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RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

A Deadly WanderingI know we're all tired of hearing phrases like that about books, but I really believe this book can change lives and save lives. Matt Richtell has written an investigative book on the use of cell phones while driving. It is as compelling as it is damning.  

A Deadly Wandering shows that there is now enough scientific evidence to support that driving while texting and talking on the phone (even speaker phone) can be as deadly or even more deadly than driving drunk. I have personally almost been hit several times while walking by a texter or phone user. You probably have too. This book proves that no one can both drive and use their phone at the same time and not be a danger to others and themselves.

We can move the needle on this one, my friends.

Please read it.

Because, really: what a stupid way to die.

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel ($28.99, William Morrow & Co.), recommended by Kelly, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond VA.

Tape is an outstanding debut. Told with crackling prose, shimmering with humor and deeply moving, it will haunt anyone who reads it.

Record a voice and it lasts forever. In 1993, Ryan records a diary on an old tape. He talks about his mother's death, about his dreams, about his love for a new girl at school who doesn't even know he exists.

In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die. There, she finds a tape in the spare room. A tape with a boy's voice on it a voice she can't quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her.

Ryan and Ameliah are connected by more than just a tape. This is their story.

Tape by Steven Camden (HarperCollins), recommended by Victoria, Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs LA.

Set on the idyllic campus of a women's college in the mountains of Virginia, Small Blessings is a charming first novel with characters who are both sympathetic but also deeply wounded by life's arbitrary injustices. Woodroof has written a poignant story about the lives of lovely, imperfect people and their difficult choices.

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof ($25.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Sarah, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

In this utterly delightful debut by Swedish author Backman we meet a grumpy, opinionated curmudgeon who thinks he has nothing left to live for after the loss of his wife and his job.

His attempts to end his misery are continually thwarted by the annoying new neighbors who drag him begrudgingly back to his life and into theirs. This bittersweet tale might well make you cry, will definitely make you laugh, and may even make you want to drive a Saab for the rest of your life.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ($26, Atria Books), recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

Looking to dive into a world of witches, vampires, and demons?

Deborah Harkness' All Souls trilogy, which concludes with The Book of Life, is the richest portrayal of that universe since Dark Shadows (and I say that with pleasure and affection). I don't want to leak any spoilers here – you have to read the trilogy in sequence – but Harkness has invented a fascinating history for her creatures.

This is literary adult fantasy that stays deeply attached to the real world. And if you've read A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, you'll be very satisfied with the passion, terror, and (yes) humor Harkness uses to bring the saga of the Bishops and Clairmonts to a conclusion.

The Book of Life By Deborah Harkness ($28.95, Viking Adult), recommended by Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time was everything a Picoult fan could want and more. Told from four different points of view, it is a story of a young girl searching for her mother, a missing elephant researcher, and the two people she has enlisted to help her: a once famous psychic who has lost her ability to communicate with the dead, and a down on his luck private investigator.

Picoult employs the use of the elephants, as she has done with many different subjects throughout her novels, to further the story while teaching the reader countless new facts about the majestic creatures, mainly how they grieve. Time has the familiar Picoult tone but is vastly different from her previous novels. Picoult's uncanny ability to get inside the head of each character, man or woman, child or adult, keeps us connected to each character, hanging on every word to find out what each individual fate will be.

Even Picoult's biggest fans, who have come to expect shocks, won't see the twist ending coming and that is perhaps the most impressive thing about the consistently unpredictable Jodi Picoult.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult ($28, Ballantine), recommended by Chelsea, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

Two-time Man Booker Prize Winner Hilary Mantel amazed me with her new collection of stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. She sees with literary vision that doesn't miss a single detail; her writing makes me laugh, cringe,
and ache. I believe Mantel is one of our finest 21st century writers.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel ($37, Henry Holt & Company), recommended by Mamie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.