Turkey, Cranberries, Pumpkin Pie and BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS


Let’s start out this rendition of Staff Picks with a few words from Ann:

We live in a society where everyone can cast a vote for what they like. Your dry cleaner would appreciate it if you liked them on Facebook. It isn’t such a commitment. Your name isn’t attached.* You’re only upping the number by one.

hector.001But what about love? Love is tricky in the book business. I love a lot of books. I loved last month’s First Edition pick, Station Eleven and I love next month’s pick, Lila. But then along comes Deep Down Dark: The Untold Story of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar, and I find myself trying to come up with a new word, one that transcends love and goes into a whole other level of worshipful appreciation, because this is the book for me. I more than love this book.

Maybe it’s the story, which somehow manages to be a gut-wrenching cliffhanger even though we know exactly how it’s going to end, and maybe it’s the writing, which is clear and spare and endlessly beautiful even though there is no beauty to relate. Maybe it’s the willingness to take on all the big issues – the value of a human life, the tests of character, the persistent hopes for God. Simply put, Deep Down Dark is my favorite book of the year, even as I continue to love several others and like many more.

Make sure you’re in a comfortable place when you start reading because it’s going to be very hard to stop.

– Ann Patchett

(* Ed. note, from Karen: “Ann doesn’t know that your name actually is attached when you like something on Facebook. We love many things about her, including that she doesn’t use social media at all.”)

Rick Bragg spent two years working on this book with Jerry Lee Lewis. If it had been any other writer, I probably never would have considered picking it up, but I could not resist this combination of writer and subject. They both came from the rural South, from dirt poor families, and each made a name for himself. Bragg is one of the best storytellers around, and he brings this complex man’s story to life like no other writer could. If you are a fan of either man, or just a music lover in general, you will not regret picking this book up. – Karen Hayes
I’m always in search of a good, action-packed mystery that’s well-written and doesn’t make me feel like I’ve lost IQ points. JK Rowling’s first foray into the world of mystery writing is absolutely fantastic. There’s a good plot, a great sense of pacing, and it’s a completely delightful reading experience. I devoured it, and the follow-up, in very short order. – Niki Coffman
I’ve recently discovered a passionate love of baking, and I can’t get enough well-constructed, easy to follow recipes. Joy Wilson, aka Joy the Baker, has compiled a delectable assortment of desserts I can’t wait to try. Expect to see this as the staff pick of all of my coworkers once they sample the recipes! – Niki Coffman
The first story grabbed me with its disgusting detail. The whole Guys Read series is fabulous! – Sissy Gardner
I felt like I was sitting on the sofa with a close friend and a bottle of wine as Julie told me her shocking story. She surprised me as she delicately wove literary motifs and themes into the narrative. I read it in one sitting. – Sissy Gardner
Much has been written of late on the topic of young adult crossover fiction, and this book embodies all that has brought the discussion on. It’s a YA book in the way that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is–featuring young characters who inhabit a story that is universal and ageless. The twins in the story devolve from being extremely close to not communicating at all due to a traumatic event complicated by the death of a parent. Treat yourself and “crossover” to strong writing and a breathtaking plot! – Mary Grey James
If this book were liquor, I’d buy shots for the whole bar. If it were cake, I’d mash it into the faces of all my friends. If it were a YouTube video, I’d be walking around showing it to strangers on my phone. But it’s a book, so I’m going to buy a billion copies and hand it out to everyone I know who loves to read. The combination of irreverent, modern text-speak and classic literary characters makes for one hilarious imaginary conversation after another. (The exchange between the husband and wife from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” had me snort-laughing.) Every English major, every bookseller, every grownup reader needs a copy of this. It’s not only funny, but brilliant on multiple levels. – Mary Laura Philpott

Euphoria (Hardcover)

Euphoria just won the inaugural Kirkus Fiction Prize. I enjoyed this novel plenty when I read it, and I grew extra fond of it after I met the author, who sat next to me on the Women’s National Book Association panel. Lily King charmed all of us at the Southern Festival of Books, and her latest book will charm anyone in the mood for smart, sexy historical fiction. Set in New Guinea in the 1930s, it presents a dark and dangerous love triangle based loosely on the experiences of anthropologist Margaret Mead. (I love the cover, too.) – Mary Laura Philpott
This novella was such a breath of fresh air: short but poignant sentences, a non-sentimental love story, and a  bookstore setting. It will only take you a day or two to finish, but I found myself thinking back to this novel frequently after I had finished it. – Catherine Bock

It is a family saga, the first of a planned trilogy, and it completely sucked me in. Starting from 1920 and going one chapter per year through the 1950s with the Langdons was so enjoyable that I need the next book to come out tomorrow. She delves into each member of the family so deeply, but so succinctly, and paces the years so well. I love this book. – Catherine Bock

Don’t let the morbid subject matter of this book put you off. In fact, Caitlin Doughty’s entire argument in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is that we as a culture need to stop shying away from death. She uses examples from history and her own experiences working in a crematory to show just how futile and detrimental our aversion to death is. With each story that Caitlin shared I found myself more disgruntled with our culture’s obsession of actively ignoring our mortality. If you can put aside your discomfort and give this book a chance, I promise it will completely transform the way you think about death. – Ashton Hickey

Someone (Paperback)

It’s hard to describe a book so quiet, so golden, so complete. Marie, a lace-curtain-Irish girl growing up in pre-War Brooklyn alongside her devout brother, manages to navigate the switchbacks and doglegs of her years. Then, the fog lifts to reveal how a fully grown woman’s life is formed. There’s nothing much to writing a novel like this, really. You just put one flawless sentence in front of another. McDermott calls her story the spiritual journey of an ordinary woman. I call it breathtaking. – Miriam Mimms
This little how-to is radical, inspiring, mind-bending, and scary. Japan’s “warrior princess in the war on clutter” counsels you to begin the process by holding a pair of socks and asking the question, “Does this give me joy?” Find me, and I’ll tell you how many pairs I’m down to. – Miriam Mimms
In his 1961 debut, McMurtry pits an aging Texas rancher against his ruthless stepson with devastating consequences. Short and spare, this anti-Western can be completed in a sitting, yet it reads like an epic classic tragedy. Bonus! For those who want more, watch the screen adaptation, Hud, starring Paul Newman and Patricia Neal, and you can love and hate all over again. – Miriam Mimms
Move over Batman, forget Superman – Lepore opens the doors wide open
on the heretofore unknown history of one of America’s oldest but often
forgotten superheroes. Set on the front lines of women’s suffrage,
Lepore uncovers Wonder Woman’s mesmerizing origin story that is
forever entangled with the successes and pitfalls of the women’s
movement. The Secret History of Wonder Woman reads like a modern drama
but at its heart delivers a meticulously researched history of an
unconventional marriage, the invention of the lie detector, and of
course America’s favorite Amazon warrior. A must read for lovers of
history, feminism, and/or the Justice League. – Grace Wright

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Let’s close with a few words from Ann, too. Perhaps you saw the write-up of the paperback edition of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage in The New York Times?

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We hope you saw her letter to the paper afterward, too:

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Happy reading! And happy Thanksgiving. This season, we are especially grateful for our customers, friends, and readers and writers everywhere. Wishing you all the best.