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!


RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

Stuart Stevens has written five books on politics and travel, but this one’s personal.

The Last Season is an account of the year the author and his 95-year-old father set out to see every Ole Miss game in 2012, a year that came on the heels of Mitt Romney’s losing presidential campaign, in which Stuart Stevens served as its director. Stevens investigates the destinations life has taken him, especially regarding his relationship with his dad.

As Pat Conroy, who knows something about the father-son thing, says, "It’s nuts, it’s Ole Miss, it’s outrageous, it’s got depth and emotion, it's one of the best father-son books I’ve read in years. Hotty Toddy is the only phrase you need to know to love this book."

The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football by Stuart Stevens (Knopf) Recommended by RH at Square Books Oxford MS

Let's be clear, Christopher Moore is not for the faint of heart.

But if you love wild imagination, hysterically funny and profane dialogue, multiple plot lines that weave together but allow lots of humorous and (did I mention) profane tangents – he's your guy.

Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job. I read the former without having read A Dirty Job with no confusion, but it does give a few necessary spoilers from the earlier book. So if you have the leisure, do them in order.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

This book-length poem invites us to look and look again at the world we inhabit and the people we often choose not to see.

The Descent of Alette reinvents the epic through its use of quotation marks to create a new poetic “foot,” inviting the reader to linger over each phrase or read through the divisions, drawing attention to similar choices in our daily lives.

A compelling narrative unfolds within this dynamic form of a woman moving through an underground world to confront a Tyrant who rules from a daylight realm.

The voices of the wounded, the homeless, the forgotten, those who blur the stark lines of light and shadow, all are present in this journey of transformation.

The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley (Penguin) Recommended by Heather at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

Damon Tweedy brings us a very personal view of the role race has played for him as a student, a doctor, and even as a patient.

He starts with his time as one of only a handful of black students attending Duke University Medical School, where one of his professors asks if he is there to fix the lights.

Through his internship and on to psychiatric training and practice, he sheds a light on how easy it is for us to see each other through the lens of race instead of as individuals, and how that leads to bad outcomes for everyone, but especially for black patients.

Tweedy has written a thoughtful, provocative, and very readable account, full of engaging stories of real people whose well-being, and even survival, are affected by racial perceptions.

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy (Picador) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

In an age when the once romantic American Southwest is beginning to fall victim to the same capitalization as the rest of the country, young and starry-eyed Billy Boyd embarks on a quest of Greek proportions across the unclaimed landscape.

The Crossing is the second book in McCarthy's Border Trilogy stands on its own beautifully, but rises to an entirely more transcendent level
when read with the other two books (All the Pretty Horses and Cities of the Plain).

With his beautiful imagery, deeply sympathetic characters, and haunting social commentary, Cormac McCarthy shines as one of the greatest writers of all time.

But this book is not for the faint of heart—it will literally change your life.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage) Recommended by Kate at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

I found Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things both strange and compulsively readable.

Michel Faber turns the science fiction premise of planetary colonization on its head. Peter, a Christian evangelist, leaves his wife Bea, and beloved cat, Joshua, at home in England while he serves as replacement missionary to an alien race on the planet Oasis. As Peter and Bea correspond (not easy!) it becomes apparent that Bea is the one having the harder time as life in England deteriorates, while Peter finds his new flock peculiar and exotic, but surprisingly devoted to their faith and the Bible, which they call The Book of Strange New Things.

Faber, best known for his Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White, weaves a compelling story of love, faith, corporate culture, damaged lives, and resilience.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Hogarth) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

Edgar, aka Eggert Furst, aka Comrade Parts, is one of the most intriguing and pathetic villains I've come across.

Okasanen's latest novel, like her international best-seller Purge, delves into the political tumult of little-known Estonia, where the overly ambitious Edgar adopts a new identity, while selling out his friends and colleagues, with each regime swing between the Red Army and the Nazis.

His total lack of conscience and increasing paranoia of exposure by the two people who know him – his alcoholic estranged wife and his freedom-fighting cousin Roland – add just the right hint of dark comedy.

When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Knopf Publishing Group) Recommended by Vicki at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

This utterly compelling, often heartbreaking story of war and lost love is told through a fascinating dual viewpoint.

We see Poxl West through the eyes of his fifteen-year-old nephew, Eli Goldstein, in 1986, and through Poxl's own memoir of World War II. Eli is in thrall to the romantic war hero that comes alive in his uncle's pages, but soon finds that the complexities of one person's life may hold more than one truth. Torday has crafted a remarkable tale that shines a light on nothing less than storytelling itself.

The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

What a delicious memoir of a New Yorker, now married to a Frenchman and living in the south of France!

The couple impulsively buys a quirky old house that belonged to famous poet. They become parents, Gwendal leaves his job, and they open a specialty ice cream shop. This fascinating combination of history, cultures, cuisine (wonderful recipes included) and small town life is at once funny, touching, honest, and totally engaging. I loved it.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Ellizabeth Bard (Little Brown and Company) Recommended by Carol at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh

The Bright Forever by Lee Martin has all the makings of a good beach read—suspense, compelling characters, and fast-paced action.

All of this and it contains gorgeous writing! Nine-year-old Katie Mackie disappears when she rides her bike to the library to return some books. Katie's math tutor, Mr. Dees, and a drug-addled newcomer, Raymond R., become the focus of the investigation.

Each of them has a motive. The final chapter of the book was stunning in what it revealed about one of the characters. I would say that I couldn’t put it down, but several times I had to take a break from the tension! The book was a 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist and would make a good book club discussion book. The paperback includes a discussion guide.

The Bright Forever by Lee Martin (Three Rivers Press) Recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

The men who surrounded Washington during his two terms as president included powerful minds like Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison, and soldiers such as Henry Knox, Lafayette, and the traitor Benedict Arnold.

In the middle was Washington, weary of politics and longing to retire.  He worried that people thought he was not smart enough to understand Hamilton's financial ideas, and he named his greyhound Cornwallis.

Washington emerges as a very human leader.  Fabulous history!

Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President by David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler (Random House) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

 

Inspector of the Dead is an absolutely riveting historical thriller.

I'd not read one of David Morrell's mysteries before, and now I want to devour them all. I'm even going to check out the original Opium-Eater to learn more about his fascinating protagonist, Thomas De Quincey.

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell (Mulholland Books) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

In this powerful book of poems, which centers around women in Bangladesh known as the birangona (survivors of war atrocities during the Liberation War in 1971), Faizullah explores what's been forgotten or silenced about these women's experiences, as well as her own assumptions, related to her experience as a Bangladeshi American woman living in a cultural space of both/and/or.

Reading the poems in Seam, I respect the level of mastery displayed in their vivid imagery and fresh approach to form. But what lingers is the poet's ability to refute the impersonal language of the state in the face of the complex realities of war, to answer it with the personal, private vocabulary that makes up the best poetry, the poetry that haunts us, makes us question, to see, as Faizullah writes, how thin the seam / between the world and the world.

Seam by Tarfia Faizullah (Southern Illinois University Press) Recommended by Heather at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

I don’t read many biographies, but I love memoirs and this is one of my all-time favorites.

Journalist Steve Luxenberg discovers that his mother had a sister, Annie, who was disabled and institutionalized. She had kept it a secret for over 50 years.

His search for the truth about is a story of family, the depression, the Holocaust and the nation’s treatment of disabled adults.

Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg (Hachette) Recommended by Allison at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville NC

In the blink of an eye, Bob Spitz turned fifty, finished an eight-year book project and a fourteen-year marriage that left him nearly destitute, had his heart stolen and broken on the rebound, and sought salvation the only way he knew how.

He fled to Europe, where he hopscotched among the finest cooking schools in pursuit of his dream.

The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe by Bob Spitz (W. W. Norton )Recommended by Douglas at Octavia Books New Orleans LA

The story is based in China, in a place called Hak Nam.

Hak Nam is run by drug lords and is filled with brothels. Jin is trying to find her sister, while pretending to be a boy to stay safe and fly under the radar. Dai is trying to find a way out of Hak Nam and he needs Jins help. In return, he agrees to help Jin find her sister. Mei Yee is trapped in a brothel, forced into prostitution with no way out. Dai, Jin and Mei Yee narrate the story, each chapter is told through one of them.

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin (Little, Brown) Recommended by Christina at Blue Ridge Books Waynesville NC