IT'S HERE! We've been previewing and reading the best books coming out over the next few months, and this is our take on the twenty best. In our list you'll find the best and worst of human nature, from Etta's transcontinental walk for love (in Etta and Otto and Russell and James) to the cannibalism of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea (in Savage Harvest). We're also excited to feature signed copies and author events this spring. Skip Horack (The Other Joseph) and Michael Kardos (Before He Finds Her) will appear on a twinbill on 3/26. The other is the one we've all been waiting for: Jamie Kornegay launches his debut novel Soil with a huge bash here at the store on 3/10. Start reading!
After Birth by Elisa Albert
Ari, a recent transplant to a small college town, gave birth to her son a year ago. When former rock musician Mina moves to town, the two team up to make the task of new motherhood navigable. Ari offers a bitterly funny feminist view of being a mom and of female friendships. A must-read for those who can appreciate and enjoy a sarcastically hilarious, bravely honest take on modern motherhood and the complex, often contradictory emotions that come with it.
Aquarium by David Vann
In this stunning family drama, the legacy of a tragic childhood haunts the next generation. A single mother runs into a figure from her past and takes drastic measures to teach her 12-year-old daughter how to be a survivor. Vann has the ability to entrance the reader with quiet, lucid prose, only to deliver an emotional gut-punch when his characters react in true and unexpected ways. An unforgettable, confrontational novel, balanced with beauty and redemption.
Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos
Rising thriller writer Michael Kardos, a Mississippi State writer-in-resident, has given us a smart, twisty, character-driven mystery about a small-town New Jersey cold crime that is reignited when an eighteen-year-old girl, presumed to have been killed, comes out of hiding to learn more about the top suspect in her mother’s murder – her own father. Kardos doesn’t set this up like your typical whodunit, but he squeezes out every drop of page-turning surprise and suspense. Reserve your signed copy.
Black River by S.M. Hulse
Despite having all the elements of a modern Western – horses, Montana valleys, lone gunmen, and a stoic protagonist seeking redemption – this debut novel is actually a poignant family drama. Wes Carver returns to Black River hoping to reconcile with his estranged stepson and to exorcise the demons that have haunted him since a prison riot twenty years before. A masterpiece that signals the arrival of a brilliant new talent, Black River succeeds at spanning genres and inspiring hope in every kind of reader.
Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner
Written in 1932 and banned by the ascendant Nazi party one year later, this lean, lightning-paced novel is the only known work of German social worker Ernst Haffner. The prose is all tight muscle and bone, just like its title characters: a band of teenage boys who skulk the streets of interwar Berlin, committing petty crimes and escaping from police and welfare boards. We’re excited to share this long-lost gem, translated into English for the first time.
Creatures of a Day by Irvin Yalom
A veteran psychiatrist opens his couch and shares some of his most interesting conversations with patients – under respectful disguises – to get at our most basic fear: our own mortality. Each case is deftly related, deeply explored, and satisfyingly resolved. The hypnotic ease and simplicity of Yalom’s prose and his hard-earned revelations make this book not only good reading but a psychological comfort.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Erik Larson has done it again. This time, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts tackles the doomed last voyage of the Lusitania. As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the tragedy that shoved Americans into the Great War, Larson masterfully weaves together the storylines that converged with a torpedo blast heard round the world. Reserve your signed copy.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
You’ve never read a road trip novel like this one. Leaving her husband a note and taking a backpack and gun, 82-year-old Etta walks out and begins a thousand mile trek to the ocean. Hooper switches deftly between the steps of Etta’s journey and the event from sixty years earlier that prompted it. A powerfully moving tale of dreams deferred and redeemed. Signed copies available.
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The life of an eccentric middle-aged woman turns chaotic when the twentysomething child of her boss moves into her apartment. Mere synopsis alone cannot account for the distinct narrative voice, numerous perverse turns, and outright hilarity that July brings to this relentless story of the unimagined choices we make to find a home.
Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder
An elderly Olympic athlete from the 1928 Games is kidnapped from her nursing home and taken by two supposed strangers. The initial mystery kept us riveted, but the girl runner’s story, and Snyder’s agile shifts in time, made this a clever and compelling novel.
God’ll Cut You Down by John Safran
Australian comedian and filmmaker John Safran bit off more than he could chew when he came to Mississippi. His madcap misadventures are chronicled in this true crime account, which quickly turns into a hall of mirrors of Mississippi’s darker secrets. Fans of The Fall of the House of Zeus will love this – as long as they have a sense of humor.
I Am Radar by Reif Larssen
An epic tale that follows the unusual life of Radar Radmanovic, beginning with his strange birth and throughout his lifelong struggles with love, his parents, and a terrible medical affliction. With Larssen’s characteristic quirks, we also meet a secret society of Norwegian schoolteachers who use radioactive material stolen from the Nazis to create surrealist performance art, an avant-garde puppeteer, a disfigured literature professor who assembles the largest library in the world, and a strange cast of other misfits who intersect with Radar. Fans of rich, generous epics like The Goldfinch should tune in to this one. Reserve your signed copy.
I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell
The latest in a wave of exciting new talents in the art of non-fiction essays, Kent Russell takes us into volatile situations with oddball participants, faithfully portrayed through his own unique lens. Fresh prose, strange humor, and broad range. If you liked Pulphead or David Foster Wallace’s non-fiction, you should definitely dip into this.
My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh
An exceptional debut novel about young people growing up in Baton Rouge in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. On page three, the narrator confesses that he’s one of four suspected in a violent crime that occurred one summer in his neighborhood, and you’ll rip through the next 300 hoping he’s exonerated, unable to put this story down, always just one more chapter, one more, one more. The prose goes down smooth, but the story may choke you up. Pat Conroy fans take note. Reserve your signed copy.
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Alphabet books are a dime a dozen, but none are quite like this one from the artist of The Day the Crayons Quit. The stories for each letter of the alphabet are clever and funny and slightly off, and they sometimes swing back around and surprise us again. Think Where the Sidewalk Ends or Harold and the Purple Crayon. It’s that good—the kind of book a kid will keep and take with them to college.
The Other Joseph by Skip Horack
Roy Joseph is in self-exile on a Louisiana oil rig after his brother goes missing in the Gulf War. Then his parents die and he is convicted of a felony. All seems lost when he receives an email from a teenage girl claiming to be his lost brother’s daughter. This strange encounter may be his last chance to get to know his lost brother and to find redemption. More top-shelf fiction from one of our favorite young writers. Signing March 26; reserve your signed copy.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
If you read spy novels regularly, then consider this required. If you enjoy one every now and then, then read this one now. Matthews, a former CIA operative himself, brings a fresh, authentic look at post-Cold War U.S.-Russian spy games. The memorable heroine, a sidelined ballet dancer, is bullied into the Russian intelligence service and trained in the art of seduction (“sexpionage”). She is tasked with luring the identity of a Russian mole out of a young American agent, and their tangled passions and allegiances make for irresistible cat-and-mouse drama.
Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman
Michael Rockefeller (son of famed politician and philanthropist Nelson D.) traveled to New Guinea on a primitive art-gathering expedition in 1961. He never returned, and his ultimate demise -- whether by drowning or murder by a local tribe of warrior cannibals -- has always been a point of debate. Adventure writer Hoffman returns to the jungle to speak with tribal leaders who remember Rockefeller, and he presents the full, fascinating story of what happened when a young idealist wandered into a society of alien beliefs and traditions. A riveting tale of deadly culture clash.
Soil by Jamie Kornegay
A modern-day Mississippi-based novel about a farmer who plunges into a series of bad decisions when he finds a dead man washed up in his flooded field. Okay, so we may be biased in our support of this debut novel by one of Turnrow’s own. But don’t take our word alone. Early readers have described it as “twisty and volatile,” “darkly droll” and “atmospheric as all get-out.” Signing March 10; reserve your signed copy.
Young Skins by Colin Barrett
From fertile literary Ireland comes one of the most exciting young voices we’ve heard in a long time. The stories in this debut collection are remarkable, making us feel deeply for the misfits and drunkards of Barrett’s present-day, small-town Ireland, and all the more so for the rich, beautiful, black-eyed gutter poetry in which he spins these classically steeped tales