The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of April 13, 2021

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April 13, 2021sbr logo

Poetry in community.

The Hill We Climb

April a favorite month among booksellers because it is National POETRY MONTH. Poetry is one of those sections in a bookstore that never sells enough to justify its space, but no bookseller can bear to part with. This is the one time of the year when booksellers have an excuse to talk poetry to all of their unsuspecting customers.

Stores do all sorts of things for the month-- they give discounts to customers who recite poems at the cash register. They put out typewriters for patrons to test drive. They hand out little poems like fortune cookies, and invite customers to write poetry with chalk on the sidewalk pavement in front of their shops.

Of course, these are all "in the store" things, and "in the store" for the last year and counting may not yet be possible. Poetry window displays have become poetry Instagram posts. Impromptu poetry readings have turned into virtual events. And April remains a favorite time for new poetry books to be published (and bought). Amanda Gorman's stirring Inaugural Poem, The Hill We Rise currently tops the bestseller list.

Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi is doing all of it. The are hosting an Earthday Poetry virtual event , have created a Poetry subscription box, and are publishing a new book by Thomas Richardson. And perhaps the coolest thing...they have started a community poem, "What Columbus Means to Me". If you live in Columbus you can submit the next line by 4/16. It should rhyme with "gold."

What is your local bookshop doing for Poetry month?

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

The Salt Fields with Stacy D. FloodThe Salt Fields with Stacy D. Flood
Tue Apr 13th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Originally from Buffalo, and currently living in Seattle, Stacy D. Flood's work has been published and performed nationally as well as in the Puget Sound Area. Having received his MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, he has also been an artist-in-residence at DISQUIET in Lisbon, as well as The Millay Colony of the Arts. In addition, he is the recipient of the Gregory Capasso Award in Fiction from the University at Buffalo, along with a Getty Fellowship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

Filthy Animals


Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
Riverhead Books / June 2021

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More Reviews from Avid Bookshop

Brandon Taylor’s book of short stories, Filthy Animals, is a bright shining explosion of beautiful writing. Six of the eleven stories are linked and dipping back and forth into Lionel’s relationship with two dancers, Sophie and Charles, which is hypnotic. These stories about human relationships range from those between lovers, friends, and family. How is it that Taylor can write so that we can see the interior crevices of these character’s souls?

--Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Carole Johnstone

When Stephen King calls a book "dark and devious," it makes a person sit up and take notice. And indeed, the most common word everyone who has read Johnstone's debut novel, Mirrorland, is "twisted." It is a word readers use with a tone of hushed, thrilled delight. "This book plays with you...REALLY plays with you!" says Sabia Sent of Women Who Write Comics

"I love novels full of atmosphere and passion; mystery and suspense; twists and surprises. I like to write about both the wonderful and terrible things we do for love," admits Johnstone herself who in the next breath hints that her earliest work included graphic novels about murderous Care Bears. "When I read a book, I want to escape somewhere else for a while. I want to feel excited, thrilled, outraged, moved, anxious, shocked, surprised, deliciously afraid."

Twists, surprises, and deliciously afraid. Southern booksellers think she delivers.


What booksellers are saying about Mirrorland

  • From the first paragraph, I felt drawn into this world- I was pulled parallel alongside the descriptions of the house in which the story is set. It felt like falling down a spiraling hole in the floor. --Aimee Keeble,  Main Street Books in Davidson, NC

  • This is so sinuously addictive you will find yourself tied in knots trying to figure out what is happening. It's the story of two sisters growing up in a house of rooms with different stories attached to the games the sisters play, stories that later take on a life of their own years later as buried memories come to the fore. Tricky good!  -- Pete Mock, McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC

  • Mirrorland is a modern day Gothic where every page brings a new surprise. A surprise which will have you wondering what is real and what isn’t in this unusual, scary and surprisingly atmospheric novel. --Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

About Carole Johnstone

Carole Johnstone’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in annual “Best of” anthologies in the US and UK. She lives in Argyll & Bute, Scotland, with her husband. Mirrorland is her debut novel.

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin


The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin
Hanover Square Press / April 2021

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More Reviews from E. Shaver, bookseller

Well, this was beyond lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed this story with it’s lovable cast of characters and the SIDE LOVE STORY. How refreshing that the love story, though present and beautiful, was mentioned, I think, about five times? Even so, I’m still swooning over George. SWOONING. Booksellers will adore this novel of a reader discovering her passion for books. Readers will love this novel for the tender descriptions of loving a book. And I love this novel for it’s honest, harsh descriptions of life during war. The losses great and small (which are often the ones that discourage most.) I can’t wait to shove this book into the hands of my customers. I cannot wait!

--Annie Childress, E. Shaver, bookseller  in Savannah, Georgia

The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale


The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale
Penguin Press / April 2021

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More Reviews from Malaprop's

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher was my introduction to Kate Summerscale’s irresistible recounting of fascinating events often lost to history. In The Haunting of Alma Fielding she weaves the true story of a London housewife whose experiences of the supernatural capture the imagination of pre-WWII London, and of the ghost hunter who investigates the poltergeist and discovers a stranger, darker tale. Surrounding Alma, we get a vivid picture of a public captivated by the allure of the supernatural and simultaneously filled with growing anxiety over the prospect of a global conflict. A masterful combination of fact, propulsive storytelling, and atmosphere.

--Clara Boza, Malaprop's in Asheville, North Carolina



Bubbles . . . Up! by Jacqueline Davies, Sonia Sánchez (Illus.)
Katherine Tegen Books, / May, 2021

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More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

A love poem to water and the many things one can do with it, this fun title screams of summer and sun and fun but also of Self-confidence and empowerment. This picture book from Lemonade War author Davies is an absolute must for summer reading.

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

The Barbizon by Paulina Bren


The Barbizon by Paulina Bren
Simon & Schuster / March, 2021

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More Reviews from M Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers

These are the true stories of the friendships, frustrations, successes, struggles, identity, and reinventions of the women made is possible for today’s women to shatter the glass ceiling! When my now 86 year old mother moved from her tiny hometown in Kentucky to a bigger town in South Carolina for her first job as a professional young lady she lived at the YWCA with other professional young ladies beginning their careers. She always refers to it as “my version of the Barbizon Hotel” so I felt a connection to this book immediately. Like my mother moving to the big city to become a “career girl”, young ladies from across the country moved to New York and lived at the Barbizon to do the same thing. The rules for young, white, well off ladies were clear. Behave, have fun, and become successful. The Barbizon provided a safe living arrangement for ladies who went on the become famous, like Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly, Ali McGraw and others who weren’t so famous. The book traces the history of the hotel, focusing on the relationship with Mademoiselle magazine. Combining excellent research with a fun side of gossipy sleep over energy. The Barbizon is a great read that captures and time and place in the professional lives of women and their place in a changing society.

--Susan Williams, M Judson, Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Forthcoming favorites from Southern indies...

Of Women and Salt


Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Flatiron Books / April, 2021

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More Reviews from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

How many generations before a person succumbs to the trauma and tragedy of their mothers before them? How many generations before a person overcomes the trauma? This is a book of choices: of having them and not; of making them and not; of being forced to choose against want, against need; of how and why and who has the privilege to choose principle over survival. Garcia interweaves past and present, following generations of women as they make hard choices. Each voice is distinct, each woman showing us a choice that altered their paths and every woman’s path who came after her. These women are real, full-bodied and -blooded, their braided lives as beautiful and joyful as they are painful.

– Miranda Sanchez, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Hill We Climb Little Devil in American Deacon King Kong
Hidden Valley Road Someone Builds the Dreaml,.

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: They feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
– Anne Lamott 

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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