The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

Red at the Bone

By Jacqueline Woodson

(Riverhead Books, 9780525535270, $26)

"Although you can read Jacqueline Woodson's newest novel over the course of one evening, there is nothing breezy about the richness of its story, nothing short about the depth of its characters, nothing quick about the way this book stays with you after you finish reading. Told through five distinct voices, Red at the Bone tracks an African-American family through time and place as an unexpected pregnancy upends and reshapes family and class expectations as well as individual trajectories. Ultimately, the novel is about legacy in every sense of the word. And since Woodson's writing packs the emotional punch of an epic in a novella number of pages, the legacy of her book is to be read over and over and over again."

--Kelly Brown, Magic City Books, Tulsa, OK

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

(photo: Tiffany A. Bloomfield)

Booksellers across the country have chosen Red at the Bone, the new adult novel by Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead), as their number-one pick on the October Indie Next List.

Red at the Bone opens in 2001 on the evening of 16-year-old Melody's coming-of-age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone. She is wearing a dress that had been measured and sewn for her mother, Iris, whose ceremony was canceled when she became pregnant. The book then jumps backward in time to tell the stories of Melody's parents and grandparents, examining the role of history and community on two African American families of different social classes brought together by this pregnancy, all while exploring issues of sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, and parenthood.

Woodson is the bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including the 2016 New York Times-bestselling National Book Award finalist for adult fiction, Another Brooklyn. She is a four-time National Book Award finalist, a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a two-time NAACP Image Award Winner, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her New York Times-bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, received the National Book Award in 2014. Woodson is also the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. She lives with her family in New York.

Where did the idea for the book originate?

The impetus for it, one of them, was the Tulsa race massacre in 1921, and the fact that I didn't learn about it until I was much older. That was pretty surprising given what a deep part of history it is and how important it was in terms of the black middle class, trying to make a way for ourselves after enslavement, after the little bit of Reconstruction we had, and after the Jim Crow laws came into effect. Here was this really thriving black middle class and upper middle-class community that basically got destroyed, so I was thinking about the legacy of that and the generations coming after that and what we hold onto.

This was the grandmother's, Sabe's, history, and so it became all of their histories. She tried to pass it down to Iris and then on to Melody so that they knew that history and they knew what she was holding onto, not just economically but emotionally.

The book doesn't put the onus on Melody to have compassion for that history; it's clear that she has been allowed to become her own person. But after learning Iris' story, the reader gains empathy for her character as well. Was it important to you to let the reader make their own judgments about the characters?

Yes, I think it's easy for a writer to produce a one-sided story for the sake of trying to get a plot point across or a narrative across that is their own belief system. I think humans are complicated and we have all of these different ways in which we come to be who we are as adults, and I do think that one of a writer's deep responsibilities is to look at a world, character, a situation without judgment, but so that what you recreate for the reader is a vehicle for their own gaze. I think just showing one side to Iris would have been kind of cheating the narrative and cheating the characters out of their full history.

In the book, you break up the narrative into different characters' first-person perspectives, but you do not label the chapters with names. The reader really has to be following along to know who's talking. Was that your intention?

Yeah, I like when the reader works. I do think it's easy, especially with a book that looks "short" the way Red at the Bone does, for the reader to race through it, and I do think it's about listening. I love a book that pretty much plays with all your senses, and you really have to take your time with Red at the Bone to follow the narrative. I kind of made a choice not to make it into this linear story that started out in chapter one with Iris and Aubrey meeting, and then their life going into this narrative arc from 1921 to 2001 or wherever it ended up; I thought that would be lazy of me and I don't think that would have made for an interesting story. I also think that's not how life works. We're always looking back and looking forward and there is so much that is unknown. And there is so much that we think we know because of our history, but that doesn't make sense until we experience or live something in a way that hearkens back to that history and makes it clearer. So that playing with time is, for me, more realistic of how we exist as human beings.

You also played with time in your previous novel for adults, Another Brooklyn, going from one moment to another to illustrate a character's arc. Are your books for young adults more linear?

I do think some of my books for young people are more linear, but it really depends on the book. I think Brown Girl Dreaming, which is a memoir, is very linear; it starts on the day I was born but then it goes back into the history of my grandparents and then back to me. Even Another Brooklyn is more of a looking back. She's looking back on her childhood and so we see her in her 30s and then she takes us back into her childhood and we stay there. I think Another Brooklyn is a tad more linear than Red at the Bone, but it plays with white space more and plays with silence in that white space more. I think this book moves in time in the way that I use white space to get the reader to slow down and really listen--you're not where you were in the last chapter so let's focus, let's take a breath and figure out where we are, and then be in it.

One of the book's overarching themes is the struggle for African Americans to subvert unfair societal expectations by going to college and raising their social class and becoming successful in a world full of barriers to that possibility. Why was it important to you to tell that story?

I really think that it's an important story; it's one that is close to my heart, and I also think it's a story that some people don't know. I get so frustrated when I hear people who are supposedly liberal or thoughtful or woke say, I don't understand why black people haven't gotten further in the 400 years they have been here, without looking at the historical landmarks that have prevented that. Jim Crow prevented that, segregation prevented that, the Tulsa massacre, the Chicago riots, all those things prevented that. Even the Veterans' Act, which gave money to veterans to buy homes, prevented that because black people bought homes in areas that were segregated, and that property value went down. So white kids had a better chance at the middle class and economic stability than black kids.

When I started Red at the Bone, I really wanted to delve into every part of that history that mattered to land my characters where they landed. And education, or the lack thereof, was a part of that. I think it's important that we know what we had to do to be able to succeed, everything from where we were able to live to what we did with our money and how we did it so that it didn't get stolen. It mattered to getting us where we are. And even in that case, there was only a small percentage who were able to do that, who were able to create something more than just income for their children, but to create an inheritance.

Your book contained references to different types and eras of music, from Prince's "Darling Nikki" to Kool and the Gang to Thriller, but also Etta James and Errol Garner. Can you talk about the book's use of music and the connecting force it represents?

I think that's a really good point, that music is something that connects us; we can't look at today's music without looking at the music of the past. We can't look at rap music without looking at the history of scatting, and we can't look at rock and roll without looking at jazz or even rhythm and blues. I'm writing about a period that spans from 1921 to 2001, so there were so many histories of music that I could play with and investigate given that this is all the music of their time because their time is a very long period. And whenever I write I listen to music. Basically, it allows me to immerse myself in that world, and so I am listening to Etta James and Nina Simone and Wu Tang Clan and Prince depending on the era I'm writing about.

Are you going on a tour for this book and if so, are you visiting many independent bookstores?

I start my tour in Boston and D.C. and then head further out into the world from there. It's all indie bookstores. That's where I want to go. Even if I'm in a venue that's not an independent bookstore, I want an independent bookstore to be the one selling the books there. I just think that you guys are amazing and important, and I think it's easy for people to go on Amazon without realizing the destruction that causes. So, yes, I will be at a lot of indie bookstores. --Liz Button

Wednesday Books: Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett

(Harper, 9780062963673, $27.99)

"Meeting the Conroy family and stepping into their elaborate Dutch house--part museum, part home, with all its secrets and charm, comfort and sadness--enthralled me as the mystery unfolded like a gentle call to arms. From poverty to wealth and from wealth to poverty, we see through Danny's eyes the struggle to hold the family together against grief, greed, and the heartbreak of losing all that once bound them. Patchett paints a masterpiece here; there's no looking away. It lingers in your imagination long after the story has been told."

--Diane McGuire, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, MN

Ninth House

By Leigh Bardugo

(Flatiron Books, 9781250313072, $27.99)

"Queen Leigh's first foray into adult fantasy is a sensational success! One of the best fantasy books I've read in a long while, Ninth House contains Yale secret societies, ghosts, magic, morally gray characters, and murder. Bardugo balances dual timelines with intricate precision, and the history and world-building of her fantastical New Haven is superb. I couldn't put this book down; I had to know what was going to happen next. I savored every moment reading this novel, and I am jealous of readers who get to experience it for the first time!"

--Isabella Ogbolumani, Page 1 Books, Evanston, IL

Olive, Again

By Elizabeth Strout

(Random House, 9780812996548, $27)

"Thank goodness Elizabeth Strout decided to return for another round with one of the most beloved, maddening, confounding, and compelling characters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Readers will delight in the fact that Olive, while forging new relationships and puzzling over long-existing ones, remains the crazy, complicated family member you just can't quit. Add in spare yet beautifully rendered prose about the rugged, breathtaking state of Maine and you've got a gem of a book, one that leaves you rooting for Olive, despite her numerous shortcomings, as she stumbles through love, friendship, loss, and what it means to grow old. Strout, through Olive, reminds us that it's a messy business being human, but it's a privilege to be along for the ride."

--Page Berger, Barrett Bookstore, Darien, CT

The Water Dancer

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

(One World, 9780399590597, $28)

"Ta-Nehisi Coates understands something big and he understands it better than anyone else right now. The Water Dancer led me on a journey up and down the landscape of American slavery with a narrative that feels like The Book of Exodus meets, well, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Over 400 pages I have cried, I have laughed, I have been educated, and I have been enlightened. Coates writes with an honesty that can only come from a sublime, even spiritual, understanding of the souls of the white man and the black man in America. Written with poignancy and humanity, The Water Dancer left me stunned but clear-headed, like I had just been woken up from a deep, dream-filled sleep."

--Norris Rettiger, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS

The World That We Knew

By Alice Hoffman

(Simon & Schuster, 9781501137570, $27.99)

"Alice Hoffman, author of numerous novels--The Dovekeepers, The Marriage of Opposites, and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, among others--does her magic again with The World That We Knew. This is a story of great love and loss, a story of strong characters who, with heartfelt courage, save others by risking their own lives. The reader is taken on a journey of the world that once was--of memories of a past tainted by hatred during WWII. Alice Hoffman's writing is passionate, poetic, and profound. This novel captivated me from the start and left me spellbound. A must-read!"

--Mollie Loughlin, The Book Vine, Cherokee, IA

Celestial Bodies

By Jokha Alharthi

Marilyn Booth (Transl.)

(Catapult, 9781948226943, $16.95, trade paper)

"In this gripping family saga, author Jokha Alharthi--the first female Omani writer to be translated into English--involves you deeply in the personal drama of her characters and in the extended family system, which includes former servants and masters, while also somehow telling the modern history of the country of Oman. I was immediately enthralled by the power and clarity of Alharthi's book, which won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize and is the first book written in Arabic to win it. Don't miss the opportunity to let this important new book sweep you away!"

--Arlo Klahr, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA

Imaginary Friend

By Stephen Chbosky

(Grand Central Publishing, 9781538731338, $30)

"Imaginary Friend has, in my humble opinion, already earned its spot on the top shelf of classic horror novels. Reminiscent of Stephen King's It and Neil Gaiman's Coraline, it is one of the most compulsively terrifying, eerily uncanny novels of our time. Once you pick up this book, you won't put it down until you've devoured it whole (or, should I say, it has devoured you), and once finished, you will feel the dangerous urge to turn to the first page and start all over again. It is an utterly original masterpiece of fear. Thank you, Stephen Chbosky, for the lost sleep and the goosebumps! Signed, a hard-to-scare horror fanatic."
--Tianna Moxley, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY

A Cosmology of Monsters

By Shaun Hamill

(Pantheon, 9781524747671, $26.95)

"When is the last time a horror novel was both scary and charming? A Cosmology of Monsters is that book! Riffing on themes from H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, Hamill weaves a complex tale of lost cities, haunted Halloween attractions, and doorways to other worlds. I really enjoyed this literary horror story, which starts out as a love story (don't ALL good horror tales?) and grows progressively creepier. The book posits the questions: Who are the real monsters, and why do we love to be scared? Truly an uber-creepy yet delightful homage. I loved it."

--William Carl, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, MA

The Butterfly Girl

By Rene Denfeld

(Harper, 9780062698162, $26.99)

"Rene Denfeld has done it again: written a mystery that sucks you in and thoroughly absorbs you until you're done. We pick up the story with Naomi Cottle, who has been searching for the sister she left behind when she escaped the clutches of their childhood kidnapper. Haunted by guilt, her search leads her back to her hometown, where a number of young girls have been murdered. By chance or by fate, she encounters Celia, a 12-year-old girl living on the streets who may be the key to everything--including finding her sister and a rapacious killer. Heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and utterly unputdownable, this really should be the gold standard for mysteries."
--Destinee Hodge, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

The Topeka School

By Ben Lerner

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374277789, $27)

"It's the late '90s in Topeka, and high school senior Adam Gordon is partying, going to school, and preparing for a national speech and debate competition--living a life he expects to reflect back upon with irony and detachment in some urbane, imaginary future. Lerner shifts between perspectives, stealing stylistic bits from autofiction and documentary; he reinvents the way narrative can place the moments of our lives in the context of history, both global and hyper-local, exploring how history inflicts trauma onto us and how we, in turn, inflict that trauma back onto history. And he does all this while toying with language and the spaces where it breaks down as we attempt to self-define. Simply put, The Topeka School is a work of genius."

--Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

By Kate Racculia

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780358023937, $26)

"Tuesday Mooney is smart, intrepid, and just a little bit lost--even 20 years after her best friend disappears without a trace. A prospect researcher by trade, she dives in deep when a strange and reclusive billionaire dies and leaves puzzles throughout the city in an elaborate treasure hunt. While this fun and affecting book could have won me over just by being a romp, there is more here. Tuesday and her compatriots are all forced to confront the traumas that have stunted their lives and find new strength in their relationships. I couldn't have asked for more!"
--Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA

How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom From a Life Lived in Nature

By Marc Hamer

(Greystone Books, 9781771644792, $24.95)

"Sublimely touching (and with the softest of hands), this book has that balance of warmth and cold that makes for good nature writing. Hamer's observations demonstrate both a refusal to look away and a tender love for the environment around him. His memoir of a life spent catching moles waxes and wanes, at times gruesome, sensual, violent, and awestruck. This is a book for fans of the way that Mary Oliver lived and talked about her life."

--Afton Montgomery, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

The Giver of Stars

By Jojo Moyes

(Pamela Dorman Books, 9780399562488, $28)

"In the late 1930s, the Works Progress Administration developed a number of projects intended to provide employment opportunities for unemployed artists, writers, and craftsmen. One of those projects was the Pack Horse Library Initiative, in which mounted horsewomen picked their way along snowy hillsides and through muddy creeks with a simple goal: to deliver reading material to Kentucky's isolated mountain communities. In The Giver of Stars, Moyes has brought to life the amazing, funny, adventurous stories of a few of these trailblazing women. Historical fiction lovers will devour this story of a little-known piece of U.S. history."
--Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

Toil & Trouble: A Memoir

By Augusten Burroughs

(St. Martin's Press, 9781250019950, $27.99)

"Augusten Burroughs never ceases to amaze his readers with his honest stories, and Toil & Trouble won't disappoint his fans! A gift shared with his mother, witchcraft has been passed down his family tree and has guided his life. Moving from the city life to the wilds of Connecticut, Burroughs' gift guides him and husband Christopher to the right place at the right time--and saves them with a little premonition! You are invited (perhaps welcomed?) to be skeptical, but once you finish the book you might just wonder why you ever were."

--Jennifer Kandarian, Books on the Square, Providence, RI

No Judgments

By Meg Cabot

(William Morrow Paperback, 9780062890047, $15.99, trade paper)

"Cabot delights again in this one-off romance about finding compassion for other people and for animals in the midst of natural disaster. Light and fun, this book is a joy to read, full of well-crafted prose, engaging characters, and a plot perfect for the times. Cabot's fabulous escape into the written word will leave you with that warm fuzzy feeling and also some knowledge on how to prepare for a hurricane."

--Kendolyn Roe, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

By Saeed Jones

(Simon & Schuster, 9781501132735, $26)

"Saeed Jones is supremely talented, so I expected his memoir to be great. I did NOT expect, however, to be left immobile in my chair after reading that final paragraph, processing the beauty of his words and those indelible sentences he's generous enough to share with us. How We Fight for Our Lives is a moving and intimate portrait of the writer growing up as a young, gay black man and trying to understand the complex realities of his identity. We also gain insight to Jones' relationship with his mother, a story that left me in pieces by the end. How We Fight for Our Lives is raw, difficult, and truthful, and completely stuffed with love."
--Eugenia Vela, BookPeople, Austin, TX

Opioid, Indiana

By Brian Allen Carr

(Soho Press, 9781641290784, $16, trade paper)

"You'll read this book in one breathless sitting, but the story will stay with you. Riggle, the 17-year-old orphaned protagonist, is exactly what we all need. He's on a deadline but out of cell phone data to search for answers. Toggling between his memory and the present, he must discern for himself what he feels, how he will survive, and how he will process his grief; in so doing, he is able to better empathize with everyone he encounters. Riggle is also very funny and filled with all of the wonderful contradictions that make us human. Opioid, Indiana is vulnerable and unflinching. It's a beautiful, original story."

--Tiffany Lauderdale Phillips, Wild Geese Books, Franklin, IN

Full Throttle: Stories

By Joe Hill

(William Morrow, 9780062200679, $27.99)

"What a ride! This book of stories (two written with Stephen King) is a fast ride through Hill's considerable imagination. He takes us through 13 stories of suspense, from the back of a motorcycle and outrunning a murderous semi-truck driver to an American sea monster, then on to a young girl who befriends a machine, and ending with, well, the end of the world. His stories are reminiscent of a certain well-known horror writer, but are clearly his own brand of terror. I enjoyed each of them and wished that some might morph into full-length books because it was hard to let them go. I always look forward to Hill's books, and this one did not disappoint."

--Sarah Harmuth Letke, Redbery Books, Cable, WI

Grand Union: Stories

By Zadie Smith

(Penguin Press, 9780525558996, $27)

"Whether she's telling a very short story about a mother and daughter discussing animal cruelty while on vacation or a longer story about a trio of celebrities on a road trip to escape New York, Grand Union shows that Zadie Smith is as adept with short fiction as she is with the novel. For a form of literature that always seems to enhance the faults of lesser writers, short stories, for Smith, seem only to make her shine brighter than ever."

--Bennard Fajardo, Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

By Nicole Chung

(Catapult, 9781948226370, $16.95)

"Nicole Chung's memoir is a moving account of a young woman's gradually evolving understanding of family and of herself as she uncovers the truth about the circumstances behind her adoption. Refusing the false dichotomy of adoption as inherently positive or negative, she reminds us that adoption is a fact and that it's always complicated. This is an extraordinary account, told with candor and empathy. Though the transracial adoption of Asian Americans into white families and communities is common, few books have been written from the perspective of the adoptee. Chung has much to teach us, and readers approaching this book with a heart as open as hers will find much to nourish them here."

--Karen Maeda Allman, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

The Dakota Winters

By Tom Barbash

(Ecco, 9780062258212, $16.99)

"In The Dakota Winters, Barbash delivers a sweeping family saga that transports readers to the New York City of the late '70s and early '80s, to Central Park, The Village, the restaurant and club scenes, from The Beatles to The Flying Lizards to your average dysfunctional family living at the Dakota--the Winters. The story follows two conflicting arcs: that of fading father and late-night host Buddy Winter and that of his emerging 23-year-old son Anton. I loved Barbash's first novel, The Last Good Time, and The Dakota Winters does not disappoint. You'll want to savor every sentence of this powerful chronicle of the times!"

--Bill Reilly, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY

Heirs of the Founders: Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants

By H.W. Brands

(Anchor, 9780525433903, $18.95)

"Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun dominated Congress from the War of 1812 through the years before the Civil War. They were respectful but wary of each other: fighting over international relations, the Federal Bank, annexation of Texas, and Indian policy, while each tried--and failed--to be elected president. By the end, their relationship fractured, as did the country, when they failed to reconcile the ideal of a democratic republic with the peculiar institution of slavery."
--Mike Hare, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY

A Key to Treehouse Living

By Elliot Reed

(Tin House Books, 9781947793590, $15.95)

"Brilliant in form and content, this is a coming-of-age story that uses the format of an alphabetical index to illustrate the way that our adolescent and young adult minds try to make sense of the world: we categorize and define, put feelings and inanimate objects on equal footing, and do our best to make sense of the chaos around us the way textbooks and encyclopedias have taught. References from one entry to another mimic the links between our memories that seem to make our lives a continuum rather than a series of isolated incidents. Life doesn't occur in alphabetical order, but there's no reason your story can't be told that way. This is a book that drives you to connect the dots yourself, because, really, that's half the fun, isn't it?"

--Christian Brandt, The Book Table, Oak Park, IL

The Library Book

By Susan Orlean

(Simon & Schuster, 9781476740195, $16.99)

"There is no one better at investigating the fascinating stories hiding in plain sight than Susan Orlean. The vivid descriptions of the fire that engulfed the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 are burnished by the meticulous research she did on the history of libraries and on the shocking event that resulted in the destruction and damage of over one million books. The mystery of who would start such a fire is woven between stories of eccentric librarians and the transformation of Los Angeles in the 20th century. From memories of the blissful hours spent in the library of her youth to the historical significance of these repositories of our past, Orlean has crafted a love letter to the importance of the written word and those who devote their lives to its preservation."
--Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

Marilla of Green Gables

By Sarah McCoy

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062697721, $15.99)

"Many of us who grew up with Anne of Green Gables always wondered why neither Marilla or her brother, Matthew, married; we were also very curious as to what secret Marilla held in her heart regarding John Blythe. Now, Sarah McCoy answers these questions for us in her new book, Marilla of Green Gables. She begins the story when Marilla is only 13 and continues until just before Anne comes to Green Gables. This book is wonderfully and imaginatively written, a rendering that Lucy Maud Montgomery herself would approve of. McCoy brings Marilla to life and helps us understand how she became the woman she did. A must-read for all those who love Anne of Green Gables."

--Pat Trotter, Bookends on Main, Menomonie, WI


By Sarah Perry

(Custom House, 9780062856401, $16.99)

"Melmoth is evocative and atmospheric, the perfect book for a chilly night and the turning of the seasons. Through diaries, letters, and narration, we are introduced to the legendary Melmoth, who is cursed to wander the world alone and watch humans destroy themselves over and over. This quintessential gothic tale is set against the vivid backdrop of winter in Prague and populated by fully realized supporting characters and a protagonist with a hell of a secret. Melmoth, eternal witness to humanity at both its most banal and its most depraved, will haunt me."
--Chelsea Bauer, Union Avenue Books, Knoxville, TN

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

By Carol Anderson

(Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635571394, $18)

"Far from an isolated event, the 2016 election was the culmination of generations of efforts to prevent communities of color from taking part in elections and having the full weight of their votes counted. One Person, No Vote comes at a time when we need every piece of knowledge available to turn the tide of voter suppression and reclaim our democracy. Through exhaustive research deconstructing and explaining decades of policy, Carol Anderson provides a clear look at how laws were bent through the slow degradation of democracy and how circumstances can be righted once more."

--Amanda Ibarra, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

A Spark of Light

By Jodi Picoult

(Ballantine Books, 9780345545008, $17)

"Once again, Jodi Picoult tackles a highly charged social issue head on with compassion and insight. The characters in A Spark of Light offer readers insight into the varied and complex issues surrounding the pro-choice/pro-life debate. Although I know where I stand on the issue, I finished this novel with a greater understanding of how a person could hold beliefs different from my own. I hope this book becomes required reading for high schools across the country as well as a reading group favorite!"

--Andrea Avantaggio, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, CO

Sugar Run

By Mesha Maren

(Algonquin Books, 9781616209810, $15.95)

"This is the gritty Southern novel I've always wanted. Maren deftly navigates between two periods in time, telling interconnected, muddled love stories and mixing in stunning images of the West Virginia landscape her characters inhabit. She uses the presence of fracking on the family farm as a multifaceted metaphor, demonstrating how easily we fall prey to the type of immediate relief that will eventually destroy and poison us from within. Dark, yes, but so well-developed, timely, and shocking in its delivery that I absolutely could not put this book down."

--Andrea Avantaggio, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, CO

There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir

By Casey Gerald

(Riverhead Books, 9780735214224, $17)

"Casey Gerald's There Will Be No Miracles Here might very well--and rightfully so--come to be considered one of the great memoirs of African American experience in America. Gerald recounts his childhood and life beginning with his early years in Dallas, which were rife with family drama, religious questioning, and grappling with his sexuality, through his football career at Yale. In his meditative, lyrical, and ruminative tone, Gerald questions American identity, myth, and success. His conversational and conspiratorial style is undergirded by a proficient, experimental, and stylish set of literary techniques."
--Margaret Grace Myers, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

The Winter of the Witch

By Katherine Arden

(Del Rey, 9781101886014, $17)

"The Winter of the Witch takes place immediately after the events in The Girl in the Tower. The world of the old gods is fading, and a new religion is claiming the hearts of Vasya's people. Rus is on the brink of war, and Vasya, it seems, is up against the whole world. With the help of new allies, Vasya is determined to save all that she holds dear even if it means sacrificing everything. Vasya is the kind of character you cheer for, cry with, and roar alongside. 'Petrichor,' the word used to describe that sweet, earthy smell after it rains, is how I would describe the Winternight Trilogy. Arden's storytelling encompasses all your senses, so grab a hot mug of your favorite drink and settle in for Vasya's adventures in The Winter of the Witch."

--Jen Steele, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI