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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

December 1, 2019

Pair of Novels on Indie Bestseller Lists Are Worth Noting 
 
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. English author Moyes made a name for herself back in 2013 with the publication of a contemporary romance titled Me Before You. The book, about a young woman who cares for a bitter but charismatic quadriplegic, became a bestseller and spawned a movie starring Anne Hathaway. Moyes went on to write other romance-styled novels, including two Me Before You sequels, which did not fare as well. But she changed genres and has hit it big again with her latest, a solid work of historical fiction set in Depression-era America that has become a fixture on independent bestseller lists for the past two months. It's based on a true story and features five women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond to get books in the hands of people without access to them as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's traveling library project.  
     
For the Indie Next list in October, bookseller Angie Tally from The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC, wrote the following: "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."

 
Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson. The author of the quirky The Family Fang has muscled onto the end-of-year independent bestseller lists with a moving and
often hilarious fable of a novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities. Here's a brief summary:
   
Lillian and Madison were the unlikeliest of roommates at their elite boarding school and tight as could be, reveling in their unique weirdnesses. Years later, the two have lost touch, but Madison writes and begs Lillian for help. Her husband's twin stepkids are moving in with them and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there's a catch: the twins can spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin. Disbelieving at first but ultimately too intrigued by these strange children, Lillian agrees. And as they hunker down in the pool house, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other - and stay cool - just as Madison's family is bracing for a major announcement.   
 
Critics everywhere have loved Nothing To See Here, including USA Today's Barbara Vendenburgh, who wrote, in part, "It's a giddily lunatic premise, one that author Kevin Wilson grounds with humor and deadpan matter-of-factness. . .The writing dazzles. . .But what dazzles most are the warmly rendered dynamics of an ad hoc, dysfunctional family that desperately wants to work."
Remembering a  National Treasure
 
The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom by Toni Morrison. The literary world lost one of its icons this year with Morrison's pass ing. She wrote 11 novels and received the Nati o nal Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her work. In 1993 she was aw arded the Nobel Prize in Literature. This love ly small inspiration al gift volume gives readers a way to remember and savor her legacy.    
 
"Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don't get nothing for it." 
 
The Meas
ure of Our Lives juxtaposes quotat ions, one to a page, drawn from Morrison's  entire body of work, both fiction and n onfiction - from The Bluest Eye to God Help the Child, from Playing in the Dark to The Source of Self-Re gard.
 
"The presence of evil was something to be first recognized, then dealt with, survived, outwitted, triumphed over." 
 
The book is designed to celebrate the range of Morrison's literary vision through its words and design, and it succeeds nicely. This is a keepsake edition that anyone who has been or might be inspired by Morrison's words would appreciate and probably cherish.   
 
"Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another - physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." 
WHERE TO FIND 
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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