Indie Next List for May 2020

The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

Death in Her Hands

By Ottessa Moshfegh

(Penguin Press 9781984879356, $27)

"Ottessa Moshfegh is a modern-day Camus. A woman finds a note in the woods that proclaims someone is dead. Murdered, in fact. She investigates between dog walks and early evening naps but soon facts, memories, and suppositions entwine and overlap until the simple act of asking a question can unravel the thread of an entire life. Ponderous, violent, forgetful, and deft, Death in Her Hands is a genre-bender that teases you into asking, Is this noir? Horror? A whacked-out farce? Or a sly literary trick? I'll tell you what it is--absolutely brilliant."

--Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The Hilarious World of Depression

By John Moe

(St. Martin's Press 9781250209283, $27.99)

"This book made me laugh and cry immediately after I started reading. John Moe took a hard topic and made it so much easier--taking the world of mental health and illness and making it easy to understand and connect with. It's a great read, and everyone should have the pleasure of reading it."
--Kaylyn Schafer, Wordsmith Bookshoppe, Galesburg, IL

Braised Pork

By An Yu

(Grove Press 9780802148711, $25)

"An astonishing look at a new widow's attempt to make sense of her husband's death and her newfound independence, through which she rediscovers her love of painting, forms new and profound bonds, rekindles previously dormant familial relationships, and ultimately finds peace in uncertainty. Set in Beijing and Tibet, Braised Pork is a poetic reflection on life and all of its meandering, unpredictable messiness."
--Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, Solid State Books, Washington, DC

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Siri, Who Am I?

By Sam Tschida

(Quirk Books 9781683691686, $15.99, trade paper)

"Rarely do I pick up a novel with such buoyancy and humor, full of the good in people, yet poignant in the face of difficult truths. Siri, Who Am I? is laugh-out-loud funny (as we say in the business) starting from the moment Mia wakes up in the hospital with short-term amnesia. As she uses social media to figure out where she lives, who she knows, and who she is--in the world and in her soul--she rediscovers the folks in her life and meets new friends along the way. You've got to go on this journey with Mia."

--Heidi Raak, Yardstick Books, Algona, WI

Take Me Apart

By Sara Sligar

(MCD 9780374272616, $27)

"In this delicious psychological thriller, we learn what it means to take on the job of archiving a famous person's memories as found in papers, photos, and diaries. As Kate begins the daunting task, it does not take her long to find an uneasiness creeping into her heart and mind concerning how Miranda Brand died years before. And when she begins to wonder about Miranda's son, Theo, and his potential involvement in the death, things get very scary, indeed. This is a grand debut that will give you chills and thrills, and a chance to hone your investigative skills. Have fun!"
--Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA

On Lighthouses

By Jazmina Barrera

Christina MacSweeney (Transl.)

(Two Lines Press 9781949641011, $19.95)

"Jazmina Barrera's On Lighthouses is a thoughtful, lovely meditation on isolation and connection. She travels the world, meeting friends, kin, strangers, and historical figures, all while seeking out lonely lighthouses and digging deep into her solitary 'collecting' process. The book is as liminal as its subject--separate from others, but in service to them; not urgent, but just possibly the single slight thing needed to keep a reader from the rocks."

--Helen Zuckerman, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

A Children's Bible

By Lydia Millet

(W.W. Norton & Company 9781324005032, $25.95)

"In A Children's Bible, the age-old war between kids and their parents, children and adults, is reimagined through the lens of Biblical devastation. The result is harrowing and, in unexpected moments, hilarious. Millet has created a story that feels both folkloric and brand new, a tale as much about environmental cataclysm as it is about fighting for the people, things, and ideas that remain right and true, no matter how high the water gets. I love Millet's perfectly tuned sentences as much as the ambition of this novel, which I'll continue thinking about for a long time."
--Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, Birmingham, AL

Grown Ups

By Emma Jane Unsworth

(Gallery/Scout Press 9781982141936, $27)

"Grown Ups is told with humor and angst (both causing laughter and anxiety) in traditional prose supplemented with emails, texts, and social media columns and comments--much like our lives today. Jenny is living in London and tethered to her Instagram as her real life is slightly falling apart. This book is filled with fantastic writing and insights relevant to the modern balance of social media life with real life. I don't want to say too much more, other than I will miss Jenny now that I've finished reading."
--Melissa Summers, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC

Pretty Things

By Janelle Brown

(Random House 9780525479123, $28)

"Nina Ross is a grifter, just like her mom. She didn't have a lot growing up, and they were always on the move. Vanessa, heiress of a family fortune, is a famous Instagram influencer. Everyone loves her, but her smile hides a past filled with tragedy. Nina and Vanessa's lives become intertwined as part of a long con. Pretty Things is excellently written, with an intricate plot full of twists. I loved absolutely everything about this book. I highly recommend it."

--Rebecca Minnock, Murder by the Book, Houston, TX

The Fixed Stars: A Memoir

By Molly Wizenberg

(Abrams Press 9781419742996, $25)

"I have enjoyed Molly Wizenberg's writing for years, and this book was no exception. I loved the mix of science and research with confessional truth-telling about longing and identity. As a mother of two small children, I clung to this story of discovery. And as a human, I cherished Wizenberg's exploration of the realization that our stories are never done being written. This book was a balm for my soul."
--Sarah Fischer, Downbound Books, Cincinnati, OH

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

By Max Brooks

(Del Rey 9781984826787, $28)

"This was a blast to read. Kate and Dan Holland have an opportunity to move into an eco-friendly community called Greenloops in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Kate's therapist asks her to keep a journal, and this is how their story is preserved. Because after Mt. Rainier erupts, horrible things happen at Greenloops. Really horrible things..."
--Ann Nye, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel

By Martha Wells

( 9781250229861, $26.99)

"Martha Wells' Murderbot Diaries has become one of my favorite series of all time, and Network Effect is a perfect addition. Murderbot is still trying to figure out what it wants after hacking its governor module. In the meantime, it spends its days protecting the humans it cares about. Of course, everything goes terribly wrong when a friend shows up to kidnap Murderbot and its humans are along for the ride. Network Effect isn't just fun and action-packed, it's also emotional and thought-provoking. I love Murderbot!"

--Sophie Giroir, Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA

Sea Wife

By Amity Gaige

(Knopf 9780525656494, $26.95)

"Wherever you go, your anxieties go with you--even (or especially) if you go live on a boat to sail the world with your spouse and small children. Nothing will ever be the same for Juliet, Michael, and their family after their harrowing year at sea, and no reader will be the same after reading this taut, brilliant novel. I can't stop thinking about it."

--Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

The Book of V.

By Anna Solomon

(Henry Holt and Co. 9781250257017, $27.99)

"Astounding! In the talented hands of Anna Solomon, the lives of three women in different eras come to life with equal vibrancy. A compelling look at the roles of women through time (ancient Persia, 1970s D.C., and Brooklyn in 2016), as well as what it means to have and use power and to feel safe in a relationship. So much material here for discussion. I cannot wait to put this into the hands of our readers!"
--Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore, Chatham, MA

The Knockout Queen

By Rufi Thorpe

(Knopf 9780525656784, $26.95)

"To say I admire The Knockout Queen feels inadequate, though I do admire a great deal of it: its voice, depth, structure--you name it. But it's more honest just to say I love The Knockout Queen; I loved reading it, I felt involved in it, and, finally, I was so moved by its ending. This is an epic tale of friendship, one where the magnitude sneaks up on you quietly--but when it strikes home, it rings so brilliantly true."

--Will Walton, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

Simon the Fiddler

By Paulette Jiles

(William Morrow 9780062966742, $27.99)

"Simon Boudlin's passion is to be the best fiddle player there is, beholden to no one and following his muse wherever it takes him. But when he meets the beautiful Doris Aherne, his plans change. Paulette Jiles once again captures the great promise and sweeping beauty of the Texas frontier in cinematic prose as poetic and lyrical as the tunes that pour forth from the fiddler himself. Simon joins that great pantheon of strivers for a better life, and readers will root for him every step of the way. Fans of News of the World can rejoice--with Simon the Fiddler, Jiles has done it again!"

--Peter Sherman, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub

(Riverhead Books 9781594634697, $27)

"A single sudden and shocking occurrence jolts Astrid Strick--widow, mother, and small-town stalwart--into reassessing her life, especially her failings with her three grown children. Even as she tries to find a path toward redemption, it's clear her offspring are nursing different hurts. Straub's lovely and charming comic novel explores the messy and dissonant truths that underpin the illusions we maintain about those closest to us. No one is at fault, and everyone is to blame. Even adults have to grow up. Utterly charming and completely engrossing."

--Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA

Hollywood Park: A Memoir

By Mikel Jollett

(Celadon Books 9781250621566, $27.99)

"Hollywood Park is the kind of memoir that will turn you completely inside out before it lets you go. Within the specificity of his story, Mikel Jollett has somehow managed to make space for all of us--the intricate voice of his child and adolescent selves is one every reader will easily hear in their own head. This book is a brilliant and raw balancing of the accounts that make up a self, and I have nothing but respect for the vulnerability it took Jollett to step down from the stage he's used to occupying as a musician and into a story that readers everywhere will hold in their hands and hearts for a very long time."
--Afton Montgomery, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

The Paris Hours

By Alex George

(Flatiron Books 9781250307187, $26.99)

"Alex George has woven a beautiful tapestry of a historical novel in The Paris Hours through four colorful, intertwining threads. Each of the characters will touch your heart with their stories of love, loss, the ravages of war, and their search for answers and a path to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. Lush with descriptions of 1927's Paris and the appearance of many famous cultural figures of the era, The Paris Hours will transport readers to a time and place they will be reluctant to leave until the last unexpected moment."
--Betsy Von Kerens, The Bookworm of Omaha, Omaha, NE

The Book of Longings

By Sue Monk Kidd

(Viking 9780525429760, $28)

"I absolutely could not put this book down. Sue Monk Kidd has written a narrative that not only centers on women who are missing from or largely ignored in scriptural accounts, but it focuses on their voices, stories, and hardships--their everyday lives and bigger-than-everyday longings. As Kidd is writing Ana's story, Ana herself is writing the stories of women she's learned about and women she knows. Her determination to give them voices weaves beautifully and reverently with Jesus' teachings about reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten."

--Anastacia Compton, Roundabout Books, Bend, OR

Trust Exercise

By Susan Choi

(Holt Paperbacks 9781250231260, $15.99)

"Set inside the acting program of an elite high school, Choi's novel seems to consider every major preoccupation of our moment--class, gender, sexuality, race, power, predation, authenticity, 'genius'--with language that's both uproarious and frothing with vital rage. To describe the plot in any detail, though, would reveal too much of Trust Exercise's inventive, audacious form. Best let this novel sink into your bones with as few spoilers as possible before its final scene seizes your heart. And it will seize your heart. Trust me."
--Samuel Krowchenko, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

The Tenth Muse

By Catherine Chung

(Ecco 9780062574084, $16.99)

Catherine Chung's female protagonist is a mathematician, and it is thrilling to have a woman scientist who is a complex character in an even more complex novel. In trying to solve a math riddle, she ends up exploring the riddle of her own childhood, which is inextricably linked to one of the darkest episodes in human history. Catherine Chung has woven a rich tapestry mixing present and past, ambition, identity, and gender issues. A beautiful book."

--Francoise Brodsky, Shakespeare & Co. New York, NY

Southern Lady Code: Essays

By Helen Ellis

(Anchor 9780525562924, $15.95)

"I had forgotten how to laugh, but after opening this book and starting to read, I couldn't help myself--it just came bubbling up. What a wonderful thing it is to hold in your hands something that has the power to make one erupt with hoots and howls. Helen Ellis is a treasure and a gift from the gods; she tells it like it is in Southern lady speak and we love her all the more for the joy she has given us."

--Beth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna

By Juliet Grames

(Ecco 9780062862839, $17.99)

"Stella Fortuna: With a name like this, she should not be subjected to so many near-death accidents. Is she unlucky or cursed? Juliet Grames does a masterful job of parsing out Stella's story, from growing up in an isolated mountain village to immigrating to America and navigating the perils of a patriarchal society along the way. This story explores familial bonds, discontentment, betrayal, and the damage of keeping secrets. Readers, get comfortable because you will not want to put this book down. I loved Stella."

--Patricia Moody, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT

Rules for Visiting

By Jessica Francis Kane

(Penguin Books 9780525559245, $17)

"A skillful writer can show how things that seem unrelated are actually intertwined. In this way, Kane quietly reminds us that friendships and plants may be deeply rooted but need tending to bloom completely, that words matter, that going back to their roots may change how we think about what we say, and that a quiet life can be a full one. This gentle book grows on you (the puns just keep coming), but it is a refreshing change from the stresses of our digital age or the angst of so many recent books about contemporary life. Entertaining and erudite, I highly recommend this book."

--Ann Carlson, Waterfront Books, Georgetown, SC

Rough Magic: Riding the World's Loneliest Horse Race

By Lara Prior-Palmer

(Catapult 9781948226981, $16.95)

"Lara Prior-Palmer's journey in the Mongol Derby is one of excitement, pain, and profound inner dialogue. There was not a moment in this fast-paced memoir where my attention wavered. Prior-Palmer weaves a coming-of-age tale with expert grace and worldly knowledge alongside an intensely riveting competition against herself and the land. Rough Magic is a fantastically written and introspective memoir worthy of great praise."

--Travis McGuire, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, MO

The Islanders

By Meg Mitchell Moore

(William Morrow Paperbacks 9780062840073, $16.99)

"In The Islanders, Moore tells a wonderful tale of forgiveness and love woven into the beautiful backdrop of Block Island, Rhode Island. A disgraced author must hit bottom before he can start to forgive himself and find his way back to life. A local shop owner must deal with the changes that have taken place in her life, including her daughter leaving home and some new competition that threatens her livelihood. Well-written with sharply drawn characters, this is more than a beach read but just as enjoyable."
--Robert Angell, Spring Street Bookstore, Newport, RI

The Guest Book

By Sarah Blake

(Flatiron Books 9781250110275, $17.99)

"I began The Guest Book expecting an excellent family saga set, in part, on an island in Maine. The magic of the family home is palpable as three generations build loyalty, identity, and memories there. But what I read was far, far more. This is a history of our country's evolution through matters of race, class, and politics, and it relates compellingly to our current struggles with those topics as the characters grapple with the underpinnings of privilege, familial love, and morality. Sarah Blake has written a stunning and complex novel that lingers in your mind long after the last page."
--Dana Brigham, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen

By Mary Norris

(W.W. Norton & Company 9780393357868, $15.95)

"What a pleasure to again spend a few hours with Mary Norris. The author of Between You & Me is back with a second book, and this time her subject is all things Greek--the language, the people, the mythology, and the culture. Greek to Me recounts Norris' experiences learning Greek and traveling the country while putting her new skills to the test. As in her first book, Norris is excellent company, spinning tales and charming readers. Blending memoir, history, and travel, all topped off with heaps of wordy nerdiness, Greek to Me is a joy to read."

--David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

Cat Person and Other Stories

By Kristen Roupenian

(Gallery/Scout Press 9781982101640, $16)

"I was completely enthralled with Kristen Roupenian's 'Cat Person' story in the New Yorker and couldn't wait to pick up her collection. Like 'Cat Person,' each story pushes boundaries, holding a magnifying glass up to social norms and what our society accepts. The writing is fantastic, and the cadence of each story is strikingly unique. This book will delight fans of Roupenian's viral story and will start many more conversations in its wake."

--Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA

The Binding

By Bridget Collins

(William Morrow Paperbacks 9780062838100, $17.99)

"An absolutely gorgeous novel! Collins writes Emmett in such a way that readers will experience his confusion and frustration and then have it unknotted simultaneously as his tale unfolds. The three parts of the novel are brilliantly ordered to deliver a powerful tale that will tear your heart to pieces slowly and, in one spectacular scene, mend it completely with hope and love. Do Binders provide healing and comfort, or are they wicked magicians determined to leave you empty? What are you willing to risk for someone you love?"

--Angela Shores, Adventure Bound Books, Morganton, NC

Ask Again, Yes

By Mary Beth Keane

(Scribner 9781982106997, $17)

"Ask Again, Yes is a compelling, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful novel. Mary Beth Keane is incredibly talented; she does not sugar coat, instead giving readers a compulsively readable family drama. I did not expect to become so completely engrossed in these characters' stories--two families whose lives become inextricably linked by young love and personal tragedy. Their myriad mistakes and attempts to atone beautifully demonstrate the power and grace found in forgiveness."
--Anderson McKean, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL

« prev issue | next issue »

Find more independent bookseller recommendations at

IndieBound is a movement of the American Booksellers Assocation. All rights reserved.

Powered by: Xtenit