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

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

Faithful

By Alice Hoffman

(Simon & Schuster, 9781476799209, $26)

"Faithful is compulsively readable and includes all of the traits we have come to love and expect from an Alice Hoffman novel. It is a coming-of-age tale of the emotional journey of a girl overcome with heartbreak after a tragic accident, who is now attempting to redefine herself. It is a hopeful lesson in faith, love, friendship, forgiveness, and opening up to new possibilities. A friendly warning: Expect a craving for Chinese food and a desire to adopt a rescue dog after reading."
--Tarah Jennings, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

photo: Deborah Feingold

The number-one Indie Next List pick for November, as chosen by independent booksellers, is Faithful by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, November 1). This coming-of-age tale follows the broken and bewildered Shelby Richmond as she tries to find her way in the aftermath of an accident that destroys the life of her best friend, Helene.

Faithful features all of the traits readers have come to love and expect from an Alice Hoffman novel, said Tarah Jennings of Mitzi's Books in Rapid City, South Dakota. "It is a hopeful lesson in faith, love, friendship, forgiveness, and opening up to new possibilities," said Jennings, adding a friendly warning: "Expect a craving for Chinese food and a desire to adopt a rescue dog after reading."

Bestselling author Hoffman has written dozens of books during a career that began in 1977 with the publication of Property Of (Farrar Straus & Giroux), a book written while she was studying at the Stanford University Creative Writing Center in her early 20s.

Since then, Hoffman has published works of fiction, nonfiction, and short fiction, as well as books for children and young adults. Many of her titles have appeared on Indie Next Lists over the years, and in 2015 indie booksellers named her an Indies Choice Adult Fiction Honor Award recipient for The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Scribner). Here, Hoffman talks about her latest novel.

As Shelby, suffering from survivor's guilt, recedes into herself, we cheer for the smallest strides she makes. Why was it important to maintain a sense of hope throughout Faithful, in the face of all the heartache?

I think we cheer for Shelby because, like her, we all suffer losses in life and experience trauma. What we do to get through is maintain hope that despite all of the heartache in life, there is also joy and beauty. Shelby is learning about the human condition--and it's a hard lesson, but one she manages to deal with.

Shelby is so loved, but she finds the responsibility of loving and being loved too much to bear after losing Helene. Why does it take Shelby so long to learn that she can not only accept love but also return it?

Love should be easy, but it can be so complicated, especially after a great loss. To trust yourself and others can be a huge challenge. Shelby suffers from survivor's guilt, and she feels she doesn't deserve love. I think many of us feel that at different times in our lives, and we have to relearn how to love ourselves and others. A friend once told me that love is an act of will, and I understand what she meant. You have to go against all odds and simply believe in love.

Does the theme of survival bear a new significance for you following your battle with cancer?

Absolutely. I think survival has always been my theme, and I've always been in awe of how people manage to survive trauma and tragedy, but my own breast cancer intensified that theme. I've learned so much from the people I've met who have fought cancer, and I think that impacted the way Shelby's mother, Sue, deals with her illness. People are so brave; they amaze me.

You are the proud owner of a sheepdog named Shelby. Did she provide the inspiration for Shelby Richmond--perhaps her unquestioning love for animals or her proclivity for freeing animals from unfortunate circumstances?

Actually, my dog was named for the already-written character of Shelby. I wish I could adopt 10 dogs! When Shelby rescues the dogs, she rescues herself as well. She sees herself differently, and makes an intense emotional connection. I often think dogs are the best therapy.

What does it mean to you to have had the support of independent booksellers over the years?

Independent booksellers have supported me from the beginning of my writing career, and the bookstores I've loved have changed my life, first as a reader, and then as a writer. I'm so grateful for that support. My early books were always supported by independent bookstores even when they weren't selling very many copies. Booksellers who hand-sold my novels made all the difference. Two of my favorite independent bookstores are visited by the characters in Faithful, but there are so many that have been my salvation. I can't imagine living in a town where there wasn't an independent bookstore. --By Sydney Jarrard for Indie Next List

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The Next

By Stephanie Gangi

(St. Martin's Press, 9781250110565, $26.99)

"With only hours left before cancer kills her, Joanna DeAngelis is dying badly. Instead of focusing on saying goodbye to her daughters and her beloved dog, she spends her last day cyber-stalking her ex-boyfriend and his Internet-famous new girlfriend. When Joanna draws her last breath, mysterious heavenly powers decide that she needs to resolve a few things before moving on to the next world. What happens when ghost-Joanna returns to New York City bent on revenge is terrifying, funny, and, finally, break-out-the-tissues touching. A gorgeous book about love in all its forms: familial, canine, romantic, lost and found again."
--Hillary Nelson, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, NH

Nicotine

By Nell Zink

(Ecco, 9780062441706, $26.99)

"Zink excels at feel-good novels that, far from being sappy, are incredibly smart and laugh-out-loud funny. When recent college graduate Penny Baker inherits her hippie father's childhood house, she expects to find an abandoned ruin. Instead, she finds a house renovated and inhabited by squatters and falls desperately in love with one of them, something that does not go over well with her family. This deceptively simple premise allows Zink to return to some of her favorite themes of family and identity, as well as love, activism, and materialism, through the lives of unforgettable characters and hilarious situations. This book is a riot!"
--Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Girl From Venice

By Martin Cruz Smith

(Simon & Schuster, 9781439140239, $27)

"Fans of Gorky Park and other Arkady Renko mysteries are about to be surprised. The Girl From Venice is not a mystery, and it takes place in Venice at the end of WWII, not in countries of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. The pace is still taut, however, and the characters still fascinating. Italy in the last days of the war, with the Germans retreating and everyone hedging their bets, is a complicated place to be, one where every future is uncertain and one very fitting for a master of subtlety like Smith."
--Olga Onal, Bookmiser, Roswell, GA

The German Girl

By Armando Lucas Correa

(Atria Books, 9781501121142, $26.99)

"On May 13, 1939, the SS St. Louis set sail from Germany to Cuba with many Jewish passengers fleeing Hitler. Despite all best efforts, they were turned away from Cuba, the U.S., and Canada, forcing the ship to return to Europe, where many of the passengers would die in Hitler's death camps. Correa puts a human face on this shameful episode. Hannah Rosenthal, the daughter of wealthy aristocrats, was 12 when she boarded the St. Louis. Seven decades later, Anna Rosen receives a package from an unknown relative in Cuba that inspires her and her mother to travel to Cuba to learn the truth about their family's mysterious and tragic past. A masterful debut!"
--Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR

Orphans of the Carnival

By Carol Birch

(Doubleday, 9780385541527, $27.95)

"Orphans of the Carnival is the story of a time when the oddities of nature could be a lucrative path to fame and fortune. Although heartbreaking, it is the wonderful journey of a talented woman who just wants a normal life, in spite of being alternately vilified and celebrated. Filled with many unforgettable characters and amazing writing, this is a book that will stay with readers for a long time."
--Mary McBride, Rainy Day Books, Fairway, KS

Mister Monkey

By Francine Prose

(Harper, 9780062397836, $26.99)

"I came to this book expecting to be entertained, and it is laugh-out-loud funny. But in the wise and observant ways of Prose, Mister Monkey is more than just a protracted joke. The story begins in the narrow spaces of a theater soon to be demolished for condos and widens as Prose shifts points of view from actor to costume designer to writer to waiter to Hindu deity and back to the stage. Adolescent rage, loneliness, divinity, the end of the world, the beginning of love, the way we fail to live up to our dreams for ourselves, the fear of our own mediocrity, the unexpected victories that are the grace that fills the spaces made by disappointment: these are the soul of this novel with an agile, monkey heart. Both deeply moving and light, this is one of my favorite novels of the year."
--Melanie McNair, Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC

Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel

By Lee Child

(Delacorte Press, 9780804178808, $28.99)

"OK, I'll just admit it up front--I love Jack Reacher! He's big, he's bad, and he's smart. Child always finds a new situation that pits Jack against tricky villains who just might, this time, get the best of him. Night School takes place before 9/11, when Jack is still in the Army. He is sent to a 'school' with an FBI and CIA agent to figure out what a terrorist organization is trying to buy for $100 million. With plot twists and turns that keep readers guessing until the last pages, thrillers don't get any better than this. Always gripping, page-turning, and fun, Jack Reacher novels are awesome!"
--Wendy Blake, Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT

Cabo de Gata

By Eugen Ruge

Anthea Bell (Transl.)

(Graywolf Press, 9781555977573, $14)

"Bored, anchorless, and alone, a man leaves Berlin for a tiny Andalusian fishing village where he plans to write a novel. Instead, he encounters a cranky hotelier, green tomatoes, an Englishman who acts like an American, an American who acts like an Englishman, a very quiet bartender, a mysterious cat, and, possibly, the meaning of everything--or lack thereof. This slim, playful novel will speak to anyone who has ever questioned the path they were on--or whether there is a path at all."
--Sam Kaas, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

IQ

By Joe Ide

(Mulholland Books, 9780316267724, $26)

"IQ is the nickname of Isaiah Quintabe, who, despite being a high-school dropout, is absolutely brilliant and has amazing deductive skills. Living on the rough side of Long Beach, California, he is an underground detective who takes on cases in the city's ghettoes that the LAPD refuses to handle. Beginning with a kidnapping and moving to a case involving the assassination attempt on a famous rapper, IQ represents a positive influence in this tough environment of gang warfare, drugs, murders, and prostitution. A mixture of Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer, the craziness of Don Winslow's Savages, and the classic mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, this debut will spark interest and open up this particular world to new readers."
--Gerard Villegas, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA

The Terranauts

By T.C. Boyle

(Ecco, 9780062349408, $26.99)

"In the early 1990s, a grand experiment began in the Arizona desert to determine if human life could be sustained in an engineered, sealed ecological system. The mission failed spectacularly, but fiction gives it another chance in this riveting story of eight scientists who commit to live under glass for two years. They battle hunger, fatigue, and isolation, but the real drama is personal. The story is told through the voices of three distinct narrators--two heating things up on the inside and one nursing resentments outside the glass walls. Master storyteller Boyle entertains, but never slips into schlock. He writes with wit and perspicacity on both human relations and ecology, and this novel is among his best."
--Sharon Flesher, Brilliant Books, Traverse City, MI

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

By Sam Maggs

Sophia Foster-Dimino (Illus.)

(Quirk Books, 9781594749254, $16.99)

"In this delightful book, Maggs introduces readers to amazing women who changed history through their creativity, inventions, and remarkable paths of service in areas overwhelmed by men. From Huang Daopo, Chinese textile pioneer, to Brita Tott, Danish spy and forger, and from Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, American doctors and hospital administrators, to Bessie Coleman, African-American aviatrix, the intelligence and stamina of these women is amazing. In many cases they had to apply for patents under the names of men or retreat into the background so that men could take credit for their work. In each article, Maggs highlights the dichotomy of what these women did and how they were acknowledged for their work."
--Sally Van Wert, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, CO

The Fall Guy

By James Lasdun

(W.W. Norton & Company, 9780393292329, $25.95)

"The Fall Guy, which starts innocently enough, introduces its three main characters as they leave the hustle and bustle of New York City for a calm summer sojourn upstate. Things take a Lynchian turn when Charlie and Chloe's guest, Charlie's cousin Matthew, notices what appears to be duplicitous behavior within and outside their home. Lasdun does an incredible job of slowly ratcheting up the suspense, earning the reader's trust with his spare, pitch-perfect language, and upending expectations on every page. Morally complex characters, a sly and inventive take on the guilt and shame of modern-day banking, and prose as sensuous as some of the novel's sexiest scenes are just a few of the many rewards of Lasdun's latest, and greatest, novel."
--John Francisconi, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

Inheriting Edith

By Zoe Fishman

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062378743, $15.99)

"It's a familiar cast of characters: a single mom raising a spunky kid; an older woman descending into Alzheimer's; the inhabitants of a small town; a nice eligible man. And then comes the twist: the single mom and the older woman aren't related by blood, but connected through the older woman's now deceased daughter. With humor and heart, long-held secrets come to light and special bonds are formed. Inheriting Edith is both entertaining and poignant."
--Jenny Stroyeck, The Homer Bookstore, Homer, AK

The Education of Dixie Dupree

By Donna Everhart

(Kensington, 9781496705518, $15)

"This debut novel is a page-turner from the very beginning. In a story of a family filled with pain, deceit, lies, and dark secrets across generations, Everhart allows readers to feel everything her young narrator, Dixie, must endure. For me, the mark of a good book is that I find myself thinking about it after I have finished reading, and The Education of Dixie Dupree will be with me for a long while."
--Mary O'Malley, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL

The Loved Ones

By Sonya Chung

(Relegation Books, 9780984764846, $18)

"Chung offers readers an intelligent, compassionate story that crosses all kinds of divides. The pages turn quickly as the story of two families, their pasts, and the consequences of their current actions are presented. Each character is empathetic and compelling, and the prose is, at some points, heart-breaking in its simplicity. This novel brings a unique perspective to immigration history in the U.S., and the contrasting cultures, as well as the contrast in generations, makes for a fast read and a powerful narrative. Long for This World made Chung a writer to watch, but with this book she should jump right to the top of everyone's must-read pile."
--Abby Fennewald, BookPeople, Austin, TX

A Gambler's Anatomy

By Jonathan Lethem

(Doubleday, 9780385539906, $27.95)

"The Gambler vs. the House. Alexander Bruno's journey as a psychically abled, top-notch backgammon player illuminates themes of reward and loss, purpose and fulfillment in this engaging, thought-provoking yarn. Lethem's prose is on point, and his allusions and references resonate strongly. His description of this world--fast, oddly comical, sardonic, and, at most times, without sense or reason--is poignant and heavy-hitting, full of breath without being overly winded. Another winner from Lethem, who has established himself firmly amongst the top dogs of intelligent contemporary literary fiction."
--Blake Smith, The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

Nobody's Son: A Memoir

By Mark Slouka

(W.W. Norton & Company, 9780393292305, $26.95)

"This is a grueling, soul-searching study of memory and personal pain written in the most soaring prose. To some extent, most of us think we came from dysfunctional families, but this memoir is going to become the calibration standard for dysfunction. How Slouka survived his parents and their scarred Czech pasts, their humiliating years as refugees, and their years of unhappy marriage in America is a small miracle. What's left are some large emotional holes that Slouka attempts to patch up in front of the reader. An absolutely mesmerizing read."
--Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live

By Peter Orner

(Catapult, 9781936787258, $16.95)

"From beloved novelist and short-story writer Peter Orner comes a collection of essays on the reading life. Orner considers Chekhov in a hospital cafeteria, Welty on a remote island. He also throws Julian Barnes out the window of a moving car--after all, who would trust a man who only talked about what he loved? Behind and around and between these meditations flit the ghosts of the author's life: his late father, his lost marriage, his self-deprecating take on his own career. The result is a book overflowing with charm--wry, delectable, and laugh-out-loud funny. Orner is a writer's writer, but he is also a reader's reader. Am I Alone Here? is an absolute treasure."
--Mairead Staid, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

You Will Not Have My Hate

By Antoine Leiris

(Penguin Press, 9780735222113, $23)

"This slender tome began as a social media viral sensation. Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, a husband and father wrote an open letter to the perpetrators of those attacks, stating time and again that they would not have his hate, despite the fact that he lost his wife and the mother of their infant son. This memoir closely follows the hours after the attack, chronicling Leiris' thoughts and emotions for the next several days up through the funeral for his wife. Though brief, this is a powerful meditation on grief and resilience and the importance of building a legacy of forgiveness for his son."
--Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Boys in the Trees

By Carly Simon

(Flatiron Books, 9781250095893, $28.99)

"Boys in the Trees is a surprising and delightful read and more than a guilty pleasure derived from a crass and exploitative celebrity culture. Carly Simon has always been an appealing and alluring personality, and her memoir presents an honest--yet crafty--look at her life, beautifully and elegantly voiced. At times captivating, touching, and occasionally embarrassing, it is unfailingly entertaining--a sexy and romantic book with a sweet heart and soul."
--Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA

A Doubter's Almanac

By Ethan Canin

(Random House, 9781400068265, $28)

"I love settling into a novel where I meet smart yet conflicted protagonists and get right into their skin. In A Doubter's Almanac, Milo Andret's mathematical genius is as much a burden as it is a gift. He makes a series of choices--damaging to both himself and his family--that would seem to unravel any empathy readers might have for him, but Canin's eloquent prose brings out the humanity in even the most flawed individuals. This is a novel filled with characters whose struggles with intellect, family, and vulnerability I won't soon forget."
--Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

By Carrie Brownstein

(Riverhead, 9781594486630, $27.95)

"Before Portlandia, before Sleater-Kinney, there was a girl living in the Pacific Northwest with big ambitions, desperately yearning for an identity all her own. In Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Brownstein strays from the normal parameters of memoir to give readers an insightful, raw look into the moments that shaped her into the person who would later co-found one of the world's most influential rock bands. Navigating a past fraught with family turmoil, rejection from the music industry, and an unwavering determination to succeed, Brownstein shares the power of rock and roll, both as her catalyst to success and as a cultural barometer of our times."
--Zack Ruskin, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

By Mitch Albom

(Harper, 9780062294418, $25.99)

"According to the Spirit of Music, the narrator of Albom's latest novel, everyone joins a band in life--some of them play music, while others can be in a band of friendship, romance, or career. Frankie's music is so powerful that he can actually affect people's futures with the six magic strings on his guitar, but this gift becomes a burden for Frankie, impacting his loves and friendships, and ultimately, his life. Albom offers a story destined to become a classic that will have readers looking at music differently than they ever have before."
--Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, MI

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

By Ed Tarkington

(Algonquin Books, 9781616203825, $25.95)

"Tarkington's debut novel feels positively Shakespearean in its sense of family dynamics and the sometimes destructive power of love, but it speaks with the deceptively plain, poignant language of a Neil Young song. Set in the 1980s in a small Virginia town, the book tells the coming-of-age story of Rocky Askew as he copes with fraternal abandonment, dangerous liaisons, caregiving, and one town scandal after another with little help other than his brother Paul's old vinyl collection."
--Andrew Hedglin, Lemuria Bookshop, Jackson, MS

The Opposite of Everyone

By Joshilyn Jackson

(William Morrow, 9780062105684, $26.99)

"Paula Vauss, née Kali Jai, is complicated, with every right to be so. When she was a young girl, her mother landed in prison and Paula spent time in foster care. Kai, Paula's Southern, bohemian, Hindu story-telling, boyfriend-hopping mother, loves her, but circumstances surrounding the separation permanently alter their unique love and each spends time trying to make life work again. This is a poignant story of hurt and forgiveness, of secrets and courage, and ultimately of allowing love and family to make one whole again. Jackson's The Opposite of Everyone will remain in readers' hearts long after the last line is read."
--Annell Gerson, Bookmiser, Roswell, GA

The Queen of the Night

By Alexander Chee

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780618663026, $28)

"This historical novel about an opera singer is as grand and theatrical as opera itself. It is the story of a legendary soprano who looks back at her past to solve a mystery, but it is also a story of an artist and the road she takes to become one. Chee attempts the seemingly impossible--to describe a soprano voice with words--and he succeeds brilliantly, creating a tale that is vivid, intricate, and rich. Throw in cameos by figures like Verdi and George Sand, fascinating details about royal fashions, 19th century Paris, theater, and a circus, and the result is a perfect novel."
--Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC

The Swans of Fifth Avenue

By Melanie Benjamin

(Delacorte Press, 9780345528698, $28)

"Are you interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous? Arrange your hair and makeup, darlings, and get ready to dish about the dirty little secrets in 1950s high society. Truman Capote collected 'swans'--rich and glamorous women who floated through life pampered and indulged. This fictionalized account of the meteoric rise and very public fall of Capote, entwined with his deep friendship with Babe Paley and his ultimate betrayal of her and the rest of the swans, will slake your thirst for gossipy, breezy, scandalous details. Take off your wrap, pour a highball, and enjoy!"
--Cindy Pauldine, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, NY

Sweetgirl

By Travis Mulhauser

(Ecco, 9780062400826, $26.99)

"When her addict mother goes missing, Percy James is determined to find her before a winter storm descends upon their rural Michigan town. When Percy arrives at the drug dealer's house, the smells and clutter don't surprise her, but the discovery of a screaming infant does. Percy grabs the child and sets out to find help for her, no matter what the cost. Determined to save this little girl, Percy takes risks she never thought she could assume, and through the journey she finds she can save herself as well. Fans of Ron Rash will fall in love with Percy in Mulhauser's debut!"
--Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO

Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

(Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 9780060838676, $14.99)

Originally published in hardcover in 1937
"Hurston's gift with language and storytelling sings from every page as Janey Crawford journeys to self-discovery through three marriages, a devastating hurricane, and heartbreaking loss. Forced into a loveless marriage at 16 by her grandmother, Janie is used as cheap labor by her first husband and a career asset by her second. Only with the much younger Tea Cake does she find real love and her true self. With its straightforward portrayal of African American culture in 1930s Florida, this fine novel is devoid of an agenda beyond the portrayal of a strong woman coming into her own."
--Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole

(Grove Press, 9780802130204, $16)

Originally published in hardcover in 1980
"Ignatius J. Reilly's contempt for his fellow man would suit any Internet comment section, while his delusional view of himself as an unappreciated genius – the last bastion of intellectualism in a scourge of pop culture – would make a perfect hate blog. But this is the early 1960s, and his 'audience' is not uncaring online browsers but the louche denizens of New Orleans. Thankfully, Toole doesn't take Ignatius as seriously as Ignatius takes himself. Come for the perfect NOLA patois, stay for the unlikely shenanigans."
--Aaron Curtis, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

Arctic Dreams

By Barry Lopez

(Vintage Books, 9780375727481, $16.95)

Originally published in hardcover in 1986
"Lopez brings a poet's eye to his exploration of the frozen North and beautifully navigates the scientific, cultural, and mythic aspects of the Arctic landscape. Although Arctic Dreams reads like a timeless classic, the horrors of climate change mean that this book is rapidly becoming an ode to a lost world."
--Stephanie Valdez, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY