The January 2014 Indie Next List Preview

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Here’s a preview of the titles on the January Indie Next List flier, on its way to ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement.

A downloadable PDF version of the list will also be available beginning January 1 on and

The January 2014 Indie Next Great Reads

#1 Pick: The Invention of Wings: A Novel, by Sue Monk Kidd
(Viking, 9780670024780, $27.95)
“Kidd gives us an outstanding view into the lives of two women whose reaction to slavery is the same — it must not continue. Loosely based on real-life abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sarah Grimke, The Invention of Wings reveals how an intelligent woman of privilege was just as much a prisoner of her times as the slave girl, Hetty, who was given to Sarah as a birthday gift when she was 11 years old.  Kidd juxtaposes the lives of these two women to show how each became an activist and how they eventually helped each other escape the claws of the South that wanted to destroy them.  This is a splendid tale that will reaffirm the injustices of slavery and will open some eyes to how women were treated in the 1800s.  As always, Kidd offers rich, well-developed characters that readers think about long after the book is closed.” —Lynn Pellerito Riehl, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI

The Kept: A Novel, by James Scott
(Harper, 9780062236739, $25.99)
“It is a rare pleasure to read a novel that is written with such self-assuredness, balance, and grace as The Kept, but the fact that it is also a debut makes it all the more extraordinary.  Elspeth and Caleb’s troubled odyssey through rural upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century is both vivid and compelling, with the starkness of the setting matched only by the ruthless nature of the characters, all stunningly balanced with beautiful prose. Scott joins the pantheon of great American writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor in his understanding of the dichotomy of violence and beauty.” —Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

The Ascendant: A Thriller, by Drew Chapman
(Simon & Schuster, 9781476725888, $25)
“A ruthless entity has declared war on America, not through military attacks or terrorist activities but by targeting our economy.  Two hundred billion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds are sold off, precious natural resources are destroyed, our power grid is sabotaged, and the real estate market is gutted when property is sold for cutthroat prices. Only one man, Garret Reilly, a trading prodigy who has an uncanny ability to recognize patterns, has a sense of what is being perpetrated and who is behind it.  Chapman has created a brilliant, gripping thriller that is all the more frightening in its distinct possibility!” —Jerry Brown, The Bookstore, Radcliff, KY

A Star for Mrs. Blake: A Novel, by April Smith
(Knopf, 9780309758846, $25.95)
A Star for Mrs. Blake highlights a little-known slice of American history. The Gold Star Mothers, whose sons died in WWI and were buried in France, were escorted to their graves years later by the U.S. Army.  Mrs. Blake, a spunky and practical woman from Maine, is one of a group of mothers making the journey.  These women, unlikely candidates for friendships due to differences in class and life experiences, are brought together by the great equalizer of grief.  This band of women is quirky and full of fire and vinegar, and readers are right beside them every step of the way as they prove that a mother’s love is indomitable.” —Karen Schwettman, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, GA

Little Failure: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart
(Random House, 9780679643753, $27)
“Bursting with insight, pathos, and Shteyngart’s signature self-effacing humor, Little Failure brilliantly illustrates the struggles of an inveterate misfit from his early life in Soviet Russia to his youth in the United States. What sets this memoir apart is Shteyngart’s sparkling wit and warmth, and a voice that invites the reader inside his world. Like his novels, Shteyngart’s memoir displays an exhilarating mind at work and feels like a fresh, contemporary classic, an unforgettable lesson in growing into yourself and finding your own voice.” —Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Unremarried Widow: A Memoir, by Artis Henderson
(Simon & Schuster, 9781451649284, $25)
Unremarried Widow is a love story that will tug at your heartstrings and make you ache for Henderson as she tells the story of how she met — and lost — her husband, Miles, a handsome young Army pilot. As their love grew, they moved in together and bought a rundown house near the base. When Miles was deployed to Iraq, they e-mailed and phoned until the day Henderson walked into her mother’s house and found two uniformed officers waiting for her. This is a brilliant book about a young woman’s love and loss, couched in transcendent language that will cut you to the quick.” —Kathy Ashton, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, by Bryce Andrews
(Atria, 9781476710839, $25)
“Andrews spent a year on an 18,000-acre ranch in Montana that was touted as being committed to the well being of the land, livestock, and wildlife.  All goes well in his rugged new life until wolves begin their relentless plundering of the summer herds.  In a heartbreaking meditation on life, ethics, animal rights, and conservation, Andrews struggles to keep his herding responsibilities and his fascination for the wolves in balance. Passages in which he channels the wolves are truly haunting, suggestive of a kinship that presages his anguish as he is required to brutally eliminate one of them. This is an elegant, lyrical account of a sensitive, conservation-minded cowboy in the American West of the 21st century.” —Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

The Bird Skinner: A Novel, by Alice Greenway
(Atlantic Monthly Press, 9780802121042, $24)
“Following the amputation of one of his legs, ornithologist Jim Carroway withdraws from the world and settles on an island off the coast of Maine. His alcohol- and cigarette-filled solitude is interrupted when the daughter of a friend he hadn’t seen in 30 years arrives unannounced from the Solomon Islands. Jim’s memories of being stationed there during WWII as a coast watcher, as well as memories of his past life as a scientist, husband, and father, come back to haunt him over the summer the two spend together. Rich in fascinating cultural and scientific details, The Bird Skinner is a compassionate but objective exploration of the psychology of a broken man.” —Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

In the Blood: A Novel, by Lisa Unger
(Touchstone, 9781451691177, $25.99)
“Unger’s taut prose, flawed characters, and very unreliable narrator will keep readers riveted from the first page to the last. Lana Granger has deep, dark secrets that she would like to keep hidden, but it seems that somebody wants to expose her. Thrills, chills, and too many suspects to count, this book has it all!” —Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

Shovel Ready: A Novel, by Adam Sternbergh
(Crown, 9780385348997, $24)
“I have always been a fan of dystopian novels, but when I picked up Sternbergh’s novel I was unprepared for the post-dirty bomb New York that awaited me.  This book is a sucker punch, plain and simple.  Gritty, taut, and compelling, Shovel Ready paints a grim and savage portrait of a future where the rich have quite literally checked out and the rest of New York is treading water in the ashes of a once-great city.  A fantastic read!” —Raymond Lawrason, Copperfield’s Books, Sebastopol, CA

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir, by Jessica Hendry Nelson
(Counterpoint, 9781619022331, $25)
“Memory doesn’t move in a straight line. It is chaotic, digressive, and imperfect. While most memoirs force life into the restrictions of straight lines, Nelson embraces the chaos by moving back and forth in time, free-associating among memories and organizing her life into a series of essays. What could be just another memoir of a family disintegrated by substance abuse becomes a vibrant and challenging exploration of abuse, obsession, coping, family, friendship, and self-discovery.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles: A Novel, by Katherine Pancol, William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson (Trans.)
(Penguin Books, 9780143121558, paper, $16)
“Treat yourself to this delightful French tale — with a bit of bawdiness  — of family, friendship, and quirky misdirection.  Readers are transported from high society Paris to medieval academia to a Kenyan crocodile farm.  It is easy to see why Pancol is a bestselling author whose books have been translated into 30 languages!” —Sally Van Wert, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, CO

The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, by Olivia Laing
(Picador, 9781250039569, $26)
The Trip to Echo Spring is the ideal blend of memoir, literary criticism, and travelogue. Fans of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, and Geoff Dyer will soon list Olivia Laing as one of their favorite writers. Laing never glamorizes alcoholism; instead, she lifts the romantic veil off the stories we know about some of the most famous drunken scribes and shows just how devastating — but alluring — alcohol can be.” —Michele Filgate, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

The Wind Is Not a River: A Novel, by Brian Payton
(Ecco, 9780062279972, $26.99)
“A grand tale of devotion and adventure set in a forgotten theater of World War II, Payton’s new novel is convincingly told. Along with journalist John Easley, the stranded protagonist, readers feel the Arctic wind screaming across Japanese occupied Atta in the remote Aleutian Islands and are swept along by the parallel narrative of Helen, John’s wife, as she sets off from her native Seattle in a bold, imaginative effort to locate her missing husband.  Compelling!” —Chris Wilcox, City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC

Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo, by Anjan Sundaram
(Doubleday, 9780385537759, $25.95)
“The tumultuous history of the Congo is fraught with power at its most corrupt, capitalism in its greediest form, and human survival at its most desperate.  Sundaram, who lives in Kigali, Rwanda, knew nothing of journalism or the Congo when he traveled there to write about the country and pursue a writing career.  This debut is the result of an 18-month occupation during which Sundaram is robbed, contracts malaria, and sees firsthand the undignified crushing of the human soul.  This is reportage in its most excellent form —  immediate, informative, and riveting.” —Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS

Mercy Snow: A Novel, by Tiffany Baker
(Grand Central Publishing, 9781455512737, $25)
“Titan Falls, a small, sleepy town in New Hampshire where life fluctuates with the ups and downs of the local paper mill, gets roughly awakened when a school bus crashes into a ravine. The event brings two families into conflict: the Snow family, always known as good-for-nothing, has to fight for their survival in town when their son is accused of causing the accident; the McAllisters, owners of the mill and the leading family in town, court trouble as old secrets connected to the Snows threaten to be uncovered. This is a captivating story and a thrilling good mystery!” —Jean-Paul Adriaansen, Water Street Books, Exeter, NH

Radiance of Tomorrow: A Novel, by Ishmael Beah
(Sarah Crichton Books, 9780374246020, $25)
“Beah’s lush and beautiful prose draws the reader into a story both devastating and uplifting.  What happens after true evil destroys a country?  In A Long Way Gone Beah wrote a moving memoir about the carnage in his native Sierra Leone.  Now, his novel deals with what comes after the battles are over.  How do people confront what they have endured and move on?  Beah creates many memorable characters, each with tales that will break your heart while they also give you hope for the future.” —Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR

Rosarito Beach: An Agent Kay Hamilton Novel, by M.A. Lawson
(Blue Rider Press, 9780399165733, $26.95)
“Once readers delve into this first book of a new series by the author of the popular Joe DeMarco novels, they will immediately be drawn into the world of Kay Hamilton, rugged DEA agent and obstinate, independent loner. Up against a tough drug lord in Mexico, Hamilton is able to hold her own until her own daughter is taken hostage.  Then it demands all of Hamilton’s ingenuity and guts to find her daughter and set her free. Just how far will a mother go to save her child? I want the next Kay Hamilton soon, Mr. Lawson!” —Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA

The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
(Dutton, 9780525954019, $26.95)
“Since his involvement in an incident in which a detective was killed and another paralyzed, Detective Carl Morck of Copenhagen’s Department Q has been assigned to a basement office to work on cold cases. Among a backlog of cases, his assistants discover a series of mysterious disappearances that occurred almost 15 years earlier, all within the same few days. The coincidence intrigues Morck, and two characters, still living, seem to be the common denominator: Nete Hermansen, victimized in her youth, and Curt Wad, a right-wing master of the Purity Party. Adler-Olsen delivers a fast-paced narrative that will keep readers turning the pages until the satisfying conclusion.” —Mary Fran Buckley, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, MA

Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones, by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Debra Horwitz and John Ciribassi (Eds.) with Steve Dale
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547738918, $27)
“Recent discoveries in the science of dog behavior merge with practical training approaches in this simple, direct guide for owners and caretakers at all levels of experience. In easy-to-read chapters, a variety of experts explain why our canine companions do what they do, so we can use this knowledge to create relationships with our pets that are more authentic and less problematic, and that can, ultimately, save the lives of many dogs.” —Stacie M. Williams, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

The January 2014 Now in Paperback

The Colour of Milk: A Novel, by Neil Leyshon (Ecco, 9780062192066, $14.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Caitlin Caulfield, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Cover of Snow: A Novel, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books, 9780345534224, $15)
Recommended in hardcover by Fran Fuller, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Seattle, WA

Finding Camlann: A Novel, by Sean Pidgeon (W. W. Norton, 9780393348255, $15.95)
Recommended in hardcover by Daniel Butler, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel, by Helene Wecker (Harper Perennial, 9780062110848, $15.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Nick Petrulakis, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA

Gun Machine: A Novel, by Warren Ellis (Mulholland Books, 9780316187411, $17)
Recommended in hardcover by Scott Stearns, The Book Nook, Ludlow, VT

Life After Life: A Novel, by Kate Atkinson (Back Bay Books, 9780316176491, $18)
Recommended in hardcover by Kat Bailey, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Love Water Memory: A Novel, by Jenny Shortridge (Gallery Books, 9781451684841, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Cheryl Krocker McKeon, Book Passage, San Francisco, CA

Snow White Must Die: A Novel, by Nele Neuhaus (Minotaur, 9781250039774, $14.99)
Recommended in hardcover by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story, by Trudi Kanter (Scribner, 9781476700281, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA

A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel, by Ruth Ozeki (Penguin, 9780143124870, $16)
Recommended in hardcover by Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

Tenth of December:  Stories, by George Saunders (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812984255, $14.95)
Recommended in hardcover by Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories, by Karen Russell (Vintage, 9780307947475, $15)
Recommended in hardcover by Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI