The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of February 9, 2021

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February 9, 2021

Recommended reading from Tom H.

A Late Show

Local bookstores rarely make national news, and certainly don't end up with one of those often hilarious mini-cinematic productions called "commercials" that many people prefer to watch instead of the game during the Super Bowl. But talk show host Stephen Colbert decided to rectify that omission this week and created a post-game commercial for Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina.

Yes, that is the voice of Sam Elliott that you hear advising you to "visit The Pine." But of course, what any book lover really wants to know is what to read next. Here are the books that customer "Tom H." was waving around in front of the camera:

The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester
War: How Conflict Shaped Us by Margaret MacMillan
1939: The Lost World of the Fair by David Gelernter
Swan Song 1945: A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich by Walter Kempowski

Foggy Pine Books posted to their Facebook page last week that they need to sell 1350 books a month to keep the doors open. They fell short in January. Thanks to Colbert, Sam Elliot, and Tom H. they are ahead of the game this month. Visit to order some the books Tom likes to read.

Or, because your own local bookshop also has a magic number of books they have to sell to stay in business, visit them instead.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory



Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

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.

The Fortunate OnesThe Fortunate Ones with Ed Tarkington
Thu Feb 18th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Ed Tarkington's debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Economy HallEconomy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood by Fatima Shaik
Thu Feb 25th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

FATIMA SHAIK, a former professor and journalist, is a trustee of PEN America and author of six previous short story collections and young adult novels. Economy Hall is her first nonfiction work.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

My Year Abroad


My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee
Riverhead Books / February 2021

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More Reviews from Righton Books

Instead of the college semester abroad he was anticipating, a suburban New Jersey slacker ends up being hired by a high-octane Chinese entrepreneur who immerses him in the hedonistic lifestyles of Asian billionaires. This is the sixth book by the award-winning Chang-Rae Lee, and his dry wit and keen observations are instantly recognizable.

--Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Deesha Philyaw

When Deesha Philyaw talks about why she quit her day job and decided to write full time, she quotes Audre Lorde. "I actually quit because it was a toxic work environment...Leaving felt radical to the extent that I left to preserve my mental and physical well-being, and as Audre Lorde said, ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’”

Her radical leap was prescient. Her book was already at the publisher when she quit her job, but nobody told her that it would eventually be short listed for the 2020 National Book Awards.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

What booksellers are saying about The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

  • Having grown up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist church, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I saw the secret double lives of some of us. Rebelling against the submit to authority messages on Saturday night, but sitting pious and submissive come Sunday morning services was de rigueur. Deesha Philyaw's book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies gives voice to secret lives that I know for sure are lived and true. The need for acceptance, for absolution, for grace is ever-present in familiar relationships as well as those in the church. These short stories are divine. --Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA

  • A mesmerizing series of stories chronicling the private thoughts and lives of an eclectic group of women. The presence of the Church in the characters' lives is simply a false stereotype that sets the reader up for a sometimes sad, sometimes angry and often sensual romp outside church services. --Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

  • Built around the lives of women at the intersection of the Black community and the Church, this collection soars. --Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC

  • I loved these stories. What does it mean to be a good church girl? How does that effect a strong woman's desires and freedoms? The stories were superbly written, both meaningful, poignant and funny. Couldn't put it down, finishing in an afternoon. -- Kelley Barnes, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

About Deesha Philyaw

Deesha Philyaw’s writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, McSweeney’s, the Rumpus, Brevity, TueNight, and elsewhere. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she currently lives in Pittsburgh with her daughters.

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Four Lost Cities


Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz
W.W. Norton & Company / February 2021

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

I know Annalee Newitz from their excellent work in speculative fiction and have been a fan for ages. They now take to the page with this delightful work of nonfiction exploring the deaths of four historic civilizations. If you enjoy the works of the late Tony Horowitz, Eric Larson, and Karen Abbott, you will love this book! Traveling to the ruins of these lost urban mega-cities, Newitz explores how they were founded, how they developed and what caused their demise. From Pompeii to Cahokia, located near present-day Saint Louis, we see how every day people lived and died and what caused their civilizations to collapse. The tone of the book is light and anecdotal with a touch of whimsy without shying away from the darker aspects of ancient history. Ultimately hopeful, the author shows us what we can learn from the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes as these doomed urban peoples without being preachy or sounding superior. Even if you don’t read much history, I can highly recommend this book as just a fabulous read!

--Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Just Our Luck


Just Our Luck by Julia Walton
Random House Books for Young Readers / December 2020

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

Just Our Luck is a moving and absolutely hilarious tale about Leo, a high school boy all caught up in his own anxiety. Leo normally keeps his head down, but a fight with another boy at school starts a strange chain reaction, tangling Leo up in something he thought he never would have been part of by choice. I absolutely loved the character building in this amazing, touching book.

--Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

What Could Be Saved


What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
Atria Books / January, 2021

More Reviews from Bookmarks

I devoured the majority of What Could Be Saved in a single day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. As the oldest of four children, I’ve always been drawn to family dramas, and nothing strikes my core deeper than imagining the loss of a sibling, which is exactly what drives this novel. Liese O’Halloran Schwarz has created a heartbreakingly beautiful story told through alternating timelines from before and after the Preston family’s only son goes missing while they are living in 1970s Thailand to his sisters’ shocking discovery that he may still be alive in 2019. This is an emotional, meditative story about reconciling and accepting the life we have while making peace with the loss of the life that could have been. The perfect recommendation for readers who enjoy family stories like The Dutch House and The Last Romantics, I know for certain What Could Be Saved will be on my best of 2021 list.

--Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks  in Winston-Salem, North Carolina



Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore
Dial Press / January 2021

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More Reviews from Books and Books

Kristin Cashore is one of the most gifted fantasy writers of our time. When this book opened from the perspective of a many-tentacled sea creature at the bottom of the ocean, I was surprised and delighted to find myself completely comfortable knowing that this chapter would fit with the larger story so very satisfyingly. And I was right, of course. I am overwhelmed by my love for the Graceling realm and the brilliant way that Cashore has expanded on the world with each of the novels, building such strong, full characters and gorgeous wrought lore along the way. And now there are telepathic blue foxes! And silbercows! And The Keeper! And they all feel more real than my own world, having finished this novel so recently. I hold WINTERKEEP and Lovisa just as close to my heart as I do GRACELING, FIRE & BITTERBLUE and I really will read anything that Kristin Cashore writes.

--Cristina Russell, Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida

Read This Next!

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

The Project


The Project by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books / February, 2021

More Reviews from Square Books

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Orphaned and betrayed, Lo Denham seeks to uncover the truth about the organization that her sister thinks saved her. However, the closer Lo gets to the Unity Project, the more she struggles to make sense of her own traumatic past. Perfect for fans of dark YA thrillers, The Project is a chilling story sure to leave readers speechless.

– Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Guest List Just As I Am Circe
The Body Keeps Score Ambitious Girl

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

"As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul."

– Ursula K. Le Guin

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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