We've made up for our indulgence with a very fine list of 20 new titles you must read this winter and spring. There's plenty of time (and inclement weather, most likely) to pick up a few of these and settle back. As always, these books were hand-picked by the Turnrow staff, who gruelingly culled through a hundred or more prospective titles to find 20 we loved the most.
Above by Isla Morley
A teenaged girl is kidnapped by a survivalist with doomsday fantasies. After years in captivity, her cloistered life is turned upside down in a riveting drama with the claustrophic tension of Room and the dystopian thrills of The Hunger Games series.
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Four women scientists, each with hidden motives, embark on a research mission into quarantined Area X. The world of this classically styled, character-driven sci-fi adventure trilogy is brilliantly revealed, always intriguing in its weirdness. We can't wait for the next two volumes, due by summer.
Blood on the Forge by William Attaway
A powerful and nearly forgotten novel of the Great Migration, written by a Delta-born author and contemporary of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Three brothers leave Kentucky for the steel mills of Pittsburgh, where they endure a different but no less brutal society. A lean, unexpected, stunning lost classic.
Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
Distinguished novelist Kirn (Up in the Air) recounts his long and odd friendship with Clark Rockefeller, an upper-crust socialite who was ultimately revealed to be an impostor and accused murderer. Kirn follows the murder trial and reveals the unusual circumstances of their relationship, delivering a completely absorbing, eerie, brilliant and often humorous portrait of a sociopath and con-man.
The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Store Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes
A new cookbook from the wonderful independent grocery store leading a cultural renaissance in the country town of Water Valley, Mississippi. Founder van Beuren and her chef Grimes offer 120 of their most beloved recipes along with an honest taste of the community and the people that make it special.
Catching Kisses by Amy Gibson, w/ illustrations by Maria van Lieshout
Our favorite new children's picture book is a triumph of beautiful simplicity, both in the elegant pattern-cut art and the timeless message of coast-to-coast love. Parents and kids will look forward to cuddling up together with this one. Signed copies available.
The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins
We can't get enough of Hard Case's pulp crime novels. Our favorites feature Quarry, and this novel describes how the Vietnam vet became a killer for hire. It's an ideal starting point in the series, which was recently filmed in Mississippi as a pilot for Cinemax.
The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout
A spinster and an ornery claim jumper reluctantly accept the job of transporting four wives back East after they've each been broken by the hardships of homesteading on the Great Plains, circa 1850s. A terrific rediscovered novel from the 1990s, soon to be a film. Ideal for fans of Trials of the Earth and True Grit.
The Kept by James Scott (Harper, hd. 25.99)
You'll be hooked from the start of this story about a wife and mother in 1897 who hits the road to extract revenge for a horrible crime that occurs in the opening pages. This debut novel defeats your expectations at every dark turn. Cinematic and impressionistic, ideal for bleak mid-winter reading.
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
A dead-pan hilarious family road novel about a gung-ho dad who takes his wife and two teenage daughters from their Alabama home cross-country to California, where he expects them to be among the first wave of the saved during the rapture. A bright new Mississippi-bred talent. We also advise you to check out her small-press story collection, Big World. Signed copies available.
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
Mississippi writer Deborah Johnson has written her most powerful and affecting work yet in this story of a young lawyer who comes to the South, at the behest of the reclusive author of her favorite childhood book, to investigate the murder of a black World War II veteran. Like The Help, whose publisher snagged this book, the story succeeds in building unlikely alliances and unearthing rich drama from a time and place local readers will recognize. Author signing Feb. 19.
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
High school friends in a Wisconsin farm town grow up and have families. They leave and return, they fight and make up. Here is a coming-of-adult-age story, a smart and spirited paean to small-town life, that may catch you off-guard. Great easy reading.
Starting Over by Elizabeth Spencer
This unexpected new fiction from a Mississippi literary legend is a nuanced collection of stories showcasing a writer still in virtuosic command of her craft at the age of 92. In these stories of families and individuals in flux, Spencer captures all the hopeless, bittersweet joy of life. Signed copies available.
Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux
An academic returns to meet a former lover after his widely publicized death. The explanation for his strange re-emergence is slowly revealed in this deeply engaging intellectual mystery that reminded us of a modern Frankenstein with its brilliant gothic undertones.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
We're always looking for fiction with the quirky, discombobulating, distinctly warm and modern sense of Haruki Murakami, and we were so pleased to find it in this rich, playful novel about a writer who finds a Japanese teenager's journal washed up on the beach. Unique, memorable, brimming with stories.
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
A two-sided story, one of boarding school girls kidnapped by notorious Ugandan tyrant Joseph Kony for his child army, the other about a journalist making her leisure way to interview the students after their ordeal. Minot hypnotizes with her cool, gliding prose that reminded us often of Hemingway. A beautiful, transporting slow-burn masterwork.
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
You'll fall for the two young girls at the center of Cash's second novel about orphaned sisters whose errant father kidnaps them from their foster home and tries to outrun trouble through Appalachia. Readers of Ron Rash and John Hart will enjoy this redemptive tale with the pace of a good thriller. Signing February 19.
The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing
If an artist must suffer for his craft, then the writers chronicled in this book – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cheever, John Berryman, Raymond Carver and Tennessee Williams – all paid greatly by the bottle. Laing travels to sights across America, patching together the lives of these authors and their work through the prism of a highball glass.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
From the first page, Horan whisks us away with brave American wife and mother Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, who flees her philandering husband with her children for Europe where she aspires to study art. Readers will hang on every twist as Fanny falls in love with the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and the tumultuous marriage that follows. Signed copies available.
Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker
Essential for New Orleans enthusiasts, like no other atlas/travel guide you’ll ever see – a skeleton key to the mysterious history and culture of (arguably) America's most distinctive city. Even seasoned travelers to the Big Easy will discover new facets to this complex region in the essays that illuminate the people who make this city so unique.