone thinks of her -- as long as they follow The Rules, a set of what she considers common sense guidelines for dealing with someone who's blind. Rules she enforces even more since her best friend Scott broke her heart two and a half years ago. But when Scott shows back up, Parker starts to realize that maybe she doesn't know everything she thought she did. Lindstrom has a way of getting you into his character's head, making you see things from her perspective that you wouldn't otherwise be able to. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstom ($9.99, Poppy Books), recommended by Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    My childhood favorite - read uncountable times.  What young girl doesn't identify with Meg?  After several years, L'Engle wrote several sequels, but Time is a standalone gem.

    A Wrinkle in Time ($6.99, Square Fish), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Beachhead by Jeffery Hess

    Beachhead is a suspense novel with lots of action, twists and turns.  Hess brings the 1980’s Tampa to life with a descriptive narrative that is well-written and kept me guessing.  With its interesting plot and realistic characters this is a must read for anyone wanting to learn a little bit of Florida history. Beachhead by Jeffery Hess ($16.95, Down & Out Books), recommended by the staff at Bookswap of Carrollwood, Tampa, FL.

  • The Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

    In a near future where items are mass produced and duplicated endlessly, Katya is a traveling salesman of sorts - an expert who locates and deals in "authenticities and captures" (vintage items that carry a hefty price tag). Katya's clients are typically of the wealthy and influential sort, and Katya fancies herself a generally in-the-know person. But when she ventures into a remote area where her A.I. drops off the grid, Katya encounters a hunter in the woods that brings into question her understanding of the world. The level of world building in this short book is staggering! A ton of fun to read and will leave you pondering for days after.

    The Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal ($9.99, TOR), recommended by Lane, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC. 

  • Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, Sabra Field

    This is a stunningly beautiful all-ages book about grieving that can accommodate varied belief systems. It ultimately provides the comforting message that we carry the people we love in our heart and that they are always with us in some way. There really aren’t any books that address loss like this one. I find it very comforting.

    Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, Sabra Field (illus) ($16.95. Triangle Square Books for Young Readers), recommended by Kelly at Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

    This novel about life after the Civil War was so so very good, and lets readers understand those who stayed behind to mind farms and live life.

    The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books, $25.95), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Winter 2017 Okra Pick

    Read Susan Rivers' essay about how she discovered her novel's characters and their story.

  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

    Lyrical yet endlessly gut-wrenching, History of Wolves soars on so many levels. It is a psychologically astute coming-of-age novel about a young girl who lives on the outskirts of a small Minnesota town, but it becomes much more once a classmate reports sexual abuse by a teacher, and a mysterious family moves into the new house—the only other house nearby—just across the lake. While the novel is wonderfully layered and emotionally deep, Fridlund also creates suspense just about as well as any crime writer in recent memory. If you’re looking for something exciting yet deeply fulfilling, pick this one up; but be warned, this is one of those books that you won’t be able to shake for a few days after you’ve finished it.

    History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund ($25, Atlantic Monthly Press), recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Sparrow/A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell


    Rosemary, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC, places The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace, both by Maria Doria Russell, in her top ten list of books. About The Sparrow she says, "One of the best books I've ever read! Thought-provoking, fascinating, and thoroughly original, this is “science fiction” even for those who say they won't read it. Mary Doria Russell posits what can happen when very different cultures meet for the first time and, with the best of intentions, collide. Pick up the sequel, Children of God, at the same time. When you finish The Sparrow,  you'll want to leap into the next book.”

    A Thread of Grace is "epic historical fiction at its finest. Set during WWII, Italy has just surrendered. Nazi forces, Allies, Jewish refugees - all are descending on Italy, and it is hell on earth.  Told from different viewpoints, you will be constantly surprised, sometimes stunned, by what happens.  Mary visited for this book and said in researching it, so many survivors said luck was the prime factor of survival. So, with the exception of one character, she had her son flip a coin for each to determine his or her fate.”

    The Sparrow ($17, Ballantine Books) and A Thread of Grace ($17, Ballantine Books), by Mary Doria Rusell, recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

    Tyler loves The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close: This is the story of Beth, a woman who moves to DC when her husband Matt gets a job campaigning for Obama during the 2008 election. For Beth, the city never feels like home until she and Matt become friends with Ash and her husband Jimmy, who also works in the administration. The rest of the novel is a sometimes comedy, always careful study of these four people, and how their friendships, relationships, and professional lives entangle and constrict. The backdrop of the Obama administration and Texas politics are fascinating, and Close's dry humor and sharp observations make The Hopefuls an "open it and realize four hours have gone by" novel.

    The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Tyler at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

    Irving is one of my favorite authors, and this is, what I consider, his masterpiece. A fascinating tale of one of the most unique characters I have ever read. The ultimate story of faith, redemption, love and friendship. It is funny, heart-breaking, and unforgettable.

    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (HarperTorch, $7.99), recommended by Margaret at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex Smith

    Instead of traveling through the woods, this Little Red travels across the African plains to bring her Auntie some medicine. The Very Hungry Lion didn’t know what he was getting in to when he decided to mess with this smart, strong girl!

    Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex Smith (Scholastic Press, $17.99), recommended by Jackie at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Nutshell by Ian McEwan

    A modern-day reimagining of Hamlet, as told by a third-trimester fetus. No, really! From his cramped quarters in the womb, our yet-to-be-born narrator overhears his mother and  uncle plotting to murder his father. Sure, the premise is far-fetched, but you'll be amazed how McEwan pulls it off. Nutshell is an ingenious, hilarious page-turner of a novel.

    Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese, $24.95), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur

    In the fictional world of Sofarende there is war, and it is getting closer to home for 12-year-old Mathilde and her best friend Meg. Perfect for 4th or 5th graders who are ready for something more advanced but aren’t ready for YA content yet.

    Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur (Wendy Lamb Books, $16.99), recommended by Catherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

    Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, known as Vinnie, was born with dwarfism. She grew to be two feet, eight inches tall, but she never let her size stop her from living life to the fullest. Vinnie did so well in school, she became a school teacher, but deep down she craved more. Through life’s ups and downs, she finally teamed up with P. T. Barnum. The two became close friends and he introduced her to Tom Thumb, one of his other performers.

    This fictionalized novel tells the story of Vinnie, through her perspective on life. The long chapters are broken up with intermissions that show the newspaper headlines.  Melanie Benjamin is an excellent author, providing readers with an insider’s view into the personal lives of celebrities. Written as an autobiography, this book will open readers’ eyes to the world of the lady who entranced the world. There are phrases in this book that will live in readers’ hearts forever.

    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

    A man is called home to Memphis from New York by his two middle-aged sisters to deal with their elderly father who is about to re-marry. Did you know there was so much Nashville and middle-Tennessee history in this wonderful novel?

    A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor (Vintage Books USA, $14.95), recommended by Kathy Schultenover at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks

    This is a haunting look at a woman’s life in rural North Carolina during the early 1900s that fans of Bloodroot and Oral History will love.

    Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks (Hub City Press, $26.00), recommended by Sissy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

    A Summer 2016 Okra Pick

  • Kids of Appetite by Dave Arnold

    David Arnold is special. Kids of Appetite somehow combines extreme quirk, mystery, and heart within a literary sensibility that's often undervalued in young adult novels. I loved Arnold's debut Mosquitoland for Mim's singular and compelling voice as she explored her internal and external world. In Kids of Appetite, Arnold once again offers unique voices that linger long after you turn the last page. Mad and Vic are narrators with their own motivations - propelled by the secrets and stories of Baz, Nzuzi, and Coco. Let yourself fall into these characters-- become a Kid of Appetite.

    Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (Viking Books for Young Readers, $18.99), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

    This book isn’t brand new, but I feel it didn’t get enough attention this summer. I love reading mysteries in the fall, and Walker kept me guessing. I’m VERY CHOOSY with my thrillers, and this is a smart one.

    All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99), recommended by Sissy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen

    Ashley Christensen has just come out with her long-awaited cookbook, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), and it was worth the wait. The book is more than a beautifully designed cookbook with all the signature dishes that have given Poole's its well-deserved reputation and earned Ashley the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. It's a joyful show and tell of Ashley's (and Raleigh's) personal history and the renaissance of Southern food told through each beloved recipe (and yes, the Macaroni au Gratin recipe is in there).

    Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • When Watched by Leopoldine Core

    Elizabeth loves When Watched by Leopoldine Core: Core delves into the wonderful strangeness that is the human mind. These characters--and the relationships they form--can be funny, unsettling, irritating, and are always entirely captivating. If you want to read about the complexities of love and sex, read this. If you want to read a book you can't put down, read this.

    When Watched by Leopoldine Core (Penguin Books, $16.00), recommended by Elizabeth at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, (John Batki & George Szirtes, translators)

    The Last Wolf is one fabulous sentence that runs for 70 pages. Afterwards, you can turn the book over and read the novella Herman. This book is beautiful, difficult, and absolutely worth it.

    The Last Wolf & Herman by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, $15.95), recommended by Nathan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

    The Wonder kept me guessing until the very end and stayed with me for a long time after. Emma Donoghue plays to her strengths in this marvelously crafted religious thriller set in the mid-19th century Irish countryside. As always, Donoghue has done her research in telling the story of a "fasting girl" and a Nightingale Nurse. Suspenseful historical fiction driven by excellent characters.

    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (Little Brown and Company, $27.00), recommended by Leila at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, TN.

  • When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins

    Lauren Collins blew me away with her hilarious and eloquent account of learning French abroad. Armchair linguists and anyone fascinated by words and how they get lost in translation will not be able to put this down.

    When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins (Penguin Press, $27.00), recommended by Katherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

    Perfume River is a haunting reflection on the psychic scars inflicted by the Vietnam War on three men. There are brothers Robert, who went to Vietnam, and Jimmy who went to Canada. And there's Bob, whose father was a Vietnam vet. In economically direct prose, Butler finds his way into the souls of men and the way they deal with their thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of the complex relationship of father and son. It took just one paragraph for me to understand why Butler is a Pulitzer winner.

    Perfume River: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly $25), recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

    A beautifully written, complex story of war, love, intrigue and shifting loyalties in occupied Italy towards the end of WW II. This novel pairs very nicely with All The Light We Cannot See, again showing the complexities of everyday life-- not the least of which include being young and passionate about life -- while living in occupied territory.

    The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (Simon & Schuster, $27.00), recommended by Jamie at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted

    I don’t know about you, but I like to know what I am eating. This book gets into practical solutions ranging from making sure you are buying the fish you think you are, to what makes good olive oil (looking at you, Ina Garten), and the various ways in which we can and should be conscious about what we buy.

    Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted (Algonquin Books, $27.95), recommended by Catherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Trespasser by Tana French

    This was my first Tana French novel, and now I have to go back and read them all. A taut procedural with a healthy dose of paranoia, The Trespasser finds Detective Antoinette Conway navigating a hostile work environment while solving what seems to be an open-and-shut murder case. French is a master manipulator, and this novel had me thinking in an Irish accent.

    The Trespasser by Tana French (Viking, $27.00), recommended by Travis at Flyleaf Books, Chapel, NC.

  • Look by Solmaz Sharif

    Will loves Look by Solmaz Sharif: "Until now, now that I've reached my thirties; / All my Muse's poetry has been harmless." This line, from the poem "Desired Appreciation," speaks to the shock that aging into "a brain born into war" can bring; it's this shock, this coming-through-the-numbness, that drives Solmaz Sharif's masterful Look. These poems do not offer narratives of aging beyond trauma. Instead, they are prayers of the most desperate and urgent order. Look is made to break us. It drowns us in the language of war and devastates. It will also, likely, be the boldest, most masterful collection to be released in 2016. Do NOT turn a blind eye to it.”

    Look by Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf Press, $16.00), recommended by Will at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

    In Heroes of the Frontier, the main character, Josie, is a dentist by trade. When a patient sues her for malpractice, Josie grabs her kids and escapes from her work troubles and her no-good husband Carl. What she can’t escape are her invisible burdens: her past―her parents were scandal-ridden nurses―and her lack of self-confidence and sense of direction. Whether she’s running 'toward' or 'away,' the reader and her endearing children―Paul, an eight-year-old with an old soul (the adult of the family most of the time!), and Ana, who is a handful―go along for the ride.

    Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (Knopf $28.95), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

    This isn’t a $35 travel book so much as the best, cheapest coffee table book you could ever buy. A gorgeous encyclopedia of the coolest sights on the planet. It is so large, and so thorough, that there literally is something in it for everyone. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton (Workman Publishing, $35.00), recommended by Tristan at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

    Caleb loves Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone: Gladstone's Craft Sequence is the most finely-crafted Urban Fantasy I've seen in years. When money is your soul and corporations are gods and all-powerful skeleton men, who looks our for the little guys? (Magical necromancer lawyers.)

    Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone (Tor Books, $27.99), recommended by Caleb at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

    The story is built around a family road-trip full of comic moments, but these aren’t the Griswolds, and they’re not headed to Walley World. Every member of the Wang family is fighting to hang onto his or her own very specific American dream as they journey from California to New York after the loss of the family fortune. Jade Chang’s voice is fresh, her take on the immigrant narrative is new, but her themes are timeless. A really fun read.

    The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (Houghton Mifflin, $26), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

    Few of us know what to do when someone has lost a loved one, and when it's a child who has lost a sibling or parent or grandparent, the task is exponentially more difficult. I was searching for a book for a child whose mother had died and discovered the exquisite gem, The Fox and the Star, with arts and crafts style drawings by award-winning illustrator, Coralie Bickford-Smith. It is the story of Fox, who is guided through life by his Star until one day Star disappears. First he hides and grieves, and then he decides to go and find his Star. In the face of grief, we are all haunted stragglers, but this book will bring solace and hope to the child in all of us.

    The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin, $20), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

    At one point while reading this book, I yelled out loud: “Don’t do it!” (I can’t tell you when or why — that would spoil it.) A haunting story about a disappearance, it’s also a portrait of a family — and one of my favorite releases of this fall.

    Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin Books, $26.95), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The North Water by Ian McGuire

    Dark, brutal, and atmospheric, The North Water is the story of an ill-fated whaling ship, peopled with men of dark conscience or no conscience. Reminiscent of The Revenant in its stark story of survival and revenge against all odds, this book is chock full of men being men, doing manly things and occasionally murdering each other. A rip roaring tale of viscera and ice.

    The North Water by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt & Company, $27), recommended by Steve at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

    Part rap style poetry, part love story to a father and to basketball; good young adult fiction about 12-year-old twin boys.

    The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (HMH Books for Young Readers $16.99), reader recommendation by Martha at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Who Killed These Girls?: Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders by Beverly Lowery

    Beverly Lowry looks deep into the horrors of four unsolved killings in Austin in the early 1980’s with a detective’s mind and a novelist’s heart. The result is a book that is gripping, moving, and as good as any depiction of a murder case that’s been published since In Cold Blood. Is true crime not your thing? It isn’t my thing either, but this transcends the genre. Brilliant.

    Who Killed These Girls?: Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders by Beverly Lowery (Knopf Publishing Group, $27.95), recommended by Ann Patchett at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

    I Will Find You is not light reading, but it is necessary reading for a culture that seems unable to talk reasonably and openly about sexual violence. This nonfiction account of her own rape is filled with unrelenting honesty about sexual violence, race in America, and the realities of incarceration and poverty.

    I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    This fascinating novel opens in 18th century Ghana, whose residents are not just victims, but sometimes willing participants, in the slave trade with the English. Two sisters from different villages never meet, but they start a family tree whose branches are chronicled into the 20th century. Gyasi presents the stories of these characters so vividly; even as the decades race by you will feel an intimate connection with each one.

    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Karen at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson

    We usually think of 'all men are created equal' when considering the start of our country. Ashes, which completes Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy set during the Revolutionary War, reminds us jarringly that this was not the case. Through the trilogy, we experience the hardships, hypocrisies, and always-cherished bonds of friendship from the perspective of Isabel, an escaped slave. Anderson always writes compelling, complicated characters for whom we care deeply. Ashes brings deep satisfaction to the trilogy. Ages 9+.

    Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy $16.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books. Raleigh, NC.

  • I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman

    Brian Wilson has made some of the most groundbreaking and timeless music ever recorded. From singing along to Rosemary Clooney’s “Tenderly" at age 10 to becoming a Kennedy Center honoree in 2007, Wilson recounts the ups and downs of a Beach Boy’s life.

    I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman (Da Capo Press, $26.99), recommended by Andy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    Exuberant grandiosity! A poet's belief that the world will be changed by a literary movement! You'll find people you know so well you can practically touch them despite the fact they live in Mexico City in the 1970s. I've not had more fun reading a book in ages!

    The Savage Dectives by Roberto Bolaño (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $27), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

    Nanette has it all--popular friends, a top spot on her school soccer team and the promise of college scholarships to go with it--but as graduation looms, she’s realizing the life ahead is not the life she wants. As for so many of us, it’s the discovery of that one cult classic novel that thrusts her out of her mold and into the joys--and pains--of life outside the bubble. For anyone who’s ever looked around at life and wondered how the hell they got there, this novel is the perfect fun, reflective read.

    Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99), recommended by Shannon at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays

    There are passages in this novel that make me cry every time I read them, but not because of the great

    sadness (of losing a loved one to Alzheimers) but because of its beautiful depiction of marital and familial love.

    The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays (St. Martins Griffin) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

    Adults, don’t let the packaging fool you into thinking this is just a book for kids. This delightful and moving biography of E.B. White is for all ages. If Charlotte’s Web still holds a special place in your heart, this is a must read.

    Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White(HMH Books for Young Readers, $18.99), recommended by Karen at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis

    Like paintings with shadowy figures in darkened corners, the lives of four of our nation's first presidents cannot be fully understood without opening the pages of Kenneth Davis' In the Shadow of Liberty . George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson were founding fathers who risked their lives for the principles of freedom and liberty, while denying these rights to the slaves they owned, bought, and sold their entire lives.

    Davis' exhaustive research and objective narrative reveal men whose lofty ideals were easier to legislate than to apply to their personal lives. The stories of five black slaves whose lives were entwined with these men and their families on a very intimate level are revealed in the context of a society in which the economic value of each could not be denied. Davis highlights the ironic juxtaposition of these bastions of liberty and their enslaved companions with a clarity that made me consider how very difficult it can be to truly live out the values we claim to cherish. A key title in understanding the humanity of these famous Americans for ages 10+.

    In the Shadow of Liberty, (Henry Holt $17.99), recommended by Cindy at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

    In the 1970s, Joan is a professional ballerina. Her company features the Russian breakout star, Arslan Ruskov. Joan is the reason he is in the United States--she even drove the get-away car. Despite the fact that she loves Arslan, he is engaged to another woman and Joan knows she will never be a soloist, so she decides to leave the ballet world. Joan marries her high school boyfriend and they live a nice life, but when their son begins to study dance, Joan is forced back into the lifestyle. Will her secrets be exposed or will her son be able to follow his dreams?

    Astonish Me is written with a style similar to a performance. It is divided into different acts and the narration sets the scene as the events unfold. Several different topics are broached in this book, ranging from parenting styles to marriages to work ethics. This is a book that you will want to read with someone else, as the ending will leave you desperate to discuss with a friend who understands.

    Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • Upstairs at the Strand: Writers in Conversation at the Legendary Bookstore by Jessica Strand

    “The Strand is a monument to the immortality of the written word and hence beloved writers.” -Fran Lebowitz

    The Strand is my Mecca, and I can think of no better setting for this series of interview-conversations with some of our most treasured authors. Discussions range from craft and process to which authors they’re reading now and whatever else might come up. There’s something here for every bibliophile. (Plus, how great is it that they made this a book instead of YouTube videos or something?)

    Upstairs at the Strand: Writers in Conversation at the Legenday Bookstore by Jessica Strand (W.W. Norton & Company, $15.95), recommended by Shannon at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • El Paso by Winston Groom

    The bestselling author of Forrest Gump shifts the scene to the American Southwest in this tale of border wars, Pancho Villa, family and revenge.

    El Paso by Winston Groom (Liveright Publishing Corporation, $27.95), recommended by Kathy at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear...and Why by Sady Doyle

    At its best, pop culture criticism forces us to reconsider a familiar product by placing it in a new context and, in doing so, imbuing it with new meaning. Trainwreck is just that. Doyle effectively and entertainingly litigates her case: that Western culture's fascination with 'fallen' female starlets—AKA trainwrecks--is simply a modern form of the patriarchal silencing and marginalization of women that has been going for centuries. With sly humor and lively prose, Doyle systematically punches through all the familiar straw-man arguments and convincingly illustrates that the 'harmless fun' of Internet clickbait and TMZ gossip are merely modern forms of public shaming. A must-read.

    Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why by Sady Doyle (Melville House, $25.99), recommended by Matt at The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN.

  • A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

    A mesmerizing story of a man's life before, during, and after WWI. Filled with beauty and horror in equal measure, it is a tale that will haunt you. Helprin's prose is poetic, and his power to leave you awestruck is fully demonstrated in this beautiful novel.

    A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (Harvest Books, $16.99), recommended by Margaret at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride

    In the hands of such a great writer (and fellow musician) the story of The Godfather of Soul becomes not just a portrayal of one of the most important figures in musical history but in American history.

    A book that will make you crave that unmistakable James Brown sound.

    Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride (Spiegel & Grau) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

    Mary DiNunzio is a successful attorney and a partner at the Rosato & DiNunzio firm. Her schedule has gotten complicated, due to her wedding being a few weeks away. However, when an elderly man named Edward comes in for a free consultation, Mary’s world is turned upside down. Edward’s grandson, Patrick, is being sued by a teacher’s aide for assault. Sadly, it is this shy, dyslexic boy who bears the markings of abuse. As Mary becomes more involved in finding out the truth, she becomes the only chance Patrick has at surviving and leading a healthy life. Is Mary going to lose everything she has in order to protect Patrick, or will the evidence prove Mary wrong?

    Lisa Scottoline packs a powerful punch in this novel. Despite it being the fourth in a series, the plot works well as a stand-alone story. Readers, like Mary, will be drawn in right from the moment they meet Patrick and they will be kept guessing as they try to figure out the truth through all the multiple twists and intense secondary storylines. Damaged is a book that weaves its way into readers’ hearts. The author does an excellent job at showing the current struggles children with learning disorders face on a daily basis. Filled with a large family, human emotions, and one dramatic courtroom scene, readers of literature and mysteries will devour this book.

    Damaged by Lisa Scottoline, recommended by Nicole at My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

    Augusten Burroughs ALWAYS delivers.

    I love his madness, his romanticism, his hopeless inability to correct himself mid-stream and his hapless drive to overcompensate long after he's crossed the stream, and I love the way he writes about all of it.

    This was an Augusten Burroughs memoir with a happy ending.

    Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Clara at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

    When Catrina and her family move to a seaside town in Northern California to accommodate her sister's cystic fibrosis, she is not happy. Bahia de la Luna is cold, foggy, far away from her friends, and, worst of all, reportedly home to a whole lot of ghosts. Cat's sister, Maya, is thrilled by their new town's spooky residents, but Cat wants nothing to do with them until she realizes that she must put aside her fear for both her sister's sake and her own. Graphic novel queen Telgemeier is back, and she has crafted a beautiful, entertaining, and hopeful story about the power of family, friendship, and community -- with an extra dash of ghostly magic for good measure.

    Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix, $10.99), recommended by Rebecca at One More Page Books, Arlington, VA.

  • The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith

    From Cindy: An essential thread in the tapestry of FDR and his legacy, Missy LeHand was intuitive, pragmatic and totally devoted to this controversial president. Kathryn Smith's impeccable research and reader-friendly narrative give us an intimate look at this extraordinary woman and an historical perspective on the pivotal role she played in American politics. The facts, the feelings, and the frictions of the years Missy was a primary player in Roosevelt's inner circle are woven together in this biographical gem.

    From Rosemary: I lived for many years in Hyde Park, so an almost yearly expedition to the FDR Presidential Library down the street was in order. The 'extended family' that he invited into the White House was essentially on a 24/7 on-call status for years, and this eclectic mix of staff, family, and friends (some belonging to multiple categories) always fascinated me. I am delighted to finally find material on Missy LeHand, a woman ahead of her time. Her story also reveals inner circle anecdotes about FDR's band, and indeed, on FDR himself. The pre-presidential accounts of his battle with polio, and Missy's efforts toward his recovery are new to me, and worth the book alone.

    The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith, ($28, Touchstone), recommended by Cindy and Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypoole-White

    This well-written story of a bi-polar woman does not over-exaggerate the disease and makes it realistic and understandable.

    Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypoole-White (Lake Union Publishing, $14.950, recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC.

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

    “The question of what you want to own is actually a question of how you want to live your life!” Kondo exclaims. While I am still working my way at decluttering my space, following the advice of this book has been fairly straight forward. The concept is pretty simple: get rid of physical baggage so you can focus on living your life (and maybe cutting some other types of baggage too). It’s empowering, it’s not being beholden to material possessions, it’s learning how to make your space serve you, and it’s deciding what you want for your life as the person you are today. Now that is life-changing.

    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed $16.99), recommended by Ceewin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Plague on All Our Houses: Medical Intrigue, Hollywood, and the Discovery of AIDS by Bruce J. Hillman

    A Plague on All Our Houses examines the AIDS epidemic and the doctors behind the discovery of its cause and the tangled motivations of the search.  Readers delve into knowledge about how academia works, and whether the work is for ego or for helping the sick. The book also details how Hollywood and the government would not acknowledge what was happening as the crisis developed.

    A Plague on All Our Houses by Bruce J. Hillman (Foreedge, $29.95), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Wrecked by Maria Padian

    Conundrum: The name of the campus house where Haley's freshman roommate claims to have been raped, and the exact position Haley is put in when she finds herself drawn into the campus investigation. At the same time, Haley is growing closer to Richard, a housemate of the accused and a boy who annoys her, excites her, makes her furious, and makes her laugh. Haley and Richard find themselves on opposite sides of somebody else's war, struggling and scrambling to discern just who is telling the truth about what really happened. Timely, poignant, and thought-provoking, Wrecked should be required reading for every high-school senior.

    Wrecked by Maria Padian, (Algonquin Young Readers, $17.95), recommended by Angie at The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

    One of Shepherd's gifts as a writer is the ability to transport readers to a very specific time and place and immerse them in its physical and social realities. This is done beautifully in The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, set in a children's hospital in rural England during WWII. Whether the winged horses little Emmaline sees in the mirrors at Briar Hill are real or just her imagination, the hope and solace they provide are very real. A moving and magical story not to be missed.

    The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.99), recommended by Leslie at Spellbound Children’s Bookshop, Asheville, NC.

  • Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross

    Desperation Dinners has been one of the most influential and necessary tools in my kitchen for many years. This book may persuade you to believe you've found another 30 to 60 minutes during the dinner hour. It provides authentic and realistic tips, instructions and recipes to help even the most harried cook create tasty, nutritious and satisfying dishes in 20 minutes or less. Really--20 minutes or less. Mom's Mini Meat Loaves defy belief by tasting every bit as good as traditional meat loaf with 2/3 less prep/cook time, and the So-Simple Salsa is so good and so fast to prepare, that you will never let let another chip go without it. You owe it to yourself, and your overworked day planner app, to welcome this book into your kitchen.

    Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross (Workman $13.95) by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, recommended by Belinda at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

    Revisit a classic! A hilarious comedy tinged with a bit of tragic melancholy, this Pulitzer Prize winner is defined by its protagonist, the ever deluded Ignatius J. Reilly, whose complaints about his malfunctioning pyloric valve never cease to amuse. Ignatius may dominate the novel, but he would be nothing without New Orleans, his home and the novel’s playground. Though loosely structured, Ignatius’ ridiculous narrative adventures in the Crescent City never bore. A picaresque if there ever was one.

    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (Grove Press, $16.00), recommended by Peter at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson

    I obsessively checked out campaign coverage this election season, and it was a relief to examine turning points in past presidential campaigns and already know how everything turned out.

    Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson, (Twelve, $30.00), recommended by Niki at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The Risen by Ron Rash

    A 2016 OKRA PICK
    I'd be happy to read Ron Rash's grocery lists. Rash stays centered in western North Carolina in his new novel, The Risen. But he moves from the sweeping forest vista of Serena and the moral issues of WWI (The Cove) to a more intimate setting. Two brothers have taken very different paths. When the events of a long-ago summer literally rise up, their family history and dynamics come bubbling up, too.

    The Risen by Ron Rash (Ecco $25.99), recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Penguin Problems by Jory John, Lane Smith (Illus.)

    Some problems are serious, some are silly, and some, well, some are just penguin problems. When the water is too salty, when the sea is too dark, when you are a bird that cannot fly, and when everyone you know looks exactly the same, well, those are penguin problems. This fun picture book is sure to make even the grumpiest young reader giggle!

    Penguin Problems by Jory John, Lane Smith (Random House Books for Young Readers, $17.99), recommended by Angie at The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Teacup by Rebecca Young, Matt Otley

    Teacup is a lyrical tale of a refugee's journey, evoking the loneliness, anxiety, and sadness of leaving everything you know behind to begin anew. Ottley's textured, breathtaking illustrations are both incredibly realistic and beautifully dreamlike, adding gentleness and whimsy to this subtly told story. Young's minimal text allows the reader's imagination to expand and the drama unfolds at a perfect pace. Teacup is a book to linger over, appreciating the beauty to be found in the persistence and strength it takes to make a new life in an unfamiliar place.

    Teacup by Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley (Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99), recommended by Helen at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Lost Girls by Heather Young

    Heather Young’s debut novel, is the story of three generations of women and mainly set in a desolate part of Minnesota. In 1935, a six-year-old girl disappears without any explanation, and she's never heard of or seen again. The novel explores the effects Emily's disappearance has on her siblings and succeeding generations of women in the family. It's haunting and beautifully written.

    The Lost Girls by Heather Young (William Morrow $25.99), recommended by Mari Lu, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

    A Torch Against the Night immediately picks up with Laia and Elias' escape at the end of An Ember in the Ashes. Determined to break Laia's brother out of prison, Laia and Elias begin a breakneck journey across Serra, closely followed by Elias' former best friend, Helene, who has orders to kill them. Detailing the perspectives of Elias, Laia, and Helene, Tahir does an incredible job weaving all three stories together. A Torch Against the Night is exhilarating, thrilling, and heartbreaking, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.

    A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill, $19.99), recommended by Sami at Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

    The more things change, the more things stay the same. Or so it seems in this novel by Armistead Maupin. Set in 1970s San Francisco, we follow a dozen city dwellers chasing their version of their dream life in this bustling metropolis. While certain details are amusingly out-of-date, the main themes still ring true todayfriendship, companionship, heartbreak, loss, deciding what type of life you want to live and what type of person you want to be.

    Tales of the City (Harper $15.99) by Armistead Maupin, recommended by Ceewin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Hystopia by David Means

    David Means’ short story collection, Assorted Fire Events, was full of dark and dystopian stories. These two adjectives would also apply to his latest novel, Hystopia (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26). It is 1970. John F. Kennedy has lived through several assassination attempts and is still President. Veterans of the Vietnam war are dealing with their PTSD by taking the drug Tripizoid and undergoing a process called Enfolding. Some vets, like Rake, are so incorrigible that they can’t be enfolded, and therein lies the tale. It is a novel within a novel, complete with Editor’s Notes and Author’s Notes that provide a sense of truth and realism to the fictional story. This and other novels pertaining to Vietnam remind us that the psychological damage from war is heartbreaking, and often unmanageable.

    Hystopia by David Means (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Lucy by Randy Cecil

    This new book from Cecil has all the charm and energy of an early black-and-white movie. Organized into four acts, the main actors are Lucy, a little street dog; Eleanor, the girl who feeds her scraps each morning; and Eleanor's father, Sam, who must overcome his stage fright to succeed as a juggler on the vaudeville stage. Precise repetition of actions and reactions give the story clear beats, and readers will enjoy finding tiny changes in Cecil's camera-lens illustrations. An excellent choice for fans of dogs, juggling, and dreams coming true.

    Lucy by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, $19.99), recommended by Cecilia at Hooray for Books, Arlington, VA.

  • Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard

    It turns out that Vivian Howard, in addition to being an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and star of the PBS show A Chef's Life, is also a talented writer. She tells the story of her life and community through each chapter devoted to a different vegetable. While our event with Vivian later this month has sold out, we do have plenty of signed copies of this big, beautiful and delicious tribute to the food, farmers and cooks of eastern North Carolina.

    Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard ($40, Little Brown), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Smoke by Dan Vyleta

    Imagine a world where it is impossible to lie.

    Imagine a world where every lustful though is immediately self evident. Then turn your mind to how a crooked ruling class, who somehow have the antidote, could exploit this. Dan Vyleta's SMOKE is not just a brilliant alternate world, it's possibly a whole new genre. Smoke Punk anyone?

    Smoke by Dan Vyleta (Doubleday) Recommended by Chris at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA.

  • Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

    Don’t be put off by the strong sexual language at the beginning of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. It leads you to the skillfully told story of Jacob Bloch, his wife Julia, and their three sons. The growing tension and a destructive earthquake in the Middle East parallel the deterioration of the Blochs’ marriage. Having waited over a decade for a novel by Foer, author of two of my favorites--Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated--I realize that Foer has only become a more eloquent and empathetic storyteller, willing to take on the difficult issues of our time.

    Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $28), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff

    A Song to Take the World Apart is immersive, engaging, and full of teenage emotion. Romanoff explores ancient folklore and the way our pasts impact our futures, all through Lorelai's imperfect teenage mind and body. This novel is about the beauty of magic and uncertainty in one girl's family and the daily struggles and singular experiences everyone faces as they come of age.

    A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.99), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945, by Nicholas Stargardt

    This one really grabbed me, a 570-page history of WWII, The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945, by Nicholas Stargardt, an historian at Oxford. It explores the feelings and changing beliefs of ordinary Germans and their reactions to the war as it progresses. It's incredibly well-written, not text-bookish at all, and I couldn't put it down. It is based on correspondence between, for example, German soldiers and their wives, mothers, fiancées as well as memoirs. I hesitated to recommend this book because of its length, but that was not an impediment to me as I got into it. It's not your ordinary history book.

    The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 (Basic $35), by Nicholas Stargardt, recommended by Mari Lu, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • Pond by Claire-Louise Bennet

    Interesting, contemplative, lovely, and full of exquisite prose, Pond is hard for me to define. It's low on plot but high on character development and imagery, and I appreciated how the lead character was revealed little by little through her actions and not-necessarily-reliable brand of honesty.  Also: THAT COVER! #swoon.

    Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Pub, $00), recommended by Janet at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Girls by Emma Cline

    A young girl comes of age while living in a fictionalized Manson family in a dilapidated house in the woods. From the first few pages you know how the story will end, but the journey is beautifully written and told with a biting and unapologetic style. Great characters, an interesting backdrop, a wild story, an excellent book!

    The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House, $27), recommended by Colin at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes

    Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes (HMH Books for Young Readers $17.99). Who hasn’t wished for an overnight snowfall that transforms the next day? A minimal, pitch-perfect text is magnificently illustrated in scratchboard and watercolor. From endpaper to endpaper the entire city and surroundings gradually change shape and color as the snow falls. A little girl and her family revel in the unexpected, but welcome diversion, and there are many charming and amusing details in the art for readers to discover and follow. A quiet, but brilliant gem to share with everyone. Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes (HMH Books for Young Readers $17.99), recommended by Carol at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, Thomas Docherty

    Fans of The Snatchabook will not be disappointed with this new picture book by the same author and illustrator team. The focus is again on the power of story as Leo, a gentle knight who much prefers reading to swordplay, is sent on a mission to conquer a fearsome dragon. On the way, he encounters other mythical monsters and is able to vanquish every threat by sharing his beloved books. The rhythmic, rhyming text lends itself easily to being shared aloud and the fun illustrations add even more charm to the story.

    The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99), recommended by Melissa at Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    This is the story of Cora and her escape northward from a plantation in Georgia. Her means is the Underground Railroad, a literal underground network of tunnels and rails. Each time she surfaces, Cora finds herself in a different cultural landscape, all strange and dangerous in their own ways. It is a narrative built on true horror, spun into a fascinating but awful dystopic alternate history. Completely brutal, ingenious, and powerful.

    The Undergound Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday $26.95), recommended by Tyler at the Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb

    A FALL 2016 OKRA PICK

    What is unusual and so appealing about Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is that the novel takes two issues that separately we’ve heard so much about—the European Jewish experience and the Jim Crow era south—and blends them together in a way that demonstrates a fresh perspective. I found it powerful and engaging.

    Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb (Other Press, $25.95), recommended by Stephanie at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL.

    Read the first chapter!

  • News of the World by Paulette Jiles

    Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd makes his living reading the newspapers from across the world to Texan audiences. In the winter of 1870, he accepts responsibility for returning a 10-year old girl, kidnapped by the Kiowa when she was six, to her family near San Antonio. This book has it all: stupendous writing, characters that get under your skin and burrow deep into your heart, great pacing, and an ending that makes you cry with joy and relief. I would recommend this book to a wide array of readers, including fans of westerns, historical fiction, road trip novels, and literary fiction. Also a great choice for book clubbers. Other authors that came to mind while I read were Ron Rash, Charles Portis, and Mary Doria Russell.

    News of the World by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow $22.99), recommended by Janet, Quail Ridge Books customer, Raleigh, NC.

  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

    Eleanor Flood, once a rising star as an artist and cartoonist now lives in Seattle. She still writes some, but primarily lives her life as a wife and mother. In one day of inopportune revelations and odd adventures, Eleanor comes to reckon with her complicated and dissatisfying family life. From the bestselling author of Where'd You Go Bernadette? comes another disarmingly funny story executed with a conversational tone that almost belies the seriousness of the plot. I especially love the full-color interior section of Eleanor's graphic novel Flood Girls, illustrated by Eric Chase Anderson.

    Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (Little, Brown & Co., $2799), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

    This well-told, poignant story will make you question yourself. I would love to give every single person alive a copy. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine Books, $28.99), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

    ____

    Another rave from Quail Ridge BooksSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult is a novel that absolutely compels... no, demands discussion. Not only is it an engrossing story that brought me directly into the lives of of an African-American nurse and her son, a white supremacist and a liberal, white defense attorney―and, in Picoult's excellent style kept me just a little off balance―but it also forced me to examine myself... my beliefs, how I view others. The title of the book refers to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." Picoult has decided to do a small great thing in furthering the conversation with the hope that we will think and learn more about others and ourselves. I would recommend that book clubs splurge on a hardback and start the discussion now. This book is worth it.

  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

    If you've been in the store recently it's no secret that we've fallen in love with Ann Patchett's new novel, Commonwealth. This story of two families broken and reformed, parts blended and others shattered, feels like the book she was meant to write: complicated, intimate, ambitious, and uncomfortably true. The opening scene of the novel, a christening party at the Keating house, is such a pitch perfect rendition of the suburban '60s it could be used in virtual reality games. When an altered version of the two families moves to the Virginia Commonwealth I felt like Patchett had been secretly hanging out in my own Virginia neighborhood and was in on every conversation, gathering, and childhood excursion, back when we ran free all day, as long as we were home by supper. The story of this heartbreaking and lovable family, covering five decades, is as messy and real and beautifully told as one could wish.

    Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, ($27.99, Harper), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

    I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time! In A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Count Alexander Rostov, one of the great characters in modern fiction, reads like he leaped off the pages of a Tolstoy novel and landed in 1922, where he is placed under house arrest in Moscow's grand Metropol Hotel. The Count is elegant, sophisticated, erudite without being stuffy, wickedly funny, and in love with life. Towles takes you through 32 years of Russian history with a wonderful cast of characters, and a delightfully suspenseful plot. After 480 pages you will still mourn when you reach the end. Even better than his delightful debut, Rules of Civility.

    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking $27), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France by Thad Carhart

    I never stop recommending Thad Carhart's memoir of the second time he moved to France, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, which is a primer on the workings of pianos, and a sheer delight to read. Now, Carhart goes back to 1954, when his family of seven moved into a charming old mansion near the Château de Fontainebleau (his father was a NATO official), and immersed themselves in a France still recovering from WWII. His rich experiences as a kid alternate with chapters on the history of the chateau and the assorted French kings who inhabited it. And when he has returned to Fontainebleau as an adult, he gets to share in a restoration of the chateau, and retrace the steps of his childhood in a way we all sometimes wish we could. A perfect book for a summer escape to a very different place and time.

    Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France (Viking $27), recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings

    Michael Hastings, the kick-ass young journalist of the McCrystal affair and the first to write about Bowe Bergdahl in Rolling Stone in 2012, died last year in a car wreck.

    In his file was the manuscript for this novel, edited by his widow, Elise Jordan. Loosely based on Hastings’ experiences in the magazine world, it is a biting commentary full of guts, sex, and arrogant or off-kilter characters.

    A great read, realistically animating the intense and crazy world of political journalism.

    The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings (Plume) Recommended by Lisa at Square Books Oxford 

  • Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

    Gertie is a fifth-grade force to be reckoned with! Kate Beasley packs so much into this lovely story - there is heart, gravity, and humor all wrapped up with Jillian Tamaki's amazing illustrations. Like Raymie Nightingale or Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, Beasley somehow addresses complicated family issues and real-world problems through the lens of a quirky and authentic child. I loved meeting Gertie and her classmates and I can't wait to put this book into the hands of kids, teachers, and parents. Kate Beasley is sure to have a long and illustrious career ahead of her, starting with this stunning debut novel!

    Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley ($16.99, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson

    Drawing much inspiration from the mythology behind classic--and controversial--horror films like Cannibal Holocaust, Wilson has taken what could have easily been a pulpy horror novel and created a beautifully written and terrifying story populated by vivid and compelling characters. The tension builds at a satisfyingly steady pace and pushes the characters and their political, emotional, and professional allegiances to the breaking point. Like a jungle parasite, We Eat Our Own will worm its way into your psyche and terrorize you from the inside out. You won't be able to put it down.

    We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson, ($26.00, Scribner), recommended by Johanna at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

    In a town of extreme wealth and poverty with little in between, George Clare comes home one afternoon to find his three year old daughter alone and his wife murdered, without a clue by whom. Immediately, of course, George becomes the chief suspect. Set over the course of a generation in a community where local farms are dying out and other unsolved crimes evolve, Brundage creates a community of mystery. Move over, The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

    All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (Knopf) Recommended by Richard at Square Books Oxford MS

  • The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

    The Genius of Birds is a splendidly written account of the remarkable ways, many of which are newly discovered, that birds gossip, eavesdrop, exact revenge, manipulate, sympathize, use tools, and communicate in myriad ways.

    This smart and entertaining narrative appeals to bird geeks and the commonly curious alike with anecdotes, science, and new insights into what birds know about our frighteningly changing world.

    The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin) Recommended by Richard at Square Books Oxford MS

  • Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust

    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

  • The Drone Eats with Me

    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

  • White Rage

    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

  • My Life on the Road

    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