Indie Picks: August 2015

IndieNextList_logoThis month we highlight books that have appeared on the Indie Next List, a hand-picked selection from booksellers across the U.S. Independent booksellers are and have always been discoverers of the next big thing, the next great read, the next bestseller, and the next undiscovered gem.


Not My Father’s Son

By Alan Cumming

Every so often reading a memoir feels like a conversation rather than a strict narrative or—the death knell for memoir—a self-indulgent romp down memory lane. Cumming’s memoir is a gorgeous, intimate conversation and it reads beautifully. The pace is perfect, the presentation truly lovely, and I felt like a close friend rather than an impersonal audience. Cumming’s early life was a struggle and he hardly shies from relating details, but the driving force behind this book is the demonstration of the many ways one can bring oneself to peace after hardship.”

—Demi Marshall, Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC


Love May Fail

By Matthew Quick

Recommended by Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN


How to Build a Girl

By Caitlin Moran

Recommended by Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

By Lydia Netzer

Recommended by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC



By Rainbow Rowell

Recommended by Paige Mushaw, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

Where They Found Her

Where They Found Her

By Kimberly McCreight

Recommended by Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO

Do you have a favorite local indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments.

Indie Picks: June 2015

Each month we turn to some of our favorite indie sellers for advice. We love to hear about what they are reading and the books they are currently pushing into their customers’ eager hands. This month, we turned to Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore that first opened its doors in Washington, D.C. in 1984. Booksellers Brad, Janice, Cristina, Mark, and Alan give recommendations about everything from financial nonfiction to zombies, memoir to short stories.

The Politics and Prose team sporting their shirts!
The Politics and Prose team sporting their shirts!

Politics and Prose

Washington, D.C.


How to Speak Money

By John Lanchester

The 2008 financial collapse had a profound impact on the thinking and writing of John Lanchester. First, in I.O.U., he provided a very shrewd and literate analysis of the crisis. Then, in the social novel Capital, he depicted how the easy-money era had affected not just greedy speculators but played out in the lives of residents of a representative London neighborhood. Now he’s gone back to basics and written a sort of glossary for economic and financial jargon. His aim, as he says at the start of How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say—and What It Really Means, was to enable people to read the business pages or watch televised economic programs and understand what they’re seeing and hearing. With his journalist’s knack for writing lucidly and making the abstract concrete, Lanchester is particularly well-suited to help us navigate through the obscure terms and arcane concepts that have shrouded the workings and institutions of the financial world. As he showed in his previous books, and does again here, he can present economic principles and financial matters in clear and often entertaining ways.



The Girl With All the Gifts

By M. R. Carey

This is the zombie survival novel for people who hate zombie survival novels. The Girl With All the Gifts takes a tired genre and adds new perspective while mixing believable science and relatable human relationships. While the story closely follows the struggles of a young undead girl, Melanie, learning how to cope with what she is, the narrator hops between characters giving depth and authenticity. Epic disasters and narrow escapes will keep you glued, but it’s the characters that will have you thinking about this book for weeks after finishing it.




By Marilynne Robinson

Lila joins Home and Gilead in Marilynne Robinson’s moving trilogy about the lives and faith of an Iowa town in the 1940s and ‘50s. This third novel is a prequel to the first. Lila is the young wife of the elderly Reverend John Ames, the woman whose look of “furious pride, very passionate and stern,” Ames sees in the face of the seven-year-old son he addresses in Gilead. Much lies behind that “look”; Lila’s fury stems from the mystery of her parentage and why she was abandoned as a child, her subsequent rescue/abduction by the itinerant Doll, and their impoverished years on the road. Lila’s pride makes her a self-sufficient survivor and a woman of high moral standards; she’s seen too much of low ones, and while she may be poorly educated, she has a passion for understanding “why things happen the way they do.” This quest for wisdom, along with compassion and loneliness, draw Lila and the old man together; both are thunderstruck at the good fortune of their unexpected marriage. Robinson is eloquent about this unlikely couple, showing how their mutual attraction was physical, emotional, and intellectual—an inevitable match or, as Ames believes, one made in heaven—a sure sign of grace.

Book Notes


A Long Way Gone

By Ishmael Beah

Beah’s memoir offers true accounts of his experiences at a young age fleeing Sierra Leone and being forced to become a rebel fighter in the early ’90s. Soon enough, Beah is brainwashed as a child soldier to rely on guns and drugs until he is rescued and sent to a rehabilitation program. A Long Way Gone allows readers to attempt to understand the truth behind child soldiers, as Beah continued in his career to recount his story and shed light on his experiences. His memoir, though traumatic, is a beautiful expression of the hope for humanity and self-forgiveness despite a life of crime and unforgettable hardships.



The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

By Hilary Mantel

In addition to her Cromwell novels, both of which focus on the same protagonist, Hilary Mantel’s work shows off a range of styles and a rich diversity of subjects. Consistent throughout, however, is a commitment to quality. Her new collection of short fiction, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, is as dazzling as her previous work. The opening story, “Sorry to Disturb,” is a complex sketch of an English woman living in Saudi Arabia. She is frustrated and bored by the strictures of Saudi customs and the complications that arise when simple courtesy encourages unwanted advances. The story “How Shall I Know You?” recounts the overnight adventure of an author who agrees to speak before a neighborhood literary society; Mantel describes how expectations crash into reality with very funny results. These fictions are rich in predicament and flawless in execution.

Mark L.


The Laughing Monsters

By Denis Johnson

If Graham Greene were writing his boozy, pointed, and insect-infested thrillers in a post-9/11 world, they would be like The Laughing Monsters. The novel tells the story of a veteran spy with fluid affiliations and fickle loyalties attempting to monetize instability in Central Africa. Operating in a socio-political atmosphere defined by sectarian interests and a War on Terror, Denis Johnson’s spy must navigate both this new paradigm and his feelings for his partner/target/fixer’s fiancée. As in his previous work, notably Tree of Smoke and Train Dreams, Johnson demonstrates lyricism and emotional agility, coupling his elegant prose with a plot soaked in grimy realism. The Laughing Monsters provokes as it entertains; this is a literary journey not to be missed.



How to Build a Girl

By Caitlin Moran

I’ve been a huge fan of Caitlin Moran’s non-fiction since reading How to Be a Woman a few years ago. When I found out she was writing a novel, I was ecstatic. She did not let me down. Laugh-out-loud funny and heartrendingly honest, How to Build a Girl is the story of Johanna Morrigan’s climb out of the English projects and into London’s world of music journalism. In short, it is a fictionalized account of Moran’s life. (Fans of How to Be a Woman will particularly enjoy the novel because of this . . . I would even call the two books companion pieces.) This is a tale of a girl growing up and includes all her “firsts”—her first sexual experiences, first job, first love, and the first time feeling the heavy weight of responsibility. Perhaps it is a bit trite to say that I laughed and I cried, but nevertheless, that’s what happened. I wish I could read this book again for the first time.


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#WomenWriteFunny: 9 Female Authors Who Kill It

Recently, #WomenWriteFunny was trending on Twitter. I was feeling a bit tired, looking at the tweets. It’s 2015 and we are still having a discussion about whether or not women are funny (note: they are). But then a few days later when the whole Libro team was together, we started talking about our favorite commediennes. Tina Fey! Amy Poehler! Maria Semple! Nothing brings one back to life like talking about books with friends.

The next day I relistened to Roxane Gay’s discussion of Bridesmaids from Bad Feminist, turned on some Amanda Palmer, and compiled this list. Maybe you won’t like everyone on this list, but there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all humor. That’s what makes this list so great. Someone is bound to tickle your fancy.

Amy Poehler

When talking about women who write funny, Amy Poehler springs instantly to mind. But we daresay that the audiobook of Yes, Please is even funnier than the written work. Give the clip above a listen, where Poehler brings on a guest to read her memoir and reluctantly agrees to read it herself, as only she can.

Unvisited tombstones, unread diaries, and erased video game high-score rankings are three of the most potent symbols of mankind’s pathetic and fruitless attempts at immortality. Not to be negative.”

Sarah Silverman / The Bedwetter

Sarah Silverman

The description page of The Bedwetter gives potential readers a little quiz to make sure that before picking up this audiobook, listeners aren’t, say, offended by “instructing  one’s grandmother to place baked goods in her rectal cavity” or “Stripping naked in public—eleven times in a row.” Silverman, as ever, pushes boundaries to great effect.

And no, not all of the men whizzed in cups. But four or five of them out of twenty did, so the men have to own that one. Anytime there’s a bad female stand-up somewhere, some dickhead Interblogger will deduce that ‘women aren’t funny.’ Using that math, I can state that: Male comedy writers piss in cups.”

Tina Fey / Bossypants

Tina Fey

Picking a favorite from this list is hard, but I have a feeling Tina Fey is probably most people’s go-to funny lady. She is at times witty, at others wacky, and always comes off as genuinely herself. Certainly she draws from her own life, which despite superstar status, is surprisingly relatable to people everywhere. Just see the above quote from Bossypants.

Maria Semple

Semple’s wit is positively scathing—in the best way possible. As Seattleites, the Libro team laughed out loud to Where’d You Go, Bernadette’s critique of our five-way intersections, craftsman homes, and blackberry vines. While some parts are specific to Seattle, she also captures hypervigilant parenting, tech obsessions, and other universal truths of modern life. If an L.A. setting is more your thing, check out This One Is Mine.

. . . I still believe that above all things physical, it is more important to be beautiful on the inside—to have a big heart and an open mind and a spectacular spleen. (Actually, most people’s insides are disgusting. Even pretty people have very unattractive insides. Have you ever seen those surgery shows on Discovery? Not Pretty.)”

Ellen DeGeneres / Seriously . . . I’m Kidding

Ellen DeGeneres

Of all the contemporary women we thought of when making this list, Ellen has been not only around the longest, but also has been the most consistently hilarious. The mere fact that we can just say “Ellen” and you know who we’re talking about says something. In Seriously . . . I’m Kidding, she comes off as effortlessly funny as she does on her show.

That ‘Girl Power’ has been the sole rival to the word feminism in the last 50 years is a cause for much sorrow on the behalf of women. After all, P. Diddy has had four different names and he’s just one man.”

Caitlin Moran / How to Be a Woman

Caitlin Moran

Described as the British Tina Fey, Caitlin Moran has been killing it on the other side of the pond for more than two decades. How to Be a Woman is part self-deprecating memoir, part biting social commentary. How to Build a Girl is a fictional book, though based in part on Moran’s own life, about a teenaged girl who writes music reviews for magazine, described as “The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease”.

Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

Two people as funny as Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella in one family is a rare thing indeed. This mother-daughter duo slay in their co-written books of essays, Have a Nice Guilt Trip and Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, as they bring their particular humor to everyday things such as jury duty and the Mission Impossible franchise.

I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

Jane Austen / Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen

The original woman writing funny. From the first lines of Pride & Prejudice, in which Austen lambasts marriage, to the burning lines of Northanger Abbey in which she lampoons posh vacationers in Bath, England, she is always poised with the perfect banter, description, or character. And yes, her characters’ romances all turn out for the best in the end, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get a few good jabs in at polite society along the way.

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