Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week

Read This Now: The Index

What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!

Browse the whole list!

What if there were an army of indie booksellers enthusiastically reading and reviewing practically every new book coming out in the next year, and what if the books they were the most excited about, the books they couldn't wait to push into their customers' hands with a breathless "You've GOT to read this!" (virtually or otherwise), the ones with all the nine- and ten-star ratings were carefully curated and collected in a handy list? Well, all we can say is...KEEP READING!

Browse the Read This Now Index!


Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi ArianThen The Fish Swallowed him is an amazing debut for Iranian author, Amir Ahmadi Arian. The novel is set in modern Tehran and follows bus-driver Yunus from a weekly book-club, to a bus-drivers’ union strike, to an unexpected arrest, and finally to solitary confinement in prison, peppered with days of brutal interrogation. Yunus replays his life in his mind while imprisoned to figure out how he ended up in this position, and even develops a mild version of Stockholm-syndrome as he ends up wanting to please his interrogator, Hajj Saeed. This book is blistering and unforgiving, but it’s also incredibly beautiful in describing the struggle of an everyday citizen in Tehran. It’s a great read to spur discussion for those looking for book-club picks.

Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian (List price: $25.99, HarperVia), recommended by .novel, Memphis, TN.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey CranorNight Vale fans rejoice! Here is the latest offering from the talented offbeat minds of Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink – creators of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I don’t want to give anything away because that would spoil your enjoyment of this book. However, I will say this much: If you are already listening to Welcome to Night Vale, get this book. If you aren’t already listening, you need to start listening!! While being a fan definitely helps, it is not ultimately a bar to reading and enjoying this book. It might even get you to start listening!

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor (List price: $21.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

The Everlasting by Katy Simpson SmithFour stories wheelbarrowed down a potholed pathway of flawed love 'round the fecund pond in history's horribly funded public park. The cartoon-strength attitudes of the four (or five) wonderfully constructed main characters gave me the strength to accept each of their fates with que sera and a sigh.

The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (List price: $28.99, Harper), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

Thorn by Intisar KhananiPrincess Alyrra has lived her life in fear. Between her cruel family and the court games she's been forced to play, she still managed to hold onto her humanity without breaking. So when she's sent to a far away kingdom to be wed, she sees it as a new beginning. That is, until a evil sorceress and a cruel rival get together to steal her identity and her face. This retelling of the Goose Girl was fantastic. Honestly, I don't care for the Goose Girl fairy tale, it distressed me a a child, so I was excited to see a retelling that gave some justice to the princess in a more satisfactory way. I also enjoyed how the prince was smart enough to figure out she'd been replaced. I hated when something was so obvious but no one but the reader saw it.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani (List price: $18.99, Harper Teen), recommended by Story on the Square, McDonough, GA.

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie WrobelRose Gold Watts has been plotting revenge for a long time. She's had five years to think about it--the amount of time her mother, Patty, has been in prison. For years, Patty had their entire small town fooled into thinking Rose Gold was chronically ill from birth. But it was Patty's literal poisoning of her daughter that caused Rose Gold's frailty. Now a young adult, Rose Gold has a baby, a house, and a plan to make her mother's life a living hell. And as soon as Patty gets out of prison, Rose Gold sets that plan into motion. What follows is an amazing, gripping, twisted novel. I'd tell you more, but it's best if Rose Gold does that.

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (List price: $26.00, Berkley), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.

Pride of Eden by Taylor BrownWhat happens when wild meets the human race?Author Taylor Brown has flawlessly executed a sweeping story of exotic animal exploitation extending from the savannas of Africa, to a war-torn Baghdad zoo, to the Southeastern United States.

Anse Caulfield is a life-toughened Vietnam veteran and former jockey who, for reasons of his own, uses an ill-gotten windfall to establish Little Eden, a wildlife sanctuary on the coast of Georgia. Here, a collection of unforgettable mavericks, living on the periphery of society, wage an unofficial war of their own to rescue exotic animals from the hands of greed and cruelty.Brown has the rare ability to place his readers into the minds of his characters, allowing them to inhabit their skin. We can tap into their senses, passions, and motivations. Every page explodes and every line is pure poetry.

Pride of Eden is original, sensitive, and unsparing. This novel is one more notch in the belt that is Taylor Brown's literary genius.

Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown (List price: $26.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Coutnry Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

Enter the Aardvark by Jessica AnthonyYoung, handsome, rich and riding high in polling, Congressman Alexander Paine (R) has everything going for him when a stuffed aardvark shows up on his doorstep. Not just any aardvark, but one taxidermied by highly respected Titus Downing in the late 19th century. The story alternates between these two men's lives and the secret they share giving readers a very entertaining ride.

Enter the Aardvark by Jessica Anthony (List price: $26.00, Little, Brown and Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

Brightstorm by Vashti HardyBrightstorm by Vashti Hardy is an awesome journey. Hop on a sky-ship with twins, Arthur and Maudie, on an expedition headed for an arctic place yet to be explored, to find out what really happened to their explorer father. Full of excitement, intrigue and suspense, Brightstorm is an enthralling adventure not to be missed.

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (List price: $18.95, Norton Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

Blue Skies by Anne BustardIt’s 1949 in Gladiola, Texas. Everyone in town is excited about the Merci train full of gifts rolling through from France as a thank you for America’s help in WWII. Glory Bea is expecting a special gift to arrive on the train, her father. No one can stop her from believing in this miracle, not her mom’s new boyfriend or the grownups who thwart her railroad scouting mission. Blue Skies is perfect for fans of heartfelt middle grade with a twist of humor.

Blue Skies by Anne Bustard (List price: $17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.

Beheld by TaraShea NesbitMost stories surrounding this era, especially concerning women, come from the Salem witch trials, and largely from the male perspective. It is refreshing to have a novel about early colonial female relationships from their viewpoint. The class and religious arguments Nesbit employs to her narrative add both more intrigue and layers to these previously one dimensional women. Though their circumstances were vastly different from women of today, the love and justice that fueled them remains evident today.

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit (List price: 26.00, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

The Phoenix Must BurnAfrofuturism and the unique style of Octavia Butler is reborn! This collection of short stories inspired by the legendary author with a dash of Beyonce's black feminism introduces the empowering concept to new, younger readers. Each story offers enchanting, powerhouse heroines who show readers how independence is life's true magic. Fourteen years after her passing, Octavia Butler continues to amaze and inspire writers and readers everywhere with her daring characters and prose.

A Phoemix Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell (List price: $18.99, Mulholland Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

The Last Tax Driver

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Last Taxi Driver by Lee Durkee
Tin House Books | List Price: $25.95.

A Winter 2020 Okra Pick!

.novel, Memphis, TN

The Last Taxi Driver is both amusing and discomforting at the same time. The frenetic pace of the novel takes Lou, one of the last drivers of a dying profession, through the darkened corners of the Mississippi Delta, in which almost every character displays some form of codependency. Between the hospital, the liquor store, the local seedy motel, and the nearby city of Memphis... every passenger seems to be going nowhere, even though they have somewhere to be. The main character compares himself to Charon in Greek mythology (and rightfully so) as he ferries meth-heads, drunk prep students, convicts, and elderly women to their destinations. Though it’s a quick read reminiscent of Bukowski, this story will also resonate with lovers of the dark comedy and tragedy so closely associated with Southern literature.

Square Books, Oxford, MS

Lee Durkee’s debut novel Rides of the Midway was published in 2001. This funny and affecting Bildungsroman set in Mississippi perfectly captured the 70s. Almost twenty years later, Durkee delivers his sophomore novel The Last Taxi Driver about a pre-Uber driver, Lou, in a small town. In a fever dream of events, Lou shares his philosophy, knowledge and rules for driving. By turns hilarious, angry and sweet, once again Durkee perfectly captures the mood of our time.

Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

On this hilarious and harrowing tour through small-town Mississippi, criminal misfits, beleaguered addicts, and hospital escapees climb in and out of Lou’s dilapidated cab, leaving behind each time a striking stench, a thoughtful line, or, in one passenger’s case, an entire pizza. As Lou drives and drives (and drives), these encounters slowly sap him of his sanity, such that the borders between reality and imagination, between the present and memory become bleary and permeable. By the time this dizzying, darkly comic taxi ride finally comes to an end, we emerge into the Mississippi night feeling repulsed and exhausted, but also, somehow, revived and grateful.

Trouble is What I DoI loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn't get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

TITLEThe prologue of Erik Larson's long awaited new novel is where he reels you in. Citing a recent move to New York City, he envisioned how it would have felt had he been a native New Yorker during 9/11, and how the people there dealt with the panic, tragedy and a new normal. He then reflected on what London would have gone through during WWII with bombings 57 nights in a row. Mr Larson relays these graphic details with his strikingly phenomenal new novel and gives you the shocking minute details never provided in school or the news. Most history books are dry. Mr. Larson's read like a novel and the facts will astound you.

This is a well-researched powerful story beginning on Churchill's first day as Prime Minister: the same day Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. We follow Churchill for the next year and examine his actions under a microscope, including insight into his family life, how he needed to convince Roosevelt to enter a war the American public refused to be involved in, and how he was able to change the course of history by trying to combat a madman and his cohorts.

Churchill was not always reasonable or even nice. In fact some of his demands, like twice daily, 98-degree baths were eccentric, but we learn who he was--warts and all. Churchill was a great leader for many reasons, especially in uniting many to defeat evil. While we go through your life it is the decisions we make that define us. We hope we make the right ones and are on the right side.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (List price: $32.00, Crown), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Flatiron Books | List Price: $26.99.

Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

Oona Out of Order was an incredible, heart warming surprise, one that I do not regret staying up late to finish all in one go. Oona turns 19 and ends up years in the future in her 52 year old body and life, and then the next year she jumps to another, then another. Her mind aging normally, her body differently. She's forced to realize that nothing is in her control, and just because she knows what's to come, it doesn't mean that she can change it. It's terrifying, and full of hope at the same time. Warm and funny, everything anyone could want in a book. Readers of general fiction and sci-fi alike will delight at Oona Out of Order, left to wonder how no one has considered time travel in this way before and how no one will be able to do it as wonderfully as Montimore has.

Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

On her 19th birthday, Oona discovers that she will not live her adult life chronologically. At the stroke of midnight each January 1st, she time-hops in her life to different years -- from 1982 to 2015 to 1991, and back and forth, never knowing when she'll end up or how old her body will be or what will change or stay the same throughout the years. A compelling read that shows how love, connection, and family tie people together and create a life worth living, despite the intransigence of time.

Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

I love love loved this story! Oona is an unwilling time traveler who wakes up in a different year of her life every January first, 12:01am. With only the notes she leaves herself to go by (plus a little help from her mom), she must navigate being tossed into the middle of situations blind and figure out how to move forward. This book explores how we change from year to year and minute to minute, and teaches us that what we want is fluid, and that's OK. I cannot recommend this enough.

The Truants by Kate Weinburg Kate Weinberg's debut novel of suspense weaves a tale of obsession, deception, and misguided love. Jess Walker is a young woman who enters an uninspiring university in East Anglia for the sole purpose of being a student of the charismatic professor of literature, Lorna Clay, who seems to have taken the position under a cloud of suspicion from her past. Clay will be conducting studies on the life and work of Agatha Christie, with an underlying theme, "People disappear when they most want to be seen."

Jess not only falls under her thrall, but also that of her three new friends who introduce her to a lifestyle of excess and awakenings, with tragic and life-altering consequences.This is a moody, mesmerizing, and literary read.

The Truants by Kate Weinburg (List price: $26.00, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.