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!

  • The Last Taxi Driver by Lee Durkee

    The Last Tax Driver

    Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: The Last Taxi Driver by Lee Durkee
    Tin House Books | List Price: $25.95.

    A Winter 2020 Okra Pick!

    .novel, Memphis, TN

    The Last Taxi Driver is both amusing and discomforting at the same time. The frenetic pace of the novel takes Lou, one of the last drivers of a dying profession, through the darkened corners of the Mississippi Delta, in which almost every character displays some form of codependency. Between the hospital, the liquor store, the local seedy motel, and the nearby city of Memphis... every passenger seems to be going nowhere, even though they have somewhere to be. The main character compares himself to Charon in Greek mythology (and rightfully so) as he ferries meth-heads, drunk prep students, convicts, and elderly women to their destinations. Though it’s a quick read reminiscent of Bukowski, this story will also resonate with lovers of the dark comedy and tragedy so closely associated with Southern literature.

    Square Books, Oxford, MS

    Lee Durkee’s debut novel Rides of the Midway was published in 2001. This funny and affecting Bildungsroman set in Mississippi perfectly captured the 70s. Almost twenty years later, Durkee delivers his sophomore novel The Last Taxi Driver about a pre-Uber driver, Lou, in a small town. In a fever dream of events, Lou shares his philosophy, knowledge and rules for driving. By turns hilarious, angry and sweet, once again Durkee perfectly captures the mood of our time.

    Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

    On this hilarious and harrowing tour through small-town Mississippi, criminal misfits, beleaguered addicts, and hospital escapees climb in and out of Lou’s dilapidated cab, leaving behind each time a striking stench, a thoughtful line, or, in one passenger’s case, an entire pizza. As Lou drives and drives (and drives), these encounters slowly sap him of his sanity, such that the borders between reality and imagination, between the present and memory become bleary and permeable. By the time this dizzying, darkly comic taxi ride finally comes to an end, we emerge into the Mississippi night feeling repulsed and exhausted, but also, somehow, revived and grateful.

  • The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

    The Third Rainbow Girl "You cannot treat women only for a disease of which men are the main carriers. Nor, I knew, could you punish every man who fell ill." ~ Emma Copley Eisenberg

    The Third Rainvow Girl is part true crime, part memoir, and fully compelling. On the frame of the unsolved Rainbow Murders Eisenberg hangs a discussion of Appalachian life and the complicated history its people have with one another, their history, and the rest of the nation. Traditional true crime reads may find the structure off-putting at first, but the alternating of past and present day events give a richer picture of a community defined by the murder of outsiders.Content warning for discussions of violence, bigotry, alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault.

    The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg (List price: $27.00, Hachette Books), recommended by Page 158 Books, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

  • Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

    Big Lies in a Small Town

    Southern indie booksellers are buzzing about: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
    St. Martin's Press | List Price: $27.99.

     A Winter 2020 Okra Pick

    Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

    Big Lies in a Small Townis the story of the artist Anna Dale in Edenton, NC in 1940. It is also the story of the artist Morgan Christopher in Edenton, NC in 2018. Each story is a fascinating look at a small Southern town including the social mores that prevailed. Each story is a fascinating character study of women who have faced tragedy and hardship and how they overcame it. Each story is a story of love and friendship. Each story could have stood on its own but they are woven together brilliantly to produce a novel that will make you just as curious as Morgan was to find out what happened to Anna and why in the world did she paint such gory things into a mural that was supposed to be hung in the town post office as a representation of the town of Edenton. If you love great Southern fiction, if you love a mystery, if you love rich characters, and if you love history and art you will not want to miss this fabulous novel.

    Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

    This caught my eye because it's my usual fave (twisty mystery!) and it's set in Edenton, NC--a tiny coastal town where my in-laws happen to live. I love the town so I knew I'd love a book set there and I was right. This story stands on its own even despite the family connection and I was taken by it from the start. Morgan is released from a prison sentence under the condition that she restores an old mural from the 40s that has been badly damaged. She has no background in art restoration and is surprised to find out that she was chosen by a late artist she had admired but never met, and his conditions were strict so she has no choice but to accept. Anna, the original artist on the mural, tells her half of the story in flashback alternating chapters. We learn that she was chosen to paint the mural over some local artists and she has to deal with that fallout once she arrives in town to start work. She takes on some students to assist and becomes close with one in particular. Anna's story takes us down a dark path of racism and violence in the small town and as Morgan works on the mural, Anna's secrets unfold in a twisted, sad tale. The characters in the book leap off the page and weave a tale of family, friendship, death, and despair that will keep you glued to the pages until the final secret is revealed.

    Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

    Diane brings to life two strong women in different times struggling against the constraints they have imposed on themselves. Morgan Christopher takes the fall for a crime she did not commit, and is serving a three-year stint in a North Carolina prison. Desperate to leave prison she agrees to restore a mural in a small town, shrouded in secrets. What she finds under the layers of years of dirt and neglect is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, a conspiracy and maybe clues to a 1940s disappearance of the original mural painter. Diane writes with such a keen eye to detail and this book will take you for a ride while making you understand the why of someone's mistakes.

    Sunrise Books, High Point, NC

    Switching between 1940 and 2018 in the small town of Edenton, NC, this story slowly unfolds to reveal the slow decline (into insanity?) of artist, Anna Dale, (1940). Anna was from New Jersey, and some folks felt she had no place painting a mural depicting their small Southern town; especially when they had a talented local artist! Anna bucks against the social racism of the day when she "hires" a young African-American teen to help in her work, and runs afoul of the "movers and shakers."

    Morgan Christoper, just released from prison (2018), is given the job of restoring the mural that Anna painted decades ago. Chosen for the job even though she has NO experience in art restoration, and there is a nearly impossible deadline imposed on the completion of the restorative process. Seems a set-up for failure, but failure is not an option for many reasons. Diane Chamberlain delivers another superb novel for her loyal followers!

  • 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

  • Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

    Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather WebberAs a North Alabama resident, I was delighted to learn about this new novel set right here at home. Wicklow, Alabama, is a little town that has a made-up name but feels oh-so-familiar. The southern food, characters, and community all drew me right in, and I fell in love with this charming story about a young woman who comes to Wicklow to take over her Granny Zee's café upon her death. Like Anna Kate, many of the charcters in this little town are struggling with grief of one kind or another, and yet this book isn't sad. It shows the wonderful way that a close-knit community can come together to lift each other up. The novel blends magical realism with true southern storytelling, and I can't wait to share this book with readers near and far. Sit down with some blackberry tea and a piece of pie, and let this novel feed your soul.

    Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber ($24.99*, Forge Books), recommended by The Snail on the Wall, Huntsville, AL.

  • The Substitution Order by Martin Clark

    The Substitution Order by Martin ClarkMartin Clark's newest novel is a great summer read, fast moving with interesting characters and recognizable settings for those in a particular part of southwestern Virginia. In the book attorney Kevin Moore find himself in squeezed between a shady land-deal set-up and his need to redeem himself for earlier missteps. His already lost his wife, his home, his license and everything else he'd worked for. But he's determined to get as much of that back as he can. And he's willing to use every legal (and a couple of not so legal) tricks to get there.

    Clark's characters are funny and familiar without becoming cliches. He faces his complicated legal situation while battling an irrational health insurance company and an overly enthusiastic dog. While watching is wife fade from his life, he's grabbing at budding romance.

    Readers will feel sorry for Kevin less from his every more complicated troubles than because he's determined not to feel sorry for himself. You'll laugh out loud at Kevin's problems because they could so easily be our own. And with luck ours will tied up neatly in the end too.

    The Substitution Order by Martin Clark ($27.95*, Knopf), recommended by Book No Further, Roanoke, VA.

     A Summer 2019 Okra Pick

  • In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow

    In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles WinslowKnot is a strong and independent woman in a rural town in North Carolina. She likes her liquor and she will always speak her mind and regrets none of it. She is one of many members of the community of West Mills that we get to know over the course of 40 years in De'Shawn Charles Winslow's beautiful and feisty book about the love of family, friends and neighbors. Though not always perfect and with a fair share of secrets, they always try to do what they believe is best for the ones they love.

    In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow ($26.00*, Bloomsbury Publishing), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

    A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

    Orange World and Other Stories by Karen RussellKaren Russell's latest collection of short stories are as bizarre, haunted and exquisitely crafted as I hoped they would be. The collection begins with "The Prospectors," wherein two young women attempt to attend an elegant affair and end up dancing with a group of dead boys. In the titular story, a new mother nurses a devil every night and all the while Russell is dissecting the postpartum experience with grace and humor. And in what is possibly my favorite of the collection, "The Gondoliers," about a girl with the qualities of a bat who navigates a dangerous, drowned new world, Russell proves that no one can write south Florida quite like her.

    Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell ($25.95*, Knopf), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

  • My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax

    My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy WaxWax has delivered a fun, touching summer read that takes place in the Outer Banks of North Caroline with a smattering of scenes in our own town of Richmond (including a nice shout out to Fountain Bookstore)!

    Lauren and Brianna, former best friends who have since fallen out, are approaching their 40th birthdays several hundred miles apart. Once as close as sisters, they now no longer speak until Lauren returns home with her new fiance to try on the wedding dress that has been in her family for generations. The girls are forced to confront some difficult decisions and secrets from their past while dealing with current family stresses.

    Told in the voice of both girls plus Kendra, the mom who loves them both as her own, this story is sweet and easily devoured.

    My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax ($16.00*, Berkley), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • Like Lions by Brian Panowich

    Like Lions by Brian PanowichLike the writing of David Joy or Taylor Brown? Then you'll want to check out Brian Panowich. Panowich's Southern crime fiction is so very entertaining. Despite being sheriff, Clayton Burroughs is also the last living son of the Bull Mountain crime family which means everyone wants a piece of him. You'll find yourself rooting for the good guys who may actually be bad guys. Don't let Panowich's epilogue sneak up on you in this one. It's mind-blowing.

    Like Lions by Brian Panowich ($26.99*, Minotaur Books), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

    A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

    Southern Lady Code by Helen EllisWell, bless my heart. I love this masterful, whip-smart essay collection so much, I might just dip some Nutter Butters into melted white chocolate, dot them with candy buttons, eat them, and call it a day. Or maybe I'll hop a flight to Topeka, where I won't take part in a three-way. Or maybe I'll clean my whole apartment! The truth is, I just don't quite know what to do with myself after reading Southern Lady Code. It is so, so GOOD, so rooted in its perspective, and so candid; plus, it's so remarkably, frequently moving, oftentimes in unexpected ways. In short, this book is...well, whatever Southern Lady Code is for "a triumph."

    Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis ($22.00*, Doubleday), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler

    The Magnetic Girl by Jessica HandlerA grand, dark, mysterious historical novel filled with dark power and ambivalence, The Magnetic Girl captures a time and place, not only in the life of a teenage girl but in our country as well. Filled with the shifting longings of adolescence against a vaudeville backdrop, Handler's novel explores the dangerous journey from childhood to adulthood when our budding powers both enthrall and terrify us.

    The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler ($27.00*, Hub City Press), recommended by Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC.

     A Spring 2019 Okra Pick

  • American Pop by Snowden Wright

    American Pop by Snowden WrightSnowden Wright has the Mississippi vernacular perfected. I've never read a book that so clearly captures the bizarre and beauty of my home state so clearly. The tale of the Forster family's rise and fall is a clever mix of historical facts and fiction. A book about a family dynasty, American Pop also explores the sense of entitlement and ridiculous propriety that was born and bred into white southerners.

    American Pop by Snowden Wright ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2019 Okra Pick

  • The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

    The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda WoodsSuch a beautiful book. War heroes, life in the summer-time South, family, and friendship. So well-written and highly recommend to all.

    The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods ($16.99*, Nancy Paulsen Books), recommended by The Story Shop, Monroe, GA.

  • Scribe by Alyson Hagy

    Scribe by Alyson HagyIn a future Appalachia ruined by civil war and contagion, a woman ekes our her living by writing letters for the migrants who pass by her homestead. This haunting fable about the redeeming power of story, of owning one’s story, and of taking the time to tell another’s story with bold-faced honesty and empathy will get under your skin. This is not a pleasant tale, but an important one in the time of "fake news" and "would" and "wouldn’t."

    Scribe by Alyson Hagy ($16.00*, Graywolf Press), recommended by Underground Books, Carrollton, GA.

     A Fall 2018 Okra Pick

  • Southern Discomfort by Tena Clark

    Southern Discomfort by Tena ClarkLove The Help but want it to be more gritty and real? This is the book for you! Tena Clark tells the story of growing up gay in Mississippi with a cheating father and a mother who drank to excess. She and her older sisters were in charge of keeping the peace when their parents fought, and sometimes that meant throwing the gun in the pool so no one would get shot. Clark's honesty and talent for storytelling shine in this memoir that reads like a Southern Gothic novel. You can't help but like all the characters even when they're up to no good. 

    Southern Discomfort by Tena Clark ($27.00*, Touchstone), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

     A Fall 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Wildlands by Abby Geni

    The Wildlands by Abby GeniEngrossing and so smart and introspective. Somehow, Abby Geni does it all. Her language is gorgeous, and the relationships she builds between the McCloud siblings and how they relate to the world felt so real. I just fell into the story and couldn't put down this tense and heartbreaking novel.

    The Wildlands by Abby Geni ($26.00*, Counterpoint LLC), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensA most amazing story, wonderfully and beautifully written about a child abandoned at an early age who learns to survive in the marsh land on the coast of North Carolina. An epic story of her life, of finding love, of betrayal, and of murder. You’ll shed a few tears as you read...some of such sadness, a few of pure joy. I didn’t want this book to end.

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ($26.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Line That Held Us by David Joy

    The Line That Held Us by David JoyWith the Southern grit of Daniel Woodrell and the rich Appalachian cadence of Ron Rash, David Joy is the new voice of Southern noir. In The Line That Held Us, Joy drags the reader by the gut on a dark and twisted journey of violence and vengeance in a story that will not be soon forgotten. 

    The Line That Held Us by David Joy ($27.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

     A Summer 2018 Okra Pick

  • 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.

  • The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett

    The Unfortunates by Kim LiggettPrivilege can be deadly...

    Because of his parents wealth and power, teenager Grant has gotten away with murder.  Call it afluenza, but Grant's guilt and disgust with himself pushes him to make a drastic plan for self-punishment.  His quest for justice for the people he killed leads him to the Appalachian trail and a devastating cave in.  Now Grant has to help a small group of city kids survive, because it appears that something or someone is down in the caves with them. The Unfortunates also gets a million bonus cool points because it's set here in Richmond, Virginia!

    The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett ($18.99*, Tom Doherty Associates), recommended by Fountain Books, Richmond, VA.

  • The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley

    The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy FinleyWhen four-year-old William disappears from the woods behind his house in Nashville, the only witness is his seven-year-old brother who says "the lights took him" and then refuses to speak again. William’s grandmother, Lynn Roseworth, the wife of a senator and potential VP candidate is afraid she knows what those words mean. They are a link to her past--a past she has never talked about with her family, and one she fears will destroy her entire family.

    The Darkest Time of Night is a truly remarkably written story.  It is fast-paced and suspenseful...a thriller that is a combination of science fiction and government cover-up. Once you start, you can’t put this one down. A little bit scary, a whole lot heartrending: a complex plot, and many brave people make this a book that will make you question what might or might not actually exist.  

    The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

    The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan CrandallTallulah James has a complicated family. Growing up in small-town Mississippi in the 60s, she and her siblings are ridiculed and ostracized because of their crazy family history. This novel takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as Tallulah tries to deal with her parents volatile personalities and tries to parent her younger siblings through the mess of their day-to-day life. This would make a good book club read with much to discuss: bipolar disorder, racism, and the upheaval of the 1960s.

    The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall ($16.00*, Gallery Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

  • Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

    Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin Bearskin is not a typical action filled thriller. It is a beautifully written literary adventure set in a pristine area of Appalachian Virginia. The action, while slow at times, builds into something powerful and intense by the end. Rice Moore is trying to get his life back together after a vicious run in with the Sinaloa Mexican cartel. He is a biologist who cares deeply about the environment and the animals in his job as caretaker of a private Virginia nature reserve. Rice must figure out how to deal with bear poachers, a cartel member who tracked him from Arizona and members of a biker gang who beat up and raped the previous reserve caretaker. At the same time Rice must answer to his own moral compass and not do anything to jeopardize the life he has come to love.

    Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin ($26.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Varina by Charles Frazier

    Varina by Charles FrazierIf you think there is nothing new or even useful left to be said about the Civil War, you need to read Varina. Frazier uses the real First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis, to tell the story of the war and its sad denouement. The broad outlines of the story are true: Mississippi-born Varina Howell married much-older Jefferson Davis after having been educated in Philadelphia. She never thought the South could win and secretly considered the war folly from the outset. In a scandalous show of indifference, she went home before the end of Davis’ inauguration ceremony. Once installed as the First Lady in what was known as the Grey House in Richmond, Varina rose to the occasion, helping with the war effort in various ways. As Richmond fell, she and her children fled, but were captured, along with Jefferson Davis. She spent time with the children in Savannah under house arrest, then at Fort Monroe in Maryland with her husband. She lived alone abroad, then with her husband near Biloxi, Mississippi until his death, then moved to New York City and wrote a regular column for the New York Times.

    Varina, as Frazier conceives her, is smart and bold, often using morphine to soften her edges. She was never quite what the South wanted her to be, nor was she keen to become so. After she loses her best friend, Mary Chestnut, she muses that you don’t get to choose who you outlive. And, indeed, she outlived all but one of her seven children, as well as her husband and, of course, the Confederacy itself. It is true that she took in a mulatto child during her time in Richmond, raising him alongside her own children for a time. “Jimmie” was one of the children who fled with her after the fall of Richmond. History doesn’t record what happened to him after he was separated from Varina in her capture and taken North. In Frazier’s re-telling, however, the adult Jimmie reads an account of Varina and her mulatto ward in a (very real) book called “First Days Among the Contrabands,” published in 1893. Based on hazy memories, he believes himself to be the Jimmie in the book. He visits Varina at a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY, where they are reunited. Their series of meetings grounds the book, which is told in flashback.

    If you enjoyed Cold Mountain, you must read Varina. Frazier’s virtuoso prose is infused with melancholy, but his Varina is surprisingly relatable, recognizable to anyone who’s felt powerless over a situation. The real Varina is said to have admitted that the South deserved to lose, and of course she was right. But this book asks us to understand, if not to forgive, and to move on. Faulkner famously wrote that “the past is never dead.” Varina attempts to put a stake through the heart of the Lost Cause.

    Varina by Charles Frazier ($27.99*, Ecco Press), recommended by Sunrise Books, High Point, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Empire of Light by Michael Bible

    Empire of Light by Michael BibleA surprisingly gentle and innately melancholy tale of misfits and small towns and growing up. An incredibly humane novel packed into a slim page count. 

    Empire of Light by Michael Bible ($15.99*, Melville House Publishing), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe, Asheville, NC.

  • The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

    The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson HarveyI absolutely loved The Secret to Southern Charm. You do not have to have read the first book in this series to enjoy this fantastic book about four generations of females in a family coming together to move through love, life and loss at the beach. 

    The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey ($16.00*, Gallery Books), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

    Dread Nation by Justina IrelandThe War Between the Sates is put on hold as the dead begin to rise. Jane has been taken from the relative safety of her mother’s plantation home to start training as an Attendant at Miss Prescott’s School of Combat in Baltimore. The Native American and Negro Re-education Act holds that the minority youth be trained in weaponry and manners to serve as the protectors of the upper class white families across the eastern states. Jane is a smart, sassy and strong heroine that you will continue to root for as she faces true horrors of humanity far worse than the walking dead shamblers. This is an important coming of age story and conversation about slavery and the years that followed.

    Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ($17.99*, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen), recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Country Dark by Chris Offutt

    Country Dark by Chris OffuttCountry Dark is the story of Tucker and what happens to his life after he returns home from the Korean War to rural Kentucky. Wretchedly poor with limited resources, Tucker and his family suffer the consequences of a few poor decisions over the course of three decades. This novel marries a love story, backwoods crime gangs, and children born broken with the everyday struggles of those born into poverty.

    Country Dark by Chris Offutt ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Spring 2018 Okra Pick

  • Carolina Catch by Debbie Moose

    Carolina Catch by Debbie MooseAs a seafood lover new to North Carolina, this book has been invaluable! Not only do I now know what in-season fish and shellfish to look for at the grocery store and at restaurants, but I have a deeper understanding of how what I'm buying and eating affects fishing overall and the fisherman who catch them. Plus, yummy recipes!

    Carolina Catch by Debbie Moose ($35.00*, University of North Carolina Press), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor BrownTo read the work of Taylor Brown is to be given the capacity to enter any world his writing fearlessly creates. He is a wellspring of lyrical beauty.

    Gods of Howl Mountain carried me deep into the mountains of NC, post-Korean War, where moonshine ran like it sprang from the earth, where the embryonic seeds for NASCAR were being sown by moonshine runners in souped up cars, and where the people took care of their own, whether by home remedies gifted from the mountains or by brutality and revenge.

    The characters are unforgettable and remained with me long after closing the book. They are toughened by life, hopeful, and endearing—survivors all. Brown was able to brilliantly infuse humor and light into this gritty tale. Rory Docherty has returned from the war, leaving a leg in exchange for the horrors he can’t forget. His beautiful mother is a resident at Dorothea Dix Hospital, muted by a heinous act of violence, leaving Rory to be raised the inimitable Granny May. This diminutive force is his maternal grandmother; former prostitute turned healer, drawing from the folk knowledge that the mountains take care of their own. Rory’s livelihood options are limited, so he turns to running moonshine, chased by revenuers, lawmen, competing runners, and his own demons. There are questions from the past to be answered, grudges to bear, and redemption to be found.

    I lifted my head from this extraordinary novel in the wee hours of the morning, stunned by the time passed and grateful for the opportunity to read such a literary gift. A vision from the novel that haunts me is that of a lone surviving chestnut tree in front of Granny May’s cabin, branches filled with empty bottles to capture evil spirits and protect the home. The mountains are filled with spirits, good and evil. Gods of Howl Mountain captures those spirits like that lone bottle tree within its pages.

    Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown ($26.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

    Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-SmithA page-turner that hits on universal and topical themes. Cross-Smith has serious storytelling talent. A must read for 2018.

    Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith ($27.00*, Hub City PRess), recommended by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Hush by John Hart

    The Hush by John HartOh yeah, John, you have a winner here! The Hush continues the story of Johnny Merriman that began in The Last Child. Now, 12 years later, he's trying to save the land he has inherited and strange things are occurring. A bit of a change of pace from his previous books, The Hush kept me up all might and I can't wait to talk to people about it.

    The Hush by John Hart ($27.99*, St. Martin's Press), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Promise by Minrose Gwin

    Promise by Minrose GwinWhen a tornado of epic proportions ruins the town of Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936, the death toll was steep. But when we discover that the deaths in the black community were NEVER counted, well, that takes this novel based on a true story, totally to a much higher level. This book is bound to be a book club favorite. It's got everything a club needs for discussion. And, the fact that this actually happened, is incredibly noteworthy as well as tragic. With characters that jump and leap from the page, PROMISE promises to keep you reading far into the night. I loved this story.

    I could not put this book down. I felt like I was trapped in the tornado, wandering through the devastated streets and blown apart buildings, feeling the chaos and brokenness. In the midst of it all, I could also feel the strength and determination of in the midst of Dovey and Jo, and experience their humanity, honesty, obstinance and kindness. With all the fires, hurricanes and floods we’ve had around the country recently, along with racial tensions, this story, though set in 1936, speaks loudly to us today.

    Promise by Minrose Gwin ($25.99, William Morrow), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • 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

  • Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

    TITLEI'm presently gobsmacked by and head-over-heels in love with Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon, a gorgeous, searing first novel that takes on themes of grace, God, desire, truth, and family. Told in an array of tenses and forms that range from poetry to email (and everything in between), Fire Sermon takes great risks stylistically, as well as topically, and leaves nothing stable in its wake. It is unsparing and uncompromising; it is singular; it is innervating and strong; and it is a deeply, wonderfully stirring work of art.

    Fire Sermon is a force. With the power of a sacred text, and the intimacy of a confession, Jamie Quatro lays bare marriage, sex, art, parenthood, everything. I am in awe of this book.

    Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

    The Afterlives by Thomas PierceJim Byrd is not really obsessed with death, mortality, and ghosts, but after a peculiar health scare, he can't avoid them. From cryonics to psychic mediums, he seems haplessly fated to encounter the full range of mortality cures. Central among them--and deservedly central in this book--is a staircase at the back of an old house where supernatural physics seem to be in control. As a mini-prologue to each chapter, Pierce lays out a montage of events in the life of previous residents and their families. At first these vignettes seem to support a little ghost story. But by the end, they resolve brilliantly into a poignant comment on Jim's misadventures, and what at first was a story concentrated on death and the hereafter satisfyingly becomes a novel about the ephemeral fragility of life itself.

    The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Turnrow Books, Greenwood, MS.

     A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

  • Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

    Robicheaux by James Lee Burke James Lee Burke for the Nobel Prize! Why not? The award goes to a writer for a body of work that is singular to the psyche and culture of that author's nation. As the U.S. is, arguably, the most violent nation on earth with more guns per capita than the majority of the world combined why not a nod to the man who explores our violent nature better then anyone else? Robicheaux is a perfect example of his skill and grace relating a difficult and often sordid subject. The man can flat out write.

    Robicheaux by James Lee Burke ($27.99*, Simon & Schuster), recommended by McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, 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

  • The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

    The Last Ballad by Wiley CashIn Wiley Cash's new novel, The Last Ballad, it is 1929 and the labor movement is trying to organize in North Carolina. Somehow Ella May finds the courage and resolve to fight to make things better for her children and the people who share her life of poverty and powerlessness. Cash captures the sounds and draws the pictures so beautifully that these people and their stories become real. It is heartbreaking to read what will push men and women to risk their lives for a common good but it is inspiring and gives us hope.

    The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash ($26.99*, William Morrow), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

     A Fall 2017 Okra Pick

  • Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

    Bull Mountain by Brian PanowichThis reads like The Godfather if it took place in the mountains of Northern Georgia. An ATF agent with a chip on his shoulder tries to take down a crime family that has been operating for generations. Moonshiners, gun fights and a sheriff who has to decide between family or the law. Goes well with a Waylon Jennings record and a glass of bourbon.

    Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich ($16.00*, G.P. Putnam's Sons), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

     A 2016 Southern Book Prize Winner

  • If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

    If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah WeissI was hooked at the line, “He’s gonna be sorry he ever messed with me and Loretta Lynn.” Leah Weiss’s debut goes right for the heartstrings with a brutal portrayal of the difficult life in small town Appalachia. Protagonist Sadie Blue is pregnant, and two weeks into her marriage to Roy Tupkin, realizes it was all a mistake. Armed with Loretta Lynn and a new friend in town, she begins to fight for a way out. Told from the perspective of a number of townsfolk, the reader develops a more thorough understanding of all the forces and characters at play in the community. Plus, it has a killer ending!

    If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss ($15.99*, Sourcebooks Landmark), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn WardIn Parnassus Books’ blog Musing: a laid-back lit journal, several popular authors wrote about the books they recommend for fall. Novelist Caroline Leavitt (Cruel Beautiful World) recommends Summer 2017 Okra Pick Sing, Unburied, Sing by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (publishing September).

    Leavitt writes: "This is Ward’s first novel since Salvage the Bones, which I reread so many times, I can practically recite it. I knew I would love this novel about an African-American boy, his younger sister, and his drug addicted mom, who go on a perilous road trip to meet the kids’ white father as he’s released from prison. This one promises to be a punch to the heart, a sensation I like in my books.” Discover more great reads for fall.

    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward ($26.00*, Scribner Book Company), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick!

  • The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

    The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren WangIn The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, a town on the Underground Railroad secedes from the Union after it becomes fractured by the politics of the American Civil War. As a huge geek on the subject, I’m often skeptical of historical fiction relating to it. While Wang’s tale benefits from being based on truth, that is a moot point. His well-developed, very real characters and masterful writing are all that’s needed for an incredible debut. Though a novel of the home front, it is nonetheless a war novel focusing on how conflict brings out the best and worst in people. It is one of the best works of historical fiction on the Civil War that I’ve ever read, and perhaps even that exists.

    The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang ($26.99*, Thomas Dunne Books), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

    A Summer 2017 Okra Pick | A September IndieNext Pick

  • 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!

  • Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks

    Over the Plain Houses by Julia FranksI loved Irenie from the moment I met her. The raw honesty of Irenie’s need to own her own body and soul nearly broke me at times. It’s a story of need and courage. Tradition and prejudices. Fear and power and the drive to overcome.

    Julia’s language and descriptions are vivid and beyond compare. At the first reading, I turned pages through from beginning to end without stopping. On the second, I began to underline the language, the poetry on every page.

    From 1939 to present we have “come along way, baby.” Yet, until every woman has the opportunity to be herself without man or government having control over her, we haven’t come far enough. Irenie’s soul demanded to be born. We would do well to listen to ourselves.

    I can’t say enough about Julia Frank’s writing style and use of prose. It’s everything fiction should be. Every word a sword, a sunburst, a cool mountain cave. And as a storyteller? She’s a moonspinner.

    Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks ($26.00*, Hub City Press), recommended by FoxTale Book Shoppe, Atlanta, GA.

     Winner of the 2017 Southern Book Prize: Fiction, Literary

  • Flight Patterns by Karen White

    Flight Patterns by Karen WhiteGeorgia Chambers is one of the top china experts in the United States, but when a client brings her a piece that connects to her past, she is forced to go back home. Reunited with the comforts of salt air, and her grandfather, will Georgia Chambers be able to face the rest of her family? Will there be time to heal past relationships or has too much time passed?

    Karen White is known for her whimsical Tradd Street series, but in several of her latest novels, she broaches tougher topics that trouble modern day families. Infused with the southern coast and the ocean, this book makes for a great beach read, as well as a reading group selection.

    Flight Patterns by Karen White ($15.00, Berkley Books), recommended by My Sisters Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

    The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel"Everyone's life is a disaster." The thing that Patricia Engel does in The Veins of the Ocean is explain with her brutal honesty and beautifully flawed characters is how we all survive. Buy this for yourself or someone you love or even someone you don't. We all have regrets, buying this book won't be one of them. One of my top 5 books of the summer.

    The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel ($17.00, Grove Press), recommended by Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL.

  • Things Like the Truth: Out of My Later Years by Ellen Gilchrist

    Things Like the Truth: Out of My Later Years by Ellen GilchristThings like the Truth offers a collection of nonfiction essays about Ellen Gilchrist's life, family, home, work, aging, and the fun of fighting to stay healthy in an increasingly undisciplined culture. This collection brings together for the first time essays by Ellen Gilchrist on her later life and family. Essays such as "The Joy of Swimming" reveal how Gilchrist, as an aging person, thinks about the joys one can discover late in life. Other essays focus on surgery, money, childhood memories, changing perspectives, and the vagaries of the age.

    Gilchrist pays special attention to her evolving relationships with her adult children and the pleasures and pitfalls of being a grandmother and great-grandmother. The volume also includes essays from her diary about the sense of place in her mountain home near her work at the University of Arkansas and about life after Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, her second residence.

    Things Like the Truth: Out of My Later Years by Ellen Gilchrist ($29.95, University Press of Mississippi). recommended by Garden District Book Shop, New Orleans, LA.

  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

    Before We Were Yours by Lisa WingateLisa Wingate is a master storyteller, and I am particularly attached to her historical fiction. Each time I read one of the books, I learn of a part of our southern past that is mostly forgotten, or in the case of the Tennessee Children's Home, swept under the rug. Rill is an amazing child faced with horrors most of us will be unable to imagine. We have Lisa Wingate to bring them to life and paint a picture of horrible corruption and poverty, but also show the amazing determination that can survive anything. The book is an expository and deeply moving family history. Any fan of southern history, especially South Carolina and Tennessee, will enjoy this book.

    Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ($26.00, Ballantine Books), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

    Grief Cottage by Gail GodwinFrom Sarah: Gail Godwin takes on the voice of a bereaved 11 year old boy in this, a gentle ghost story with understated humor and appealingly unorthodox characters, set on a South Carolina barrier island. The precocious Marcus has recently lost his mother and has his hands full with his artist great aunt who relies on a steady diet of red wine to cope with her own ghosts. Godwin does a beautiful job of exploring the unlikely pairing, the natural elements of the coast, and Marcus's growing obsession with the run down "grief cottage" and the boy who disappeared there in a hurricane 50 years earlier.

    From Belinda: The analytical Marcus, a fascinating boy with insights and poise that few adults possess, becomes convinced that he feels, and even sees, the boy who went missing from a crumbling beach house dubbed Grief Cottage. I will not soon forget Marcus; his struggle to define his sense of self and belonging leads to a crisis with profound effects to himself and those in his present, and past, life.

    Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin ($27.00, Bloomsbury USA), recommended by Sarah and Belinda, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

    No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell WattsNo One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts is a brilliant recasting of The Great Gatsby among African-Americans in a small town in North Carolina. But I am here to tell you that you don't have to know anything about Gatsby to be completely entranced with this great new novel. Stephanie Powell Watts can flat out write.

    No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts ($26.99, Ecco Press), recommended by The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC.

    A Spring 2017 Okra Pick!

  • American War by Omar El Akkad

    American War by Omar El AkkadThis debut novel by a Canadian journalist who has reported on war from Afghanistan to the Black Lives Matter movement imagines a Second Civil War in the US in the years 2074-2093 and its aftermath. Not surprisingly, the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia ("the MAG") secede over oil issues from a Union that has quite literally, mostly due to climate change, deteriorated into a smaller country whose capital is Columbus, Ohio. Mexico has reclaimed its old territories, a president has been assassinated, the Mississippi River is now the Mississippi Sea... Well-drawn southerners struggle to keep body and soul together and to undermine the northern aggressors One woman in particular, Sarat, emerges as a hero spoilers! Compelling and scary.

    American War by Omar El Akkad ($26.95, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Lisa, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice (Editor)

    My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice (Editor)The independent bookstore relationship is a must read for those who must write or wish to. 84 authors share their inspirations and experiences with their favorite local haunts. This would make a great gift for both the book lover and the bookstore lover! Plus...the book jacket is very cool, a great addition in a personal library.

    My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice/editor ($23.95, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers), recommended by Dori, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

  • Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

    Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

    A harrowing survival thriller set in the Blue Ridge Mountains about a teenage equestrienne kidnapped by a serial killer who must dig down deep to find the will to first survive then triumph. You won't be able to put this one down!

    Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams ($10.99, Simon Pulse), recommended by Jill, Fiction Addition, Greenville SC.

  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru

    White Tears/Hari KunzruIn a guest post on Lemuria Books' blog, writer Jim Ewing recommends White Tearsby Hari Kunzru.

    "What if there's a subtle, hidden sound, a tone, or chord, a riff that can transcend time and space, communicating through music a key or gate to hidden truths? This is the essential question that leads a New York acoustic engineer named Seth on the path toward solving a mystery in Hari Kunzru's novel White Tears...It's a saga that leads to madness, blood, and shame. Readers will be left reeling, wondering how many more mournful, deadly vibrations still reverberate all around us, just beneath the surface of our world." Continue reading...

    White Tears by Hari Kunzru ($26.95, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Jim, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • Monsters in Appalachia: Stories by Sheryl Monks

    From the publisher: The characters within these fifteen stories are in one way or another staring into the abyss. While some are awaiting redemption, others are fully complicit in their own undoing. We come upon them in the mountains of West Virginia, in the backyards of rural North Carolina, and at tourist traps along Route 66, where they smolder with hidden desires and struggle to resist the temptations that plague them. A Melungeon woman has killed her abusive husband and drives by the home of her son’s new foster family, hoping to lure the boy back. An elderly couple witnesses the end-times and is forced to hunt monsters if they hope to survive. A young girl “tanning and manning” with her mother and aunt resists being indoctrinated by their ideas about men. A preacher’s daughter follows in the footsteps of her backsliding mother as she seduces a man who looks a lot like the devil. A master of Appalachian dialect and colloquial speech, Monks writes prose that is dark, taut, and muscular, but also beguiling and playful. Monsters in Appalachia is a powerful work of fiction.

    Damita at The Country Bookshop says, "I loved this collection. If you like Hillbilly Elegy, you will enjoy this."

    Monsters in Appalachia by Sheryl Monks ($16.99, Vandalia Press), recommended by Damita, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.

  • Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

    Andrew at Lemuria Books reviews Mississippi Blood, the final, riveting chapter in Greg Iles's Natchez Burning trilogy. (The second volume, The Bone Tree, was a 2016 Southern Book Prize winner). The whole trilogy is set in the Natchez, Mississippi, and centers on long-running Iles protagonist Penn Cage, who also appeared in The Quiet Game in 1999. The trilogy also features appearances from characters in the previously stand-alone and unrelated thriller Dead Sleep from 2001.

    "I personally first encountered the character of Penn Cage about four years ago on the pages of his second novel, Turning Angel. Penn became the latest in my personal parade of literary types that I treasure: the non-professional private eye," writes Andrew, about characters intertwined inseparably from their setting: "And that’s the thing about these characters: they inevitably become inseparable from their settings. Penn lives and breathes Natchez like its sins and successes are wholly his burden to bear."

    Read more about Mississippi Blood at Lemuria Book's blog.

    Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles ($28.99, William Morrow & Company), recommended by Andrew, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • The Scribe by Matthew Guinn

    An assured second effort from Guinn, a former Ole Miss professor. Set in Reconstruction Atlanta, a group of prominent businessmen known as “the Ring” has staked much on the city's Cotton Expo, but a rash of brutal murders jeopardizes their plan and the populace. Canby is a disgraced lawman brought back to the city as the lead investigator but quickly realizes how much is stacked against him. The cast of characters, taut plotting, and depiction of the period make for a great read.

    The Scribe by Matthew Guinn ($5.95, W.W. Norton & Comapny), recommended by Cody, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

  • The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle

    Nashvillian Lydia Peelle won the Whiting Award for her story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing. Now we have her first novel, set in Tennessee during WWI and following the story of two charming Irishmen, a rebellious heiress, and a tempestuous black mare named the Midnight Cool. Peelle is an excellent storyteller. You will be turning pages long into the night.

    The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle ($26.99, Harper), recommended by Karen, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

    Charles Martin has done it again with his latest novel. A retelling of the parable of the prodigal son I highly recommend.

    Long Way Gone by Charles Martin ($25.99, Thomas Nelson), recommended by Kitty, Litchfield Books, Pawleys Island, SC.

  • Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

    There is a tension and stark beauty that pervades all pages of Smith’s novel. It delivers blunt, realistic dialogue and long, beautiful run-on sentences that never manage to trip over themselves. Smith is unquestionably a craftsman of the highest order. He managed to surprise me several times, only to have that surprise seem inevitable in retrospect. This is the first ‘grit lit’ novel I’ve picked up and been enchanted by, so I don’t have any ready comparisons to Ron Rash or Tom Franklin for you, although they seem equally impressed by Smith to go by their blurbs on the cover of the book. I will say that this is sharp Southern fiction at its finest, and I encourage you not to miss it.

    Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith ($26, Lee Boudreaux Books), recommended by Andrew, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS.

  • 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 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.

  • Beachhead by Jeffery Hess

    Beachhead is a suspense novel with lots of action, twists and turns.  Hess brings the 1980’s Tampa to life with a descriptive narrative that is well-written and kept me guessing.  With its interesting plot and realistic characters this is a must read for anyone wanting to learn a little bit of Florida history. Beachhead by Jeffery Hess ($16.95, Down & Out Books), recommended by the staff at Bookswap of Carrollwood, Tampa, FL.

  • Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen

    Ashley Christensen has just come out with her long-awaited cookbook, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), and it was worth the wait. The book is more than a beautifully designed cookbook with all the signature dishes that have given Poole's its well-deserved reputation and earned Ashley the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. It's a joyful show and tell of Ashley's (and Raleigh's) personal history and the renaissance of Southern food told through each beloved recipe (and yes, the Macaroni au Gratin recipe is in there).

    Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner (Ten Speed Press $35), recommended by Sarah at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypoole-White

    This well-written story of a bi-polar woman does not over-exaggerate the disease and makes it realistic and understandable.

    Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypoole-White (Lake Union Publishing, $14.950, recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

    Revisit a classic! A hilarious comedy tinged with a bit of tragic melancholy, this Pulitzer Prize winner is defined by its protagonist, the ever deluded Ignatius J. Reilly, whose complaints about his malfunctioning pyloric valve never cease to amuse. Ignatius may dominate the novel, but he would be nothing without New Orleans, his home and the novel’s playground. Though loosely structured, Ignatius’ ridiculous narrative adventures in the Crescent City never bore. A picaresque if there ever was one.

    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (Grove Press, $16.00), recommended by Peter at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

  • Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard

    It turns out that Vivian Howard, in addition to being an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and star of the PBS show A Chef's Life, is also a talented writer. She tells the story of her life and community through each chapter devoted to a different vegetable. While our event with Vivian later this month has sold out, we do have plenty of signed copies of this big, beautiful and delicious tribute to the food, farmers and cooks of eastern North Carolina.

    Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard ($40, Little Brown), recommended by Mamie at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

  • Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb


    What is unusual and so appealing about Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is that the novel takes two issues that separately we’ve heard so much about—the European Jewish experience and the Jim Crow era south—and blends them together in a way that demonstrates a fresh perspective. I found it powerful and engaging.

    Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb (Other Press, $25.95), recommended by Stephanie at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL.

    Read the first chapter!

  • The Innocents by Ace Atkins

    I wasn't much of a mystery reader until I read Ace Atkins!

    Quinn Colson is a such a great character-- equal parts John Wayne, Elvis, and Clint Eastwood-- but it's the supporting cast that really brings his books to life.

    Gritty and violent, but also charming, the Quinn Colson books are must-reads for fans of the genre.

    The Innocents by Ace Atkins (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Recommended by Colin at Flyleaf Books Chapel Hill NC

  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

    Taking you through an hour in Opportunity High School, during which a shooter comes in and changes everyone's lives, this book will also take you on an emotional roller coaster.

    Told from multiple points of view, you get an idea of what the shooter is like, what has happened in his life that might have brought him to this point, and how he's affected the people close to him.

    A heartbreaking novel that draws you into a small-town tragedy and somehow manages to not give up hope.

    This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Sourcebooks Fire) Recommended by Melissa at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

    Set in Mississippi at the close of WWII, The Secret of Magic is the story of the tragic treatment of a returning black GI, which draws in noted civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall. But it also a story about the power of books and stories, especially those we encounter as children, to affect lives.

    I loved this book and will be recommending it to fans of The Help and Mudbound.

    The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson (Berkley) Recommended by Jill at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC 

  • Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann

    This beautifully written memoir cuts right to the heart of what it means to be an artist in the American South, and how the region’s history has molded the creative types it has produced.

    The Virginia native shares family history and thoughts on her controversial work.

    Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann (Back Bay Books) Recommended by Carl at Fountain Bookstore Richmond VA

  • False Positive by Andrew Grant

    A seven year old child has been kidnapped and Det. Cooper Devereaux, just returned from one of his many suspensions, is given the case.

    Though Devereaux doesn’t often play well with others, and isn’t a stickler for the rules he is a great detective and his boss – one of his only supporters – knows if anyone can find this child he can.

    I really liked Devereaux even before his back story was slowly revealed. And by the end of the book he was truly a hero – flawed and vulnerable but full of the right stuff. As Devereaux dug farther and farther into things his intuition told him were connected to the kidnapping he discovered many truths about himself and others in his life -- truths about mass murderers, bloodlines, mental illness and obsession.

    This twisty, totally unpredictable page turner is the beginning, I hope, of a long line of Det. Cooper Devereaux stories.

    False Positive by Andrew Grant (Ballantine Books) Recommended by Nancy M. at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

    J.T. Ellison’s newest novel, which has been compared to Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Liane Moriarty, releases today. While the book is a departure from Ellison’s other books (this one is a stand-alone and, rather than having a protagonist who is either in law enforcement or is closely connected to someone who is, this lead character is distrustful of the police), regular readers will recognize her suspenseful pacing and quick dialogue.

    Aubrey’s husband disappeared five years ago, when he failed to meet up with friends at the Opryland Hotel, and has now been declared legally dead. Aubrey has been through a hellacious five years. First, her husband went missing and then she had to endure a trial, as she was the prime suspect for his murder. Her mother-in-law testified against her and is now poised to start a legal battle over the life insurance money due to Aubrey. On this day of finality, the day she receives the official declaration of Josh’s death, Aubrey meets a man who reminds her of her husband. Chase’s mannerisms, his posture, and his intonation all match Josh’s…but Josh is dead, right?

    What follows is a suspenseful, page-turning story as Aubrey searches for answers, sure to suck you in until you’ve finished. Adding to the book’s appeal, readers familiar with Nashville will recognize several locations, such as Dragon Park and the Tin Angel restaurant. If you loved The Husband’s Secret, Gone Girl, or The Girl on the Train, you owe it to yourself to read No One Knows.

    No One Knows by J.T. Ellison (Gallery Books) Recommended by Laura at Reading Rock Books Dixon TN

  • Miss Jane by Brad Watson

    A subtle, yet powerful portrait of an extraordinary character, Miss Jane thrills with some of the most gorgeous prose I have ever encountered.

    Jane Chisholm is born with a genital defect that, in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century, somewhat limits her prospects for a “normal” life. Populated with lovingly wrought characters, sly humor, and keen observations of the human heart, Watson's novel is a beautiful and rare bird indeed.

    Miss Jane by Brad Watson (W. W. Norton & Company) Recommended by Tony at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

  • Redemption Road

    John Hart’s newest novel, Redemption Road, is a thriller.

    Innocents are dying, people are being chased and tortured and the good guys are hard to tell from all of the bad.

    It is about Elizabeth Black, a decorated hero cop with a deep dark secret. But, in addition to being a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout it is a compelling and very emotional story of love – love that is sick and twisted, love that is so blind it allows horrible things to be done in its name, love so hidden by guilt it is hard to see, love born out of despair and a love that is so pure and good it allows hope to shine through.

    It is obvious that John Hart has poured all of his heart and soul into this beautifully written story of sadness, despair, love and hope.

    Redemption Road by John Hart (Thomas Dunne Books) Recommended by Nancy, Jill, and Melissa at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Season of Fear by Brian Freeman

    Brian Freeman’s first Cab Bolton thriller was supposed to be a stand alone.

    I am sure glad he changed his mind so we could read more about Cab Bolton. A Season of Fear brings Cab back to Florida and finds him involved, thanks to his always interfering mother, with the players in the upcoming FL gubernatorial race.

    A powerful tropical storm collides with the culmination of a 10 year-old murder investigation that has lain inactive for many years, resulting in a shocking ending. It is a masterfully written, carefully plotted political thriller… fast paced and suspenseful.

    Season of Fear by Brian Freeman (Quercus) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • Mosquitoland

    On a Greyhound bus headed from Jackson, MS (aka Mosquitoland) back to Cleveland, Ohio, 16-year-old Mim knows that if she can get to her sick mother by Labor Day, then all the confusion of the divorce, her new stepmom, and the recent move will no longer matter.

    Mim's voice in this amazing amalgam of a love story, a road trip novel, and a coming-of-age story, will stay with you long after you finish Mosquitoland.
    Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Viking) Recommended by Jill at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

    A wonderfully written story about a boy coming of age in the late 80s in Baton Rouge, LA. It is narrated by a 14-year-old boy who, along with all of the other young boys in the neighborhood, is infatuated with 15-year-old Lindy Simpson.

    Everything changes the summer Lindy is brutally raped, and no one is ever charged with the crime. Told with humor, some sadness, and at times wisdom beyond his 14 years, the story focuses on all of the suspects and shows how suspicion and violence can change lives forever.

    This debut author spins a tale that will grab you from the first page and keep you turning pages until the last.

    My Sunshine Awayby M.O. Walsh (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC.

    A 2016 Southern Book Prize Winner

  • The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

    This fabulous Southern debut novel is set in Kentucky during the 1980s, at the height of the coal mountaintop removal mining; it is a beautifully moving coming-of-age story with a touching grandfather-grandson relationship.

    The Secret Wisdom of the Earth  By Christopher Scotton (Grand Central Publishing) Recommended by Jill and Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore

    Journalist Branigan Powers begins looking into the ten-year-old unsolved murder of a wealthy resident of Grambling, GA for an article planned to coincide with the anniversary of the murder.

    The clients of a homeless mission run by her childhood friend Liam become an important source of information but when two homeless are killed weeks apart in hit-and-run accidents Brannigan begins to fear that she has awakened a murderer.

    The Cantalope Thief is an insightful look into the life of the homeless and how others see them. It is a story of love and family and the horrible efects of drug addiction as well as an intriguing mystery with a cast of characters that I hope to encounter in future books.

    The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore (Lion Publishing)Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

    Dennis Lehane has given us another fascinating, and historical look into the rise of the mob. World Gone By takes place in Tampa and Cuba during WWII, and is a mesmerizing look at the honor and loyalty, revenge and retribution, that is an integral part of a mobster's way of life.

    Once again Lehane develops characters so rich and so complex that he has us liking and rooting for gangsters.

    World Gone By by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Nancy at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

    Okay, y’all. This is the most addictive, unflinching, smart book I’ve read so far this year.

    And, believe me, I could go on with the adjectives. Instead, I’ll let Joshilyn herself tell you what kind of books she writes: Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence for Smart People Who Can Catch the Nuances but Who Like Narrative Drive, and Who Have a Sense of Humor but Who Are Willing to Go Down to Dark Places.

    The Opposite of Everyone’s Paula Vauss joins Arlene Fleet, Ro Grandee, and Shandi Pierce in Joshilyn’s pantheon of incredible female protagonists. Do yourself a favor. Get to know all of them. Start with Paula.

    The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow & Company) Recommended by Cindy at Malaprops Bookstore Asheville NC

  • Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

    I loved Katy Simpson Smith's Free Men (Harper $26.99), a novel set in 1788, in what will become Alabama, and based on the true story of an escaped slave, a white orphan, and a Creek Indian who are on the run together after committing a serious crime. As in Smith's first novel, The Story of Land and Sea (Harper $15.99), set on the NC coast during the Revolution, and which I also loved, she demonstrates a remarkable ability to fully immerse the reader in a bygone era. Free Men is part crime thriller and part meditation on freedom and the personal cost of clashing societies in a new world. Joseph Ellis has called Smith "the most sophisticated historical novelist of her generation."

    Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith (Harper), recommended by Sarah 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

  • The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows

    A coming-of-age novel about 12-year-old Willa Romeyn, who learns some hard truths about her dad and the rest of her family during one hot summer in West Virginia.

    Set in the 1930s, the novel features an impressive cast of strong women who will learn how to fight for what they want despite the social mores of the times.

    This entertaining and often humorous novel will stay with you for a long time.

    The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows (Dial Press) Recommended by Linda at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC

  • The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories from the editors of Garden & Gun

    I hesitate in calling this a cookbook as it's really more of a celebration of Southern culture with a few recipes thrown in.

    That said, it's a marvelous cookbook brimming with delicious dishes and info about the people and places that created them, or at least lay claim to. The dishes can be complex at times, but it is definitely worth it.

    The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories by Garden & Gun (Harper Wave) Recommended by Andrew at Square Books Oxford MS

  • More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson

    Alternately funny and heartbreaking, this book of inter-connected short stories depicts a South populated with characters I know and love.

    This is a book made to be read aloud or dog-eared and underlined to celebrate its beauty.

    More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson (Harper Perennial) Recommended by Elizabeth at Charis Books Decatur GA

  • Come Rain Or Come Shine by Jan Karon

    Wedding bells ring in Jan Karon’s next Mitford installment!

    Little Dooley Kavanagh is all grown up and intending to marry the love of his life, Lace Harper. Short on money, they’ve decided to keep their ceremony sweet and uncomplicated.

    Elegant, even, in its simplicity. The whole family’s invited. If you’re at all familiar with the people of this quaint town, then you know that at best, this day will be sweet, but it will not be simple. Determined to have the beautiful day they deserve, Dooley and Lace do their best to roll with the punches all the way down the aisle.

    A pleasant update on Karon’s lovable and unpredictable characters.

    Come Rain Or Come Shine by Jan Karon (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Recommended by MM at Square Books Oxford MS

  • The Last Season by Stuart Stevens

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

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

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Crapalachia: A Biography of Place by Scott McClanahan

    Scott McClanahan's minimalist pseudo-memoir is a funny, clever, touching and honest book about growing up in rural West Virgina. A book about being proud of and finding beauty in where you come from, even when there's no glamour in it.

    Crapalachia: A Biography of Place by Scott McClanahan ($16, Two Dollar Radio), recommended by Justin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, 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.

  • 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.

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

    Rick Bragg reveals the raw bone of southern poverty in which he grew up; a culture of  violence, grinding pain and humiliation – delivered as a blow-by-blow assault his poor- white class endures every day. You can taste the anger and determination that propelled him, through bold honest storytelling, to the Pulitzer Prize in 1996. I didn’t want to like this book. Instead, I fell in love with it – and its author.

    All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg ($16, Vintage Books USA), recommended by Connie, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.