Lady Banks' Commonplace Book is a blog for people interested in Southern literature, sponsored by booksellers who are members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and featuring the latest literary news and events around the South from Her Ladyship, the Editor.




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January 12, 2020

On taking advice about what to read next
In which Ms. Devi S. Laskar wins a glass of wine (and the Crooks Corner Book Prize), Ms. Patti Callahan Henry receives the Harper Lee Award and is rather overwhelmed, and it only takes five different peoples' recommendation for her ladyship, the editor, to pick up a book.


Dearest Readers
The Night Country is a star-spun world of horror and wonder you'll want to live in forever. -- Square Books, Oxford, MS

Like most readers, her ladyship, the editor, will pick up books at the urging of friends and family, and the other people in her life whose literary taste and opinions she has learned to trust.

The Hazel Wood was merely the introduction to the dark and sinister world of fairy tales that Albert so lovingly crafted, and The Night Country is the firing of the cannon and the explosion and aftermath that follows.-- Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

Naturally, this group includes quite a few booksellers, whose reviews and opinions find their way to her nearly every day. So many fascinating books! It can be a little hard on her ladyship's book budget.

Melissa Albert must be made of magic, because The Night Country is somehow even more thrilling, delightful, creepy, and full of surprises than its predecessor. -- Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

Sometimes, one book really stands out, because it is recommended not just by one bookseller, or two, or three, or four....

Albert has managed to stretch the limitations of story itself. True thrills, horror, mystery, and more of the original fairytales we've come to expect await in this brilliant follow-up. -- Books and Books, Coral Gables, FL

...but five different bookstores, independently of each other, over the last couple months.

The Night Country skirts between dark fantasy and horror. It takes the rich world building of The Hazel Wood and somehow makes it thicker, more viscous, until the reader is inevitably tangled up with Alice and Emory and the less than savory denizens of the Hinterlands. I loved every minute of it. -- Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

The Night Country, Lisa Albert's follow up to The Hazel Wood, and the book all the booksellers have been talking about. See why.

Read independently, and shop local.

her ladyship, the editor

Lady Banks Pick of the Week

Lady Banks Commonplace Book

Lady Banks Commonplace Book

Excerpted noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers
Buy it here

You don't go to Owsley County, Kentucky, without a reason. You can't take a wrong turn and accidentally end up there. It's miles to the nearest interstate, and there's no hotel in town. It doesn't cater to outsiders.

A half dozen times each year, I drive to Owsley County, where my mom grew up, and where, in many ways, I did too. The roads to this tiny Appalachian community wind tightly through the mountains, snaking around corners and plunging into valleys. Even after all my years of making the journey, I still feel a bit nauseous on some of the curves.

On this drive, I'm talking to one of my legal clients on the phone. "Yes, I'll meet you at the courthouse at eight A.M. Thursday," I yell, as though increasing my volume will make up for the patchy cell service. "Yes, eight A.M.!"

This client has called me repeatedly over the past few days, and this isn't the first time I've confirmed the time of her hearing. We are going to court to get a protective order to keep her safe from her physically abusive husband. I can tell she's nervous.

I start to say something to comfort her, but I'm interrupted by three short beeps letting me know that I have--once again--lost service. CALL FAILED flashes across the screen, and I can't help but feel as though this call isn't the only thing failing in my legal practice these days. I decided to work as a legal services lawyer in rural Kentucky to make a difference--to represent women who couldn't afford an attorney. Everything is harder than I'd anticipated. I sigh and switch on the radio.

Ballantine Books | 9781984818911 | January 7, 2020

Read This!

Read This

Books with Street Cred, Reviewed by Southern Booksellers

H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness Volume 2 adapted and illustrated by Gou Tanabe
Buy it here

For eras untold, worshippers of great Cthulhu have sought a graphic novel able to fully capture H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic terrors. Considering all those aforementioned terrors are portrayed as unimaginable or indescribable, and everyone who sees them goes mad, many had begun to believe no such book could be produced. But I am here to tell you that after strange aeons, Gou Tanabe has finally answered the question, Can you distill Lovecraft’s terror into images? And the answer is a spine-tingling, sanity-shattering, totally-awesome yes. Read if you dare. -- Zach Claypole White, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

Darkest and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Buy it here

This is an amazing story that flips between Roma characters in the 1500's that are suffering from the " dancing plague" and a modern town that has a magical week once a year called "the Glimmer". I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it in three hours! I appreciated the beautiful prose and the way that the characters were introduced and created. They all aged and changed wonderfully. I will definitely be nominating this book for Indie Next and all other awards! -- Katlin Kerrison, Story On the Square, McDonough, GA

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener
Buy it here

The author provides an account of the culture of the Silicon Valley of the early 2010s, from the point of view of an outsider who finds herself working at a start-up there. Her insight and wry sense of humor make this a delightful, if deeply unsettling, read. -- Anne Peck, Righton Books, St Simons Island, GA

More bookseller reviews

The Okra Picks

Okra Picks

Great new Southern books, picked by Southern booksellers.

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome
Buy it here

In a story of the Great Migration, a young girl travels with her family by train from North Carolina to New York. How James Ransome hasn’t been awarded a Caldecott yet is beyond me … his art is divine and the accompanying words by Lesa Cline-Ransome are poetic. A wonderful and important picture book for elementary school-aged children. – Else Stutts, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

Ruth Ellen's odyssey on the New York Bound Silver Meteor is the start of a new life up North that she can't begin to imagine in this gorgeously illustrated picture book.

Overground Railroad

In poems, illustrated with collage art, a perceptive girl tells the story of her train journey from North Carolina to New York City as part of the Great Migration. Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view.

Overground Railroad offers a window into a child's experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators behind Finding LangstonBefore She was HarrietBenny Goodman & Teddy Wilson, and Just a Lucky So and So.

Holiday House | 9780823438730 | January 7, 2020

More Okra Picks

Front Porch Gossip

Front Porch Gossip

News of interest across the literary South...

Devi S. Laskar wins Crook's Corner Book Prize for The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Devi S. Laskar’s The Atlas of Reds and Blues, published by Counterpoint Press, is the winner of the seventh annual Crook’s Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South. This year’s judge was National Book Award-winning author Charles Frazier, who says, “I loved the very focused and concise ideas and dramatic situation, the efficient and effective structure, the strong and precise language.”

The Atlas of Reds and Blues grapples with the complexities of second-generation American life. Inspired by the author’s own terrifying experience of a mistaken police raid on her home,

Keep reading...

Odd Bird Books to open in Columbia, South Carolina

Benjamin Adams, a former employee of Blue Bicycle Books in downtown Charleston, has decided to use a little less than 500 square feet of space in the Arcade Mall for his independent bookstore. He hopes to have about 1,000 books on hand for customers to consider. “It’s cozy,” Adams said.

Keep reading...

Patti Callahan Henry named recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama's Distinguished Writer

Of her award Henry said, “I am overwhelmed, thrilled and honored to become part of this lasting legacy. Alabama has shaped my life, and my family’s life, in rich and powerful ways. I am overwhelmed and ecstatic to join the distinguished ranks of the other Harper Lee Award winners. Thank you from the bottom of my writer’s heart for this distinguished recognition: I am so happy to accept it.” 

Growing up in Philadelphia, Patti learned early the value of storytelling. At the age of twelve, her family moved to South Florida where Patti found the sanctuary of libraries and began her slow but steady journey into understanding the power of story to navigate confusing times in life.

Keep reading...

The Southern Independent Bestseller List

southern bestseller list

For the week ending 1/5/2019


1. The Dutch House Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
2. Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens, Putnam, $26, 9780735219090
3. The Starless Sea Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541213
4. Such a Fun Age Kiley Reid, Putnam, $26, 9780525541905
5. Olive, Again Elizabeth Strout, Random House, $27, 9780812996548


1. The Body Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 9780385539302
2. Educated Tara Westover, Random House, $28, 9780399590504
3. The Yellow House Sarah M. Broom, Grove Press, $26, 9780802125088
4. Talking to Strangers Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, $30, 9780316478526
5. The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 Dan Buettner, National Geographic, $30, 9781426220135

See what's special to the Southern List!



What's happening at Southern indies across the South?
Find the full Events calendar here...

Alice Faye Duncan: Just Like a Mama
Tue Jan 14th 6:00pm - 8:00pm | novel., Memphis, TN

Celebrate the heart connection between adopted children and the forever families who welcome them with kindness, care, and unconditional love in this powerful picture book from the author of Honey Baby Sugar Child.

Keep reading... | More events at novel.

Author Mamta Chaudhry
Wed Jan 15th 6:00pm - 8:00pm | Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

Join us on January 15 at 6 pm to hear author Mamta Chaudhry talk about her debut historical novel Haunting Paris (published by Random House),  timeless story of love and loss takes a mysterious turn when a bereaved pianist discovers a letter among her late lover's possessions, launching her into a decades-old search for a child who vanished in the turbulence of wartime Paris. Mamta Chaudhry's profoundly moving debut matches emotional intensity with lyrical storytelling to explore grief, family secrets, and the undeniable power of memory, while using vivid imagery and deep historical understanding to capture a city in breathtaking new ways.

Keep reading... | More events at Copperfish Books

Cheryl Gerber - Cherchez La Femme Book Signing
Thu Jan 16th 6:00pm - 7:00pm | Garden District Bookshop, New Orleans, LA

New Orleans native Cheryl Gerber captures the vibrancy and diversity of New Orleans women in Cherchez la Femme: New Orleans Women. Inspired by the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC, Gerber’s book includes over two hundred photographs of the city’s most well-known women and the everyday women who make New Orleans so rich and diverse. 

Keep reading... | More events at Garden District Bookshop

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Lady Banks is sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Drive | Asheville, NC 28805

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