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...

Epitaph: A Novel of the OK Corral by Mary Doria Russell

For two weeks while reading Epitaph, I lived in 1880s Arizona and came to know the people who lived there.

Russell is a master at putting her meticulous research into creating a vivid picture of time and place, and brilliantly bringing into life her characters. This book continues with the story started in Doc, focusing here on Wyatt Earp. There is so much more to this man than we have seen in movies. If you are a fan of westerns you will love this book and if you are a fan of books that completely absorb, Epitaph will more than reward.

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell (Ecco Press) Recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

I like a certain amount of surprise in my life, but when it comes to getting older I've found I'd like to have fair warning about what to expect.

Donald Hall, a former Poet Laureate and National Medal of the Art winner, has written a beautiful collection of essays from the vantage point of 86 years old.

They are funnier than I imagined they would be, as well as inspiring and heartening, and the prose is pitch perfect.

Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL 
9780544287044

Very short (flash) fiction in graphic novel format.

Carre has really done something special here, creating intricate stories that last only a few frames. The artwork is lovely, the tales melancholic and slightly gothic.

It goes by quickly, but you'll want to keep revisiting the individual stories to pick out each and every nuance.

Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré (Fantagraphics Books) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL 

In 2006 when Elizabeth McCracken and her husband were living in France, she gave birth to a stillborn son.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is an intimate look at the tragedy. McCracken is very clear about the things that helped and the things that made healing more difficult. She tells without holding back about delivering the infant after learning he had died, and about her second pregnancy and the ways it was influenced by the first.

I gained great insight from this book into what grieving people need, and although I know all of us grieve differently, McCracken’s book will help me support those in my life who suffer from the death of a loved one. In one of my favorite quotes from the book, McCracken says, "The dead don’t need anything.  The rest of us could use some company."

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by  Elizabeth McCracken (Back Bay Books) Recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

TenNapel has created a very real Reptiles vs. Amphibians world in which Little Herk, the weakest of the Nnewts, is forced to flee his home when his town is invaded by the scary Lizzarks.

Confined to water due to his underdeveloped legs, Herk navigates the big wide world with an evil overlord hot on his tail. He must find the strength he possesses within himself, different from all the others -- his life depends on it!

This is a great start to a new graphic novel series for kids. Fans of Zita the Spacegirl or Amulet and Bones--here's something new for you!

Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel (Graphix) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL 

If you possessed the power of human regeneration, what would you do with it?

In the case of Dale Sampson, debut novelist Venturini's antihero, you use your "gift" for the ultimate good: reality television. After a horrific incident in high school, Dale realizes he has the ability to spontaneously regenerate his organs and limbs. Following years of depression, he decides -- with the help of his longtime best friend and spurred on by the disastrously romantic idea of saving a high school sweetheart -- to give himself up to the reality show moguls in Hollywood.

As outlandish as the plot may sound, this novel is thought-provoking and inspirational, with more than a few laughs along the way.

The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini (Picador) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

A family vacation in the Rocky Mountains turns tragic when a young girl goes missing.

Her younger brother is the only one who remembers what happened and is overcome by guilt and denial. The parent’s relationship disintegrates while their young daughter’s whereabouts remain a mystery.

You will not be able to put this one down.

Every character is significant to the plot development. There is nothing rushed or gimmicky about this literary thriller. It is a page turner, but only because you want to see how each character is living despite a set of terrible circumstances.

Easily the best book I’ve read in 5 years. Descent by Tim Johnston (Algonquin) Recommended by Stefani at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

A former nurse, Norma Bowe decided to teach a college class on death. She never expected a three year waiting list for the class or that her students would be called to help others in transformative ways while saving their own lives. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book is inspiring and life-affirming.

Hayasaki is a gifted journalist who spent time as a student of Professor Bowe’s to gain a unique insight into her life and the lives of the students she teaches each day.

The Death Class: A True Story about Life by Erika Hayasaki (Simon & Schuster) Recommended by Stefani at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

Like many of you, By the Book is one of my favorite parts of the NYT Book Review.

Compiled here by Pamela Paul, editor of the Book Review, are 65 author interviews (uncut and in their original format) all about writing habits, favorite authors and books and - one of my favorites - books they'd wish the president would read.

The authors range from Michael Chabon and Khaled Hosseini to Anne Lamott and Hilary Mantel, making this a delectable treat for any book lover.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul, Scott Turow (Henry Holt and Co.) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

With over thirty different pieces this collection has it all... 

Short stories, non-fiction pieces, poems, excerpts from comics/graphic novels, articles from literary magazines, excerpts from chapbooks and even a transcript from a Night Vale Podcast.

What also makes this collection so much fun to read is that it was curated by fourteen highschool students.
Then last, but most certainly not least, there is the added bonus that the editor is Daniel Handler, who also wrote an introduction from Lemony Snicket.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 by Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket (Mariner) Recommended by Erin at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

Often anthologized and quoted writer Charles Baxter has a new collection of stories, There’s Something I Want You to Do.

The stories are broken down into two sections, Virtues and Vices, each containing five stories. Characters come and go through the ten stories, set mostly in Minneapolis.  That Baxter understands the failings and strengths of humans is evident, and we see once again why he is considered such an authority on the short story form.

A great choice for book clubs as members can explore Baxter’s interpretation of each of the virtues and vices.

There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories by Charles Baxter (Pantheon) Recommended by Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

Rachel's daily train commute takes her past the back yards of a residential street.

She loves to fantasize about the people who live there. At one house she often sees an attractive young couple on the patio. They seem so happy, so perfect. A few doors down is another house she dreads seeing, yet she cannot avert her eyes. It was her's. Now her ex lives there with his new wife -and child.

This brilliantly crafted thriller draws you in as it reveals the complex interconnection of these characters' lives. The story is narrated in turns by three characters. Even though they are all females of roughly the same age, Hawkins has created such distinct voices that I always knew who was speaking and totally accepted each of them.

This is riveting,  intelligent writing. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead) Recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC
 

Michael Crummey takes you into the heart of the insular fishing community of Chance Cove, Sweetland Island, Newfoundland.

68-year-old Moses Sweetland's family goes back to the founding of the island. He is the only holdout when the government offers the residents a generous cash settlement to relocate, but only if everyone signs on. Told in sparse, beautiful prose, with generous helpings of the local dialect, the characters and story are reminiscent of Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, where conversations give hints of the tangled history and relationships of family and friends who have known each other for generations.

Sweetland is a requiem for the intimate knowledge of place that a transient society can just barely remember.

Sweetland By Michael Crummey (Liveright Publishing) Recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

Upon finding success as a writer, director, and actress, Dunham releases her autobiography as an exciting look into the events that shaped her.

She offers an unedited look at her life through a series of personal essays, some humorous and others quite painful, in hopes that her stories will keep readers from repeating her mistakes. With brutal honesty, she gives detailed accounts of her hardships in love and work, without shame or apology.

Her ability to share without excuse shows the strength that makes her such a relatable artist and celebrity.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned by Lena Dunham (Random House) Recommended by Emily Catherine at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

 

Blue Mind

Marine biologist Nichols reveals groundbreaking neuroscience that proves what we intuitively know: We are emotionally, physically and spiritually healthier when we are near or in the water.

He  presents the evidence in terms easily accessible to non-scientists and reminds us that it is imperative that we humans protect the waters of our planet for the good of all of the beings who inhabit it.

Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do by Wallace J. Nichols (Little, Brown and Co.) Recommended by Samantha at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

In the late nineteenth century, one of the last unmapped places of the globe was the North Pole. The United States and the world was obsessed with news of Arctic exploration. In 1879, American naval officer and explorer George De Long set sail with a crew of 32 men on the U.S.S. Jeanette only to disappear in the Arctic waters of Russia. Their fate was not to be discovered until years later. Hampton Sides vividly reconstructs the time period and the expedition itself.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides (Doubleday) Recommended by Square Books, Oxford MS.