The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of 19 January, 2021

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January 19, 2021

In praise of all the evil villain's henchmen.

Last week's appearance on Reader Meet Writer with David Zucchino is now available to view. In Wilmington's Lie he provides some deep but important context for recent events.

Reader Meet Writer: David Zucchino

Also available is Allan Gurganus's talk with Wiley Cash about his latest book, The Uncollected Stories. Gurganus is thoughtful and empathetic about the writing life and the forces that drive him to tell the kinds of stories he tells. Every person's inner storyteller -- and we all have one -- will find inspiration in what he has to say.

Reader Meet Writer: Allan Gurganus

There are also only 12 more days to place your vote for the books you think deserve to be called "The Best Southern Book of the Year." Voting allows you to enter into a raffle to win a complete set of the finalist books -- all fifteen of them. That is enough books to keep any reader happy for at least a couple weeks! Cast your ballot at

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

Code Name HeleneCode Name Hélène with Ariel Lawhon
Tue Feb 9th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and a deranged cat.

Race Against TimeRace Against Time with Jerry Mitchell
Thu Feb 11th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Jerry Mitchell has been a reporter in Mississippi since 1986. A winner of more than 30 national awards, Mitchell is the founder of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. The nonprofit is continuing his work of exposing injustices and raising up a new generation of investigative reporters.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

Burnt Sugar


Burnt Sugar by Anvi Doshi
The Overlook Press / January 2021

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore.

Anvi Doshi’s debut novel is brilliantly discomforting. Her wit and the unique life of protagonist Antara creates an unforgettable story that is so difficult to put down. The pain and anger Antara feels while reflecting on her and her mother’s past is so raw and real, providing a truthful look at the nuances of family. It feels a bit like reading the diary of a friend. Burnt Sugar is incredibly deserving of its spot on the Booker shortlist.

--Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Sea in Winter


The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
Heartdrum / January 2021

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More Reviews from The Little Bookshop

When Maisie injures her knee, she is forced to take a break from her one true love…ballet. After she convinces her mom and step-dad that she is recovered enough to go on a family hiking trip, things don’t go her way, and she is left questioning what is truly important in life. Throughout her struggle with priorities, loss, and friendships, her family stands by her side and sees her through it, and she discovers that with a little bit of hope and a different perspective, she can weather any storm life throws at her. A very sweet story!

-- Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

The Forever Girl


The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis
William Morrow Paperbacks / January 2021

More Reviews from Bookmiser

Cat is getting married and she wants her two foster sisters and foster brother to be there. But they haven’t really kept up with each other, so she devises a plan to get them all back and connecting again. It might work, it might blow up in her face. But it’s sure to be entertaining!

--Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Roswell, Georgia

The Last Night at the Telegraph Club


Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Dutton Books for Young Readers / January, 2021

More Reviews from Books & Books

In Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Lily Hu and Kath Miller are gorgeously rendered against the glittering backdrop of San Francisco, escaping into the night for The Telegraph Club where they find themselves staring down a sort of freedom that they know they cannot leave behind. From the very first page, this is a novel that feels so incredibly full and rich with historical details and simmers with yearning and tension I simply could not put it down. Delving into the realities of 1950’s Chinese America identity, queer culture, McCarthyism & women in STEM, Lo has crafted a historical fiction novel of the absolute highest caliber.

--Christina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

To Be Honest


To Be Honest by Michael Leviton
Abrams Press / January 2021

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

Michael Leviton grew up in what he describes as an “honesty cult.” His parents had little patience for half-truths, believing that absolutely nothing should be omitted, especially the details that make most people uncomfortable. As a consequence, Michael struggled to make friends, hold a job, or feel welcomed by others for most of his life. Eventually, heartbreak led him to question his honesty policy, and he began to explore what it would feel like to prioritize others’ feelings over the painful truth. Here, Michael narrates his story with humor, self-awareness, and–of course–honesty.

--Reviewed by Talia Smart, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Winter 2021 favorites from Southern indies...



The Merciful by Jon Sealy
Haywire Books / January, 2021

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

First: Every book club needs to put The Merciful at the top of their “next to read” list. For me, reading is for the most part a private personal experience. I love to read and immerse myself in the story. This book doesn’t let me do that. I can’t wait for my friends to read this one so we can intellectually deconstruct it. Bottom line; this book forces you to think and to see a story from disparate and various perspectives.

Jon Sealy does a masterful job of painting the lives of these characters and exposing the flaws and foibles that make us all human. I highly recommend this thought-provoking and compelling novel.

– Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Natalie Zina Walschots

In Jane Austen's era people wrote stories about drawing room dramas. in the twentieth century the drawing rooms gave way to cocktail parties and office romances. These days, our favorite settings of choice seem dictated by video games and the imaginative minds behind the Marvel Comics franchise.

It is territory that Walschots -- who has designed video games and written LARP scripts -- knows like the back of her hand.

"I've always been fascinated by henchpeople as characters. They are, by nature, peripheral and disposable, meant only to have a single pithy line (or no speaking part at all) before being chucked through a window by some hero or another" --Natalie Zina Walschots, Interview with the Los Angeles Public Library

Her story of the seedier side of superheroing has won enthusiastic fans among booksellers. How can you now love a character whose superpower is spreadsheets?


What booksellers are saying about Hench

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this book a 12. Wholly original, I love how it flips the superhero idea on its head. --Jamie Southern, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

  • Hench is downright hilarious at times and it questions a number of different aspects of our society when it comes to media coverage and cost of the most imaginative titles I've read this year. --Stuart McCommon, Novel in Memphis, TN

  • Its quick-witted dark humor, tongue in cheek morality, and fast-paced action were everything I didn't know I needed. This book made me scream. --Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL

  • Natalie Zina Walschots has taken many of the tropes of the superhero genre and twisted them to look at the real human cost of those actions. -- Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

About Natalie Zina Walschots

Natalie Zina Walschots is a writer, community manager, and game designer. She’s the author of Thumbscrews, which won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains. Her writing on the interactive adventure The Aluminum Cat won an IndieCade award, and her poetic exploration of the notes engine in Bloodborne was covered by Kotaku and First Person Scholar. She also plays a lot of D&D, participates in numerous Nordic LARPs, watches too many horror movies, and reads reams of speculative fiction. She lives in Toronto with her partner and an unlikely number of cats..


Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Vanishing Half Caste The Dutch House
Braiding Sweetgrass Anti-Racist Baby

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”
– Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
The Southern Bookseller Review is a project of 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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