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Monday, October 24, 2016
The Regulator Bookshop Presents the Indie Next List for October 2016
The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.
This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...
The Mothers By Brit Bennett
(Riverhead, 9780399184512, $26)
"The 'mothers' of this book's title refers to the gaggle of elderly churchgoing women who comment on the congregation around them, especially the trio of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey. But The Mothers is about more than that--it refers to the concept of motherhood, whether real, lost, aborted, adoptive, or conflicted. The three young people at the heart of this story are all flawed, but their portrayals are realistic and they are easy for readers to support. This is a book about salvation--not the spiritual salvation that the gossiping, but well-intentioned mothers seek, but the kind that comes with self-acceptance and growth. The Mothers is an honest, modern, and triumphant book."
--Jamie Thomas, Women & Children First, Chicago, IL
This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview
Independent booksellers across the nation have voted The Mothers, the debut novel by Brit Bennett (Riverhead, October 11), as their number one pick for October's Indie Next List.
The "mothers" of the title refers to the elderly female members of Upper Room Chapel in Oceanside, California, whose favorite activities include gossiping about their fellow congregants. This pertains especially to the young trio of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey, whose romantic entanglements provide much of the book's drama. The Mothers also boldly takes on the concept of motherhood in all its forms, whether real, lost, aborted, adoptive, or conflicted, said Jamie Thomas, manager of Women & Children First in Chicago, who calls Bennett's novel "an honest, modern, and triumphant book."
"This is a book about salvation," said Thomas. "Not the spiritual salvation that the gossiping, but well-intentioned mothers seek, but the kind that comes with self-acceptance and growth."
After graduating from Stanford University, Bennett, who is 26 years old and based in Los Angeles, received a fellowship from the University of Michigan's MFA program in fiction. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review, among other publications. How did you come up with the idea for The Mothers and its narrative of love and friendship, grief and loss, choice and regret, hypocrisy and redemption, and the complicated nature of small communities? Brit Bennett: I think a lot of it came from growing up in the church as a child and spending time within the church community, observing the people around me and becoming interested in the young people who are part of these churches. We often think of churches as skewing older, but I went to churches where there were very active young adult and teen ministries. It was very interesting to me, how people come of age and go through adolescence and become adults within these sometimes very conservative church communities. When writing about Upper Room, which you portray as a close, insular community populated by strong individual characters, did you draw from your own churchgoing experience? BB: My mom is Catholic and my dad is Protestant, so I would go to either of their two churches depending on the week. My dad's church is much larger than Upper Room, which I based loosely on a church my friend went to. I wanted to write about a smaller church because to me that was a lot more interesting since it forces people to be around each other in ways that you can avoid when you go to a huge church. Fiction is interesting when people are not allowed to avoid each other, and I think that small towns can provide that scenario, as can other small communities like churches. What were some of the ideas you wanted to explore in this book? BB: I was interested in mothering as a verb, not necessarily as just a noun or who you are, and I was interested in the different ways that people can mother each other. I also wanted to explore what it's like to be a young girl who comes of age and grows into a woman and what it's like if your mother is not there to guide you through that....
"This short, powerful novel is historical fiction at its best! Captain Kidd, a 72-year-old war veteran and professional news reader, has been tasked with returning Johanna, a 10-year-old white girl kidnapped by the Kiowa when she was six and recently ransomed, to relatives living near San Antonio. The Captain knows the journey will not be easy but believes it is his duty to do the right thing, despite the dangers that lie ahead. What he doesn't expect is the strength of the bond that develops between him and Johanna, one so powerful that it defines the choice he makes at journey's end. Beautifully descriptive prose drives the narrative through the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the West during the late 1800s."
--Adrian Newell, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA
Small Great Things By Jodi Picoult
(Ballantine Books, 9780345544957, $28.99)
"Picoult can be relied upon to find the themes that are most important to our national conversation and then to explore them with wit, warmth, and skill. In Small Great Things, she illuminates the racial divide in our country through the vivid stories of a black nurse, a white supremacist, and the public defender who intervenes when the worst happens. This excellent, timely novel is sure to be loved by Picoult's fans and is certain to create new ones."
"With direct and forceful narrative and a translation as smooth and peaceful as the quiet narrator himself, this book takes the reader on a days-long search for the past and the present in modern day Bogotá. A prominent political cartoonist is shaken when a forgotten uncertainty from the past resurfaces. This psychological study of the concept that what we believe makes us who we are is a masterpiece!"
--Nicole Magistro, The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO
The Other Einstein By Marie Benedict
(Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781492637257, $25.99)
"To portray Einstein not as the scientific genius we have been led to know, but as a callous, manipulative human being is what Benedict brilliantly accomplishes. Could the highly intelligent Mileva Maric--leading the bohemian life in 1890s Zurich--pursue a nontraditional career in science and math and simultaneously maintain a traditional relationship with the young Albert Einstein? With historical flair, The Other Einstein presents a volatile life filled with moments of collaboration and sacrifice, humiliation and outrage, and a will to change forces to save one's own existence."
--Mindy Ostrow, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY
The Trespasser By Tana French
(Viking, 9780670026333, $27)
"While French's mysteries stand alone, a minor character from the previous book always becomes the main character in the next one. In this case, it is Antoinette Conway, the lone female detective in the 'Boys Club' that is the Murder Squad of the Dublin Police Department. She is partnered with Stephen Moran, a young and inexperienced detective, and assigned nothing but domestic disturbance cases. The latest one appears to be no different: Aislinn Murray is found murdered in her flat with the table set for dinner, but there is no sign of anyone else on the scene. Is this a romantic evening that took an ugly turn, or is there something more sinister afoot?"
--Sharon K. Nagle, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
Children of the New World By Alexander Weinstein
(Picador, 9781250098993, $16)
"Imaginative and articulate, Children of the New World envisions fascinating technologies and the cultures shaped by them. As in the best speculative fiction, Weinstein's stories are driven by a longing for deeper answers: What defines us as human? How will we maintain this humanity as our lives become increasingly interwoven with the digital? I am haunted by many of the characters in these stories and their search for the human connection in worlds where technology appears to supersede it, but I am comforted by Weinstein's implication that such connection will still be essential. This debut is an astonishing addition to the world of speculative fiction."
--Kelsey O'Rourke, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South By Beth Macy
(Little, Brown, 9780316337540, $28)
"In the early 20th century, Albino African American brothers are kidnapped by unscrupulous and racist circus managers who not only steal their earnings from their work as freak show performers, but also tell their mother that they are dead. This occurs during the height of the Jim Crow South, when black lives didn't matter and lynching was at its peak. The mother's persistent and heroic fight through legal channels to recoup her sons' wages and achieve a better standard of living is at the heart of this true story, an inside look at the historical depths of American racism."
--Joan Grenier, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why By Sady Doyle
(Melville House, 9781612195636, $25.99)
"At its best, pop culture criticism forces us to reconsider a familiar product by placing it in a new context and, in doing so, imbuing it with new meaning. Trainwreck is just that. Doyle effectively and entertainingly litigates her case: that Western culture's fascination with 'fallen' female starlets--aka trainwrecks--is simply a modern form of the patriarchal silencing and marginalization of women that has been going for centuries. With sly humor and lively prose, Doyle systematically punches through all the familiar straw-man arguments and convincingly illustrates that the 'harmless fun' of Internet clickbait and TMZ gossip are merely modern forms of public shaming. A must-read."
--Matt Nixon, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN
Mercury By Margot Livesey
(Harper, 9780062437501, $26.99)
"This riveting psychological novel delves into the lives of Donald and Vivian, a married couple whose stability is threatened and ultimately undermined when Vivian, whose former life as an aspiring equestrian was cut short, meets Mercury, a magnificent horse with a tragic history. What unfolds may seem like destiny to Vivian, but to Donald, a staid and deliberate ophthalmologist still mourning the death of his beloved father, it tests everything he's ever known, including his faculty for navigating the world. A truly remarkable study of human nature and the blindspots that hinder us all."
--Mary Cotton, Newtonville Books, Newton, MA
All That Man Is By David Szalay
(Graywolf Press, 9781555977535, $26)
"All That Man Is was recently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and with good reason. The novel's parade of characters, ranging from teenagers to a man in his twilight years, when taken as a whole, represents an 'everyman' in whom readers can easily see pieces of themselves. With prose reminiscent of Amis, Kundera, and Nabokov, Szalay offers a collection of related stories that speak to the mundane qualities of modern life with a sympathetic tone, a reflection of our struggle to move forward in a world increasingly unfamiliar to most of us, but not without hope."
--Tom Beans, Dudley's Bookshop Café, Bend, OR
Today Will Be Different By Maria Semple
(Little, Brown, 9780316403436, $27)
"With her signature writing style and matter-of-fact and honest tone, Semple can make me laugh while reading like no one else can. Truth be told, there's not much to the plot here other than Eleanor decides today will be different and, of course, everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong. However, the simplicity of the plot is what makes this book a wonderful read for all of us who don't have it together, who forget things, and who sometimes just plain lose their cool."
--Kristin Beverly, Half Price Books, Dallas, TX
The Wangs vs. the World By Jade Chang
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544734098, $26)
"Simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and earnest, The Wangs vs. the World is one hell of a ride. Literally. Join the Wang family patriarch, Charles, as he and his family drive across the country from Los Angeles to New York in shame after his cosmetic company is destroyed by a doomed business investment. Homeless, penniless, yet still fiercely proud, Charles sets out to reunite his children and reclaim the ancestral land of the Wangs from the Chinese Communists. A hilarious, moving, and rollicking tale of family, ancestry, and a worn-out Mercedes station wagon, The Wangs vs. the World is not to be missed!"
--Michelle Chen, WORD, Brooklyn, NY
Cruel Beautiful World By Caroline Leavitt
(Algonquin Books, 9781616203634, $26.95)
"Cruel Beautiful World is a masterful family drama about sisterhood, love, and the dangers of entering the adult world. Lucy is sure that she and her high school teacher are in love. She agrees to run away with William to a rural paradise where they can be together safely until she turns 18. Lucy, however, gets more than she bargained for when her life turns into one of isolation and deprivation. Her sister, Charlotte, never gives up hope that Lucy will return. Their shocking reunion will leave readers riveted to the page and these characters will haunt readers long after the book is finished."
--Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN
The Wonder By Emma Donoghue
(Little, Brown, 9780316393874, $27)
"Lib Wright, a protégé of Florence Nightingale and a nursing veteran of the Crimean War, is dispatched from London to a remote Irish village to keep watch on Anna O'Donnell, a young girl who is rumored to have refrained from eating for four months yet continues to thrive. Miracle or hoax? Lib is determined to uncover the truth, but the truth is never simple. In this beautiful, haunting novel, Donoghue weaves a tale of misguided faith and duty, exploited innocence, and redemptive love. What is the secret behind Anna's mysterious ability to survive? The truth is uncovered as The Wonder propels readers to a shocking conclusion."
--Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
The Kept Woman By Karin Slaughter
(William Morrow, 9780062430212, $27.99)
"The Kept Woman features Georgia detective Will Trent in a compelling mystery involving a superstar sports figure, his wife, and a rape. The athlete had already been cleared of the rape allegations when a dead man is found in a building he is making into a high-end club with other wealthy investors. At the scene, blood is found that doesn't match that of the dead man, indicating that there is a second victim – a woman – in dire trouble. Another suspenseful tour de force from Slaughter."
--Barbara Kelly, Kelly's Books To Go, South Portland, ME
Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill By Candice Millard
(Doubleday, 9780385535731, $30)
"No one was more certain that he was destined for greatness than Winston Churchill and he let nothing deter or discourage him from achieving that goal. The young Churchill saw his path to prominence and power through fearless exploits in the British Army and as a war correspondent. England's brutal war with the Boer rebels in southern Africa would prove to be his crucible. Millard's exciting chronicle of Churchill's experiences there, both daring and humbling, is a fitting tribute to a man whose early dreams of glory proved to be a self-fulfilling prophesy."
--Alden Graves, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
The Clay Girl By Heather Tucker
(ECW Press, 9781770413030, $16.95)
"Ari Appleton has been dealt the worst hand ever in terms of parents: her dad is an incestuous pedophile who is both charismatic and cruel, and her mother is an incredibly egocentric addict who bore six girls and has not one iota of love for anyone but herself. Ari moves away from the drug culture and sexual revolution in Toronto in the 1960s to Pleasant Cove, an idyllic place where she is surrounded by love and nurturing. This novel is full of take-your-breath-away writing, and Ari joins the ranks of heroines who take the worst society has to offer and turn it into strength and kindness."
--Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA
The Life-Writer By David Constantine
(Biblioasis, 9781771961011, $14.95)
"Occasionally tragic and always tender, Constantine's novel is a moving exploration of the ways in which we relate to the people we love. After the death of her husband, Katrin--a literary biographer who has dedicated her career to recording the lives of obscure and largely unsuccessful writers--finds herself drawn to a new project: telling the story of the early life and first love of the man she would later marry. A remarkable story of grief, rediscovery, and reconciliation."
--Sam Kaas, Village Books, Bellingham, WA
Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto By Tilar J. Mazzeo
(Gallery Books, 9781476778501, $26)
"There have been accounts of men who helped Jews and other victims of the Nazi regime escape the clutches of genocidal pogroms and mass slaughter, but this story is about a woman who courageously smuggled thousands of children to safety. Granted unusual access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist, Irena Sendler used her position to rescue children by various means, sometimes right under the noses of guards. As compelling as any great fiction thriller, Irena's story will remain with the reader for a long time to come."
--Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear By Elizabeth Gilbert
(Riverhead Books, 9781594634727, $16)
"In her latest book, Gilbert will completely change the way you think about the creative process. Whether the medium is a canvas, a pastry, a garden, or a page, everyone has a creative genius, but not everyone is brave enough to recognize it within themselves. In Big Magic, Gilbert advocates for the magical and divine creative muse that is ultimately a gift to both the creator and the audience. In doing so, she dispels the myth that an artist must suffer for his or her craft, affirms the paths of those who have already allowed their creative geniuses to have a voice within their lives, and inspires those who thought they needed to be completely free of their fear in order to begin."
--Tamara Michelson, Inklings Bookshop, Yakima, WA
Fates and Furies By Lauren Groff
(Riverhead Books, 9781594634482, $16)
"Fates and Furies is an engrossing and complex novel about a seemingly perfect marriage of beautiful people, told in two parts. The first is a gentle introduction to Lotto and Mathilde, their marriage, and their friends and family; the second, a violent storm to wash away all you thought you knew. Groff crafts amazing, shocking sentences and brilliantly reveals the lies and deceit hiding behind the perfect façade. It's a book you will finish too quickly and then want to tell your friends about. Very highly recommended."
--Tarah Jennings, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD
God's Kingdom By Howard Frank Mosher
(Picador, 9781250096364, $16)
"If the past is a foreign country, we certainly have an expert native guide in Mosher who recreates perfectly, right down to the smoky fire smoldering in the town dump, the small town of Kingdom Common, Vermont, in the 1950s. Here fans of previous books are reintroduced to Jim Kinneson, now entering high school. For first-time readers, the ubiquitous, multi-generational Kinneson clan of the Northern Kingdom will be immediately accessible in this latest variation on the themes of tradition, the burden of family history, small-town secrets, and the stark beauty of the wilds of Northern Vermont."
--Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
Home Is Burning By Dan Marshall
(Flatiron Books, 9781250068866, $16.99)
"Emotionally devastating and also somehow incredibly funny, this memoir left me feeling grateful for the bonds of family. Marshall's mother has been fighting cancer--and winning!--since he was a kid, but when his father is diagnosed with ALS, Marshall moves home to help battle this new medical challenge. It might have gone better if Marshall was at all the responsible, mature, and resourceful person the situation called for. Instead he flails and fails and acts wildly inappropriately--because what else can you do as your dad wastes away? Sometimes there's nothing more important than looking mortality in the face, admitting we're scared, and making a fart joke."
--Nichole McCown, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
The Mare By Mary Gaitskill
(Vintage, 9780307743602, $16.95)
"The Mare is the heart-wrenching story of a young inner-city girl in the Fresh Air Fund program who travels to a host family in upstate New York, where she befriends a frightened and abused racehorse at a nearby stable. Gaitskill navigates the ugly realities of both human and equine abuse, but, ultimately, this is a triumphant novel shaped by authentic characters and in which trust and determination win. Readers will be reminded of how our real-life connections with animals can both guide and heal."
--Nancy Scheemaker, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters By Bonnie Jo Campbell
(W.W. Norton & Company, 9780393353266, $14.95)
"This collection is Campbell at her best and most audaciously appealing. At the center of each of these stories is a fierce, floundering, and unmistakably familiar woman. Mother of a daughter in some instances but always a caretaker, aware of and struggling with a hellish truth, or at justified peace with her right to impose her flawed self on a tragic other. These women's violations--both endured and perpetrated--are most certainly recognizable, and their stories are stunning. Booksellers, tell your customers. Friends, tell your people. Mothers, tell your daughters. Read this book!"
--Joanna Parzakonis, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI
The Muralist By B.A. Shapiro
(Algonquin Books, 9781616206437, $15.95)
"With the same level of intrigue and attention to detail that drew readers to The Art Forger, The Muralist focuses on the early days of WWII and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism. Shapiro brings to life New York City artists Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who are both inspired by the novel's brave and talented protagonist, Alizée Benoit. As these struggling artists find traction within their trade, Benoit attempts to bring awareness to the plight of European refugees and to defuse anti-Semitic politics in the U.S. through her art. Moving from past to present, readers will cheer for Benoit's grandniece, Danielle, who is researching her family history to find the truth about Alizée's mysterious disappearance and shed light on the sacrifices and contributions she made through art. Shapiro delivers another fascinating and compelling story."
--Anderson McKean, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL
The Past By Tessa Hadley
(Harper Perennial, 9780062270429, $15.99)
"She brings the family together, introducing them one by one: Harriet, the outdoorsy one; Alice, the dramatic one; Fran, the motherly one; Roland, the scholarly brother. The siblings, along with assorted children, spouses, and a young friend, spend three weeks in the crumbling house that belonged to their grandparents, trying to decide what must be done with it. Readers who enjoy character-driven stories will welcome this novel."
--Yvette Olson, Magnolia's Bookstore, Seattle, WA
Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape By Lauret Savoy
(Counterpoint, 9781619028258, $16.95)
"Savoy's Trace may be the most relevant book published this fall. This lyrical and sweeping essay on race, memory, and the American landscape covers ground sadly neglected in nature writing. Its ethical argument--that the way we treat the environment is inextricable from how we treat our fellow human beings--is one we should all pay close attention to, now more than ever."
--Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men By James Agee
(Mariner Books, 9780618127498, $18.95)
Originally published in hardcover in 1941
"A distinctly American classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men grew out of an assignment for Fortune magazine for a piece on the dire poverty of sharecroppers during the Depression. Writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans created an enduring testament to human dignity as well as an experimental approach to journalism and narrative nonfiction. This book continues to influence the forms of photojournalism, documentary, and reportage, and is a strikingly articulate work of social conscience and self-reflection."
--John Evans, DIESEL: A Bookstore, Santa Monica, CA
The Map of Love By Ahdaf Soueif
(Anchor, 9780385720113, $16)
Originally published in hardcover in 1999
"Egypt comes alive in Soueif's sweeping novel of two women whose lives intersect as they research the journals and diaries of a shared ancestor. In a story alternating between the 1890s and the 1990s, readers discover generations of strong, curious women who, in the desire to find themselves, have chosen to explore an ancient culture. This is historical fiction at its very best, with echoes of the works of E.M. Forster and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient in its portrayal of the seduction of a foreign land and romance--all-encompassing yet not without risk, both literal and metaphorical."
--Melanie Fleishman, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI
Silent Spring By Rachel Carson
(Mariner Books, 9780618249060, $14.95)
Originally published in hardcover in 1962
"Originally serialized in The New Yorker in the summer of 1962, Carson's Silent Spring became an instant bestseller and formed the cornerstone of the nascent environmental movement, igniting a national debate on pesticides and a discussion of the relationship between humans and the environment. More than a half-century later, that discussion is still pertinent, as we debate the merits and costs of a multitude of scientific and technological 'advancements.' Silent Spring is a rare nonfiction classic that stands the test of time."