Recommendations 5/16/2021: Why You Should Shop at Indie Bookstores

You never know who you're going to meet.

So I was picking up my latest stack of books ordered through my local indie (The Village Bookseller in Mount Pleasant, SC), and chatting with the store’s owner, Karen-Anne Pagano, when a honest-to-goodness celebrity journalist/author/television personality walked in.

ESPN viewers will know Kate Fagan from Outside the Lines and appearances on Around the Horn. She’s also author of What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, an exploration of the death by suicide of Maddison Holleran, a collegiate cross-country athlete who seemingly had every reason to live. The book goes deeper than just Maddy Holleran, to explore the mental health challenges of college athletes in general.

Ms. Fagan had come into The Village Bookseller because it is also her local indie, and because she has a new book coming out Tuesday. Sharpie in hand, she was being gracious enough to sign a large passel of pre-orders for folks who had ordered through the store.

The book is All The Colors Came Out: A Father, A Daughter, and a Lifetime of Lessons. On the surface it is the story of her father’s death from ALS juxtaposed with recollections of their shared bond over basketball, which they both played professionally.

Since it’s not every day that you happen upon an author signing her book in the store right in front of you, I took advantage, and purchased a copy. I intended to set it aside for a future date, but later that day at home, I picked it up and started reading while waiting for the oven to pre-heat for a frozen pizza. (Don’t judge me, mom.) I finished half the book that night and the rest the next day and saw that beneath that surface story is a powerful reflection on finding meaning in life in the work you do and the people you love.

Perhaps it resonated extra with me because like Fagan, I’m a writer, and like Fagan my father passed away from an illness where we knew a bad end was inevitable, and like Fagan, you want to make sure that your father knows how important he was to you and you were to him. I’m not sure I did as well as I could have on that front. You just hope you did the best you could at the time. My parents have always been supportive of me and my desires, even when I was being a colossal pain in the ass, but it wasn’t until after my father’s death that I realized that he’d been my biggest fan, a discovery I reflected on in an essay…gosh…ten years ago now.

The reason I say that this is an indie bookstore story is because only in a store where the owner is present and knows her customers and thinks that they should know each other would she take the time to introduce you.

Our bookstores are our communities, amirite?

You can get signed copies of All the Colors Came Out by ordering through The Village Bookseller.

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My column at the Chicago Tribune this week is about the best publishing story of the year, Deesha Philyaw’s Secret Lives of Church Ladies, and how it’s a good idea for cities (like Chicago) to figure out how to better support Black and brown artists because when they hit it big, you don’t want them to leave.

Seth Rogan’s new book Yearbook sounds like a hoot. I’ll be reporting my own impressions soon.

Looking to discover a new writer before anyone else? Here’s a list of debut authors from May.

I don’t have Amazon Prime because I try to limit the amount of influence Amazon has on my life, but I may have to break down to watch Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

Reading Companion of the Week

For some reason, Simon’s nickname is “Mr. Ears.” I’m as baffled as you are. If you have a reading companion you’d like featured in this space, send me a picture at biblioracle@substack.com.

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Recommendations

All links to books on these posts go to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago. The annual total took another good jump week-to-week, up to $53.90 for the year.

As always, recommendations are open for business. Follow the instructions at the link below.

Want a recommendation? Click here!

1. The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
2. The Dating Plan by Sara Desai
3. The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell'antonia
4. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
5. Everything After by Jill Santopolo

Jodi F. - Highland Park, IL

I think Jody will take to a sly little novel by Jincy Willet, Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Honor, and Really Bad Weather.

1. Paying the Land by Joe Sacco
2. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
4. Spring by Ali Smith
5. Passing by Nella Larsen

Jeremy Z. - Syracuse, NY

I’ve already recommended William Melvin Kelley’s A Different Drummer this year, but I might as well keep recommending it until more people recognize it as the forgotten classic it is.

1. Home Fires by Kamila Shamsie
2. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
3. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
4. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
5. The Children of Men by P.D. James

Christine C. - Skokie, IL

A little bit of a risk in this, but I think Christine will be open to elegiac poetry of Max Porter’s Grief Is a Thing with Feathers.

1. The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
2. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
3. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
4. Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Bill H. - Chicago, IL

For Bill, my Biblioracle senses are seeing David Mitchell’s coming of age novel - an atypical book in his overall body of work - Black Swan Green as the right pick.

Have a wonderful Sunday, and if you’re fully vaccinated, maybe take a trip down to your local independent bookstore and see who you run into.

John