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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

March 10, 2019

Challenges of Love and Life Examined in New Fiction and Nonfiction Softcovers
  
The Only Story by Julian Barnes. Any new book from the masterful Barnes should be a treat for lovers of literary fiction, and The Only Story doesn't disappoint. His Booker-Prize-winning novella, The Sense of an Ending, dealt with a seemingly ordinar y man, retired and re-examining his life through the eyes of new-found memories and remorse. Here, Barnes again offers a older man looking back on his early life - from the early excitement of an affair between a teenage boy and a significantly older married woman to the puzzlement and heartbreak of a romance gone off the rails.
 
Narrator Paul is 19 when he's paired in a mixed double tennis tournament with Susan Mcleod, a 48-year-old wife and mother. The attraction is immediate, and they soon become lovers and eventually set up house in London to escape Paul's parents and Susan's abusive hu sband. Decades later, with Susan now dead, Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed her from a sterile marriage, and how - gradually, relentlessly - everything eventually fell apart. As she succumbed to depression and alcoholism, he struggled with undying feelings he was ill-equipped to manage. This is a quiet but moving character study, the sort that Barnes does so well. The book also features a great cover (unlike it's dreary hardcover iteration) that stands out on a table of new titles.
 
 
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. When this provocative autobiography was published last year, it garnered several starred reviews, including one from Kirkus Reviews that described Heavy as a "dynamic memoir that is unsettling in all the best ways." English professor and essayist Laymon writes artfully about growing up black in Mississippi, raised in turbulence by a single mom, and dealing with childhood obesity along with his skin color. He also leavens what is often a challenging story with humor and refreshing self-reflection.  
 
Praise for the book and Laymon's writing skill has been widespread and includes this from NPR.org: "Heavy is a compelling record of American violence and family violence, and the wide, rutted embrace of family love ... Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful. Heavy is at once a paean to the Deep South, a condemnation of our fat-averse culture, and a brilliantly rendered memoir of growing up black, and bookish, and entangled in a family that is as challenging as it is grounding." 
#1 Indie Next Pick for March Rocks The Story of an Iconic '70s Band
 
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It's no surprise that independent booksellers picked this cool, fun novel as their March favorite. Author Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) imagines the whirlwind rise of a hugely popular 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, then reveals the mystery behind their infamous breakup. The books reads like a tell-all memoir and nicely captures the 1970s music scene, especially for anyone who lived through that time. The review chosen to represent bookseller sentiment about Daisy comes from an unabashed fan of that era:
 
"Oh man, what a ride! I guess I'm the right demographic for this book: I love rock and I grew up in the '70s, so I wanted to like it...instead, I loved it! Yes, it's sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, but it's also got wonderfully complex characters that I cared about even if I didn't like how they acted. It's a peek into the formation of a band, how the music is made, the struggles of addiction and clashing personalities, and, ultimately, love. The story is compiled of pieces of interviews with the band and those connected to them - a very effective technique that made the novel's pages turn even faster. Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & the Six is one of my favorite books of 2019 so far!"
- Serena Wyckoff,   Copperfish Books,  
Punta Gorda, FL 
 
In a recent interview with Bookselling This Week, Reid addressed the question of whether any specific bands or singers influenced her own creation. It's an interesting exchange:  

BTW: Is there a particular '70s rock star people are supposed to think of when they read about Daisy? Stevie Nicks comes to mind. Or is she kind of an amalgam of different iconic female rock singers?
 
Reid: You have a '70s rock setting and it's about this band with a lot of romantic turmoil within it, so you're always going to think of Fleetwood Mac, but as a singer Daisy's upbringing is different from Stevie's, her image is different from Stevie's, the things that we're drawn to about her are different from the things we are drawn to about Stevie. I love Stevie Nicks, and because of that I wanted to make sure that I didn't write Stevie Nicks. Daisy is her own person, but I read a lot about Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and Patti Smith. I really wanted to look at the story of a woman in a band at that time and how they were able to exist or co-exist [with the band].
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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

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