The Winter 2010 - 2011 Indie Next List for Reading Groups

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Here’s a full preview of the Winter Indie Next List for Reading Groups, which ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement will be receiving in the December Red Box.

“Beginning with a strong group of titles in the ‘Top 10,’ many of which have been Indie Next List choices in hardcover, and continuing through six discussion-starting categories, the new Reading Group list features a wealth of outstanding books,“ said Mark Nichols, ABA’s industry relations officer. “Indie booksellers across the country whose title nominations create this list continue to share their knowledge and insight into those books that resonate most strongly with a variety of reading group types. We are very grateful for the participation of such a wide representation of ABA membership, and note that the twice-yearly Reading Group list continues to garner the most requests for additional copies of any printed list that we produce.”

A sidebar included in the Winter list also offers a reminder of other favorites drawn from previous Reading Group lists.

Indie bookstores use the Reading Group list in a number of ways, including as handouts at author events and special reading group nights and as takeaways that are part of in-store displays. Booksellers that would like additional copies of the Winter Reading Group list should contact Nichols at

Looking ahead, here are the upcoming deadlines for submitting Indie Next List nominations:

  • March Indie Next List – Tuesday, January 4
  • Spring Children’s Indie Next List – Friday, January 14
  • April Indie Next List – Friday, February 4

Winter 2010-11 Indie Next List for Reading Groups

The Top Ten

1. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls
(Scribner, $15, 9781416586296)
"This is a marvelous tribute to Jeannette Walls' unforgettable grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Smith was born in West Texas in 1901, and lived a tough, rough life with her own brand of grace. She didn't like nonsense, prejudice, or whining, but she had a great sense of humor along with her practical, hardworking nature. This is a stunning account of the times and most especially the indomitable Lily. An outstanding choice for all reading groups." -- Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

2. The Lacuna: A Novel, by Barbara Kingsolver
(Harper Perennial, $16.99, 9780060852580)
"Kingsolver's first novel in nine years has a compelling, provocative storyline that takes place between Mexico City and the United States in the period from the 1930s to the 1950s. A young Mexican-American man finds himself caught up in the creative and political household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. He mixes plaster for the muralist, types letters for Leon Trotsky, and befriends Frida. The Lacuna is a solid example of Kingsolver's expertise in combining politics and fiction. The philosophy of Communism and the innate need for freedom of expression raise their demanding fists in this young man's story, and they won't let the reader go." -- Dianne Patrick, Snowbound Books, Marquette, MI

3. Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel, by Audrey Niffenegger
(Scribner, $15, 9781439169018)
"I'm still reeling from this incredible time-bending love story complete with ghosts. It involves two generations of twins and a London apartment building overlooking an historic cemetery. Julia and Valentina inherit their aunt's flat in London with many caveats, including not allowing their mother, the twin sister of said aunt, to visit. Everyone in the building needs or desires something or someone, and as the reader realizes that a ghost has come to stay, things turn both odd and beautiful. This is the next must-read for book clubs!" -- Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

4. Tinkers, by Paul Harding
(Bellevue Literary Press, $14.95, 9781934137123)
"This debut novel is a slim treasure that, through the lives of a New England father and his son, quietly takes on nothing less than the measure of a life and the sublime and fearful notes that make it up. Harding lifts the face off small moments in quiet lives with a language both heartbreaking and exhilarating." -- Ty Wilson, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA

5. Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
(Vintage, $15.95, 9780307387943)
"Dave Eggers has performed a great service for Americans by introducing us to Syrian immigrant, New Orleans painting contractor, and family man Abdulrahman Zeitoun. We get to know Zeitoun and his family intimately, and his nightmare treatment by our government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a cautionary tale of a justice system run amok. Zeitoun reads like a novel, and Eggers' empathetic storytelling elicits admiration, outrage, and shame, but in the end, a glimmer of hope for us all. I dare you not to be moved." -- Molly Young, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

5. A Happy Marriage: A Novel, by Rafael Yglesias
(Scribner, $16, 9781439102312)
"A Happy Marriage is deeply honest, intricately observed, and moving beyond words. In alternating the chapters between Enrique and Margaret's courtship and eventual marriage and the final days of Margaret's life, Yglesias shows the complexity of the relationship and the totality of what is lost with Margaret's fatal illness. Enrique's fears, foibles, and insecurities at the outset of their courtship are brilliantly set against the character he is forced to muster as he helps his wife die with dignity, on her own terms, and in her own home. This is a novel in which every emotion, character, and situation rings true." -- Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose Books &, Washington, DC

7. Taroko Gorge, by Jacob Ritari
(Unbridled Books, $15.95, 9781936071654)
"How do we deal with death and loss? This is the question that Jacob Ritari explores in Taroko Gorge. Through the eyes of a veteran American reporter, an elderly Taiwanese detective, and two Japanese teens, we experience the disappearance of, and subsequent search for, three students in Taroko National Park. The mystery part of the story -- What happened to these girls? -- is handled competently, but the real accomplishment of the novel is the four characters' distinct and realistic responses to loss, from the optimistic adolescents to the detective who has dealt with dozens of missing persons. This is a book that sticks with you." -- Josh Christie, Sherman's Books & Stationery, Freeport, ME

8. The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
(Riverhead Trade, $15, 9781594483653)
"Focusing on three concisely developed, unrelated characters and an unnamed cellist who has vowed to play for 22 days in memory of 22 people who have died in a mortar attack on war-torn Sarajevo, Galloway creates individual portraits that combine in a stunning picture of what it takes to survive in a city under siege. Spare narration and haunting voice make this a must-read." -- Peter Marsh, Briggs Carriage Bookstore, Brandon, VT

9. The Crying Tree: A Novel, by Naseem Rakha
(Broadway, $14, 9780767931748)
"This book will generate discussions on the death penalty, familial relationships, and family secrets. A family is shattered when their 15-year-old son and brother is killed and a young man is sentenced to death for murder. As the execution date nears we learn that the mother has been corresponding with the killer and has offered forgiveness. The views of the father, sister, and prison warden add to the debate, and difficult truths are revealed. This is an amazing story and an important topic for book groups." -- Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

10. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir, by Neil White
(Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780061351631)
"Neil White's story is rare and unusual, and made all the better by his deft telling of the granting of absolution over the pain of loss, human frailty, and shattered dreams. In the end dreams do come true, and White's pain and laughter become moving and inspirational. This book belongs in the hands of all readers seeking to find how locked doors can be opened." -- David Magee, Rock Point Books, Chattanooga, TN

Exciting New Voices

Baking Cakes in Kigali: A Novel, by Gaile Parkin
(Bantam, $15, 9780385343442)
"Meet Angel Tungaraza, whose specialty is baking the perfect cake for any special occasion. Through Angel we meet various characters in her Rwandan community and learn of their challenges, culture, and history. Angel is part counselor, part matchmaker, mentor, and enforcer. Through her, Parkin portrays the strength of so many women whose lives have been marked by war, genocide, AIDS, genital mutilation, and more. These serious subjects are interwoven with hilarity, compassion, and humor. The book is a multi-layered cake, with surprise fillings between each sweet layer." -- Gayle Wingerter, Inklings Bookshop, Yakima, WA

Children of the Sun, by Max Schaefer
(Soft Skull Press, $15.95, 9781593762971)
"In 1970, Tony gets deeply involved in Britain's violent neo-Nazi subculture while hiding his homosexuality. In a parallel narrative set in 2003, James is a writer researching a screenplay about the real-life notorious gay skinhead Nicky Crane. This is a fascinating look at a time and culture that few Americans know. A perfect choice for mixed-gender book clubs and those interested in political fiction as well as a fast, thrilling read." -- Kelly Justice, The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky: A Novel, by Heidi W. Durrow
(Algonquin, $13.95, 9781616200152)
"Rachel is a girl with a tragic secret, thrust from her home to live with a distant grandmother she doesn't know. Struggling to overcome her sorrows, she tries to make sense of a new racial identity she didn't know she possessed. In doing so, she strives to find her own sense of self, defined neither by the rigid structures of her grandmother nor those of an increasingly volatile society. An outstanding, original new voice in fiction." -- Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

The Kitchen House: A Novel, by Kathleen Grissom
(Touchstone, $16, 9781439153666)
"A perfect book for reading groups, The Kitchen House makes the reader ponder issues of race in a reverse way, as we see what life was like for Irish orphan Lavinia within the servant community of a tobacco plantation. With characters that are both wonderful and horrible, this is a book that continues to make me think about human nature and cross-cultural relationships." -- Susan Richmond, Inklings Bookshop, Yakima, WA

The Madonnas of Echo Park, by Brando Skyhorse
(Free Press, $23, 9781439170809)
"Brando Skyhorse's stunning debut about Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles is a novel of interconnected stories that will take your breath away. Each successive chapter illuminates earlier ones as ancillary characters are fleshed out. Reminiscent of Gloria Naylor, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Katzuo Ishiguro, this heartbreaking and powerful novel is about the loneliness and interconnectedness of its characters as well as being the story of isolation and a sense of place. This is a book that you want to start again the moment you have turned the final page." -- Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI

The Quickening, by Michelle Hoover
(Other Press, $14.95, 9781590513460)
"This exceptional debut novel reminded me of the writing of Willa Cather. This story of two women, struggling to survive in the hard country of 1900s Midwest farmland. Their tentative and unlikely friendship is forged by their need for companionship and survival. The Quickening is not just a good historical novel, it is a lyrical exploration into the human condition under great hardship." -- Lanora Hurley, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

Inspiring Life Stories

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
(Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780061730337)
"This is the heartwarming story of how one 14-year-old Malawian boy, unable to attend school, educated himself about electricity and learned how to make windmills. His accomplishment ended the cycle of drought and starvation-level poverty experienced by his family and the people in his rural village. I learned so much about the country of Malawi and a culture I knew little about. Great for book groups!" -- Linda, Beagle Books, Park Rapids, MN

My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
(Anchor, $15, 9780307277695)
"Julia Child recounts her life in France beginning in 1948, when she arrived with her diplomat husband, Paul. She spoke no French and knew nothing about the people or the culture. The book follows her through classes at the famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, the writing of her critically acclaimed bestselling cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the development of her own cooking school and television programs. Read this book, and I guarantee you'll feel the zest for life that is infectious through Julia Child's wonderful outlook on both life and cooking." -- Bunny, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood, by Robyn Scott
(Penguin, $15, 9780143115090)
"Scott tells the loving yet unsentimental story of her unusual family and her experiences growing up in the African bush. Her parents moved their family to Botswana when she was seven. Her father was a doctor and a pilot who flew to his cases, and her free-spirited mother home-schooled their three children -- in a manner of speaking. Scott is a gifted storyteller who endears her family to the reader, while chronicling the changing times in Africa." -- Jan Healy, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, WA

Families And Other Challenges

Blame: A Novel, by Michelle Huneven
(Picador, $15, 9780312429850)
"Blame is another wonderful story from Huneven, with characters and relationships so real you hate to say goodbye when the book ends. A history professor comes out of an alcoholic blackout in jail for running over two Jehovah's Witnesses in her driveway. The story follows her through years of punishment, remorse, and atonement. She eventually rebuilds her life and relationships, finds community in unlikely places, and comes to terms with herself. Richard Russo calls Huneven 'a writer of extraordinary and thrilling talent' and I think you'll agree." -- Carla, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

Burnt Shadows: A Novel, by Kamila Shamsie
(Picador, $15, 9780312551872)
"This is an incredible, epic novel straddling the time of the bomb dropping on Nagasaki in 1945 to New York of 2004. Hiroko, forever marked by the image of cranes burned into her back from the bomb blast, loses her first love and then finds another. She becomes a Pakistani, raises a beloved son, learns and loves many languages, and tries to make sense of the clash of cultures and loyalties that face her and her beloveds at every turn. Shamsie expertly depicts people acting out of their deepest love and conviction and finding themselves facing morally complex choices, the results of which are both magnificent and devastating. This novel is perfect!" -- Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

I See You Everywhere, by Julia Glass
(Anchor, $15, 9781400075775)
"Glass has deftly crafted a novel with an intimate view into the world of sisters. In this stunning work, you will explore all the rivalry, the missed opportunities, and the misunderstandings, as well as the longing that two women genetically linked but worlds apart in their choices can feel. Brilliantly told in alternating voices with rich detail and much emotion, this story will have you longing to reconnect with both Louisa and Clement, their friends, and other family members long after the last page." -- Calvin Crosby, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA

Labor Day: A Novel, by Joyce Maynard
(Harper Perennial, $13.99, 9780061843419)
"Labor Day is a novel about seeing the good in someone when no one else can; how spending a few minutes sharing a talent with a child can affect his entire life and the person he ultimately becomes; about true love that, once found, can never be torn away no matter how strong the outside forces; about families and what the word really means; about believing that someone can be better than they think they are and having the same beliefs about yourself; and about hope, trust, and forgiveness. A natural for book group discussion!" -- Cathy Allard, BayShore Books LLC, Oconto, WI

The Slap: A Novel, by Christos Tsiolkas
(Penguin, $15, 9780143117148)
"The Slap is not just a story about a four-year-old boy whose misbehavior at a neighborhood 'barbie' in Southern Australia brings on a reaction by someone other than his father. Different opinions about whether or not the slap was warranted rapidly surface among the eight adults present and threaten to destroy loyal friendships. The boy's parents, without the full support of the husband, file a lawsuit against their friend that results in harsh, often unspoken thoughts about marriage, friendships, and love. Tsiolkas writes an honest and passionate story about how one act can change the course of many lives." -- Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel, by Jonathan Tropper
(Plume, $15, 9780452296367)
"Jonathan Tropper delivers perfectly-timed punches with a good dose of laughter in this depiction of a heartfelt week of loss, mourning, forgiveness, and discovery as the Foxman family is held together -- some would say held captive -- under one roof to sit shiva. Tropper doesn't miss a beat. It's too bad you can't catch up with fictional characters over a beer in a few months. I'll miss these guys." -- Lisa Baudoin, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, WI

When She Flew, by Jennie Shortridge
(NAL Trade, $15, 9780451227980)
"Based on an actual event in Portland, Oregon, Seattle novelist Jennie Shortridge weaves the story of a man and his pre-teen daughter living as survivalists in the Oregon woods. When they are found out, their lives are irrevocably changed. A city policewoman is the one who understands their motivation, and their paths not only intersect but intertwine. A wonderful book club read!" -- Cheryl McKeon, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Inspiration and Information

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, by Timothy Egan
(Mariner, $15.95, 9780547394602)
"Well-researched, compassionate, and vivid, Egan's book tells the interconnected stories of the 'Big Burn' forest fire of 1910, the founding of the National Park system, the creation of the enduring idea of conservation, and the immigration and labor histories of the Rocky Mountain West. These gracefully interwoven stories create a memorable picture of the political, social, cultural, and natural forces at play at a pivotal moment in the nation's history. Add to this the powerful personalities of Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and the wide array of characters who made up the first generation of forest rangers, and you have a 'can't put it down' firestorm of a book in your hands!" -- John Evans, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland, CA

Columbine, by Dave Cullen
(Twelve, $15.99, 9780446546928)
"Every once in a rare while a book arrives to bear witness, and such is the case with Columbine. This definitive account of the Colorado high school tragedy will not only surpass all others, it will endure and take a rightful place on the shelf along side Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song." -- Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI

Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams
(Vintage, $16, 9780375725197)
"In Ravenna, she creates mosaics; in Utah, she observes the grassland mosaic that is a community of prairie dogs; in New York, she catalogs bones in a museum; in Rwanda, she witnesses the aftermath of a genocide's millions dead and millions who have witnessed death. As Williams pieces together each jagged shard, connecting, finding patterns, catching light, she finds meaning where none seemed possible. Her pared-down language, her close observation and her exacting use of detail lend power to the unthinkable: dignity to beaten-down individuals and purpose to the remnants of community." -- Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, by Nick Reding
(Bloomsbury, $15, 9781608192076)
"You may find ourself talking and talking about this book to anyone who will listen! It draws a very poignant and fascinating portrait of what is undoubtedly the most dangerous drug in common use. Reding uses a small town in rural Iowa, profiling the 'players' in this socially crippling epidemic -- farmers, drug dealers, recovering addicts, the mayor, a local prosecutor, and a doctor. For all of its heartbreak, the book is not without hope as it examines one town's desperate fight to survive." -- Maurine Barnett, Darvill's Bookstore, Eastsound, WA

Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Greg Mortenson
(Penguin, $16, 9780143118237)
"In Stones Into Schools, Greg Mortenson brings us up to date on the progress of the Central Asia Institute's efforts to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, now totaling over 130 schools. While reading this book produces a sense of the overwhelming obstacles and hardship faced by people in this region of the world, it also provides some wonder and hope about how much can be accomplished by so few people, with so little money." -- Brad, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR

Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, $16, 9780812977615)
"Thank you Tracy Kidder for writing this book. It's an incredible tale of Deo who survived both the Burundi and Rwandan massacres, and then overcame all odds to ultimately attend medical school at Dartmouth. Deo eventually meets Paul Farmer -- the subject of Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains -- who supports his dream of building a medical clinic back in Burundi. This wonderfully written book really puts our lives into perspective!" -- Mary Cowen, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL

Writ Large

Agaat, by Marlene Van Niekerk
(Tin House, $19.95, 9780982503096)
"This is a testament to the lives of two women, one succumbing to a creeping paralysis and the other the maidservant who has become her caretaker. They literally owe each other their lives. Their complicated relationship reflects the tumultuous history of modern South Africa. I found it absolutely astonishing and achingly beautiful." -- Pepper Parker, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA

All Other Nights: A Novel, by Dara Horn
(W. W. Norton, $14.95, 9780393338324)
"The Civil War divided America's Jewish population geographically, but they remained united by business, family relationships, and religion. The moral divide over slavery casts a Union soldier of Jewish descent into acts of espionage that involve both family and friends. How this night is different from every other night is a profound question that Jews ask themselves during Passover. What happens to this soldier on various nights of his deployment wrecks havoc with his identity and his allegiances. Horn paces this novel like a thriller. I couldn't put it down!" -- Dianne Patrick, Snowbound Books, Marquette, MI

Day After Night: A Novel, by Anita Diamant
(Scribner, $15, 9780743299855)
"World War II is over and it is the 'twilight of colonial rule' in the Middle East. Still, the British are wielding a firm grip on the Holy Land and Jewish refugees are being interned in camps that, while not nearly what they experienced under the Nazis, are a barrier to the freedom that the Holocaust survivors seek and deserve. Diamant shows us the seeds of the state of Israel through the eyes of several women who have been waylaid at camp: Atlit, in Palestine for a variety of reasons; Tedi, a lovely, blue-eyed Jewish girl from Amsterdam; angry Zorah from a poor Warsaw ghetto; and Shayndel and Leonie, fast friends from vastly different backgrounds, one a prostitute in Paris during the war, and the other a resistance fighter from Nazi-occupied Vilnius. This book ultimately gives us renewed faith in humanity." -- Anne Holman, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

Wolf Hall: A Novel, by Hilary Mantel
(Picador, $16, 9780312429980)
"In Wolf Hall, Mantel offers a new view of the reign of Henry VIII from inside the head of Thomas Cromwell as he ponders ways to increase the size of Henry's exchequer and aid the king's efforts to get Anne Boleyn into his bed through the sanctity of marriage. Mantel exposes Cromwell's thoughts as he frets over his family, his friends, and even his enemies. This is a brilliant novel that encapsulates the Tudor era in the lush, evocative prose." -- Kathy Ashton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

Enchanting Stories

The Angel's Game: A Novel, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
(Anchor, $15.95, 9780767931113)
"At last, the long-awaited sequel by the author of Shadow of the Wind. Once again we get to visit the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' in Barcelona, this time in the 1920s. Zafon knows how to grab readers and pull them right into the story, surprising them with multiple twists and turns. Some of the characters are ageless, some are not exactly who they seem to be, and others leave you wondering if they even exist at all! A superb literary mystery!" -- Linda Grana, Lafayette Book Store, Lafayette, CA

Birds Without Wings, by Louis De Bernieres
(Vintage, $16, 9781400079322)
"De Bernieres brings his readers into the life of a small Turkish village whose fictional characters become so real that when the tides of war, revolution, and forced movements of ethnic populations wash over it, we feel that our family and friends are being destroyed. As the Ottoman Empire crumbles and Turkey struggles to create a nation, the villagers do become 'birds without wings' who cannot escape the whirlwind that international politics, nationalism, and an intensification of religious bigotry brings down upon a small relatively peaceful community where Armenians, Muslims, and Christians have co-existed for centuries. This is important reading for our time as we create our own whirlwind in the Middle East." -- Marian Nielsen, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel, by Kate Morton
(Washington Square Press, $15, 9781416550556)
"This novel of abandonment and identity beautifully echoes Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic, The Secret Garden. The gothic twists and turns of the plot will keep readers guessing to the end. A very rich, complex, and satisfying read!" -- Lisa Wright, Oblong Books and Music, Millerton, NY

A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cosse
(Europa Editions, $15, 9781933372822)
"Ivan has a passion for books, but only 'good' books. Francesca shares his book lust. Together they open a remarkable bookstore in Paris, a store with only 'good' books, a place for readers who love the written word. Initial success is followed by fear and heartbreak as their shop comes under attack. Who is trying to kill the bookstore? This is a treasure for all of us who love books." -- Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR