The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of August 14, 2021

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September 14, 2021

There are many Souths.

Margaret Renkl

This week's Reader Meet Writer event features Margaret Renkl, the much-loved opinion-writer of the New York Times and a founding editor of Chapter 16, the daily literary publication of Humanities Tennessee.


Renkl's last book, Late Migrations, was a TODAY Book Club selection and a regular on the Southern Indie Bestseller List. Her new book, Graceland, At Last collects more than sixty of her popular op-ed pieces.

“People have often asked me how it feels to be the ‘voice of the South,’” writes Renkl in her introduction. “But I’m not the voice of the South, and no one else is, either.” There are many Souths—red and blue, rural and urban, mountain and coast, Black and white and brown—and no one writer could possibly represent all of them. In Graceland, At Last, Renkl writes instead from her own experience about the complexities of her homeland, demonstrating along the way how much more there is to this tangled region than many people understand.

What booksellers are saying about Graceland, At Last:

"Margaret Renkl writes about the natural world and the human condition with grace and beauty." ―Rae Ann Parker from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN

"Late Migrations is a staff favorite at our store. Not only do we hand sell it to customers, we have been giving copies as gifts far and wide. The author's writing is spare, beautiful, thoughtful and wise, and she capture’s a Southern life in a way no one else does. For those who relish Renkl’s writing in the New York Times, Graceland provides a wonderful opportunity to reread favorite essays, as well as share her writing with others." ―Lia Lent from Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, AR

"When you have a few free moments, a collection of essays is nice to have near. Margaret Renkl's latest book, Graceland, At Last is educational, heartwarming and funny. The section on Arts and Culture (which includes the title piece) was most enjoyable. Pick it up and expect your outlook on life to experience an upgrade." ―Teresa Dampier from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up next on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South with Margaret RenklGraceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South with Margaret Renkl
Thu Sep 16th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

"Margaret Renkl is my favorite essayist. Every week I look for her column in the opinion pages of the New York Times. In a time when the country has such deep divisions, I can rely on her writing to be all heart, no snark. I’m so proud to have this fellow Nashvillian’s newest collection on my shelf." --Karen Hayes from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN

When Ghosts Come Home with Wiley CashWhen Ghosts Come Home with Wiley Cash
Thu Sep 23rd 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

"Wiley Cash ...always. Cash continues to deliver the stories that both define and transcend the American South. Cash's latest novel is more than a mystery, plane crash, murder, and racism. It's also family, trauma, responsibility, honor and growth. All wrapped in outstanding writing and a uniquely southern sense of place." --Susan Williams from M Judson, Booksellers in Greenville, SC

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

Assembly by Natasha Brown


Assembly by Natasha Brown
Little, Brown and Company / September 2021

More Reviews from Bookmarks

This book is an excellent “gateway” for readers of all kinds to learn about the subtle nuances of being a person of color. From microaggressions to being called out because of race, the main character sees at all and is trying to make a name for herself. On the surface, this short book is about a woman meeting her boyfriend’s parents, but the story dives much deeper and examines differences in race, wealth, and status. Throughout the book, I felt myself questioning how I have been racist without meaning to and ways in which people have done the same to me. This quick read will stay with me for a long time and make me examine my interactions that much closer, with an eye towards empathy and understanding.

Reviewed by Josie Greenwald, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on: Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs


Alma P. Dobbs

Dobbs' debut middle grade novel was inspired by the story of her own great-grandmother, Juanita Martinez. She, along with her family, escaped her burning village in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution, fleeing north to the US border. She was nine years old.

"Sometimes," says Dobbs in an interview, "we adults don’t give children enough credit, yet they are capable of so much if given the space and confidence to grow and figure things out on their own. I also want them to realize that no matter the circumstances, they, too, can look to their dreams for guidance and strength during dire times."

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

What booksellers are saying about Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

  • I loved the earnest determination and bravery of Petra, her closeness with her 2 younger siblings, and how her abuelita taught her to listen to the natural world to survive the harsh desert conditions to make their way to the U.S. border. It was such a beautiful mix of mythology and holding tight to dreams. My ten-year-old daughter and I highly recommend!  ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL
    Buy from The Haunted Bookshop

  • Alda P. Dobbs beautifully brings the untold perspective of a young girl living during the Mexican Revolution to light. Even as a book written for young readers, this story will reach the hearts and dreams of readers at any age.  ― Cat Chapman from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL
    Buy from Oxford Exchange

  • It is shocking to know that this story about a border crossing, which so closely parallels events of today, is based on Alda P. Dobbs's own grandmother's experience in 1913. This is a rich historical story will start timely conversations for readers of all ages. But, more than anything, young readers will find themselves drawn to the family story at the heart of the book and inspired by Petra's dreams and determination.  ― Lady Smith from The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, AL
    Buy from Snail on the Wall

About Alda P. Dobbs

Alda P. Dobbs is as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas.

Animal Architects by Amy Cherrix


Animal Architects by Amy Cherrix
Beach Lane Books / September 2021

More Reviews from Parnassus Books

Fun facts and beautiful illustrations combine to make this a must-read book about animals and how they built their amazing homes.

Reviewed by Rae Ann Parker, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner


Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner
Simon & Schuster / September 2021

More Reviews from Wordsworth Books

This beautifully written memoir features the intertwined lives of the author, her sister and childhood friend. Written in fresh, understated prose, the author explores how their lives diverge – in ways heartbreaking and hopeful, despairing and redemptive. Three Girls is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I hope it gets the attention and awards it deserves.

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish


The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish
Knopf / September 2021

More Reviews from novel.

The War For Gloria is a haunting follow-up to Lish’s last award-winning novel. Set in the Boston area, Corey is in high school when his mother is diagnosed with ALS. As he struggles to cope and take care of his mother Gloria, his previously absent father comes back into their lives and upends everything. Corey initially admires his father’s intellect and seeks a connection with him through his mother’s situation. It doesn’t take long for Corey to realize his father is a leech that is absent of empathy and any kind of emotional connection. Corey goes through several stages of growth throughout the novel and he fights (quite literally) for his mother & his sanity… as he’s also fighting an internal war on how to best become a man. Every character’s actions in this story leads to a consequence. Even the most minor of things that they say or do come back to haunt them in some way, shape, or form. I was stuck processing everything about it by the end…and though this book is traumatic at times, it’s a hell of a story.

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally


The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire / September 2021

More Reviews from Fountain Bookstore

Mari is visiting Chicago for Lollapalooza, a chance to see her favorite singer, hang out with her stepsister and see her Dad. Mari is struggling with personal issues- things are rough at home with her mom, her relationship with her best friend is strained, and she is still dealing with resentment towards her father for ditching her and her mom to go live his best life. And she really, really doesn’t want to date and fall in love. But then a Ride Share brings her T.J. Here’s why I love the title of the book: The Pick-Up is definitely referencing the Uber app, but T.J.’s brother Tyler kind of also comes across as a Pick-Up Artist coach to his little bro. Thankfully, T.J. is too pure. He’s like a sexy cinnamon roll. Mari and T.J. have immediate chemistry, but Mari is wary (hehe)- they’re both from out of state, she’s not looking for a boyfriend, her dad cheated on her mom, and then her mom went off the deep end. Sometimes things are destined, and sometimes you have to make things happen. Absolute love for this book!

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Read This Next!

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

Matrix by Lauren Groff


Matrix by Lauren Groff
Riverhead Books / September 2021

More Reviews from Tombolo Books

A Summer 2021 Read This Next! Title

Lauren Groff shows us women’s desires in an entirely new way and in a place where desire, especially women’s desire is considered sin. The strength of Matrix lies in its voice and perspective. Groff builds a world where the men are periphery, yet the patriarchal structures and subservience to men’s wills rooted in the women who drive this novel are still palpable. It is a fine line to walk for any woman who dares to go against the grain, and Groff walks that line beautifully through Marie. Pick up this book at the first chance you get! It is sure to be one everyone will be talking about!.

Reviewed by Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida

Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois All In Daisy Jones & The Six
The End of Everything The Good, the Bad, and the Spooky

[ See the full list ]

sbr shelf

Parting Thought

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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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