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!


  • Almost Famous Women: Stories by Meghan Mayhew Bergman

    Meghan Mayhew Bergman has done it again. 

    I loved her story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, and am equally impressed with her brilliant new collection, Almost Famous Women.  Bergman takes obscure women from the past and creates a fictional world within the context of their real histories.

    Siamese twins, Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, and Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly are among her chosen subjects. Bergman is a young writer on the rise, and this book, due out in January, will set the new year's bar high for people who love short stories as I do.

    Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman ($25, Scribner), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

    This surprising new Russian novel by an Irish theater director knocked my socks off!

    With a maturity beyond his years, McKeon exposes the Chernobyl disaster through a luminous cast of characters – the teenage farm boy living 10 km from the reactor, the brilliant and conscientious young surgeon recruited to the scene, and the estranged wife and former journalist suppressed into an assembly line factory job – in this rare glimpse at a waning empire behind the Iron Curtain.

    All That Is Solid Melts Into Air By Darragh McKeon ($14.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Vicki at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan

    Without a single word, these beautifully detailed and nuanced drawings tell a story of an immigrant trying to establish a better life for his family in a distant country.

    The visual tone of the book implies a past we may think we recognize, but with symbols and customs unknown to any specific time or place, Tan constructs a land where any of us may imagine the incredible endeavor of being alone in a completely foreign landscape. Well-crafted and keenly empathetic.

    The Arrival By Shaun Tan ($21.99, Arthur A. Levine) Recommended by Rachel at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro NC.

  • Surfmen by Charles Marshall

    We all know about the US Coast Guard and many of us know about the predecessor, the United States Lifesaving Service. But how many of us have thought about how those rescue men became organized?

    Marshall does a wonderful job illuminating the past of the heroes of the coast. Cape Hatteras historical fiction based on fact and full of high adventure.

    Surfmen By Charles Marshall ($19, Fireship Press), recommended by Buxton Village Books Buxton NC

  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

    How to do justice to a novel that allows you to know each character so intimately that their pain and triumphs are your own?

    I fell head-over-heels for twins Noah and Jude. I couldn’t resist Noah, who has a penchant for contextualizing his life into paintings, or Jude, who takes to keeping onions in her pockets to avoid serious illness. The two share an almost other-worldly bond, but as life rapidly spins beyond their control and they retreat into their own internalized worlds, they lose touch with the others’ heart.

    Their journey back to one another is absolutely stunning.

    Peppered with beautiful imagery and quirky excerpts from Grandma Sweetwine’s folksy bible, I’ll Give You the Sun is a book you’ll wanna hold close to your heart. Or maybe I should just say, I want to give this book to everyone I have ever or will ever meet.

    I'll Give You the Sun By Jandy Nelson ($17.99, Dial Books for Young Readers), recommended by Amanda, Foxtale Bookshoppe, Woodstock GA.

  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

    In Scott Westerfeld's new book Afterworlds the readers are treated to two stories in one!

    Afterworlds is set up with alternating chapters where the reader is first introduced to Darcy Patel, a writer, who has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel aptly titled - Afterworlds. Next the reader is immersed in the world of her novel and gets to follow her character Lizzie along on a suspenseful and thrilling ride.

    If you are looking for a fantastic new read then this book is a must!

    Afterworlds By Scott Westerfeld ($19.99, Simon Pulse), recommended by Erin at Foxtale Bookshoppe, Woodstock GA.

  • Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal

    The world is a beautiful place, don't you think? Not because it is, but because I see it that way.

    The title is the first thing I noticed about this book, but it definitely wasn't what kept me reading it--the writing itself took care of that.

    This entire novel is ONE sentence. This is a book meant to be devoured in one sitting--you may not stop to catch your breath. Hrabal is a master and he does something really special here. 

    Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age By Bohumil Hrabal ($14, NYRB Classics) Recommended by O.B. at Scuppernong Books Greensboro NC

  • Zbinden's Progress by Christoph Simon

    This charming novel is a character study of an elderly Swiss man who loves life, loves people—his wife especially—loves to walk, and loves to talk, but struggles to make a connection with his son.

    This is just the book to read on a rainy day, perhaps in front of a fire with a cup of cocoa. Or if you want to slow yourself down to enjoy more of your life.

    Zbinden's Progress by Christoph Simon ($15.95, And Other Stories), recommended by Sue at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

    After a famous mathematician’s death, her colleagues and rivals from all over the world gather along with the family to sit shiva and honor her memory.

    Certain that the late Rachela Karnokovitch has solved the Navier-Stokes problem and taken the solution to her grave, the group looks for clues under floorboards, interrogates her pet parrot, and searches the house.

    Readers, whether they have an appreciation of mathematics or not, will appreciate the love, family, and beauty of this novel.

    The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer ($16, Penguin), recommended by Lyn at Square Books Oxford MI.
     

  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson

    Lila is a good reminder of why I love Marilynne Robinson's rich writing.

    The main character, Lila, becomes the wife of the Reverend Ames (a wonderfully gentle and sympathetic man who appears in Robinson's other two books set in Gilead). When we first meet Lila, she is an untamed creature, but through the love of her rescuer, Doll, and Ames, she matures and finds a sense of security.

    Lila By Marilynne Robinson ($26, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

    When A. inherits a large estate after the sudden suicide of his cousin, he is thrust into the middle of a mystery with deadly consequences.

    Ghosts, cultists, and dreams of unspeakable acts are only the beginning for A. as he tries to uncover the secrets of Acton House.

    A mystery in the tradition of Lovecraft, King, Henry James, and Edith Wharton (who lends this book its title), this book will leave you wanting more because once Cantero has you hooked you won't want to put it down.

    The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero ($26.95, Doubleday) Recommended by Andrew at Square Books Oxford MI

  • Tape by Steven Camden

    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.

  • Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

    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.

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

    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.

  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

    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.

  • Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

    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.

  • The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel

    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.

  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

    In the first Strike Mystery, The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) creates an intriguing P.I.,
    Cormoran Strike, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who lost a leg to an IED.

    This second in the series has a universally disliked novelist murdered after writing a libelous book maliciously satirizing many people in the publishing world. Galbraith is a masterful storyteller and this book doesn't disappoint; I read it every spare minute I could get.

    The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith ($28 Mulholland Books), recommended by Trish, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

    When Riley MacPherson takes on the task of executor of her father's estate, she finds evidence that causes her to doubt virtually everything she'd believed about her family. What ensues is a fast paced, engrossing story of her determination to learn the truth - no matter what that might be. There are so many twists and turns in this plot, I was up half the night to find out how it would end. I never saw it coming!

    The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain ($27.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Samantha, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • Killed at the Whim of a Hat: A Jimm Juree Mystery by Colin Cotterill

    Jimm Juree, first-person narrator of this excellent mystery, is a crime reporter out of work. Her mother, with early dementia, sold the family home and business and relocated to southern, rural Thailand. Jimm's grandfather, a retired cop, rarely talks and her younger brother who wants to be a world-class body builder moved with the family; her older brother, a transgendered former beauty queen now computer hacker stayed in the city.

    Suddenly, things begin to happen in their new village: A Volkswagon van, complete with two skeletons, is discovered by a well-digger then a visiting Buddist abbott is violently murdered shortly after Jimm meets a nun and a monk who become suspects in the case. As Jimm works the case hoping to break back into news, she finds allies in unexpected places.

    The charm of Whim isn't the crime story. It's the characters, the whimsey, and the humor woven subtly through the novel that make it a cut above the rest. Of course, the chapter headings, quotes from President Malaprop, are well worth the read. Don't miss the beginning of this excellent new series!

    NOTE: Many readers will remember Cotterill's wonderful series about Dr. Siri, a 70-something Laotian county coroner.
    I predict even more fans for Jimm!

    Killed at the Whim of a Hat: A Jimm Juree Mystery by Colin Cotterill ($18.99, Minotaur), recommended by Molly, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Blackhouse by Peter May

    This is the first in a series featuring a policeman who is sent to his childhood home of Lewis Island in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, -a formidable and forbidding world where tradition rules and people adhere to ancient ways of life- to investigate a grisly murder involving islanders he's known all his life.

    It's riveting and beautifully written.

    The Blackhouse By Peter May ($14.99, Quercus Books) Recommended by Nancy, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

    I came across this brilliant little gem of a novella in a used bookstore while traveling, and it immediately became one of my favorite Southern folk tales.

    Though perhaps diamond in the rough would be a more fitting epithet, as its climactic battle is fought not by the noble knights or graceful gods of traditional epics, but rather by the comically gothic – almost grotesque – celebrities of an isolated Southern town. McCullers writes with such a vivid intensity of detail that the history of this short-lived cafe (like many of her short stories, especially Wunderkind) dwells in my memory more like a film than a story in a book.

    The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: Carson McCullers' Novella Adapted for the Stage by Edward Albee, Carson McCullers ($12.95, Scribner), recommended by Vicki, Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

    Two best friends raise their children to be perfect mates. Until the kids are three, they are constant companions. Then they are separated. The plan is that they will meet someday, and since they have so much in common, they will fall in love and be happy. This is wild, edgy, creative fiction!

    How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer ($25.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • Save The Date by Mary Kay Andrews

    Beach trip checklist:
    - sunscreen
    - sunglasses
    - lounge chair
    - great summer

    A talented young florist tries to make a go of her business in Savannah and finds more than her share of challenges along the way. This latest from Mary Kay has everything you could want: Romance; break ups; drama; intrigue. Oh, did I mention Goldendoodles? A total escape! I had so much fun reading this book!

    Save The Date by Mary Kay Andrews ($26.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Samantha, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

    A legitimate masterpiece, mixing antiseptic, dystopian sci-fi with reflections on aging, love and lonlieness.

    Hoeullebecq's genius is on full display, switching between philosophical musings and caustic misanthropy while somehow retaining a lowkey humanity. A singular bit of fiction.

    The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, Gavin Bowd ($16, Vintage Books USA), recommended by Justin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Happy Death by Albert Camus

    His first book and my favorite.

    I admit, although I don't like how he portrays most women in this book, I appreciate his descriptions, his words, how real and raw many parts are, how I can feel a moment described.

    I pick up this book every year at different seasons because it feels changed to me depending on the time of the year, my age in life. It's hard to describe a book I always go back to, to attempt an explanation on why I love it, I just do.

    Happy Death By Albert Camus ($15, Vintage), recommended by Erin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

    In 1953, Boy Novak runs away from her home on the Lower East Side of New York and ends up in a small town in Massachusetts.

    She marries Arturo Whitman, a widower with an adored daughter named Snow, and the three live happily until the birth of Bird, whose dark skin exposes the Whitmans as African-Americans passing for white.

    Oyeyemi is a stunning talent who examines the disparity in how we perceive ourselves and how we allow others to perceive us. Boy, Snow, Bird is a bewitching and beguiling tale with unforgettable characters.

    Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ($27.95, Riverhead Books), recommended by Amanda, Inkwood Books Tampa, FL.

  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

    A beautifully told coming of age story that takes an amazing turn you won't see coming. Andrew Smith is a genius and you won't believe how much you love this book. Oh...and then there are the six foot tall praying mantises!

    Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith ($18.99, Dutton Juvenile), recommended by Christine, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville NC.

  • Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

    Eden, a world where no sunlight reaches the surface, illuminated only by the lantern flowers hanging from the trees above, is home to descendents of the two survivors of a crash-landed ship, generations removed from Earth.

    Beckett masterfully brings this strange and alien world to life as a small group pushes out from their small valley of light. Highly recommended for fans of well-written science-fiction.

    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett ($15, Broadway Books), recommended by Ted, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

    The year is 2073 when a visitor comes to a very remote island. 

    In seven stories going back, way back, in time we see a painter, vampire, Viking, and others that are connected to this island and bound in some way by an agonizing love. The writing is breathtaking and powerful art. You won't be able to put this book down or stop thinking of it. Ages 14+

    Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick ($17.99, Roaring Brook Press), recommended by Carol, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Redeployment by Phil Klay

    Redeployment is a powerful debut by an exciting new voice.

    With their realistic and sometimes brutal details, these stories by a former Marine captain and Iraq war veteran are not always easy to read. But ultimately they proved to be harder to stop reading.  Klay gives voice to a variety of viewpoints through nuanced characters and prose that strikes a balance between bitter irony and real emotional depth.

    Redeployment By Phil Klay ($26.95, Penguin), recommended by Tony, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

    I love the quirky, eccentric characters in Fannie Flagg’s books, and this one is full of them. At 59 (or is she 60?), Sookie finds she is not who she thought she was and her subsequent search for answers takes her away from small-town Alabama life to Poland, Wisconsin, Texas and California and back in time to the World War II era and a little known group of independent and brave women who gave their all to the war effort as pilots. Comical situations as well as zany, off-beat personalities give heart and warmth to Sookie’s emotional conundrum. It is a tribute to family, friendship and the strength of the human spirit. A heart-warming feel-good read.

    The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion By Fannie Flagg ($27, Random House), recommended by Pat, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

    Fall under the spell of the magical Sarah Addison Allen as she weaves a Southern fairytale of a lost lake, a boy who turned himself into an alligator, and a series of second chances for newly-widowed Kate, her daughter Devin, and her eccentric great-aunt Eby.

    Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen ($9.99, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Jill, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     

  • Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman

    Twins Matt and Em are special -- they're Animare, people who can animate their drawings into physical manifestations.

    When their powers become unexpectedly strong for such young children, their mom is forced to move them to the protection of their paternal grandfather's estate. Unfortunately, the people who want control of Matt and Em won't be put off so easily, and the twins must find their family secrets in order to be able to protect themselves.

    Fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series will be thrilled to discover this action-packed and magical adventure.

    Hollow Earth by John Barrowman (Aladdin) Recommended by Melissa at Fiction Addiction, Greenville SC

  • All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

    Judith Finch was held captive for two years before being returned to her hometown,maimed and mute for fear of what she mightreveal.To the people of Roswell Station,including her own mother, she's been cursed. Theone bright spot in her life is Lucas, the boyshe's loved since she was a girl but who doesn'tgive her a second glance.After Roswell Stationis attacked, Judith has to make a decision --stay silent and let people make their ownconclusions, or reveal all the truth that's inher.Berry's poetic language makes this mysteryand love story a captivating read that you won'twant to put down until you know everything thatJudith has to say.

    All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry($17.99, Viking Juvenile), recommended by Melissa, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • City of Women by David Gillham

    This debut novel is a thriller, a love story, a story of courage and the many unknown heroes who made life and death decisions in the face of the horror that was Berlin in 1943.

    Gillham's language is stunning and his characters are real, with all their flaws and all their bravery. This is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

    City of Women By David R. Gillham ($16, Berkley Trade), recommended by Rene, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yak; Lark Pien

    Part historical novel and part fantasy, Boxers & Saints are companion graphic novels re-imagining the Boxer Rebellion. Yang's art style is cartoonishly simple and colorful, in deliberate contrast to the messy, multifaceted events he recounts. Recommended for teen readers and up.

    Boxers & Saints Boxed Set By Gene Luen Yang ($34.99, First Second), recommended by Rachel, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

    In Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah turns to fiction to tell the  story of a group of villagers who return home at the end of war to reclaim their lives and culture. This is a book of hope, longing, large corruption and small mercies, from a master storyteller.

    Radiance of Tomorrow By Ishmael Beah ($14, Sarah Crichton Books), recommended by Sarah, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Bat by Jo Nesbø

    Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble.

    The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case.  Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country.

    The Bat: The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel by Jo Nesbø (Vintage) Recommended by Steve at Fountain BookstoreRichmond VA

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

    On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

    Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

    An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

    Ancillary Justice By Ann Leckie (Orbit) Recommended by Steve at Fountain Bookstore Richmond VA
     

  • The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick

    I cannot recall the last time a book captivated me so completely. It felt fresh, smart, clever, and, perhaps best of all, genuine and sweet in the very best sense. The story line is beautifully original and combines so many fascinating concepts and ideas.

    The mix of folklore and science is amazing. Who would have thought that the second law of thermodynamics could be presented in such a fun context! And I'll never look at entropy in quite the same way again.

    The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick (Algonquin) Recommended by Laura at Malaprops Asheville NC.

  • Where I'm Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver

    Carver is where I go for stories of the working class.

    The subject matter might be hard-edged, but it's also full of a human tenderness that leaves me a few moments where I'm unable to move on to anything else.

    This is an essential read in realist short fiction. Fans of Mary Miller or Barry Hannah will like this.

    Where I'm Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver (Vintage) Recommended by Dottie at Square Books Oxford MS.

  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

    The second book of the Neapolitan Novels series is a rich portrait of two girls and their friendship.

    Beginning in the 1960s when the more academically gifted Lila marries instead of continuing her education, we follow Elena through her success. Psychologically acute, this is a great work of modern fiction, and good news, there will be one more book.

    The Story of a New Name By Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions) Recommended by Sandra at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

    The follow-up to The Shining, King's latest novel marks a return to the style of books such as It and Salem's Lot, a world of unrelenting horror, of things that go bump in the night.

    Seamlessly weaving supernatural demons with his character's own internal battles, King transcends the traditional horror narrative and presents a novel concerned with the very real tension between good and evil.

    Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner) Recommended by Kaitlyn at Square Books Oxford MS.

  • Want Not by Jonathan Miles

    From the critically acclaimed author of Dear American Airlines, a compulsively readable, deeply human novel that charts the course of three intersecting lives—a freegan couple living off the grid in Manhattan, a once prominent linguist struggling with midlife, and a New Jersey debt-collection magnate with a new family and a second chance at getting things right—in a thoroughly contemporary examination of that most basic and unquenchable emotion: want. 

    Want Not By Jonathan Miles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), recommended by Lynne Marie at Fountain Bookstore, Richmond VA.

  • Pickett's Charge by Charles McNair

    McNair’s prose begins thin and lapping, then gradually builds like a hurricane crescendo that carries the reader on a whitewater crest toward a conclusion that is as unexpected as it is dreadful.

    From the top of that mountainous wave of skillfully drawn landscapes, familiarly detailed characters, and painfully wrought human interactions, we get a glimpse, through Threadgill’s last steps on earth, of what might have been, had Threadgill--had all the Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs of the world--chosen to throw a barbecue instead of launch a Civil War.

    Pickett's Charge by Charles McNair ($18.95, Livingston Press), recommended by Connie, Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

    It was first published in 1989, but this historical novel set in South Africa is as relevant today as then.

    A five-year-old English boy is sent to a boarding school and the cruelty against him and the blacks who serve them there is almost unimaginable. The boy learns he must be independent (the power of one), learn to think, and with help from the local librarian, a musician/scientist, a teacher, and others along the way, easily rises to first in his class.

    The underlying theme of apartheid's injustices and the dramatic events of a boy's growing up make this a powerful story.

    The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay ($16.00, Ballantine Books), recommended by Nancy, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

    I loved this delightful book about a genetics researcher (he doesn't realize he has Asperger's syndrome) who decides to find himself the perfect wife. 

    From the candidates that fill out the detailed applications to his best friend who is trying to map the world with his bedroom conquests (using the candidates his friend discards), this book is a wonderful story full of characters that you will adore.

    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster), recommended by The Country Bookshop Southern Pines NC.

  • Guests On Earth by Lee Smith


    Do not let anyone tell you that this is another book about Zelda Fitzgerald.

    This book is deeper and better.

    Yes, Zelda makes an appearance, several in fact, but she is a peripheral character. This book is really about Evalina, a young woman born to curious circumstances in New Orleans, and sent to a progressive mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina. This book is about the inhabitants of Evalina's life and about the music that connects us all.

    Guests on Earth by Lee Smith (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), recommended by The Country Bookshop Southern Pines NC.

  • The Tilted World by Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly

    I grew up knowing about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 but this book brings that time to life.

    You can feel the unceasing rain and the mud and the growing fear of the flood coming their way. In this setting we meet a federal agent and a bootlegger brought together by an orphaned baby: a story of seemingly ordinary people who find hope and deliverance where they least expect it--in each other.

    The Tilted World By Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly (William Morrow & Company), recommended by Rene at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

    The Last BanquetIn the pre-dawn of the French Revolution, Jean-Marie d’Aumont strives to wrest an ounce of immortality from every experience, taste, and sensation this world has to offer. From his rescue as a child at the foot of a dung heap to his appointment as Lord Master of the Menagerie, d’Aumont’s life is "built almost entirely on a foundation of events colliding." Grimwood takes us on a tour through French history, from the death of the Sun King to the Revolution, but at its heart The Last Banquet is a beautiful--and, at times, macabre--meditation on the inexorable march of history and man’s struggle to leave an indelible mark before his own time is spent.

    The Last Banquet: A Novel, by Jonathan Grimwood ($26.95, Europa Editions), recommended by Amanda, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund

    The Fountain of St. James CourtThis is a fascinating tale of two women artists — writer Kathryn Callaghan in this century and painter Elizabeth Vigée-Le Brun who lived during the French Revolution. Vigée-Le Brun was a real-life portraitist who included Marie Antoinette among her subjects. Callaghan is 70 and brings the wisdom of her age to the story. Naslund offers a very perceptive look at two women as they progress through their art and their lives. A great read!

    The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL.

  • Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

    Quiet DellAward-winning author Phillips has been haunted by this story for 40 years. Her novel is based on the murder of the Chicago widow Asta Eicher and her three children in 1931. Lonely and out of money, Asta corresponds with a seemingly moneyed and well-mannered stranger named Harry Powers. She is lured to West Virginia, where, within a few days, the family is brutally murdered. Emily Thornhill is the Chicago journalist who becomes deeply involved in solving the sensational case, during which she falls into a passionate but problematic love affair. Phillips portrays the Eicher family so charmingly, especially the youngest child, Annabelle, that our horror and outrage are tenfold. This earns a place on the shelf with such classics as Night of the Hunter and In Cold Blood.

    Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips ($28, Scribner) recommended by Lisa, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael


    Set on an island off the coast of NC, this novel explores the unexpected complications in family lives.

    Brother Grace is 17 when he learns that he has a twin. In his efforts to locate him, Brother finds disturbing family secrets mixed in with local political power. Carmichael, a Carrboro resident, writes movingly of Brother's struggle to understand his real family and thus more about himself. For ages 12 and up.

    Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael (Roaring Brook Press), recommended by Carol, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.