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

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July 13, 2021

The Summer Reading List, reviewed

Barack Obama's Summer Reading List 2021

Last week former President Obama published his summer reading list. This is an event many indie booksellers look forward to -- not just because the list always means a surge in sales, (although that is nice) -- but because they find the list, well, interesting. This is a group of people who are unapologetically nosy about what other people are reading, so much so they have turned it into a career. "What are you reading?" is a phrase that comes second only to "You've got to read this!"

What do they think about the books on Obama's summer reading list? Read for yourself:

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
"In the stories of
Land of Big Numbers, change makes its presence known in slow-healing wounds, funny and awkward adjustments, subtle joys, and plain yet devastating loss. Te-Ping Chen portrays contemporary China with a balance of affection and blunt candor." - Cat Chapman from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL | Buy from Oxford Exchange

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
"This book will make an incredible addition to the Katrina literature canon. Nguyen shines a spotlight on the strength and depth of Vietnamese immigrants, a New Orleans community that's rarely given enough credit or context for their contribution to this city. 
" -Caroline Bergeron from Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, LA | Buy from Garden District Book Shop

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
"Terrifying, eerie and dripping with suspense, Leave The World Behind haunts me. Trust me, this novel is begging to be discussed. All I can say here is: Flamingos? And teeth?! Rumaan Alam leaves his reader with more questions than answers (about ourselves, race, class, our culture, life) and I am here for it. This one is a genre bender - definitely literary fiction, but also science fiction and mystery/thriller." - Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
"Georgia in the days immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, Harris’ characters display the best and the worst responses to the new order. Brutal yet hopeful, this one’s a slow burn until you realize you’re so caught up in the story you can’t possibly stop reading.
" -Jamie Fiocco from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

The Lost Art of DyingThe Lost Art of Dying with Lydia Dugdale, MD
Thu Jul 15th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

Lydia Dugdale MD, MAR, is associate professor of medicine and director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University. Prior to her 2019 move to Columbia, she was Associate Director of the Program for Biomedical Ethics and founding Co-Director of the Program for Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion at Yale School of Medicine. She is an internal medicine primary care doctor and medical ethicist. Her first book, Dying in the Twenty-First Century, provides the theoretical grounding for this current book. She lives with her husband and daughters in New York City.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam


A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
Hogarth / July 2021

More Reviews from Square Books

Award-winning Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam’s second novel is a profound meditation on love, desire, war, mortality, and the human condition. Krishan, an NGO worker based in the capital Colombo, receives an email out of the blue from a former girlfriend, on the same day he learns that his grandmother’s former carer has died. The journey that follows – through the heart of a country still recovering from a decades-long civil war – is as much through the mind as it is physical. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby


S.A. Cosby

In his new book Cosby returns to the town of Red Hill, Virginia, the setting for his breakout novel, Blacktop Wasteland. But while the place may be familiar, the story is something new. Two fathers, one Black and one white, band together to seek justice--and revenge-- for their murdered gay sons.

"For me it was as much about challenging myself as it was challenging my readers," says Cosby about the complicated forces at work in the novel, "...I think there are situations where any person with an ounce of empathy or sympathy would feel justified in taking mortal revenge. But, this is the big thing — the effects of that decision can be worse than the motivation for that revenge. I personally believe most people are not wired to take another person's life."

See S.A. Cosby on Reader Meet Writer

The Forest of Vanishing Stars : How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons

What booksellers are saying about Razorblade Tears

  • This was a powerful story about two fathers seeking forgiveness within themselves, fighting in vain for the redemption of their sons deaths, and all the while finding friendship and ally-ship in ways they never thought possible. -- Olivia Schaffer from The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA
    Buy from The Bookshelf

  • As much as I loved Blacktop Wasteland, I think I like this new book even more - Cosby just keeps getting better! I forced myself to read this really slowly because I knew I’d be so sad when it was over. This is a strong contender for my book of the year.. --Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA
    Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Man did Razorblade Tears come out of the gate swinging. I knew it was going to be a gritty crime thriller, but at one point about 90 pages in I yelled “I didn’t know I was reading a John Wick movie!” That said, I love love loved it. --Faith Parke-Dodge from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC
    Buy from Page 158 Books

  • S.A. Cosby is the real deal. He is rejuvenating the mystery scene in a way not seen since Elmore Leonard during his prime. And his new novel is the perfect example how. --Pete Mock from McIntyre's Books in Pittsboro, NC
    Buy from McIntyre's Fine Books

About S.A.Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He recently won an Anthony Award for Best Short Story. He resides in Gloucester, VA.

After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson


After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers / July 2021

More Reviews from Flyleaf Books

Erica and Thomas love each other. It’s promising that they can look forward to a new relationship together–until Erica wakes up one morning to see her body vandalized with vulgar drawings, offensive words, and several names, including Thomas’. This debut is enhanced through Erica and Thomas’ own perspectives, in which Gustafson fleshes them out very well and provides two sides to this engrossing story. I’m positive that After the Ink Dries will inspire somebody, as it succeeds in illustrating the struggle-but also the possibility- of having courage and hope when it seems like the world is against you.

Reviewed by Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White


Books Promiscuously Read by Heather Cass White
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / July 2021

More Reviews from Parnassus Books

Because I work in the book world, sometimes I forget that not every person is a reading-obsessed nerd. This book put into words what I’ve never been able to: reading takes you to another place. Reading changes your entire world in a literal way and in figurative ways. I loved reading quotes from my favorite writers about how reading transformed their worlds.

Reviewed by Sissy Gardner, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

City Problems by Steve Gobler


City Problems by Steve Gobler
One World / July 2021

More Reviews from Fiction Addiction

Ed Runyan is an ex-NYPD detective who left the big apple for the relative quiet of rural Ohio after a particularly gruesome case involving the brutal murder of a young woman. Now it seems his past has caught up with him when he finds himself in a case of another missing young woman on his own turf in the quiet fields of Ohio. The girl, Megan Beemer was reported missing from the Columbus area and was last seen at a party where a high school band from Ed’s area was performing. Between the band and the local kids who were or may have been at the same event, and with the help of a woman detective from Columbus, Ed has to unfold the story of who was at the party and how they might have interacted with Megan. When Megan’s body is found in a local creek, Ed has to struggle with his past and the demons that have stayed with him from the earlier murder in NY which has been the center of his nightmares for years. Ed Runyon is a damaged character, but one who shows his human side in his empathy and depth of commitment to solve this crime and find justice for the victim. We can only hope we’ll see more of Ed Runyon. This one was a great read!

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna


Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna
Viking Books for Young Readers / July 2021

More Reviews from Bookmarks

This is it! My favorite middle-grade book of 2021. Full of adventure, humor, and friendship, Kiki’s story had me hooked from start to finish. I laughed, cried, and audibly gasped as the story unfolded through the lens of her vivid imagination. I particularly liked the handling and validation of Kiki’s struggles with anxiety. Great for fans of Aru Shah, Inkheart, or anything by Rick Riordan- Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is not to be missed!

Reviewed by Mary Louise Callaghan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Read This Next!

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

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix


The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Berkley / July 2021

More Reviews from The Book House

A Summer 2021 Read This Next! Title

It turns out all those hours I spent watching 1980s (and beyond) horror films weren’t wasted. From the detritus of popular culture and our own obsession with nostalgia comes up a blistering horror novel that savages society with the same precision and bloodletting as the killers savage their victims. Hendrix’s fans will be ecstatic, and we all will enjoy puzzling out who these final girls are! (Julia and Dani were the easiest, and I’m still puzzling out some references)

Reviewed by Tracie Harris, The Book House in Mableton, Georgia

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

Malibu Rising The Anthropocene Reviewed Mexican Gothic
Memorial Drive Are You a Cheeseburger

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

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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