Still searching for the right gift for someone on your holiday list? Read on, holiday shoppers, for a round-up of this year's best reads. Take a peak at your store's bestsellers and explore your booksellers' top choices for this year's new releases. We have a sneaking suspicion that you'll find a great gift hidden in these lists...
Fear by Bob Woodward
Educated by Tara Westover
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
G'morning, G'night by Lin Manuel Miranda
Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Dark Money by Jane Mayer
Quiet by Susan Cain
1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
2. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon
4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
5. Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
6. Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
7. Varina by Charles Frazier
8. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
9. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
10. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
11. Duplicate Daughter by Randy Nelson
12. Chemistry by Weike Wang
13. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
14. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
15. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Adah grew up eavesdropping on her mother's book club discussions and hiding in her closet to read after lights out. She's proud to be at the helm of a literary institution in a community with such avid and interesting readers.
The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods (middle grade fiction)
May 2018 (paperback edition)
While the premise is dark, the writing is magical and cheeky and the story is outstanding. When a little boy quietly arrives in a small seaside village, the local coffin maker provides shelter and refuge in his home that he has lived in alone for decades since a plague swept through town and killed his wife and children.
Seafire by Natalie Parker (young adult fantasy)
This one is off the charts - literally and figuratively. Caledonia's ship and her all-girl crew head straight for uncharted nautical territory in this plot-driven adventure, but the real depth is the portrayal of the friendships and relationships amongst the girls that loyally follow Caledonia's lead. The range of personalities, the physicality, the emotional intimacy; these celebrate and illustrate the beauty of friendship and love. The is a big-time winner for me. I absolutely inhaled this.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (literary fiction)
Kingsolver feeds my soul. Her writing is clever, insightful, and questioning. She creates families that are fraught with tension and mostly held together with passionate, unlikely love. Unshelteredmoves between two families living in different centuries on the same block in a community founded on principles of intentional living that can't withstand the ambition of a few powerful developers. I will read this over and over. I adore this novel.
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker (motivational, self-help)
Parker's approach and advice for designing events that are meaningful and purpose-driven is very compelling for our bookstore. We plan to incorporate her advice into staff meetings, youth advisory, literary luncheons, and our "typical" author events to help guests connect with each other as much as with the presentation and program. This is an excellent resource born out of incredible professional and personal experience.
reeborne by Caleb Johnson (literary fiction)
Treeborneis a delicious story about very odd characters in a forgotten Alabama town that spends several decades preparing for its own destruction. If you loved Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, you'll love Treeborne.
Jan has retired from over 20 years as librarian at Davidson College where she worked as an archivist. She wrote a history of Davidson, NC in the book One Town, Many Voices, a Main Street Books bestseller. She has extraordinary talent with needle crafts and has mastered the art of reading and knitting simultaneously. Need we say more.
The Rebounders by Amanda Ottaway (memoir, sports)
Along with crisp writing and disarming self-awareness, this book is a favorite because it carried me deeply into an unknown territory of athletics, team sports in particular. In visceral and sometimes, joyful, detail, she makes clear what drove her as an athlete and what being part of a team, even a losing team, can mean. If she lost some sense of self on the basketball court, she has found in writing. I’m grateful to have a view into a world that I’ve not experienced and to know her story of finding your best self in the hard times. NOTE: Min Kym tells a parallel tale in her Gone: A girl, a violin, a life unstrung. Both books touched me deeply, teaching me not only about specific cultures but also sharing compelling coming of age journeys.
On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer (self-help)
Palmer is an old friend, bookwise. Having read all of his previous works, his gentle wisdom and clear-sightedness is a known quantity. This time he’s applying to the unknown as he reflects on 80 years of life, aging and dying. Far from being grim or disheartening, Palmer’s words bring hope and even laughter. What he does know about finding peace, creating community, and being fallible is wisdom well earned. This book isn’t just for older folks. Any reader from 13 to 80+ can be touched by his words about living intentionally, being open to grace, and letting go of fears.
A Girl Stands at the Door by Rachel Devlin (history)
A powerful and difficult read telling the stories of the young girls who challenged school segregation, well before Brown vs Board of Education. Some were pushed by parents, others made the choice for themselves. All faced hostility with public grace having been already trained to respond to racism with politeness and reserve. All suffered in private. For anyone interested in racial healing and knowing our own past – good and bad, this is a must read. Bookending it with Michelle Obama’s passionate memoir Becoming is a telling reminder the legacy of these girls in how much has changed and how much hasn’t.
Jessica is Main Street Books' perpetual ray of sunshine and authority on all things bookish. She devours books, particularly novels, weekly and, when she's not reading books, she's listening to podcasts about them. A North Carolina native with a degree from Chapel Hill, Jessica joined the MSB team this fall and we're not letting her leave any time soon.
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (literary fiction)
Wistful, heartbreaking - my favorite read of 2018. A Place for Us introduces readers to an Indian-American Muslim family as they gather for the eldest daughter's wedding. As at so many weddings and funerals, the gathering becomes a moment of reckoning, as each family member struggles to reconcile tradition with the norms of their adoptive culture without further alienating their loved ones.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (literary fiction)
Redemption and friendship take center stage in this novel, set in 1980's Chicago during the AIDS crisis and 2015 Paris. In Chicago, protagonist Yale, firmly entrenched in the art scene, watches as his friends one-by-one die from AIDS until the only person he has left is Fiona, a friend's little sister. Years later, Fiona and Yale Art scene plays a major role. We follow Yale in 80's Chicago...one by one, his friends are dying until the only person he has left is Fiona, a friend's little sister. Years later, Fiona finds herself in Paris, tracking down her estranged daughter who has become involved in a cult, and grappling with the way the AIDS epidemic has affected her life and dovetailed into the chaos of the modern world.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Southern fiction)
For fans of Barbara Kingsolver, Where the Crawdads Sing is a mysterious and atmospheric work of literary fiction that beautifully evokes the Southeastern low country and coast through gorgeous descriptions of landscape and wildlife. Set in 1969, Crawdads follows protagonist Kya, a bright but odd girl who dwells alone in the marshes outside the small NC coastal town of Barkley Cove. Because of her unconventionality, Kya becomes the prime suspect when the body of a well-liked young man is discovered, although her only transgression might be yearning for human communion.
Have you seen the Hogwarts House banners that hang in our store? Lily is the bookseller and artist behind those magnificent pieces. Lily has been reading and recommending books at Main Street Books since 2015 and lends her hand to our chalk signs, totes, and tee shirts. When she is not shining her bright light at the bookstore, she is helping with her family needle crafting business, Hearts on Fiber.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (young adult fiction)
The Hate U Give was a must-read for me, and anyone for that matter. The story is fiction but traverses close to reality. Starr lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a fancy prep-school. She keeps these two worlds separate until she witnesses the death of her best friend at the hands of a police officer, blowing apart the wall she has carefully erected between her worlds and endangering her loved ones. I watched the movie after finishing the book and there's no comparison: the author really gets inside the mind of Starr in a way that's lost in the film. So read the book!
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (fiction)
September 2018 (paperback edition)
The End We Start From takes place in London during a devastating flood, where our protagonist, who has just become a mother, struggles to find safety for her and her newborn son. This novel is suspenseful, compelling, and heartfelt - a great read for someone looking for something quick and approachable that still gives you the feels.
Jennifer has built school libraries in North Carolina and abroad. She is an avid reader of adult and children's literature. Jennifer has raised her children to read the book before they see the movie and she's a fantastic gardener and quilter. Additionally, Jennifer is also founder and licensed professional counselor at Intentional Living Counseling & Coaching Services.
The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith (fiction)
Michael Farris Smith has been compared to Cormac McCarthy, and I can see why: this book definitely has a foreboding feel. I read it with a clenched jaw, a testament to the book’s power over its readers. Our protagonist is an aging cage-fighter, who tries to outrun his debts with one exception: he is determined to repay the love paid to him by the woman who took him in as a foster child. Keenly aware that his time his running out, he tries to do right by his former foster-parent while also getting to know the daughter he never knew.
There There by Tommy Orange (literary fiction)
Shortlisted for the 2019 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, There Thererevolves around the lives of Native American characters in California, who struggle with issues of identity and authenticity. A plethora of narrators travel to the same location in Sacramento for a PowWow, and the reader learns how their paths intersect along the way. This book made me connect with that very human longing for belonging without changing oneself to fit in and offered a clear look at the living legacy of the near annihilation of Native Americans perpetrated by white people.
It is not uncommon to discover Becca, a recent graduate of Davidson College and the newest addition to our bookselling team, deeply buried in the crevasses of a Summit armchair, a deep mug of hot tea and a heartbreaking novel in hand. When not reading or selling books, Becca is usually accosting other people's dogs.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
May 2018 (paperback edition)
A beautifully written novel retelling major episodes of India's modern history through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters. I loved this book so much because most of the characters are people living on the fringes of Indian society whose histories have been largely erased. Roy does an amazing job of centering India's history on these marginalized people - highlighting their importance in the country's history and their importance as human beings. Roy's lyrical writing illustrates the ways that people change history and history changes people.
Eleanor has taught English in Greece, guided kayaking tours in Maine, worked on a ranch in Wyoming and brings more books than clothes on her travels. As Event Coordinator she animates our mission by hosting writers in our shop. As a talented writer in her own right, Eleanor pens our blog, Sense of Shelf, and contributes to area magazines.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (literary fiction)
Celestial and Roy enjoy just one year of marriage before Roy is wrongfully accused of rape and incarcerated with a 12-year sentence. Narrated from three first-person perspectives, what follows is a journey that nods to the political and leisures in the personal. Jones' beautifully nuanced characters hitch readers onto their hips, inviting us not to peer through their windows but sit on their beds. As in life, nothing in this novel is neat and tidy (except, perhaps, the prose), and I continued to dwell on the main characters long after they had shown me the door. Hands down this year's best selection for book clubs yearning for a scintillating discussion.
Money Rock by Pam Kelley (social science)
From one of Charlotte's finest journalists comes the story of Money Rock, who was born Belton Lamont Platt but earned a new moniker during the 1980s cocaine epidemic. Kelley skillfully, with pathos and the pen strokes of a veteran reporter, explores how Money Rock's journey exemplifies the ways systemic racism can influence individual lives. Reads as if The New Jim Crowwere rewritten as an episode of "This American Life."
Pride by Ibi Zoboi (young adult fiction)
Author Ibi Zoboi catapults Jane Austen's canonical novel Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century with a character list comprised entirely of people of color, a New York City setting, and an examination of gentrification, blackness, class, and intraracial prejudice. I listened to this book on audioand cannot recommend doing so more highly. Narrated by National Poetry Slam Champion and award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo, the prose was in more-than-capable hands, and I was in danger of walking straight into a street lamp while listening. I hope this book finds its way onto required reading lists across the country. Pride and Prejudice meets Americanah meets young adults.
Serena grew up in Davidson and now attends UNCC, where she is a student of music and gender studies. When she's not composing music and wow-ing crowds at the Summit Open Mic Night, she's devouring books from a diverse array of authors - from Jane Austen to Trevor Noah - and offering editorial input on her literary father's manuscripts.
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston (biography/history)
Zora Neale Hurston’s manuscript that took almost a century to be published is a harrowing and necessary read for every American. Barracoonstands apart from all other historical accounts of the Middle Passage in that for the first time, we hear from the perspective of the enslaved. Cudjo Lewis was the last survivor of the horrific journey from Africa to the United States. He vividly remembers his life in Africa where he envisioned a vastly different future. Cudjo’s humanity persevered beyond the conceivable, even decades after his emancipation. He would lead a life of struggle until the end of his many years, but unlike most, his story will not be lost to time.
Robin by Dave Itzkoff (biography)
Robinis the definitive, much-anticipated biography of comedic genius, Robin Williams; a man whose voice and presence on the screen felt as familiar as that of a beloved family member. And yet, his boundless energy and constantly-morphing personas served more as distractions (for the audience and, most importantly, himself) that sought to keep others at a distance. Although this biography sheds light on the origins and details of Robin’s struggles, that at times clash with our collective image of him, it also reaffirms his inherent kind-heartedness and larger-than-life humanity.
Calypso by David Sedaris (essays)
Perhaps Sedaris’ best work since Me Talk Pretty One Day, Calypsofeatures his signature irreverent observations, many of which were so hysterical I had to read them aloud more than once. And yet, this latest collection of essays reveals another side of Sedaris; he shares moments of heartfelt sincerity as he reflects on his family and the bittersweet nature of life. I had the honor of meeting Sedaris at the Calypsoevent at Main Street Books, and I was amazed by his patience, generosity, and down-to-earth spirit. Even for readers unfamiliar with Sedaris’ work, I highly recommend Calypsofor an entertaining and poignant read!