Book Club, Book List

Summer & Fall Book Club Recommendations, Part 2

Twice a year the American Booksellers Association shares indie booksellers recommendations for book clubs. We’re excited to share them here with you as well. While this edition was not in print (or on the IndieBound website with the previous publications), we’ll be sharing some of our favorite sections from the full list. And the event better news about these titles? They’re all in paperback! Each cover links to the book on our website and is followed by a blurb from an indie bookseller and the synopsis from the publisher.

Coming of Age

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One hundred percent worth the buzz. I was entranced from beginning to end. Reid’s use of an interview format is perfect and ingenious for exploring the rise and fall of an imaginary 1970s rock band. It allows for an in-depth and realistic look at complicated group dynamics and varying perceptions and memories of each other during key moments and interactions.

Cori Cusker, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ

Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Dominicana hinges on the promise of new beginnings built on generations of sacrifice and dreams. There is a path to a better life, but no manual. Alone with a husband she doesn’t know, Ana carves a space for herself in Washington Heights, learning almost everything from scratch. An ode to women everywhere whose birthright is not only survival but joy.

Amanda Ibarra, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.
As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.
In bright, musical prose that reflects the energy of New York City, Angie Cruz’s Dominicana is a vital portrait of the immigrant experience and the timeless coming-of-age story of a young woman finding her voice in the world.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land is a modern classic that illuminates the desperate reality of a critical time in American history. I was immediately engaged in this epic story about four orphans who embark on a life-changing odyssey in search of freedom, safety, and family during the Great Depression. This Tender Land is a perfect novel for fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing. This novel is a must-read for all book clubs.

Eve Taben, Elm Street Books, New Canaan, CT

The unforgettable story of four orphans who travel the Mississippi River on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression.
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, Odie O’Banion is an orphan confined to the Lincoln Indian Training School, a pitiless place where his lively nature earns him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee after committing a terrible crime, he and his brother, Albert, their best friend, Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
Over the course of one summer, these four orphans journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

A psychological masterclass. I can think of no better place to dissect how micro actions toward each other suggest macro feelings than a famous arts high school where emotions, power dynamics, and naivete mascarading as bravado are at their peak and ever shifting. Many have said, and I will too, that you have to read this one knowing as little as possible about what to expect. All I’ll say is that it left me with a potent emotion spurred by a slowly revealed truth, not just about the characters but about our world, and Susan Choi is a genius.

Molly Moore, BookPeople, Austin, TX

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.
The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls—until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true—though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place—revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.
As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.

Family Ties

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

A cozy-chair, cup-of-tea, wrapped-in-a-blanket kind of novel, The Guest Book takes the reader through three generations. As you delve into the lives and personalities of the Milton family’s seemingly perfectly ordered and charmed world, the cracks gradually begin to show. Through the denial of the news in Nazi Germany, the taboo of speaking of one’s illness or someone’s homosexuality, or the hiding of a friend that is of a different skin color or religion, we see through the eyes of this family that history does repeat itself and lessons are hard learned. If you enjoyed The Postmistress, you will enjoy this. Lots of discussion for reading groups.

Nona Camuel, CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY

An exquisitely written, poignant family saga that illuminates the great divide, the gulf that separates the rich and poor, black and white, Protestant and Jew. Spanning three generations, The Guest Book deftly examines the life and legacy of one unforgettable family as they navigate the evolving social and political landscape from Crockett’s Island, their family retreat off the coast of Maine. Blake masterfully lays bare the memories and mistakes each generation makes while coming to terms with what it means to inherit the past.

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

Knot is a strong and independent woman in a rural town in North Carolina. She likes her liquor, and she will always speak her mind and regret none of it. She is one of many members of the community of West Mills that we get to know over the course of 40 years in De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s beautiful and feisty book about the love of family, friends, and neighbors. Though not always perfect and with a fair share of secrets, they always try to do what they believe is best for the ones they love.

Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

Let the people of West Mills say what they will about Azalea “Knot” Centre; they won’t keep her from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, when motherhood looms, Knot begins to learn that her freedom has come at a high price. Low on money, ostracized from her parents and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home.
Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt to help his older sister, who lives a precarious life in the North, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.
Spanning decades in a rural North Carolina town where a canal acts as the color line, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

This is a tale of two sisters, a batch of undefeatable Midwestern women, and the modern evolution of American beer trends in the Midwest. America’s heartland looks a bit different from the perspectives of Edith, Helen, and Diana, each of whom struggles to both survive and realize her dreams in a world less than willing to give women a chance, let alone a beer. Lovely, powerful, and an excellent read!

Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA

A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can’t help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.
With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it’s not too late.
Meanwhile, Edith’s granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up–will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?
Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved, and delighted.

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things is a unique and charismatic story that winds its way through family matters, personal strife, and most important of all: taxidermy. Great for fans of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!

Delany Holcomb, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

What does it take to come back to life? For Jessa-Lynn Morton, the question is not an abstract one. In the wake of her father’s suicide, Jessa has stepped up to manage his failing taxidermy business while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the taxidermy shop to make provocative animal art, while her brother, Milo, withdraws. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. It’s not until the Mortons reach a tipping point that a string of unexpected incidents begins to open up surprising possibilities and second chances. But will they be enough to salvage this family, to help them find their way back to one another? Kristen Arnett’s breakout bestseller is a darkly funny family portrait; a peculiar, bighearted look at love and loss and the ways we live through them together.

Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? by Brock Clarke

Inspired by Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt, Brock Clarke’s new novel is a delightful journey (physically and emotionally) that constantly keeps us guessing at the final destination. This can be said of the narrator, Calvin Bledsoe, as well as the reader. At his mother’s funeral, Calvin meets an aunt he never knew he had, and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery he didn’t know he needed. A thoughtful coming-of-age story wrapped in a screwball mystery caper, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? may inspire questions of your own. It may inspire you to learn about John Calvin, the pellet stove, or even small animal pornography. It will most certainly make you smile.

Tony Peltier, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

Calvin Bledsoe has never grown up. His mother, an internationally known theologian, was the dominant force in his life—so much so that he never left home, even when he married. Now she is gone, and at her funeral, Calvin meets an aunt he never knew existed, who immediately takes charge of his life and whisks him off to Europe for a grand adventure.
As Calvin and his aunt traverse the continent, it becomes apparent that her clandestine behavior is leading him into danger. Facing a menagerie of antiquities thieves, secret agents, and religious fanatics, as well as an ex-wife who is stalking him, Calvin begins to suspect there might be some meaning behind the madness. Is he the person he thought he was? Is anyone ever who they appear to be? But there’s little time for soul-searching, as Calvin first has to figure out why he has been kidnapped, why his aunt has disappeared, and who the hell burned down his house in Maine.

Young Adult

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring Gray has everything that makes Stranger Things and The Raven Cycle so appealing to readers: a dark and enthralling atmosphere, a creeping sense of dread, and, above all, a cast of teen characters who feel truly alive. This is the height of what YA urban fantasy can be.

Kiersten Frost, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.
Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray — a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.
Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny — to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.
The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities…before the Gray devours them all.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This book is a great coming-of-age story for any teenage girl. A collection of poems make it a quick and thoughtful read. Xiomara is a Dominican girl living in the city, getting used to her changing body and attention from her lab partner, and wrestling with ideas of right and wrong. Her ideas of right and wrong are completely different from her highly religious mother’s. Her poems are her freedom, but how can you be free when home makes you feel trapped?

Lulu Roush, Waucoma Bookstore, Hood River, OR

Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth. 
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Prepare yourself for a world where books live and think as we do, and whose pages hold both fantastical wonders and menacing enchantments. Elisabeth is a librarian’s apprentice, sworn to protect the mystical tomes from the world — and the world from them. When a deadly mishap throws Elisabeth to the mercy of the royal courts, she must seek help from her sworn enemy, a sorcerer. You won’t be able to pull yourself away from the magic and wit this story holds!

Kiera Thompson, the river’s end bookstore, Oswego, NY

From the New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens comes an “enthralling adventure” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) about an apprentice at a magical library who must battle a powerful sorcerer to save her kingdom.
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Two teenagers with something to prove—to their parents, their classmates, and themselves—find themselves drawn together in this classic rom-com with a Bollywood flavor. The chemistry, the sass, the representation were all on point. I particularly loved seeing a fat woman of color as the romantic lead!

Mackenzie Van Engelenhoven, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

The irresistible companion novel to the New York Times bestseller When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows Rishi’s brother, Ashish, and a confident, self-proclaimed fat athlete named Sweetie as they both discover what love means to them.
Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

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