SMBC Staff Favorites

SMBC Staff Favorites

By South Main Book Company
A Happier Life

A Happier Life

Kristy Woodson Harvey

$28.99 $26.96

Kristy's best yet! She's returned to a mix of historical and contemporary fiction, which worked so well with her 9th novel, THE WEDDING VEIL. This time, versus Asheville, she sets her story in Beaufort, NC - and Kristy describes the town she fell in love with as an adult beautifully within these pages. I suspect summer tours of Beaufort will increase as more readers find this delightful book! Chapters alternate the perspectives of Keaton (present day) and her grandmother, Becks Saint James (1930s-1976). Keaton has just arrived in Beaufort, heartbroken with a dog in tow, to clean out her family's ancestral home, left untouched for nearly 50 years since her grandparents mysteriously disappeared after a dinner party. The dining room table still bares evidence of that last meal, notes are left by the rotary phone, everything in the house is in place as it was left that night - yet no one truly knows how the evening ended for the Saint James'. In Becks' chapters, she reflects on her life with her husband, Townsend, as she prepares to host what she knows will be her last "summer supper." I love the element of intrigue Kristy added to this, her 11th novel. Did Becks and Townsend die in a car crash, or was their new neighbor to blame for something more sinister? What secrets will Keaton uncover as she packs away her family's treasures, and meets the charming residents of Beaufort, who have longed for the Saint James home to be filled with life and laughter again? This book inspired me to bake, got me journaling again, and was the first book I read cover-to-cover in the early days of 2024. My hope is Kristy's 12th is just as good, but set in Salisbury, NC - her childhood home. Her settings take on their own personnas in her plots, and I know she can (and will) drum up doozies of tales about the Rowan County seat. Until that day, I'll be so grateful to pass on A HAPPIER LIFE to the residents of Salisbury that grace my bookstore, clambering for Kristy's next bestseller - what a perfect summer read.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin

$28.00 $26.04

Reading this reminded me of reading THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY by Michael Chabon over 20 years ago. I love a non-romantic tale of mind-blowing project co-creators (here it is gamers, Kavalier and Clay produced comic books). You do not need to know or care at all about video games (I know very little) to enjoy this story. The language in TOMORROW is breathtaking, as are the characters - to include extended family members with minor roles in the story - all of whom were fully-formed to me within a few mentions. I did not see where the plot was going to dip about 70% in, and I couldn't put the book down once I arrived at those pivotal scenes. This book broke my heart several times over yet redeemed my faith in humanity simultaneously; Sadie and Sam's relationship is one of the most powerful I've ever read (her award for community service! Ugh, I'll think of that little paperweight for years). As another reviewer noted, I think one of the most striking elements of this book, and why it echoed some of the intense feelings I experienced with Kavalier and Clay, is the organic way Zevin handles so many incredibly fraught American social issues. To state much more would give away the power of this novel and how it washes over you, but what she does here is just expert. Zevin is one to buy without question for the remainder of her career as a writer based on how she delivered this absolute gem of a novel. I loved this book, and am so disappointed this is the first one I've read of Zevin's - on to A.J. Fikry immediately.

How to Sell a Haunted House

How to Sell a Haunted House

Grady Hendrix

$28.00 $26.04

This book is phenomenal. Playing on the metaphor that unresolved trauma within family ties can sever them completely if not dealt with, the action here revolves around the Charleston estate of a recently deceased couple. Their two - starkly different - adult children must find a way to work together to cleanse the foundation of their ancestral home before selling it. And if they don't sell it, the kids may never be able to rid themselves of the scars their mother's Christian puppeteer ministry imparted on them at tender ages. The story starts strong with a single mother as the protagonist. Briefly shifts midway to her brother's story - his voice made me laugh out loud as I have only experienced while reading a handful of times in my life. And the ending is perfection. Grady Hendrix's voice has defined Southern gothic horror for a good while now. For me, this book solidifies his presence as one of the most gifted authors I am aware of in any genre. I just adored this book, and didn't want to put it down - creepy Chucky puppet vibes and all!!!

Those We Thought We Knew

Those We Thought We Knew

David Joy

$28.00 $26.04

David Joy has reached a new level of expertise with this stunningly crafted work of art. He creates so many fully-fleshed voices and turns out a story that can only come from this place and this time; to be able to articulate a grandmother's resistance AND her grandchild's brilliance, what an accomplished author to be able to bring their characters (and so many others) across authentically. As another white North Carolinian tired of the nodding heads and silent, complicit racism dominating each and every environment I've ever lived in, I am so proud to know works like this can come from here. That last line - I dare you not to cry.

Chain Gang All Stars

Chain Gang All Stars

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

$27.00 $25.11

Google tells me Nana K. Adjei-Brenyah is in his early 30s. Part of me hopes I get to read 10-15 more mind-blowing, earth-shattering novels of his in my lifetime, and most of me hopes that number is smaller due to time constraints as he rebuilds our actual world for the better thru his genius and extraordinary compassion. Anything he cosigns from now on, I'm all over. Brilliant.

The Postcard

The Postcard

Anne Berest

$28.00 $26.04

Exquisite translation, perhaps the best I've ever read. Historical fiction, particularly set in World War II, isn't usually my thing, but when it is done well, it can be transformative. This novel is compelling literature based on a true story that brings a global tragedy into sharp focus thru the tale of a single family. I was fascinated by the details interspersed about other artists and authors who had chance encounters with the characters (I plan to read everything I can by Irene Nemirovsky next). I can't recommend this one enough - the last line would break anyone's heart.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood

Lisa Damour

$20.00 $18.60

I am the mother of a tween and I am not completely losing my mind thanks - in large part - to this book. She has a podcast and other fab books too; none to be missed.

Dogtown

Dogtown

Gennifer Choldenko, Katherine Applegate, et al.

$17.99 $16.73

The first in a lovely new middle grade fiction series about the secret lives of shelter dogs - my 7 year old and I could not put this down!

What We Kept to Ourselves

What We Kept to Ourselves

Nancy Jooyoun Kim

$27.99 $26.03

What a masterful way Kim has weaved in North Korean AND Vietnamese histories of war with the LA riots to create a compelling family drama full of secrets, mysteries, soul-wrenching quests of tremendous beauty... I want a sequel - I want to read RJ's letters!!!

Leeva at Last

Leeva at Last

Sara Pennypacker and Matthew Cordell

$19.99 $18.59

This book is comparable to, but better than, MATILDA by Roald Dahl. The writing and voice of this amazing character are simply to be cherished, and devoured. My 7 year old and I just cried finishing this, and we hope a sequel / series is already planned out, because we both want to grow with Leeva into old age; she is such a delight. The illustrations are a wonderful touch. Any book hooks me when it contains hero librarians, but honestly I feel Sara Pennypacker is a heroine for pulling together this utterly charming novel, which I will recommend to adults - as I struggled to put it down when my daughter fell asleep each night. Perfection. Brava!!!

Our Missing Hearts: Reese's Book Club (a Novel)

Our Missing Hearts: Reese's Book Club (a Novel)

Celeste Ng

$29.00 $26.97

- Oh, I hope and pray this is a runaway blockbuster when it releases in October; it deserves to be. Dystopian synopsis - our government can re-home children on the basis of an anonymous report of seditious parental behavior. One woman uses poetry to combat this, and the rampant anti-Asian hate that is taking over society, as hero librarians behind the scenes attempt to document fractured family ties. If you didn’t already know Celeste Ng is a force, this book can illuminate your perspective.

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial

Corban Addison

$30.00 $27.90

If you enjoy southern mysteries, true crime, or procedural thrillers, this book is for you (particularly if you've ever driven down Interstate 40 towards coastal North Carolina and wondered "What is that smell?"). I grew up in Duplin County, the primary setting of this story. The nuisance lawsuit described in this book is the culmination of decades of environmental racism perpetrated by Smithfield Foods and its subsidiaries on folks who just wanted to enjoy clean, country air on the land their families had owned, often for generations. Rather than the freedom to sit on their porch with clothes drying on a line, the plaintiffs in these suits were forced indoors as actual hog waste was sprayed into their air (and homes and occasionally well water…) by corporate farmers attempting to eliminate a problem that could have been handled by a multitude of more “neighborly” methods. Nuisance lawsuits like these rarely see a court room, as the expense of taking on such a large conglomerate is enormous, and the likelihood of remuneration is rare. Through an incredibly lucky set of circumstances - described at length in the early chapters of this book - a legal dream team came together and realized the value of righting this grave injustice; the team was composed of lawyers from across the country, but spearheaded by Mona Lisa Wallace, of Salisbury's Wallace & Graham Law Firm (conveniently located less than a mile down the road from my bookstore in Salisbury NC). I downloaded this ARC simply because I love a good true crime story, having no idea that I knew many of the characters described in these pages; I also was far too familiar with the stench my former neighbors continued to find themselves surrounded by decades after my family was able to move away from it. I am certain I will sell dozens of copies of this book this summer, and I am so grateful to know that so many heroes in this story are my neighbors now. They did a tremendous service to others in our state, and deserve all the high praise contained in WASTELANDS.

The Wedding Veil

The Wedding Veil

Kristy Woodson Harvey

$27.00 $25.11

Kristy Woodson Harvey's ninth novel, and first work of historical fiction, THE WEDDING VEIL, delivers incredible characters who vividly come alive from the prologue on. A young Edith Dresser, wearing roller skates in her mother’s boudoir, tries on a wedding veil, and is mesmerized by her mother’s tender prognostication for her future wedded bliss. Flashforward a few years, and Edith marries George Vanderbilt, who whisks her off on a European honeymoon before she nervously boards a train to a far-off new home, the Biltmore Estate. She doesn’t know what her future in the North Carolina mountains will hold, but she is ready to create a house united with her husband and the people of their new community. Contemporary romance readers will thoroughly enjoy the chapters set in modern day as the mystery of one wedding veil changes multiple life stories.

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-To-Be Best Friend

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-To-Be Best Friend

Dawn Quigley and Tara Audibert

$6.99 $6.50

A lovely new voice on the tween scene is JOJO MAKOONS by Dawn Quigley and illustrated by Tara Audibert (80 pp, 1 book in series so far, Heartdrum). This book is part of the “WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS” campaign, celebrating JoJo's life on an Ojibwe Native American Reservation through relatable tales of her friends, school, and delightful relationship with her cat, Mimi.

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Lyla Lee and Dung Ho

$5.99 $5.57

This series displays great depth of story for an emerging reader (I must note a trigger warning here for Mindy's deceased mom, who passed away after extended illness prior to this series' origin). My daughters are obsessed with Mindy's campaigns to obtain a dog, good friends, and fantastic vacations; I appreciate Mindy’s politeness and kindness, which are not often on display within the characters of early chapter books.

What the Road Said

What the Road Said

Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt

$18.99 $17.66

The actual perfect children's book - for kids and adults!

I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James

$18.99 $17.66

For the kids – the incredible local team of Derrick Barnes (author) and Gordon C. James (illustrator) has produced I Am Every Good Thing (512 pp, Margaret K. McElderry Books), which includes heartwarming drawings of families living in our own community. This gorgeous book has already drawn nationwide praise from Drew Barrymore among others; Barnes and James were featured during one of Barrymore’s first segments as the host of her eponymous talk show. I am a nonstop ball of energy. Powerful and full of light. I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader. The confident young narrator of this picture book, perfect for a 4 to 8-year-old, is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He has big plans, and he will see them through as he is creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. Other times he is afraid, as he is so often misunderstood and called names. The moral of this story is to slow down and really listen to others, to notice the signs when someone reveals to you the truth of who they are.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

Joanna Ho and Dung Ho

$17.99 $16.73

EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho (40 pp, HarperCollins) – a 2021 publication focused on one girl’s discovery of the differences in the shape of her eyes from those of her friends. The girl notes how her eyes, and those of the women in her family, are filled with stories from the past, hope for the future, and they are all beautiful – and so is this story, which I hope your family will enjoy as well. My eyes find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down. My lashes curve like the swords of warriors and, through them, I see kingdoms in the clouds. My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution.

Migrations

Migrations

Charlotte McConaghy

$26.99 $25.10

Australian Charlotte McConaghy's debut novel begins in Greenland with Franny Stone tagging some members of the world’s only remaining flock of arctic terns. Why is she alone in her research endeavor to track their migratory patterns? Why is she desperate to join any private fishing vessel that will have her aboard to follow these birds? Her motivations are slowly revealed as the book shifts back and forth between scenes from her mysterious life. This is a gorgeous tale of a woman literally adrift at sea.

The Library Book

The Library Book

Susan Orlean

$17.99 $16.73

A true crime love letter to libraries - perfection!

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

Jon Krakauer

$19.00 $17.67

Deeply troubled by 9/11. Pat Tillman walked away from his NFL contract for the US Army. This book - by my favorite author - exposes shattering truths about men and war.

My N.C. from A-Z

My N.C. from A-Z

Michelle Lanier and Dare Coulter

$14.95 $13.90

Gorgeous illustrations from an amazingly talented artist, plus recommended reading for parents who want to know more at the end. Michelle Lanier visited our bookstore when this launched (days before COVID shut everything down); we were all so impressed by the rich history we are surrounded with, which she so succinctly captured in this truly lovely board book.

In a Jar

In a Jar

Deborah Marcero

$18.99 $17.66

IN A JAR by Deborah Marcero (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) – a Spring 2020 release that may have escaped your notice, given world events at the time. This gorgeous book chronicles the friendship of two rabbits, Llewellyn and Evelyn, who collect seemingly uncollectable things (rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before a snow fall) to display in jars on shelves in their neighboring homes – until Evelyn announces she is moving away. Their inventive ways to continue sharing their discoveries is such an inspired tale for kids finding themselves with a smaller, but hopefully just as creative, social circle these days.

Her Right Foot

Her Right Foot

Dave Eggers

$21.99 $20.45

HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris (104 pp, Chronicle Books) – published in 2017 by one of my favorite authors of adult nonfiction (Dave Eggers previously wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and Zeitoun, among other titles), I kept a copy of this picture book on my desk in Embassies over the world to remind my colleagues and I what it means to be an American. Starting with the true tale of the Statue of Liberty’s creation in France and eventual rehoming on Ellis Island in New York City, Eggers leave the reader with deep questions of what the Statue literally “stands” for – is her leg displaying the intent to move, and does that movement appear bound for the sea? I am continually left with goosebumps towards the conclusion of this story, as we realize Lady Liberty is breaking free of her chains to meet new arrivals to the United States where they are, to accept them as they are, to welcome them to our shores. Sometimes children’s literature can possess a grander statement than works intended for adults; this is one of those books.

All the Ways to Be Smart

All the Ways to Be Smart

Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

$17.99 $16.73

Gorgeous illustrations and cloth over board hardcover - great gift!