GREAT READS HANDPICKED BY GREAT SOUTHERN BOOKSELLERS...

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  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

    How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiIn the follow up to his essential Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi has given us another indispensable book in How to Be an Antiracist. Blending personal memoir with history, social science, law, and social justice, Kendi continues to reframe and redefine what it means to be “antiracist” in the world today. Accessibly written and constantly engaging, How to Be an Antiracist is a perfect book for our historical moment and one that I hope will continue to reshape my own and others’ thinking.

    How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi ($27.00*, One World), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen Prejean

    River of Fire: : My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen PrejeanSr. Helen Prejean's memoir of her spiritual life prior to Dead Man Walking has an engaging conversational tone which makes her journey accessible and interesting--particularly to those interested in the intersection of faith and social justice. Of special interest to Catholics will be the chapters on Vatican II and how the changes affected the life of nuns in convents, but this is highly recommended to people of all faith traditions.

    River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey by Sister Helen Prejean ($27.00*, Random House), recommended by Wordsworth Books, Little Rock, AR.

  • The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

    The Yellow House by Sarah M. BroomSarah M. Broom grew up in New Orleans, New Orleans East to be exact, an area that tourists don't go to. Often neglected by the city administration, the area suffered even greater during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is a memoir of family history, the city's history, class and racism through the lens of the house Sarah grew up in, which was lost to "The Water." As she continues to get pulled back to the city despite her attempts at distance, she struggles with the meaning of "home" when it seems like home is always working against you. Exceptional and moving, this is the kind of memoir against which other memoirs get judged.

    The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom ($26.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

     A Summer 2019 Okra Pick

  • They Bled Blue by Jason Turbow

    They Bled Blue by Jason TurbowWith his last book (the wonderful Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic) Jason Turbow made me a fan of the Oakland A's, a team for which I had no opinion whatsoever. Now with They Bled Blue, the author has made me appreciate the history of a team I actively dislike, maybe even hate. The Dodgers of the late 70's and early 80's were an interesting bunch and Turbow's new book is expertly told and really gives you an entire picture of LA in 1981: the drugs, the celebrities, Fernandomania, the MLB strike of 1981 and the hugely impactful MLBPA victory, the contracts and the inner workings and of course the baseball. Jason Turbow once again strikes gold--or perhaps Dodger blue--with the must-read sports book of the summer.

    They Bled Blue by Jason Turbow ($26.00*, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark

    Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia HardstarkLook. Listen. This is the best book about people talking about their obsession with true crime and pets. Also, their anxiety, therapy, cults, addictions, feminism, and how an overheard story about murder at a party led to a long, coffee-drenched lunch that then led to the My Favorite Murder Podcast and the Murderino Empire (it's an empire if I say it's an empire). It's not a cult, so no need to call your dad...unless he's interested in true crime. Everything you love about the podcast, although Kilgariff and Hardstark dive deeper and share more than ever.

    Warning: May result in screaming "Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered!" to friends, family, and the occasional stranger. But seriously, SSGDM, readers!

    Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark ($24.99*, Forge Books), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Furious Hours by Casey Cep

    Furious Hours by Casey CepI had hoped that reading Casey Cep's Furious Hours would be like listening to some of my favorite true crime podcasts (S-Town, anyone?), and I was not disappointed. The book weaves together the stories of a black reverend suspected of killing off his family members for insurance fraud, the lawyer who defended him in court countless times, and Harper Lee, who had planned to write a book about them. Equal parts biography, history, and reporting, Furious Hours is the rare nonfiction book that actually reads like fiction.

    Furious Hours by Casey Cep ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, VA.

  • Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the '90s Dynasty by Bill Pennington

    Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the '90s Dynasty by Bill PenningtonA great book to get you through the 162-game season, Bill Pennington's book did what I had previously believed to be impossible: made me care about the Yankees. Chumps To Champs is full of big characters with even larger personalities, from legendary Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to quietly effective--and hugely under-appreciated--Buck Showalter. I will never be a Yankees fan but I am a big fan of this book.

    Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the '90s Dynasty by Bill Pennington ($28.00*, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg, Andrew Burstein

    The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg, Andrew BursteinFor most of history, John Adams and his son, John Quincy, have been given a bad rap for being unpopular at their times (both one term presidents) as well as skeptics of democratic government. I used to be one of the haters myself. But as the political situation has progressed (or regressed) over the years and a lot of the problems the Adams's foresaw have come true, we realize maybe the bad rap was a unjustified. This dream team of Isenberg and Burstein dig deep into the political thinking of this father and son who deserve far more credit then they've ever received. Excellent stuff.

    The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg, Andrew Burstein ($35.00*, Viking), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Finding My Voice by Valerie Jarrett

    Finding My Voice by Valerie JarrettI enjoyed this intimate portrayal of Valerie's Jarrett life from childhood to life after eight years in President Obama's administration. This memoir will greatly appeal to anyone who appreciates political memoirs, gender and race studies, or current events.

    Finding My Voice by Valerie Jarrett ($30.00*, Viking), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

  • The Wall by John Lanchester

    The Wall by John Lanchester The Wall is mesmerizing: Lanchester's plain slightly flat, sort of arch style weirdly highlights the deeply disturbing apocryphal apocalyptic and, not to put too fine a point on it, Trumpian (as if you couldn't tell from the title) plot. This is so fun, this book. I read it in one sitting. 

    The Wall by John Lanchester ($25.95*, W. W. Norton & Company), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Parkland Speaks by Sarah Lerner (editor)

    Parkland Speaks by Sarah Lerner (editor)Parkland Speaks is a powerful compilation of essays, poems, photographs and artwork from the survivors of the Parkland High School shooting. I read this book over the course of a week, wanting to spend time with each piece trying to absorb the emotion and experience behind each piece. As a reader, I experience such a  wide range of feelings - sadness for the victims, anger that our country hasn't enacted the change to prevent shootings  like this, but also a lasting sense of hope at these amazing teenagers who are dedicated to sharing their stories and creating true change for the future. Parkland Speaks is  difficult but powerful read that should be required reading for everyone.

    Parkland Speaks by Sarah Lerner (editor) ($17.99*, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Winter 2019 Okra Pick

  • Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick, Josh Greenhut, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

    Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick, Josh Greenhut, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)There was a real "Winnie" and a war and a soldier named Harry Colebourn. There was a zoo--the London zoo--where Winnie met Christopher Robin Milne, the boy who was the real Christopher Robin. Last but not least, there was A. A. Milne who observed and recorded the playful relationship his son had with a very tame and affectionate bear and who continues to challenge us to believe in sweetness and light in a world of loss and sorrow. This is an exciting combination of fact and fiction for older readers. 

    Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick, Josh Greenhut, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator) ($16.99*, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson

    One Person, No Vote by Carol AndersonThis is the book every voter needs to read before the 2018 midterm elections. It's important to know the past so we can change the future. One Person, No Vote is horrifying in its explicit, thorough, and well-researched documentation of voter suppression from 1865 to the present. Highly recommend.

    One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson ($27.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • Crudo by Olivia Laing

    Crudo by Olivia LaingWith any luck, Crudo will be one of most talked about books this year. I sure hope so. Crudo asks questions about narrative proximity and perspective, as it emerges from recent events (Brexit, the 2016 presidential election, the solar eclipse) to articulate what we've felt, what we're feeling. Plus, it's a story. It's a fictionalized memoir by Kathy Acker, not written by Kathy Acker. I found comfort in this book, which is brave to trouble waters of form and subjectivity, and to ask about empathy. 

    Crudo by Olivia Laing ($21.00*, W.W. Norton & Company), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler

    The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew LawlerAs a bookseller on Roanoke Island, I have seen and/or carry possibly every book written on The Lost Colony so I approached this book with some wariness--and then, despite thinking I knew everything there was to know, couldn't put it down!

    Lawler does an astounding job trying to get to the bottom of every single theory ever attached to America's oldest history mystery. The last two decades of digs and research have uncovered new discoveries and he goes to ground on these most current theories as well as every theory proposed since 1587. His research and willingness to explore each rabbit hole--farther than anyone I've ever read--is incredible and exhaustive.

    I already know this is going to be my number one non-fiction/history pick for summer 2018.

    The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler ($29.95*, Doubleday Books), recommended by Downtown Books, Manteo, NC.

  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

    How to Change Your Mind by Michael PollanMichael Pollan has a special gift for spotting subtle, tectonic shifts in our culture’s central values. Then he writes books that bring our awareness to these movements just as the subsurface geologic plates smash together, producing dizzying earthquakes in our institutions and spectacular volcanoes of ideas. Pollan didn’t create the local food movement, but his books helped bring our attention to it, catapulting the conversation to farmers markets and dinner tables everywhere and helping to make mainstream formerly fringe ideas about food, eating, and health.

    In How To Change Your Mind, Pollan has turned his eye to an entirely new field of study. Fifty years after the colossal PR disaster for psychedelics that were the 1960’s, Pollan has documented the quiet efforts of a small but passionate cabal of scientists, activists, doctors, and healers to re-legitimize what had been the deeply buried but extremely promising studies in the 1950’s and early 1960’s looking at the potential of psychedelics (most specifically LSD and Psilocybin) as incredible medicines on a number of health & wellbeing frontiers. What the Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, and Food Rules did for the way we think about our eating habits How to Change Your Mind is set to do for all fields of study involving end of life care, addiction, depression, and (most radically of all) questions of spirituality and meaning.

    “Paradigm shift” is a phrase that has become entirely over-used, but I can think of no better words to describe what Pollan has documented. We may be seeing the beginning of a revolution in several major fields that are every bit as central to who we are as the food we choose to eat. Stop what you are doing, go get a copy of How to Change Your Mind, and strap in for a truly mind expanding read.

    How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan ($28.00*, Penguin Press), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

  • Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

    Heart Berries by Terese Marie MailhotThis is the boldest kind of writing because it speaks directly to people. Terese Marie Mailhot addresses numerous people she has loved in her life--a mother, a father, a lover, and others--and in doing so, she gets right to the core of it: what it feels like to love, to accept love, despite our and its limitations.

    Heart Berries is a deep, wrenching, searching sort of book, and it contains impossibly raw, yet seamless, sentences: "You think weakness is a problem. I want to be torn apart by everything." It isn't sensational. To call anything in this memoir "sensational" would be to eschew its logic.

    Everything in Heart Berries rings true to me. Many up-turned stones appeared familiar, felt new. This writing is tactile. Though it deals in questions of love, health, grief, inheritance, and shame, it gave me something to hold.

    Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot ($23.00*, Counterpoint LLC), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • This Narrow Space by Elisha Waldman

    This Narrow Space by Elisha WaldmanThis Narrow Space is incredibly well written, honest, and compelling! While dealing with some very delicate issues, namely the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and life-threatening pediatric illness, Dr. Waldman manages to express his observations and views without voicing any obnoxious political opinions! He is idealistic, yet humble; brilliant, yet ever eager to seek and to learn. He speaks of everyone with respect. I went into this book interested in the cultural and medical experiences of an accomplished physician; I came out blown away by the reflections of a profoundly gifted writer.

    This Narrow Space by Elisha Waldman ($25.95*, Schocken Books), recommended by Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, FL.

  • Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant

    Dispatches from Pluto by Richard GrantYou think you know Mississippi? I bet you don't know THIS Mississippi. Dispatches from Pluto sheds bright light on a Mississippi that is is confounding and confusing and at times horrifically entertaining.

    This book should be required reading for anyone born and raised in Mississippi, especially those of us who chose to leave. Large portions of Richard Grant's life in The Delta is probably unbelievable to those who have never experienced the rural South. I love the way Grant examines his friendships with those who hold vastly different viewpoints. It is healthy and respectful relationships with those that have different values that make us better people.

    Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant ($16.00*, Simon & Schuster), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Fall 2015 Okra Pick /  A 2016 Southern Book Prize Winner

  • Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan

    Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe HaganWhat a well-written, entertaining trashing of the King of Culture Vultures, Jann Wenner, and his coterie of drug-addled, revoltingly ambitious and very attractive nest-prodders. There’s genuine dish on every single page; as a very young man who read and was consciously influenced by the writing in Rolling Stone, I feel personally insulted and maimed by what these people did to steer the "counterculture", but I have respect for the cohesive and thorough application of their evil will. A useful, engaging, mirror-smashing exposé, highly recommended.

    Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan ($29.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Hotel Scarface by Roben Farzad

    Hotel Scarface by Roben Farzad Roben Farzad's debut is a fast-paced tale of drugs, sex, and Dom Perignon set in a swanky Miami hotel called The Mutiny. The book seems destined for the silver screen until you realize that it's too ridiculous to believe. But that's the thing: every freaky cocaine-fueled moment, each kingpin ordered assassination, every larger-than-life character, every celebrity cameo is actually real. So, put the soundtrack to Miami Vice on the in the background, grab yourself decadent drink, and settle in for a ripping good read!

    Hotel Scarface by Roben Farzad ($26.00*, Berkely Books). recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

     A Fall 2017 Okra Pick

  • Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum

    Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben BlumAn intriguing true tale about a bank robbery committed by a group of Army Rangers, one of whom is the 19-year-old cousin of the author. I think the bottom line is this: we ask the people who fight our wars to do terrible things. Do we then get to ask how they got to be so terrible?

    Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum ($28.95*, Doubleday Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Grant by Ron Chernow

    Grant by Ron ChernowChernow does it again. Common knowledge: Grant won the war for Lincoln; he drank; he came into office as a rank amateur. Chernow gives us a bigger picture: Grant's appreciation for Lee; his stature as the first modern general; his abolitionism; his life in the Gilded Age.

    Grant by Ron Chernow ($40.00, Penguin Press), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair

    From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis BlairThis book is...so...COOL! Maybe I'm just a macabre soul, but Caitlin Doughty argues that much of Western culture has grown too apart from death by avoiding it as much as possible. This prevents us from grieving in proper ways. She takes us around the world studying a variety of different death practices that may leave some of you more squeamish types squirming, but the result is very profound and beautiful and whimsical. It certainly has me thinking about how I would like to go, and now I have so many more ideas (again...macabre)!

    From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Landis Blair ($24.95*, WW. Norton & Company), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

  • October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville

    October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China MiévilleChina Miéville’s October is an electrifying centenary tour through Russia’s axial 1917. Acting as expert guide, he whisks readers through the labyrinthine history of that land, past Tzars and Rasputin, to focus on the intimate details of factory-level debates, cabinet meetings, bureaus, letters, trains, revolutions, and the Revolution. Most of us have a sense of where this particular drama ends or at least what came later, but Miéville throws the reader into scene after scene of this spectacular story. Read more at Lemuria Books blog...

    October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville ($26.95, Verson), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond

    Evicted by Matthew DesmondI know I’ve recommended this book before, but it’s just out in paperback, has won the Pulitzer, and is absolutely required reading. Take a look at how other people are living. Let your compassion motivate you to action. Admire Matthew Desmond’s brilliance.

    Evicted by Matthew Desmond ($17.00*, Broadway Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Flight Path by Hannah Palmer

    Flight Path by Hannah PalmerPart memoir, part urban history, Hannah Palmer's Flight Path is entirely fascinating, witty, and tender. Years after leaving the South for Brooklyn, Palmer returns to Atlanta ready to start a family and searching for her roots. While her husband doubles down on home improvements, a pregnant Palmer hits the pavement, intent on finding out what happened to her childhood homes, which have disappeared along with entire neighborhoods and cities beneath the sprawling complex of the busiest airport in the world. In gorgeous prose at turns poetic and wry, Palmer investigates not only how Hartsfield-Jackson has shaped the city that gave birth to it, but how a city shapes a person, the human relationship to place, and how much anyone can really know "home." Palmer's journey is enthralling, and I found myself questioning, mourning, and hoping along with her. I'll never look at Atlanta the same way again, or any city for that matter.

    Flight Path by Hannah Palmer ($16.95*, Hub City Press), recommended by Hills & Hamlets Bookshop, Chattahoochee Hills, GA.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

    Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom BissellThe best book I've ever read about video games. Bissell takes games seriously as an art form worthy of thoughtful criticism while never idealizing away their flaws. Extra Lives is broken up into memoir-ish chapters focusing on the author's relationship to a single game at a time. "Grand Thefts" is a devastating high point, but they all have unique insights.

    Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell ($15.95*, Vintage Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • Mark Twain's America: A Celebration in Words and Images by Harry L. Katz, Library of Congress

    Mark Twain's America: A Celebration in Words and Images by Harry L. Katz, Library of CongressA perfect gift for anyone who loves presidential biographies and Ken Burns documentaries. Put together by the Library of Congress, this breathtakingly detailed and entertaining book full of American history, shown through the lens of one of its greatest icons, is perfect for any coffee table.

    Mark Twain's America: A Celebration in Words and Images by Harry L. Katz, Library of Congress ($40, Little Brown & Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King

    Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross KingRoss King, author of the very wonderful Brunelleschi’s Dome, takes on Monet, and the fascinating story behind the creation, in the last decade of his life, of the enormous water lily paintings that reside in the Orangerie in Paris. King brings Monet to life in his old age, living quietly in his paradise at Giverny. Given to bouts of discouragement and rage (he slashed or burned many canvases), his vision obscured by cataracts, Monet worked obsessively until his death at 86. King focuses on life in the French countryside during WWI and on Monet’s relationship with his closest friend, Georges Clemenceau, war hero and Prime Minister of France, who kept Monet buoyed up with frequent lunches, drinking, smoking, and amusing correspondence. Clemenceau was instrumental in Monet’s donation of the water lily panels to the people of France, although their friendship nearly ended when year after year Monet would not, or could not, let go of the paintings. Highly recommended for art and WWI buffs.

    Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King ($30.00, Bloomsbury USA), recommended by Lisa, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore

    The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate MooreBe forewarned: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women will make you very, very angry. Now we may look at early 20th Century attitudes toward radium with shock (radium toothpaste? jockstraps?) At the time, corporate America knew the danger, even if consumers didn't. And no one was more vulnerable than the literally glowing women who painted the in-demand radium dials of watches and instruments. Their years of suffering and legal conflicts led to safer working conditions for others. Think of their legacy when someone cavalierly proposes rolling back worker protections.

    The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore ($26.99, Sourcebooks), recommended by Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion

    South and West: From a Notebook by Joan DidionImagine stumbling on ten Beatles songs that got cut from The White Album. South and West is like that, Joan Didion at her thrilling best. These essays were written in 1970, about the time she published, well, The White Album.

    South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion ($21.00, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Ann, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

    Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete BrownIn this Bill Bryson-esque history of pub culture and drinking in England, author Pete Brown carbonates the proceedings with just the right amount of humor and trivia (from "taking you down a peg" to Crocodile Dundee) to make it all go down smoothly.

    Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown ($15.95, Pan Books), recommended by Steve, Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson

    Last Hope Island Britain: Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson

    Both Helen and Rosemary recommend Lynne Olson's new history:

    Rosemary: The contributions of smaller Allied nations (such as Norway) are often overlooked in WWII histories. In the starting days of the war, governments and partisans in exile congregated in London. Olson (Citizens of London) returns to its setting to detail how refugee communities came to England's aid (among them, Polish and Czech pilots for a decimated RAF) and England to theirs. All didn't go swimmingly, but all realized that England indeed was their Last Hope Island against Hitler.

    Helen: Last Hope Island is an eye-opening account of heroic people who refused to give up as Europe fell to the Nazis. They came to Great Britain, calling it "Last Hope Island," to fight until the bitter end. Polish pilots became the most aggressive pilots in the air. When the leader of a French underground spy ring was captured, his young secretary took over. After giving his estate to the Allies to use as a military hospital, a Scottish lord led the soldiers who defused bombs. A fascinating history full of new personal stories from World War II.

    Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War($30, Random House), recommended by Helen and Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

    There's much that's a mystery about Emily Dickinson, but one traumatic event of her life is well-documented: the affair between her brother Austin and Mabel Loomis Todd, an Amherst College professor's wife. Lyndall Gordon uses the affair and the feud it caused to explore Emily Dickinson's life and the untold dramas that fueled her poems. This is riveting reading that will challenge anyone's notion of Dickinson as a quaint spinster.

    Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon ($20, Penguin Books), recommended by Travis, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The Battle for Home The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa Al-Sabouni

    From the publisher: From Syria's tolerant past, with churches and mosques built alongside one another in Old Homs and members of different religions living harmoniously together, the book chronicles the recent breakdown of social cohesion in Syria's cities. With the lack of shared public spaces intensifying divisions within the community, and corrupt officials interfering in town planning for their own gain, these actions are symptomatic of wider abuses of power With firsthand accounts of mortar attacks and stories of refugees struggling to find a home, The Battle for Home is a compelling explanation of the personal impact of the conflict and offers hope for how architecture can play a role in rebuilding a sense of identity within a damaged society.

    From Kimberly at The Country Bookshop: "An architect walks you through the building and character and history of Homs, Syria. Through sketches of buildings and towns, the current situation and how it came to pass is explained."

    The Battle for Home The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa Al-Sabouni ($25.95, Thames & Hudson), recommended by Kimberly, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton

    The first oral biography I ever read, one that sticks with me. Edie Sedgwick: beautiful, wealthy, flighty and famous, falls in with Andy Warhol's coterie in exploding mid-60s New York. Told by a vast array of would-bes, weres and hangers-on, the tale of what happens next (brilliant and bad) is edited to crystal perfection and tragic in its detail.

    Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton ($17, Grove Press), recommended by Matt, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

    The winter months are a great time to read that book you’ve been putting off. For me, it’s Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R.—a sweeping history of all aspects of Roman history. A renowned classicist, Beard illustrates why Rome is still relevant today, with a passion for the subject that appeals to students of Roman history as well as newcomers.

    S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard ($17.95, Liveright Publishing Corporation), recommended by Andy, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

    In the tradition of Wilfred Thesiger's The Marsh Arabs and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Marshlands explores a culture virtually snuffed out under Saddam Hussein, and how we cement our identities by pointing at someone to call "other." Elegant, brief, and searing, the book shivers with the life of a fragile, lost world.

    Marshlands will live on my favorite shelf, for sure. It is a surprising and well-written novel by Matthew Olshan, who also has a fun children’s book titled A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785.

    Marshlands by Matthew Olshan ($14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), recommended by Emöke, Malaprops Books, Asheville, NC.

  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Tim Tyson

    It's been almost 13 years since Tim Tyson's Blood Done Sign My Name, his personal and gut-wrenching story of violent racism in North Carolina. His masterful new book, The Blood of Emmett Till, is already garnering praise from around the country and from the staff at Quail Ridge Books.

    Helen says, "The horrific scenes in this book will be seared in your memory. Tyson takes you back to 1955 and puts you in the middle of the teenager's murder. Relying on extensive research and the only interview the woman involved has ever given, Tyson recounts the crime, the aftermath and the trial. The saving graces of this story are Till's mother, his uncle, one witness, the judge and the prosecutors. They emerge as heroic. Tyson writes a powerful, unrelenting closing where he blames everyone responsible from President Eisenhower on down. All the way through this book, the image of young Emmett Till—fun loving and helpful to his single mother—hovers over the shocking story."

    Rosemary says, "The story of Emmett Till is finally told, with the belated admissions of one of the key participants. What stood out strongest to me, even midst the horrors of Emmett's murder, was the bravery of Mamie Till. Imagine losing your child in such unspeakable circumstances, then putting your pain aside to do all you could to make sure his death wasn't in vain. You won't forget this book, nor should you."

    The Blood of Emmett Till by Tim Tyson (Simon & Schuster $27), recommended by the staff at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    Tim Tyson will visit Quail Ridge Books to discuss the book on Friday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m.

  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

    A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document.

    The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ($13.95, Vintage), recommended by Elizabeth, Charis Books, Atlanta, GA.

  • The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William J. Barber

    Over the summer of 2013, Rev. William Barber led more than a hundred thousand people at rallies across North Carolina to protest cuts to voting rights and the social safety net, which the state's conservative legislature had implemented. These protests, which came to be known as Moral Mondays, have blossomed into the largest social movement the South has seen since the civil rights era and, since then, it has spread to states as diverse as Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Ohio. In The Third Reconstruction, Rev. Barber tells the story of how he helped lay the groundwork for the Moral Mondays movement and explores the unfulfilled promises of America's multiethnic democracy. He draws on the lessons of history to offer a vision of a new Reconstruction, one in which a diverse coalition of citizens black and white, religious and secular, Northern and Southern fight side-by-side for racial and economic justice for all Americans. The Third Reconstruction is both a blueprint for activism at the state level and an inspiring call to action from the twenty-first century's most effective grassroots organizer.

    The Third Reconstruction by the Rev. William J. Barber ($16, Beacon Press), a  Winter 2016 Okra Pick.

  • Hillbilly Elegy (audiobook) by J.D. Vance

    Hillbilly Elegy doesn't make any grand political statements or try to swing its reader's views one way or the other as much as it offers a glimpse into the lives and realities of this distinct segment of American society. The author himself, J.D. Vance, narrates this audiobook and adds an extra level of intimacy to this already extremely personal history of growing up as part of a culture that may be on its way out, but is still very much a way of life for a large portion of Americans. A timely and important listen!

    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance ($14.99, HarperCollins, Audiobook: available from Libro.fm), recommended by Lane, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands

    MacArthur is brilliant, bold and arrogant. Truman is plain-spoken, patient, and determined. Relying on meeting notes, diary entries, letters, and transcripts of Congressional hearings, this book chronicles the Korean conflict by telling the stories of two very powerful personalities. You read spellbound as the drama plays out. Fascinating behind the scenes history!

    The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands ($30, Doubleday), recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

    Tyler loves The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close: This is the story of Beth, a woman who moves to DC when her husband Matt gets a job campaigning for Obama during the 2008 election. For Beth, the city never feels like home until she and Matt become friends with Ash and her husband Jimmy, who also works in the administration. The rest of the novel is a sometimes comedy, always careful study of these four people, and how their friendships, relationships, and professional lives entangle and constrict. The backdrop of the Obama administration and Texas politics are fascinating, and Close's dry humor and sharp observations make The Hopefuls an "open it and realize four hours have gone by" novel.

    The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Tyler at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

  • When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins

    Lauren Collins blew me away with her hilarious and eloquent account of learning French abroad. Armchair linguists and anyone fascinated by words and how they get lost in translation will not be able to put this down.

    When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins (Penguin Press, $27.00), recommended by Katherine at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

    I Will Find You is not light reading, but it is necessary reading for a culture that seems unable to talk reasonably and openly about sexual violence. This nonfiction account of her own rape is filled with unrelenting honesty about sexual violence, race in America, and the realities of incarceration and poverty.

    I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25), recommended by Brian at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

  • In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis

    Like paintings with shadowy figures in darkened corners, the lives of four of our nation's first presidents cannot be fully understood without opening the pages of Kenneth Davis' In the Shadow of Liberty . George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson were founding fathers who risked their lives for the principles of freedom and liberty, while denying these rights to the slaves they owned, bought, and sold their entire lives.

    Davis' exhaustive research and objective narrative reveal men whose lofty ideals were easier to legislate than to apply to their personal lives. The stories of five black slaves whose lives were entwined with these men and their families on a very intimate level are revealed in the context of a society in which the economic value of each could not be denied. Davis highlights the ironic juxtaposition of these bastions of liberty and their enslaved companions with a clarity that made me consider how very difficult it can be to truly live out the values we claim to cherish. A key title in understanding the humanity of these famous Americans for ages 10+.

    In the Shadow of Liberty, (Henry Holt $17.99), recommended by Cindy at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith

    From Cindy: An essential thread in the tapestry of FDR and his legacy, Missy LeHand was intuitive, pragmatic and totally devoted to this controversial president. Kathryn Smith's impeccable research and reader-friendly narrative give us an intimate look at this extraordinary woman and an historical perspective on the pivotal role she played in American politics. The facts, the feelings, and the frictions of the years Missy was a primary player in Roosevelt's inner circle are woven together in this biographical gem.

    From Rosemary: I lived for many years in Hyde Park, so an almost yearly expedition to the FDR Presidential Library down the street was in order. The 'extended family' that he invited into the White House was essentially on a 24/7 on-call status for years, and this eclectic mix of staff, family, and friends (some belonging to multiple categories) always fascinated me. I am delighted to finally find material on Missy LeHand, a woman ahead of her time. Her story also reveals inner circle anecdotes about FDR's band, and indeed, on FDR himself. The pre-presidential accounts of his battle with polio, and Missy's efforts toward his recovery are new to me, and worth the book alone.

    The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith, ($28, Touchstone), recommended by Cindy and Rosemary, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Plague on All Our Houses: Medical Intrigue, Hollywood, and the Discovery of AIDS by Bruce J. Hillman

    A Plague on All Our Houses examines the AIDS epidemic and the doctors behind the discovery of its cause and the tangled motivations of the search.  Readers delve into knowledge about how academia works, and whether the work is for ego or for helping the sick. The book also details how Hollywood and the government would not acknowledge what was happening as the crisis developed.

    A Plague on All Our Houses by Bruce J. Hillman (Foreedge, $29.95), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson

    I obsessively checked out campaign coverage this election season, and it was a relief to examine turning points in past presidential campaigns and already know how everything turned out.

    Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History by John Dickerson, (Twelve, $30.00), recommended by Niki at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 by Nicholas Stargardt

    This one really grabbed me, a 570-page history of WWII, The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945, by Nicholas Stargardt, an historian at Oxford. It explores the feelings and changing beliefs of ordinary Germans and their reactions to the war as it progresses. It's incredibly well-written, not text-bookish at all, and I couldn't put it down. It is based on correspondence between, for example, German soldiers and their wives, mothers, fiancées as well as memoirs. I hesitated to recommend this book because of its length, but that was not an impediment to me as I got into it. It's not your ordinary history book.

    The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–1945 (Basic $35), by Nicholas Stargardt, recommended by Mari Lu, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC.

  • The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif

    All the intimacy and power that Anne Frank's war diary gave us--the real breath and thoughts and fears of a human living under inhumane circumstances--are aged and magnified in Saif's account of war in Gaza.

    For 51 days he and his fellow Gazans live--and die--with the knowledge that life and death are a game of luck, controlled at the hands of an Israeli drone operator. Peace is not permitted for the people of Gaza, restricted by birth to a nation of contested land and continued acts of terror, violence, and grief. This was sixty years of life savings!- a man screams atop the rubble of his home. Ambulances screech all day long, gathering body parts of children and families that moments ago were survivors of the war, and now are its casualties.

    Saif and his friends flip a coin on the street--heads, the truce ends, tails, the truce continues. The children fight to plug in their iPads when the electricity comes on, while the adults watch the news to hear which of their friends has been obliterated in their homes this week.

    This is the fourth war Saif has lived through, and he knows that it is only by luck that he has lived, and that this war will not be the last--that one day his luck may run out. This is an essential read for those in search of peace in the midst of modern-day warfare, and even more essential for those who aren't sure which side they stand on.

    The Drone Eats with Me by Atef Abu Saif (Beacon Press) Recommended by Clara at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • White Rage by Carol Anderson

    What the hell is wrong with white people?

    Seriously, what is going on in the white community that white folks all over the nation express; one, a sense of surprise by the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore; and two, complete ignorance of their role in the continued devaluation of black and brown life?

    What level of denial must one operate to miss the connection between their neo-liberal, fascist, white supremacist policies and the continued killing of black and brown bodies all over this country and beyond? How can a people and its government founded on the principles of chattel slavery privatize prisons (and fill them disproportionately with black and brown bodies), de-fund then close mostly black and brown schools, and concentrate wealth among a small number of white males while pretending it has achieved a "post-racial" society?

    Carol Anderson's newest book examines the latest iterations of white rage, and uncovers the deep layers of white denial that continues to fuel racial violence in this country.

    White Rage by Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury) Recommended by Manny at Acappella Books Atlanta GA

  • 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History by Andrew Morton

    Treat yourself to a riveting and real life royal war time thriller! 

    Was American born and twice divorced Wallis Simpson truly in love and trying to win the heart of King Edward VIII, who was then demoted to a mere Duke as penance for loving her in return?

    Author Andrew Morton provides sizzling and shocking details to provide some compelling answers to this key question, while raising many other questions along the way.

    17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History by Andrew Morton (Grand Central Publishing) Recommended by Diane at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era by Dan Berger

    Much like his previous book, The Outlaws of America: the Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, Berger focuses herein on the radical edge of the 1960s/70s movement.

    His argument, hardly a new one, is what caused the radicalization of the civil rights movement was the attempt to imprison its most impassioned voices. The leadership of what came to be the Black Power movement was schooled for revolution behind the walls of the American supermax prison system.

    Perhaps the most influential name of Black Power, George Jackson did not leave prison alive, yet he remains a powerful symbol near half a century after George Jackson was shot down in the prison yard at San Quentin.

    Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era by Dan Berger (University of North Carolina Press) Recommended by Glen at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

    A history book that is eminently readable, this is a great book for any anglophile to learn about British History from Henry II and Thomas Becket through Richard II and the houses of York and Lancaster.

    The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones (Penguin Books) Recommended by MB at Octavia Books New Orleans LA

  • But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking about the Present as If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

    Whether this is the most philosophical pop culture book I’ve ever read or the most pop-culture drenched philosophy book I’ve ever read, I don’t know.

    But I do know I can’t stop thinking--and as my family and co-workers can attest, talking--about the ideas Klosterman ponders here. Whether reflecting on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or the internet’s reaction to the death of Dusty Rhodes, Klosterman has a breadth and depth of knowledge to cover a lot of cultural ground here.

    A most rewarding read!

    But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking about the Present as If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman (Blue Rider Press) Recommended by Frank at A Cappella Books Atlanta GA

  • The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture by Pamela Haag

    With a focus on the manufacturers rather than the consumers, Haag’s book helps unravel the mythic existence of the American gun. 

    And don’t worry, the book is also completely free from Second-Amendment-bashing tirades. Instead, Haag offers a clear-eyed historical account of how guns became so pervasive in our culture and what we should do moving forward.

    This book makes clear that Americans were not inherently gun-happy, that they had to be sold on them like any other product. This book is essential for anyone interested in what’s actually being said in the current debate over guns.

    The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture by Pamela Haag (Basic Books) Recommended by Donovan at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

    In this fascinating history, big personalities emerge.

    Benedict Arnold, charismatic, arrogant, and reckless, verges on madness in battle.  George Washington, indecisive at first, evolves into a strategic military leader and eventually figures out how to win.

    You realize that things like the direction of the wind or when a river freezes or who gets promoted determine victory or defeat.

    This book includes 100 pages of notes and sources, lots of maps, many portraits, and Benedict Arnold's treasonous coded letter!

    Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolutionby Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas

    What an adventurous life it was! Louisa married John Quincy Adams when she was 21, and followed him to diplomatic posts in Germany, Prussia, St. Petersburg and eventually the United States. 

    You share her struggles through multiple miscarriages, the deaths of two babies and years of separation from her children. You're there at the high points, such as her presentation to the court of the tzar. In Washington her parties and balls became legendary. 

    Full of first person accounts, from Louisa's memoirs to John Quincy's diary...Louisa makes you feel as if you know this woman. Fabulous history!

    Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas (Penguin Press) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats by William Geroux

    In Sea Fever, John Masefield's sailors go down to the sea and ask in part for quiet sleep and a sweet dream.

    The sailing men of Mathews, of whom there were many, had no illusions about what they were getting into when they flooded the Navy and Merchant Marine during WWII. The Mathews Men is the story, long too-quiet, about usually poor men who stepped up for the sake of their country and their families – and who also had an almost uncanny affinity for seamanship.

    If you loved The Boys in the Boat, you'll also fall for these men on ships.

    The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-Boats by William Geroux (Viking) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC.

  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

    Clementine and Winston Churchill, both from aristocratic families, had the wedding of the year. 

    Photos in the papers, people lining the route to the church, and reports of a six hour wedding dress alteration session.  Because Clementine and Winston exchanged over 1,700 letters, we get a fascinating, up close look at their relationship through the years. 

    Winston was impulsive, defensive and rash.  Clementine was thoughtful, strong and strategic.  During World War I, she organized canteens for munition workers.  During World War II, she volunteered as a fire watcher, sitting on rooftops and calling in fires during air raids.  She and Winston went out in the dark after the bombing stopped and toured the bomb sites with flashlights. 

    Clementine is an extraordinary love story against the backdrop of tumultuous history.  I loved it!

    Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell (Viking) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

    An incredible story of a 14-year-old boy whose African village is devastated by drought.

    Reading in the little village library and scavenging for parts he accomplishes the impossible. I loved this book when it first came out in 2009, and now a young readers edition has just been released in paperback.

    Truly inspirational, the author demonstrates that anything is possible with education and determination.

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon (Harper Perennial) Recommended by Andy Brennan at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • Pacific by Simon Winchester

    Simon Winchester takes on the Pacific Ocean in his latest popular history.

    To tackle a topic that is too big to adequately cover in a one volume, Winchester instead tells 10 different stories that all have the Pacific as a common thread. From nuclear testing on Bikini Island to the transfer of Hong Kong from Britian to China, Winchester illustrates the wide and varied impact the Pacific has had and continues to have on our planet.

    Whereas the Mediterranean was the focus of the ancient world and the Atlantic the center of current times, the author convincingly argues that the Pacific will be the most important ocean in our future.

    Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision by Simon Winchester (Harper) Recommended by Andy Brennan at Parnassus Books Nashville TN

  • Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman

    Possibly to my parents chagrin, I've always had an intense fascination with dangerous places and conflicts, and the men and women who risk their lives to share them with the world. Tim Hetherington was one such man.

    A immensely talented and singular photojournalist, he managed not only to record some of today's most dangerous conflicts, but he did so in such a way as to put a human face to these faraway wars.

    Here I Am chronicles his time in Liberia, his celebrated work with the soldiers of Afghanistan (as well as his involvement with Sebastian Junger and the documentary Restrepo) and the months leading up to his tragic death in Libya in 2011. Huffman, like Hetherington did before him, has taken a larger-than-life figure and contained him within one concise, emotional and inspiring portrait.

    Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer by Alan Huffman (Grove Press) Recommended by Amanda at Inkwood Books Tampa FL

  • Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

    I loved this account of the precocious 19-year-old French marquis who was determined to join George Washington and the Americans against the British.

    Dry history this is not. Just as in Unfamiliar Fishes (the story of the American takeover of Hawaii), Vowell's writing is a constant reality check on history; her narrative is liberally peppered with her own irreverent, yet spot-on observations, and she is so good at showing how we are always linked to our past.

    In Lafayette, the marquis succeeds, though in the process he discovers a more fragmented people than he'd imagined, and through him, Vowell reveals the particular magic of our country's union and disunion.

    Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead Books) Recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy by William Doyle

    You read spellbound as young JFK swims miles behind enemy lines in shark infested waters with the life jacket strap of his oldest and most injured crew member clinched in his teeth, leading his sailors to safety on a deserted island. 

    He goes back out alone in the black sea, treading water for hours hoping to flag down a passing American ship.  JFK was only 25 years old, on his own, having volunteered for combat.  Years later he kept a glass paperweight on his desk in the oval office that contained the coconut that he had carved a message in and sent to his base alerting his commander to his crew's location.

    Fabulous history!

    PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy by William Doyle (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Helen at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Our Man In Charleston by Christopher Dickey

    Britain’s Consul in Charleston before and during the early years of the Civil War painted one picture for the Southern in Charleston where he lived and quiet another for England.

    Robert Bunch’s secret correspondence with the British Foreign Office made clear his hostility to slavery and was credited by some as the reason the British did not become involved in the War. Robert was an unlikely spy.

    Our Man In Charleston by Christopher Dickey (Crown) Recommended by Vickie at Litchfield Books Pawley's Island SC

  • Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts

    In Capital Dames, Cokie Roberts introduces us to the fascinating women from the north and south living in Washington DC. As you read you find the Civil War not only changed Washington DC but also changed the lives of women living in America.

    As the city evolved into a sprawling union Army camp many of the southern belles fled to confederate territory while some became nurses and spies. At the same time many other women moved to the capitol to fill positions previously held by men who were now fighting the war.

    The details of the lives of these women and their contribution to history before, during, and after the war help you understand just how important they were to America.

    Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts (Harper) Recommended by Vickie at Litchfield Books Pawley's Island SC 

  • The High Line by James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

    The High Line is a one-and-a-half-mile-long public park on an elevated stretch of obsolete freight railway on the West Side of Manhattan.

    Before I had actually visited (and then immediately fallen in love with) the High Line, somebody tried to describe it to me and I just couldn't envision it. If only this book had existed then, I may have understood something of the magic that awaited me.

    Documenting in exquisite detail the design, development, and construction of the project, as well as the history of the area, the book is a perfect little window onto a very special place. And like everything that Phaidon does, it is elegant, sumptuous, and stunning.

    The High Line by James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio, Renfro (Phaidon Press) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

    Marked by excess and jazz, the 1920s was also a time of séances and Spiritualism, of reconnecting with lives claimed by the Great War.

    One beautiful and uncannily talented Boston medium called Margery won countless devotees and skeptics alike. When a rivalry ensued between Margery and Harry Houdini, the nation was captivated.

    Her story is now unearthed by a writer whose ability to give voice to the dead must surely rival her own.

    The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher (Crown Publishing) Recommended by Carla at Square Books Oxford MS

     

  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

    This should be required reading in any US history class for any age. Steve Sheinkin is a master at taking the most complex historical events and issues and rendering them personal and accessible. He not only makes the scope of this long, long war manageable, but personifies it in the evolution of Ellsberg from deeply patriotic analyst into an equally patriotic anti-war activist.

    If you are too young to have lived during the Vietnam War era, you will soon appreciate what it did to this country. If you lived then and think you knew what was going on, you will be surprised by the revelations Sheinkin has unearthed.

    Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President by David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler

    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

     

  • Seam by Tarfia Faizullah

    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

  • Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports by Jay M. Smith, Mary Willingham

    It's been in the news for years, but Jay Smith & Mary Willingham's Cheated lays out the UNC academic/sports deception and prime players in all its breathtaking scope.

    Follow the timeline and see how the dots are connected. While I'd read about the scandal, Cheated was full of revelations. Even more than for UNC, the authors make clear how this fits into a history of multi-institutional disgrace.

    What happens next is urgent for the landscape of collegiate money-making sports and its players.

    Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports by By Jay M. Smith, Mary Willingham (Potomac Books) Recommended by Rosemary at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

    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.

  • Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse by Robin Hutton

    Once in a rare while, you hit on a true story so good you wonder that someone hasn't written a book about it. Robin Hutton struck gold with the life and times of Sgt. Reckless.

    Race horse, combat soldier, war hero, mom – this petite filly did it all. No one told HER females didn't belong in combat. So sit back with a beer (Reckless enjoyed the occasional brew) and just absorb what this equine Marine accomplished.

    Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse by Robin Hutton ($27.99, Regnery History), recommended by Rosemary 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.

  • Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark

    After John Jacob Astor makes a fortune in New York, he plans Astoria, a trading post on the Pacific coast.

    His explorers face storms, mutinies, shipwrecks, starvation, murders and insanity, and finally give up. Astor's vision of Pacific Rim trade is put on hold for a couple of centuries. Astonishing history!

    Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival  By Peter Stark ($27.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Helen, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • A Train in Winter by Carolina Moorehead

    How could these women be so brave? This is the story of women who risked everything to do what they felt they must--resist the German occupation. Captured, imprisoned and then deported to Ausch­witz they were subjected to unspeakable atrocities. What saved 49 of them was luck and their determination to face their situation together. Their story is gut-wrenching and their heroism is inspiringg

    A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France By Caroline Moorehead ($15.99, Harper Perennial), recommended by Rene, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill by Gretchen Rubin

    I love this collection – quick read that you can pick up and start from any chapter. The author deftly shows you one side of this historic man and then in a flash, shows the conflicting side. There is so much information about Winston Churchill in the literary world, this book breaks it down simply into the man that was an artist, a father, a husband and a world leader. You gain a little glimpse into the contradictions that ruled his world.

    Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life By Gretchen Rubin ($17, Random House Trade), recommended by Linda, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball

    Ball’s tell-all book of his family’s entwinement (in every conceivable manner) in antebellum slavery is a thoroughly researched history specific to the Ball family of South Carolina.

    It’s well-written and heroically candid. But more than all that, it is a look at contemporary America, forcing us to examine the aftermath (for both races) of slavery and its legacy into the 21st century.

    Slaves in the Family By Edward Ball ($17.95, Ballantine Books), recommended by Connie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus by Dean N. Jensen

    What an astonishing book! It shines a spotlight on Leitzel and Alfredo, the two most famous stars in circus history. Leitzel, tiny with golden hair, did one hundred flips on Roman rings, and Alfredo did The Triple, three somersaults while flying between trapezes. Queen of the Air recounts their hard beginnings, their star-crossed love, and their tragic ends. You'll feel like you have a seat under the Big Top!

    Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus  by Dean N. Jensen ($26, Crown), recommended by Helen, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Alternate Histories of the World by Matthew Buchholz

    This remarkable collection of maps, photographs, engravings and paintings from the early ages to modern day provides a stunning new look at the world as defined by our struggles and alliances with the monsters and supernatural creatures that have defined our existence

    Learn how a mechanical man helped write America’s Declaration of Independence. Track the course of the Living Dead virus from Africa to Europe and on to the New World.

    Alternate Histories of the World by Matthew Buchholz (Perigee Trade) Recommended by Will at Fountain Bookstore Richmond VA

  • Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King


    This book is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the great masterpieces of art, Leonardo's painting of The Last Supper.

    Leonardo painted this despite war, political and religious turmoil around him and through his research King reveals much about this fascinating period in European history as well as dozens of stories embedded in the painting.

    Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King (Walker & Company), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting by Alan Greenspan

    Perhaps because of his great failure to predict the 2008 crash, Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve Board, has turned his attention to the history of economic prediction and the future of economic forecasting. Comparing the old models of risk management with the new technologies of economic behavior, Greenspan rewrites the map of prediction.

    The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting by Alan Greenspan (Penguin Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines NC.

  • The Letters of John F. Kennedy by John F. Kennedy, Martin W. Sandler (editor)


    This collection is the first to present significant conversations in their entirety between JFK and his correspondents, including historical giants like Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harry Truman and Nikita Khruschev as well as his school friends, Navy comrades and everyday Americans.

    The book includes images from his presidential library and facsimiles of many letters!

    The Letter of John F. Kennedy by John F. Kennedy, Martin W. Sandler (editor) ($30.00, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Kimberly, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines NC.