The February 2016 Indie Next List Preview

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The February Indie Next List flier, now on its way to stores in the IndieBound movement, features the month’s Indie Next Great Reads, Now in Paperback titles, and Revisit & Rediscover backlist favorites.

Beginning February 1, titles will be featured on downloadable fliers and shelf-talkers on and

The February 2016 Indie Next Great Reads

#1 Pick: The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel, 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

Be Frank With Me: A Novel, by Julia Claiborne Johnson
(William Morrow, 9780062413710, $25.99)
“When reclusive novelist Mimi Banning loses her fortune and must quickly write a second novel, her publisher sends a young publicist to oversee the efforts and make sure their huge investment is secure. Alice Whitley arrives and is put to work as a caregiver to Mimi’s eccentric nine-year-old son, Frank. Frank is a diamond in the rough, and as Alice gets to know him and the mysterious characters in his life, she becomes all-consumed with discovering his paternity. Be Frank With Me is captivating, irresistible, moving, heartbreaking, and utterly unputdownable.” —Bess Bleyaert, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

The Yid: A Novel, by Paul Goldberg
(Picador, 9781250079039, $26)
“When Solomon Levinson escapes arrest in the final days of Joseph Stalin’s regime, he embarks on a quixotic attempt to kill the leader of the Soviet Union. Along with Friederich Lewis, an African American who has left Omaha for the Soviet Union, and a ragtag crew of Soviet dissenters, Levinson races to thwart a monstrous plan to unleash a second Holocaust against the Jews of Russia. The Yid is a very serious farce, a philosophical novel larded with pitch black comedy. Fans of City of Thieves and Absurdistan will love Goldberg’s ambitious new novel.” —David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

Breaking Wild: A Novel, by Diane Les Becquets
(Berkley, 9780425283783, $25.95)
“Outdoor and adventure enthusiasts will rejoice in Les Becquets’ debut novel. In the spectacular and unforgiving wilderness of northwestern Colorado, elk-hunter Amy Raye Latour goes missing in a snowstorm at the beginning of winter. A search-and-rescue operation is organized and ranger Pru Hathaway and her rescue dog go to look for the missing woman. With alternating chapters focusing on each woman, Les Becquets spins a thrilling story about two strong and mysterious female characters whose resourcefulness and determination help them tackle incredible adversity. Breaking Wild is an extraordinary adventure story whose ending is as tense and suspenseful as anything I have ever read.” —Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

Orphan X: A Novel, by Gregg Hurwitz
(Minotaur Books, 9781250067845, $25.99)
“The U.S. government secretly trained a group of orphaned children to be lethal assassins when they grew up. Evan, one of these children and now a grown man, has left the program and disappeared, resurfacing only to help those in desperate need. It is through this work that one of his enemies has found him, but which enemy — the government, one of his fellow orphans, or a relative of one of the many bad guys he has gotten rid of? Filled with lots of twists and turns and neat techno gadgets, Orphan X takes you on a roller coaster ride that will leave you breathless and waiting for the next installment of the Nowhere Man.” —Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

The Portable Veblen: A Novel, by Elizabeth McKenzie
(Penguin Press, 9781594206856, $25.95)
“This story of an engaged couple trying to navigate crazy family dynamics, betrayal, and professional dilemmas on their way to getting married is one of the funniest, most unique novels I’ve ever read. If you simply list the story’s elements — a hippy commune, a combat field-medicine controversy, screaming snails, a devious pharmaceutical exec, a long-dead social theorist, the world’s greatest hypochondriac, and a main character who believes a squirrel is following her around California trying to tell her something — you would think that there is just no way it could all come together, but it absolutely does, and ingeniously so. A terrific book!” —Rico Lange, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

The Forgetting Time: A Novel, by Sharon Guskin
(Flatiron Books, 9781250076427, $25.99)
“Psychologist Dr. Jerry Anderson is literally losing his mind — aphasia is taking away his memory and his ability to communicate — when he is introduced to the severe behavior problems of four-year-old Noah. From the few clues, it seems Noah has lived a previous life. Anderson fights to keep his lucidity long enough to complete this final investigation of his career, trying to make sense of this young boy while also attempting to make sense of his own life. A compelling, dynamic, and intriguing debut novel.” —Allen Murphey, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
(Tor Books, 9780765379948, $25.99)
All the Birds in the Sky reads like an instant classic. In tackling big questions about what is really important in life and how we are all connected, the novel soars through magic and science, good and evil, and all the shades in between; through the struggles of children against clueless parents, teachers, and spiteful kids; and through the struggles of adults against a heedless society, all with a love story at its heart. Deep, dark, funny, and wonderful!” —Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA

The Things We Keep: A Novel, by Sally Hepworth
(St. Martin’s Press, 9781250051905, $25.99)
“Anna Forster is facing everyone’s worst nightmare — early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Anna may not remember the people she meets, but readers will not forget Anna. With startling insight and intense compassion, Hepworth creates a character who watches her intellectual world implode while at the same time, experiencing a new romance. The Things We Keep is a love story and a tribute to life, a rare gem that shows that what the heart knows cannot be forgotten. Bravo!” —Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

The Arrangement: A Novel, by Ashley Warlick
(Viking, 9780525429661, $26)
“Ostensibly the story of M.F.K. Fisher and the years when she honed her skills as America’s first food essayist, The Arrangement is actually a story about the fragility of relationships. As Fisher grows in renown, her marriage crumbles and she boldly takes a lover who represents everything antithetical to her husband — his best friend. This is a sensual novel in every sense of the word, and the reader experiences all the excitement of both food and sexuality as Fisher becomes a more independent woman and discovers her writing abilities. What a woman! What a novel!” —William Carl, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Sweetgirl: A Novel, 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

Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe, by Dawn Tripp
(Random House, 9781400069538, $28)
Georgia is as stunningly beautiful as the artwork that inspired it. With amazing insight, Tripp captures the personal and artistic relationships between two difficult, brilliant, and complex people: the artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. This is an incredible read from beginning to end, a book that begs to be discussed!” —Vicky Titcomb, Titcomb’s Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA

My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir, by Chris Offutt
(Atria Books, 9781501112461, $26)
“This fascinating memoir of Offutt’s difficult relationship with his father is complicated by the realization that his father was a prolific writer of pornography. Author Andrew Offutt was known as a science fiction writer, but, with his death, his son discovers that his family’s income was due to the astounding abundance of writing in this other genre. As he catalogs his father’s library of writings, drawings, and more, Offutt tries to understand the man that kept his family walking on eggshells. Difficult to read at times, but complex, intriguing, and hard to put down.” —Nona Camuel, CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY

Sudden Death: A Novel, by Alvaro Enrigue
(Riverhead, 9781594633461, $27)
Sudden Death is one of the most audacious, smart, and original books you will read this year. It is a literary triptych — part history lesson, part tennis match, and part hypermodern adventure. Daring and visceral with a cast that includes Thomas Cromwell, Mary Magdalene, Aztec emperors, and more, the limits of the novel in Enrigue’s hands seem boundless. No other author is taking chances like this with such gratifying results.” —Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

The Flood Girls: A Novel, by Richard Fifield
(Gallery Books, 9781476797380, $26)
“Rachel Flood moves back home to a rural anywhere town: Quinn, Montana. In Quinn, dirty bars breed dirty people, and Rachel struggles to find kindness in a place that kindness seems to have abandoned. These are the ’90s, and these are the women — crude and unapologetic — who carry Fifield’s debut to its shocking, though perhaps necessary, end with the harsh winds that slam across Montana’s eastern prairie. Booze, softball, western wildlife, bar fights — and the clothes! The music!” —Lauren Korn, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein (Trans.)
(Knopf, 9781101875551, $26.95)
“Lahiri traces the origins, tribulations, and tiny victories that have fueled her decades-long courtship with the Italian language in a bilingual memoir that reads more like an intimate diary. The chapters and short stories offer a vivid timeline of Lahiri’s turbulent relationship with language, bouncing around from English to Bengali during her childhood, immersing herself in the Italian culture by moving her family overseas, and finally attempting to write a book in a new voice. In Other Words is much more than an attempt at self-reflection and reinvention, it’s a mastery.” —Carly Lenz, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Missing Pieces: A Novel, by Heather Gudenkauf
(MIRA, 9780778318651, $26.99)
“Gudenkauf once again weaves her magic, drawing readers into her latest work. Missing Pieces is a story of dark family secrets that have multiplied over the years, eroding the trust and love between husbands and wives, siblings, parents, and children. Gudenkauf uses deliberate pacing, skillful character development, and even the old nursery rhyme ‘Three Blind Mice’ to bring this thriller to a perfect, stunning ending.” —Nancy Simpson-Brice, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

The Ramblers: A Novel, by Aiden Donnelley Rowley
(William Morrow, 9780062413314, $25.99)
“This charming book is an homage to families — both the ones we are born with and the ones we create. It follows three characters in their early 30s who are trying to take the next steps toward growing up, deciding who they really are, and what they really want to do with the rest of their lives. They are closely linked and surrounded by family members who are in turns supportive, destructive, and ultimately loving. As members of New York’s privileged, they are free to explore their options while enjoying the best the city has to offer. You will laugh, cry, and cheer these characters on as they come to terms with both their past and their future.” —Ann Carlson, Waterfront Books, Georgetown, SC

The Queen of the Night: A Novel, 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 Unfinished World: And Other Stories, by Amber Sparks
(Liveright, 9781631490903, trade paper, $16.95)
“The beautiful stories in Sparks’ debut collection have an ephemeral quality that is difficult to categorize. Comparisons can be made to Haruki Murakami or George Saunders, but the writing is honestly unlike anything I have ever read. The otherworldliness of these stories will transport you beyond the minutiae of your everyday life and alter the way you look at the world.” —Shawn Donley, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

Now in Paperback

Get in Trouble: Stories, by Kelly Link (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812986495, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Lauren Peugh, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ

A Little Life: A Novel, by Hanya Yanagihara (Anchor, 9780804172707, $17)
Recommended in hardcover by Melinda Powers, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Of Things Gone Astray: A Novel, by Janina Matthewson (The Friday Project, 9780008137557, $14.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Amelia Stymacks, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY

Orhan’s Inheritance: A Novel, by Aline Ohanesian (Algonquin Books, 9781616205300, $15.95)
Recommended in hardcover by Doug Robinson, Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA

Pieces of My Mother: A Memoir, by Melissa Cistaro (Sourcebooks, 9781492623113, $14.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Lynn Riehl, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI

Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett (W.W. Norton, 9780393352290, $16.95)
Recommended in hardcover by Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA

Revisit & Rediscover

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry (Vintage, 9781400030651, $17) Originally published in hardcover in 1996
“For a book published 20 years ago, A Fine Balance is amazingly current in its themes of political unrest, curtailed civil liberties, violence, and economic disparity. The bonds that can form among disparate souls in such circumstances are rendered with truth and clarity. Mistry sets his novel in Bombay, India, between 1975 and 1984, during the upheaval of The Emergency and Indira Ghandi’s regime. The book has been compared to the work of Charles Dickens for its cast of characters and complexity. A Fine Balance won the Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.” —Dana Brigham, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin (Vintage, 9780679744726, $13) Originally published in hardcover in 1963
“Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is one of the most powerful and eloquent statements of the human condition in the American literary tradition. Baldwin’s fierce love of the potential of the American ideals and his equally fierce critique of what prevents us from realizing those ideals is as important today as when it was first published in 1963.” —Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich (Picador, 9780312626686, $16) Originally published in hardcover in 2001
“Ehrenreich goes undercover, joining millions of Americans working at minimum wage jobs to see if it is as easy as some contend. She experiences firsthand the below-subsistence, dehumanizing conditions of much hourly wage work, but she also finds the remarkable humanity of the people who make daily life possible for the rest of us.” —Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO