By Karen DeGroot Carter • October 12, 2020
What better time than National Book Month to celebrate independent bookstores? From the one and only ThriftBooks to favorite local bookstores, indie booksellers provide the personal connections and unique insights that help keep us avid readers happy.
If you've moved around a lot, you may share my affinity for finding independent bookstores in a new town. When we lived in Nashville back in the '90s, I had a favorite Davis-Kidd Booksellers store I'd visit as often as possible. When I returned to Nashville two years ago, I knew that store had closed but loved visiting author Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books.
Here in Denver, I love BookBar west of town and have many fond memories of attending author signings at Tattered Cover Book Store locations featuring the likes of Carleen Brice, Anne Lamott, Rebecca Makkai, Heidi Durrow, Therese Anne Fowler, Eleanor Brown, Ann Packer, and others. Both Tattered Cover and Parnassus Books are featured in this nifty list of the best bookstores across the country.
When you can't get to your favorite store, however, you can still depend on independent booksellers not only for selling you books online but recommending favorites to you based on your interests. Thanks to the efforts of the American Booksellers Association, which supports and promotes independent booksellers through its IndieBound initiative, it's easy to learn what books are the top sellers as reported by independent booksellers—and which are personal favorites of the people who work in indie bookstores online and off.
Founded in 2003 by the National Book Foundation, which awards the National Book Awards each fall, National Book Month runs the entire month of October. Take advantage of a whole month devoted to books and check out some of these recent top titles sold and recommended by independent booksellers of all types:
The twelfth novel by author Richard Powers, The Overstory was published in 2018 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. Its complex story follows numerous characters whose lives are impacted by the trees around them and who ultimately join forces to highlight the dire environmental issues we face.
A former student and teacher of Greek and Latin, Madeline Miller made waves with her 2011 award-winning debut novel, The Song of Achilles, and followed that up with Circe in 2018. The story of the Greek enchantress's life told from her own point of view, Circe effectively shifts the focus from the hero of the Odyssey to the story's intriguing sorceress.
Another second novel published in 2018, this one from Irish novelist Sally Rooney, Normal People follows two teens as they navigate secondary school and then college together in Ireland. The origins of their relationship and the ways in which their relationship—and they—change through the years reflect their different upbringings, personalities, and outlooks on life.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was published in 2016 and is still a very popular read. A debut novel, it was inspired by a visit the author made home to Ghana after being away since her family moved to the United States when she was a child. Gyasi's second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, was published in 2020.
Also published in 2016, My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a perennial favorite among her fans. In this collection of her writings, Justice Ginsburg presented her views on topics such as gender equality, Judaism, and the U.S. Constitution.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson has been a top seller in American bookstores for a decade. Covering the era of migration among Black Americans that extended from 1915 to 1970, The Warmth of Other Suns explores the numbers and the stories of the people who moved from the South to other parts of the U.S. in search of a better life.
The current state of race relations in America is the subject of the 2018 book, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, which also continues to be an in-demand read. Addressing the many questions people have related to "how" to talk about race in America, popular blogger and columnist Oluo poses a series of questions and provides her insights in chapters with titles such as "What if I talk about race wrong?" and "Is police brutality really about race?"
In The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, scholar and former New York Times education columnist Richard Rothstein lays bare the realities of housing segregation in our country and how it came to be. Detailing the impact of deliberate rulings at the federal, state, and local levels of government, Rothstein argues that nothing related to the segregation of our neighborhoods occurred by happenstance.
About the Author: Karen DeGroot Carter (karendegrootcarter.com) of Denver is the author of the novel ONE SISTER'S SONG. Her short fiction has been recognized in national competitions, and she's had fiction, poetry, and articles published in various print and online outlets.