16 books recommended by indie booksellers

The ninth category in this year’s Reading Challenge is “a book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller.” This is your nudge to engage with the librarians and booksellers in your community.

Some of you tell me that talking to strangers isn’t your favorite—we even talked about how nerve-wracking it can be to strike up a chat with booksellers on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next?. Please rest assured that librarians and booksellers are among the best strangers you can find. And when you start talking books, they won’t remain strangers for long.

One of the great things about book tour is I’ve had the opportunity to chat with many independent booksellers, and I always love to hear what they’re reading. Today I’ve rounded up the titles they can’t stop recommending. Please enjoy these indie bookseller recommendations in their own words, and add their stores to your must-visit list.

Southernmost by Silas House
recommended by Tiffany Lauderdale Phillips at Wild Geese Bookshop

“This literary page-turner begins with a flood and when the water recedes, everything has changed. The sense of place is immersive and the characters are palpable, knowable, and yet surprising at times. It’s rare to find a page-turner that also asks big questions about acceptance, grace, what it is to be human, and belonging.

When you read Silas House and something loud happens where you are, like ice falling in the refrigerator, you jolt awake, surprised that you are not actually riding in the car with the characters. Don’t start this one after 10 p.m. or you will be up all night.”

Visit Wild Geese Bookshop in Franklin, IN or click here to visit their website.

Seafire by Natalie Parker

Seafire by Natalie Parker
recommended by Adah Fitzgerald at Main Street Books

“This is excellent. It’s YA nautical fantasy!
Seafire is off the charts – literally and figuratively. Captain Caledonia Styx’s ship and her crew of fierce young women are headed straight for uncharted nautical territory to exact revenge on a corrupt warlord in this high seas adventure, but the real depth is the portrayal of the friendships and relationships among the crew members 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 and can’t stop talking about it.”

Visit Main Street Books in Davidson, NC or click here to visit their website.

The Child in Time

The Child In Time by Ian McEwan
recommended by Brandy O’Briant at Page 1 Books

The Child in Time is a story about a children’s book author who loses his 3-year old daughter in a supermarket one day and the aftermath of that on him and his marriage. The novel explores why we have children, how they change and give meaning to our lives, and how time is simply a relative concept. Only Ian McEwan could write such a tightwire of a story with his taut prose and deep understanding of humans and our frailties. It’s beautiful and unflinching, and in the end, hopeful.”

Page 1 Books is a subscription service based in Evanston, IL. Click here to visit their website.

Whiskey When We're DryWhiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison
recommended by Holland Saltsman at The Novel Neighbor

“A very ‘Western’ feel similar to Paulette Jiles’ News of The World, this epic story takes place in the late 1800’s following the trail of a young woman forced to leave her homestead and try to track down her brother who is a ‘Wanted’ man. No stranger to sharpshooting and taking care of herself, Jess is continually challenged to make to make life changing decisions all in the name of family. An epic debut!”

Holland also recommends Open MIC Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato.

Visit The Novel Neighbor in St Louis, MO or click here to visit their website.

The Gloaming

The Gloaming by Melanie Finn
recommended by Bri Esposito at Carmichael’s Bookstore

“I was invested in every single sentence of this book. It is a compelling, painful story populated by flawed characters who are all navigating the dread that accompanies an intimate knowledge that the world can change cruelly in the space of a single breath. It will be a long time before I forget the exquisite tension and emotional vibration of these pages. Melanie Finn is an incredible talent and I am awed by her storytelling ability.”

Visit Carmichael’s in Louisville, KY or click here to visit their website.

The Garden of Evening Mists

recommended by Beth Seufer Buss at Bookmarks

“This novel handles difficult topics in a refined beautiful way. Memories of war and violence are balanced by the search for peace and the gardens take on a life of their own so their secrets are unveiled. Highly recommended for fans of The Painted Veil and lush poetic writing.”

Visit Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC or click here to visit their website.

Map of Salt and Stars

A Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
recommended by Melanie McNair at Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe

“A twin narrative of travel through the Middle East and North Africa: first through the eyes of 12-year-old American-born Nour, a girl with synesthesia, whose mother brings her and her sisters back home to Syria after the death of her father, and the second through Nour’s retelling of her father’s favorite story and its heroine, Rawiya. Nour’s family isn’t home long before the violence in Syria sends them on a quest to find a new home. The refugee story is made magical through Nour’s imagination, though the truth of what it means to be without a home—or a country—also comes through. The language is gorgeous, full of color, light, and music. This is a heroine’s journey, with resilient women surviving some of the hardest circumstances. It is also ultimately hopeful—the kind of book you want to read again as soon as you finish it.”

Visit Malaprops in Asheville, NC or click here to visit their website.

Small Spaces

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
recommended by the staff of The Story Shop

“Our whole staff is loving this and it’s a great fall read, coming September 25. Vivid writing transports you to a compelling world of bravery, twists and turns, and your garden-variety scarecrow army. Perfectly creepy in all the right ways, we love everything about Arden’s middle grade debut.”

Visit The Story Shop in Monroe, GA or click here to visit their website.

How Are You Going to Save Yourself

recommended by Abby Fennewald at Book People

“These stories blew me away. The voices of the characters, the seamless interwoven plots and characters, and the depiction of male friendships is unlike what I had read before and made for very powerful short stories. I can’t wait to see what JM Holmes does next!”

Abby also recommends Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Vanishing Twins by Leah Dieterich.

Visit Book People in Austin, TX or click here to visit their website.

A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
recommended by the staff of Blue Willow Bookshop

“Blue Willow Bookshop’s staff is full of opinionated readers and there’s rarely a book we all love. There’s one exception: A Gentleman in Moscow, which is one of the bestselling novels in the twenty-year history of the bookstore.
Amor Towles, author of Rules of Civility, writes of Count Alexander Rostov who is sentenced by the new Communist regime to house arrest in the famed Metropol Hotel in Moscow. While a less optimistic man would wilt under such constraints, Rostov fashions a life for himself and develops relationships with employees who become his makeshift family. A highly entertaining novel of a former Count, confined to his hotel in Moscow by the Bolshevik revolutionaries, who manages to lead a full and happy life under the thumb, but not the control, of the Soviet government.”

Visit Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX or click here to visit their website.


Limber by Angela Pelster
recommended by Kateri Kramer at BookBar

Limber is a beautifully curious, intertwined narrative about humanity and trees. The ruminative individual essays each carry the thread of a meditation on the human condition through the lens of looking at different trees, an apt metaphor. Pelster is courageous in her ability to connect with the wild world, and in turn herself through these thoughtful essays. If you like books like Maggie Nelson’s Bluets this is a must read.”

Visit BookBar in Denver, CO or click here to visit their website.

Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
recommended by Crissy Stiles at Barrel of Books and Games

“My most favorite book of all time is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must. It puts you in New Orleans, wraps you up in the French Quarter and makes you feel a whole lot better about your life…through laughter.”

Visit Barrel of Books and Games in Mount Dora, FL or click here to visit their website.


Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
recommended by Andrea at Browsers Bookshop

“I held out reading this memoir for a long time. The reviews were so good, bordering on ecstatic, and the book made all the best-of lists in 2017. I love memoir, readers I trust kept telling me read it but I hesitated. Why? I hated the hardcover dust jacket design. But then the book came out in paperback with a much more pleasing cover and I could read it! Priestdaddy is an account of the author’s upbringing—her father is a Catholic priest (I know, what? You just have to read it)—while making sense of her own identity. Lockwood is a poet and her writing is sharp, inventive and above all, wildly funny. If you read Educated by Tara Westover this year and loved it, definitely consider reading Priestdaddy. The tone is wildly different but there is something similar in the themes of family, identity and belonging.”

Visit Browsers in Olympia, WA or click here to visit their website.

What are you reading for this category? Have you found a book you LOVE through an indie bookseller? Please tell us all about it in comments!


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Leave A Comment
  1. Joyce says:

    I read Slow Horses by Mick Herron as recommended by Winstone Books in Sidmouth, Devon, UK about a branch of MI5 where those misfits who have messed up operations are sidelined. It wasn’t really my cup of tea but I don’t mind the sojourn into the unfamiliar genre of the spy thriller.

  2. Carol Santilli says:

    I read “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” by Jo Piazza. That was Annie B. Jones’s choice for the Shelf Subscription (The Bookshelf) last month – guess that counts, right? I loved the book!
    Oh I also got “Southernmost” from my local book subscription service this month – I might give it a try earlier now. 😉

  3. I’m also too shy to ask a librarian or book seller for recommendations. I feel like they are too busy with something else to help me! I should remedy that one of these days! I actually worked at B&N when I was just out of college as a second job and I would sometimes work at the reference desk. People didn’t ask for recommendations (I was in my early 20s so they maybe thought I wouldn’t be much help?) but I would get the randomest questions, like “I heard this book that was talked about on NPR today and it’s set in Africa – can you help me find it?” Ha.

    Instead of talking to a book seller or librarian, I consult indiebound.org each month for their IndieNext list. It’s a great way to find out about new books that Indie book sellers are excited about! I also listen to Annie of The Bookshelf’s podcast. She recaps what she reads each month and I often get ideas from that.

  4. Nancy Willard says:

    Two of the best books I’ve read this year were recommended by booksellers at my favorite Indie Bookstore, The Novel Neighbor. Holland recommended “Harry’s Trees “ by Jon Cohen and Alicia recommended “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I loved both books!

  5. Kris says:

    A bookseller saw me looking at a historical fiction novel based on WWII and asked if I’d ever read THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY. I bought it that day and loved it!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Ugh! I’ve only heard of/read one of these. I’ve got some research to do to see what I need to add to my TBR. Thanks, Anne! Lol

  7. Kelli says:

    I’m another who doesn’t usually chat up the booksellers so this is helpful. And I love that I’ve only heard of 2 of the books on the list, so I have many more to add to my TBR list now!

      • June Maple says:

        Don’t hesitate to ask a bookseller for suggestions! Tell them something you’ve read that you loved and they might well tell you about something similar you will appreciate. I say this as a former B&N bookseller. Shelving books and ringing up sales aren’t what floats our boats. Steering someone to their next favorite author or book that they then need to share MAKES OUR DAY! It’s the story we come home and tell others about. It’s why we work in a bookstore.

  8. Linnea J Priest MD says:

    I asked at Horizon Books in Traverse City, Michigan. The Walt Longmire books by Craig Johnson and the books by Margaret Maron were recommended to me and I devoured them all. Now I’m looking for another writer with a lot of books I can read in sequence.

  9. Heather says:

    Love this list and love even more seeing BookBar included…I’m so lucky to have this awesome bookstore and wine bar just two blocks from my house! (And, Anne…looking forward to seeing you read there in just a couple weeks.)

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