The February 2021 Indie Next List Preview

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Here are the 20 Indie Next Great Reads and 12 now-in-paperback picks on the February 2021 Indie Next List flier. The January title list is also viewable as an Excel file on BookWeb, as a collection on Edelweiss, and featured on downloadable fliers and shelf-talkers on BookWeb.org and IndieBound.org.

Additionally, the January Indie Next Great Reads are available for download on a flier and shelf-talkers, along with past lists, on the Indie Next List page on BookWeb.org.

The 20 Indie Next Great Reads for February

#1 Pick: The Paris Library: A Novel by Janet Skeslien Charles
(Atria Books, 9781982134198, $28)
“I can’t think of a more perfect novel to recommend to book lovers than The Paris Library! Not only does it bring to life the true story of the heroic librarians of the American Library in Nazi-occupied Paris, its interwoven narrative of a bereft teenager in 1980s Montana who finds a kindred spirit in her mysterious, reclusive, and book-loving French neighbor is a feat of extraordinary storytelling. The Paris Library is a testament to the everlasting power of literature and literary places to bring people together and be a home for everyone, even during our darkest, most hopeless, and divided times.”
—Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA

The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
(St. Martin’s Press, 9781250178602, $28.99)
“A brilliantly woven narrative set during the Dust Bowl years on the High Plains of Texas, The Four Winds is a story of survival that inspires us to persist. Hannah extensively researched the devastation of this climatic and agricultural phenomenon and its toll on communities, which seamlessly informs the deftly woven narrative of the life of Elsa, a woman who finds that she has more tenacity and resourcefulness than she had been raised to believe — and then some.”
—Claudia Maceo, The Twig Book Shop, San Antonio, TX

The Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper
(Flatiron Books, 9781250232427, $27.99)
“Jane Harper returns with another atmospheric psychological suspense novel, this time set on the Tasmanian coast. Harper’s landscapes are tangible, exquisitely drawn, and as important to her stories as any character. The laid back and beautiful — but slightly run-down — beach town of Evelyn Bay is the star. Though there is a new body and an old mystery here, the novel focuses more on the inner conflicts, guilt, and secrets of its characters — a close group of lovers, friends, and family who are all holding back parts of their past. Reading the book was like watching the waves lap at the mouths of dark caves from a Tasmanian beach. An excellent escape!”
—Debra Ginsberg, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Santa Monica, CA

Milk Fed: A Novel by Melissa Broder
(Scribner, 9781982142490, $26)
“Titillating and hilarious, this book is Broder’s crowning achievement (so far). Calorie-obsessed Rachel is an unlikely but irresistible heroine, and when she meets Miriam at the yogurt shop, sparks (and sprinkles!) fly. Each must reckon with her Jewish identity as well as her heart’s deepest, lushest desires, while the intense scrutiny of the mother figure looms large. This story is unflinchingly honest, unexpectedly moving, and a brilliant checkmate to shame, both carnal and spiritual. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, Birmingham, AL

Milk Blood Heat: Stories by Dantiel W. Moniz
(Grove Press, 9780802158154, $25)
Milk Blood Heat grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The prose blisters with a beauty so raw and intense it borders on horrifying. With widely differing characters, voices, and settings, each story makes its own unique contribution to the collection, yet each propels the reader onward in turn. Dantiel W. Moniz is a jaw-dropping new star on the literary stage.”
—Audrey Beatty, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, CT

Fake Accounts: A Novel by Lauren Oyler
(Catapult, 9781948226929, $26)
“This novel about our technological age is subversive from the very start. Its dense, wordy paragraphs seem the opposite of the endless bite-sized chunks of information we consume online. Yet within its density, it also mimics the internet experience through the stream-of-consciousness voice of its not-always-reliable narrator. It’s a fun story with lots to say about the incessant self-branding and impossible unreliability of our lives spent increasingly online.”
—Edward Newton, The Literate Lizard, Sedona, AZ

The Kindest Lie: A Novel by Nancy Johnson
(William Morrow, 9780063005631, $27.99)
“You know you are in the hands of a natural storyteller from the very first pages of The Kindest Lie, a story of unlikely friendships, difficult choices, and the untold burden of our past. Ruth is compelled to return to the hometown she fled to pursue her dreams. Midnight is a boy broken and in search of a safe port amidst the stormy seas of his young life. Both have been impacted by the brutal politics of race and class in modern America, and both must find a way to heal their broken hearts. A moving story of the compassion and strength needed to move past fear and distrust and begin to hope for a better future.”
—Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

The Unwilling: A Novel by John Hart
(St. Martin’s Press, 9781250167729, $27.99)
“It’s been too long since I let life go by because a book pulled me into its world, but The Unwilling stole my weekend. Set in the Vietnam War era, it wasn’t an easy read. The cost to a French family, just one of so many broken by overwhelming sadness, destruction, and evil, reminded me of how little we learn and how high the price is for ourselves and future generations when we don’t face our history and tell our stories honestly.”
—Nancy McCarty, Otto Bookstore, Williamsport, PA

The Removed: A Novel by Brandon Hobson
(Ecco, 9780062997548, $26.99)
“In telling the story of a Native family in Oklahoma who lost a teenage son to a shooting, The Removed examines the power of inherited trauma and the strength of family to keep people together. The book is told in the voices of the various family members left after the death of their son/brother and explores the effects on their lives of their Cherokee ancestors who walked the Trail of Tears. Mixing several points of view along with Native myth, Hobson brings a powerful story to light where the reader really steps into the shoes of each character. The loss, sadness, and despair are palpable, but so are hope and healing, by the end. A truly beautiful book about something everyone should read more about.”
—Izzy Stringham, Bookbinders Basalt, Basalt, CO

Send for Me: A Novel by Lauren Fox
(Knopf, 9781101947807, $26.95)
“I was deeply moved by this beautifully written and fascinating novel about four generations of Jewish women, based on a series of letters written by Fox’s great-grandmother in Germany to her grandmother in Milwaukee between 1938 and 1941. Annelise leaves Germany with her husband and child at the cusp of World War II and emigrates to Milwaukee, where a new life awaits. But she leaves behind her parents, who desperately wait for visas to join her. Memories play a deep part in the novel, as do the (sometimes) rocky relationships between mothers and daughters. I’m sure that this excellent novel will find a place on many reading group lists.”
—Ken Favell, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, WI

Zorrie: A Novel by Laird Hunt
(Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635575361, $26)
“Zorrie’s life was not an extraordinary one for a woman of her generation. She experienced the trials of the Depression and loss brought by war. Most of her years were spent tending a farm in rural Indiana. Her quiet life, with its disappointments and possibilities, heartbreaks and hopes, is held before the reader unadorned until, in its simplicity, one comes to see a nearly sacred beauty. This is a stunning work, and one that I believe will hold an important place in American literature.”
—Janis Herbert, Face in a Book, El Dorado Hills, CA

Love Is an Ex-Country: A Memoir by Randa Jarrar
(Catapult, 9781948226585, 26)
“Randa Jarrar’s intimate memoir is nothing short of monumental. Intelligent, tender, and lacerating in equal measure, Love Is an Ex-Country takes readers on a journey across the U.S., probing what it means to live fully in a hostile environment and contemplate survival in the face of erasure. Jarrar navigates the profound with a light touch and infuses every page with humor, insight, and defiance. Above all, this is a story of being: being corporeal, being of many places and no place, and being joyful — triumphantly.”
—Nika Jonas, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

The Bad Muslim Discount: A Novel by Syed M. Masood
(Doubleday, 9780385545259, $27.95)
“I loved The Bad Muslim Discount so much I read the acknowledgements just so it wouldn’t end — and they were great, too! This is an insightful and funny novel about faith, family, and being a Muslim American today. Masood offers us a sharp perspective, a seamless style, and unforgettable characters, leaving the reader enriched for the experience.”
—Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT

Remote Control: A Novella by Nnedi Okorafor
(Tor.com, 9781250772800, $19.99)
“I have absolutely loved everything Nnedi Okorafor has ever written, and this latest book from her is no exception! Her amazing ability to blend traditional African stories and themes with hardcore science fiction is spectacular. While Sankofa cannot remember her name, she does remember her past as she travels from town to town. Even as a child, she demands respect from the townspeople she interacts with, for she is the Adopted Child of Death. Or is she? Was it an alien device that changed her when she was just a child? Sankofa knows. But she isn’t sharing. This mind-blowing science fiction fantasy novella is absolutely glorious, and I can’t wait to give it to everyone I know!”
—Annie Carl, The Neverending Bookshop, Edmonds, WA

A Thousand Ships: A Novel by Natalie Haynes
(Harper, 9780063065390, $27.99)
“From The Aeneid to The Iliad and The Odyssey, classic stories of the Trojan War are implicitly reliant on the role of women, however reticent they are portrayed. Finally — finally! — we have a retelling that does women, girls, and goddesses justice. Through the perspective of women in various places and times during the war, Natalie Haynes constructs an epic collage that follows the warriors, refugees, oracles, muses, wives, and daughters of Troy, Greece, and beyond in one of the most famous conflicts in world history.”
—Cat Chapman, The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

Beneath the Keep: A Novel of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
(Dutton, 9781524742720, $27)
“Centuries after the Crossing, the Tearling has fallen far from William Tear’s dream of utopia. The gap between classes is wide and citizens at the bottom lead dark, brutal lives. A rebel uprising brings hope for change along with a prophecy about the coming of a True Queen. Readers just discovering the Tearling will be intrigued by the complex world-building. Those familiar with the original trilogy will delight in reading beloved characters’ backstories in this ambitious prequel.”
—Tarah Jennings, Mitzi’s Books, Rapid City, SD

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen
(Mariner Books, 9780358272557, trade paper, $15.99)
“I loved this stunning debut collection of stories. Chen digs deep and uses her experience as a foreign correspondent to portray the voices and lives of people living in modern China. These stories will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the book. Highly recommended.”
—Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS

The Girl From the Channel Islands: A Novel by Jenny Lecoat
(Graydon House, 9781525806414, trade paper, $17.99)
“A beautiful love story unfolds between a German officer and a Jewish woman amidst the horror and atrocities of WWII. Set in Jersey in the Channel Islands, this historical novel, with its many twists and turns, will keep you on edge. Secrets and lies become the norm for survival along with crafty plans to evade discovery. The bravery of the characters keeps the reader focused on the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. Lecoat has turned a personal connection and a family history into an engaging, touching novel!”
—Diane McGuire, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, MN

We Run the Tides: A Novel by Vendela Vida
(Ecco, 9780062936233, $26.99)
“Wow, this book was hard to put down! The story feels so familiar, yet full of unexpected twists and turns. I was immersed in the beautiful and tumultuous world of these girls on the brink of adulthood. A fun, mysterious, compelling, and ultimately profound novel about power, truth, and growing up.”
—Sarah Fischer, Downbound Books, Cincinnati, OH

Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods by Amelia Pang
(Algonquin Books, 9781616209179, $27.95)
“This powerful story arises from an improbable source: a crude, hand-written note slipped into Halloween merchandise made in China, a note that leads Pang on a search for its author and introduces her to the nightmare life of Chinese prison labor, so-called re-education camps, the worst horrors of living in a police state, and lives destroyed just for being an independent thinker. The toll on individuals is foregrounded here and summons us to be humane to all.”
—Susan Thurin, Bookends On Main, Menomonie, WI

The February Now in Paperback

Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812981933, $18)
Recommended in hardcover by Ben Newgard, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride
(Riverhead Books, 9780735216730, $17)
Recommended in hardcover by Stuart McCommon, Novel., Memphis, TN

Dear Edward: A Novel by Ann Napolitano
(Dial Press, 9781984854803, $18)
Recommended in hardcover by Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, IL

Eight Perfect Murders: A Novel by Peter Swanson
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062838193, $16.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY

Greenwood: A Novel by Michael Christie
(Hogarth, 9781984822017, $18)
Recommended in hardcover by Bex Petterson, Bloomsbury Books, Ashland, OR

Grown Ups: A Novel by Emma Jane Unsworth
(Gallery/Scout Press, 9781982141943, $16.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Melissa Summers, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland
(Tin House Books, 9781951142292, $16.95)
Recommended in hardcover by Pepper Parker, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA

My Dark Vanessa: A Novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062941510, $17.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Luisa Barbano, Oblong Books and Music, Millerton, NY

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A Novel by Lola Shoneyin
(Avon, 9780063072329, $16.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Jennie Turner-Collins, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Verge: Stories by Lidia Yuknavitch
(Riverhead Books, 9780525534884, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Anthony Piacentini, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

Vita Nostra: A Novel by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
(Harper Voyager, 9780063054158, $17.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Ilana Darrant, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Weather: A Novel by Jenny Offil
(Vintage, 9780345806901, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Ann Woodbeck, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN