Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
view in your browser | subscribe | unsubscribe
Week of December 13, 2019
The Commonplace Book | Read This! | Okra Picks | Southern Indie Bestsellers | Events
{Spending your allowance on books.}
In which Southern poet's voice goes silent, her ladyship, the editor explains why winter is her favorite season, and Mr. George Weinstein remembers the enchantment of his first bookstore.


Dearest Readers

"I try to tell the truth… That never changes, it’s always going to be the challenge." —Gerald Barrax

There are many things her ladyship, the editor loves about this time of year. Especially in the South. The cool nights but breezy, warm days. The lights her neighbors pour all over their houses and their yards. The way the house starts to fill with the aroma of simmering hearty soups. And most of all, the impulse to connect with family and friends that have been sidelined all year by our more mundane daily concerns. As the sudden and unexpected death of the poet Gerald W. Barrax last week makes all too clear, tomorrow is an unknown country where anything might happen. Don't wait until you are writing Christmas cards to send your love to the people you care for.


Read independently, and shop local.

her ladyship, the editar
her ladyship, the editor
Lady Banks' Pick of the Week
Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
Excerpted noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.


Watch What You Say

The calfskin driving gloves Deke Powell always wore stretched tight as he clenched and flexed his hands against the steering wheel. He had pulled back the left sleeve of his brown coveralls so his gaze could flick between the Swiss Army chronograph strapped to his wrist and the view of Bo Riccardi’s home through the rain-beaded windshield.

He’d parked his anonymous SUV rental down the street from her two-story house before sunrise. Over the last few months, the ruler-straight road had provided many perfect stakeout spots. Renting a different vehicle every other week had taken a chunk out of his bank account, but that’s what savings were for.

The front door opened, and Bo’s seventeen-year-old daughter stepped into the drizzle. At five-foot-nine, Candace was two inches taller than Bo and much skinnier. No curves under her tight blouse and fashionably ripped jeans. Blond hair so pale and limp that it looked like tarnished tinsel. Burdened by an overstuffed book bag, she scuffed to an old hatchback parked in front of the garage and slung the pack onto the shotgun seat. She set out toward the subdivision exit.

On schedule, he thought. Just another boring start to another boring school week, poor kid.

--George Weinstein, Watch What You Say (Sfk Press, 2019)



top | share this fb tw

The Southern Bookstore: George Weinstein
Ode to an Indie Bookstore


George WeinsteinWhen I was a kid in suburban Maryland in the 1970s and ‘80s, bookstores seemed ubiquitous. We had two independent bookstores at opposite ends of a single shopping center. The mall boasted one chain bookstore after another. Books were everywhere, and everybody in my family had a preferred store based on stock, layout, lighting, and staff personalities.

I wish I remembered the name of my favorite independent bookstore back then. Though I can’t recall it, I can tell you exactly what the store looked like. Glass-fronted on two sides, it had a mitered corner so as not to obstruct the view of the treasures inside. In fact, the first time my parents took me there, I learned the term “miter” from my dad, as I ran my pudgy index finger down the subtle seam that joined the windows.

Once they led me through the door, I completely forgot about the glass. All manner of books lay and stood before me. To my left, dozens of low, square platforms supported glossy coffee-table books with lush photographs and illustrations, neat columns of fiction and nonfiction hardbacks, and stacks of comic books arranged like ziggurats and epic Marvel-versus-DC mahjong games. To my right, mass-market paperbacks lined row upon row of free-standing shelves and, beyond these, rotating racks of still more pocket paperbacks.

Howard Carter’s first glimpse of King Tut’s tomb couldn’t have felt more momentous.

Every weekend, I contrived a pilgrimage to that bookstore. Toys "R" Us never saw another dime of my allowance.

Every weekend, I contrived a pilgrimage to that bookstore. Toys "R" Us never saw another dime of my allowance. From the checkout station near the door, a staff member always greeted us. Once they learned our tastes, they noted the newly arrived stock that would appeal to me and to whichever parent had the unenviable task of trying to limit my browsing and decision-making time. As if anything could be more important in their Saturday schedule than my evaluation of the relative merits of the latest Avengers and Justice League comics or competing titles that promised to unlock the secrets of Loch Ness, Project Blue Book, and the Bermuda Triangle.

Watch What You SayIn a way, I grew up in that bookstore. My interests expanded, and, guided by the always-helpful staff, I kept discovering new sections of the store I’d overlooked before. In my teen years, an allowance gave way to summer job money. A good thing, because the books that captivated me were more expensive. I learned to budget and save due to that bookstore. My first serious crushes were on the pretty cashier and several customers—which taught me how to deal with longing, rejection, and heartache.

I went off to college and, during spring break of my freshman year, I returned to find the store had closed, a victim of changing tastes and a sharp-toothed recession. This helped to teach me how to cope with loss.

Now, whenever I visit my local indie bookstore, I still get excited. Maybe I’ll discover something life-changing. I know exactly where on Earth I stood when I first felt that thrill of possibility.

George Weinstein is the author of six novels. His latest is the suspense thriller and 2019 Okra Pick Watch What You Say. George is also the once and current president of the 105-year-old Atlanta Writers Club and the creator and director of the nationally renowned Atlanta Writers Conference.

Holiday Catalog Gift Guide

Books featured in store holiday gift catalogs across the South.

Shop small. Start here.



The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers

A brand-new Crayons book from the #1 New York Times-bestselling duo just in time for the holidays, featuring letters, games, ornaments, a poster, and even a pop-up Christmas tree. Ages 3 to 7.


The Stars of Alabama

Sean Dietrich

In this poignant and redemptive novel, two Depression-era migrant workers find an abandoned baby in the woods and take it upon themselves to care for the mysterious child.




No Surrender

Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century

The inspiring true story of Roddie Edmonds, a Knoxville-born enlistee who risked his life during the final days of World War II to save others from murderous Nazis.



The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Jojo Moyes

Soon to be a major motion picture. In Depression-era America, five extraordinary women embark on a remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, based on a true story.

A Fall Okra Pick!


The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Anthony Daniels with a Foreword by J.J. Abrams

Discover the incredible untold story of one of Star Wars' most iconic characters, C-3PO, told by the man who knows him best.


top | share this fb tw

Gerald W. Barrax


Gerald BarraxGerald W. Barrax, the acclaimed poet, professor emeritus at North Carolina State University, and inductee in the the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame was killed last Saturday when he was struck by a car while crossing a road. His death robs readers of a wise and beautiful voice, and writers of a deeply treasured mentor and guide. "I love being in the classroom, more than anything else," Barrax says in a documentary filmed in 2009 for the NC Department of Cultural Resources, "I love sharing what I've learned, I love seeing their enthusiasm."


When we acknowledge the loss that comes with the death of an artist, we tend to think of those as-yet-unwritten works locked in their head, never to be brought forth to delight, amaze, anger, or move us. We do not, perhaps, think of that terrible empty space that now exists where a person who was a guide and a teacher once stood. A legacy, denied. We will never get to read a new poem by Gerald W. Barrax, and that is a cause for lament. But that no young writer or poet will ever be able to ask him a question, or look to him for inspiration or advice, is a tragedy that will ripple outwards farther than we can know.



From a Person Sitting in DarknessFirst Carolina Rain


this is the way
it rains in carolina
23 sept 69
school started for them
in pittsburgh too
and they don't need this kind of rain
especially my second son
the grave serious one
needs dry weather
to carry his busted arm to school
(glad I tried to teach all three
need it or not
i carry the rain to school with me
somethings seeing in students' black faces
my own sons
wondering how it will be to face them
when they reach this age.


--Gerald Barrax

Read This! Southern Book Prize Finalists

What booksellers said when they placed their nominations. Place your vote at


The Gilded Wolves

Children's Finalist: Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee


Josie has always wanted to be on TV. Delia loves all things horror. Together they are Midnite Matinee, a public access show with more heart than craft. (Think Svengoolie with hashtags.) With whipsmart dialogue and smartassery for days, the journey these best friends take to reach their dreams (or some approximation of it) makes for a terrific read. – Sam Miller, Carmichael’s Books, Louisville, KY

Zentner has a gift for creating memorable characters. This is a charming and heartwarming story about two best friends making big life decisions and reluctantly leaving childhood behind. It will leave you feeling nostalgic for your high school years. – Amanda Gawthorpe, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC


The Southern Lady Code

Nonfiction Finalist: Furious Hours


A remarkable story of a series of crimes, insurance fraud, courtroom drama, a brilliant defense attorney Tom Radney and the famous writer who tried to capture it all. I found this book fascinating - from the description of the perpetrator to the trial scenes to the descriptions of the rise of the life insurance industry, the making George Wallace, the history of voodoo and ultimately the struggles of Harper Lee to be the writer she wanted to be. -- Jean Cazort, WordsWorth Books, Little Rock, AR


The Dutch House

Fiction Finalist: This Tender Land


Krueger is a gem of a storyteller! I love his stories. He has great depth and weaves lovely tales of human character and resilience. The four Vagabonds in this narrative captured my imagination and their journey across America brought images of the depression into focus. Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emma are escaping from an orphanage where The Black Witch reigns and makes their lives miserable. Along the way they meet wonderful, amazing characters which reveals life in the country as it struggled to survive after the market crash. But it is a great story and I couldn’t put it down!  A must read! – Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL


More bookseller recommendations
top | share this fb tw
The Okra Picks: The Fall Season

Southern Independent booksellers have chosen the 2019 Fall Okra Picks – a collection of the best forthcoming Southern books of the season. Add a bit of tasty reading to your literary diet. Serve yourself a helping of Okra Picks.

"Every weekend, I contrived a pilgrimage to that bookstore. Toys "R" Us never saw another dime of my allowance. " —George Weinstein

Watch What You Say by George WeinsteinTo what lengths will a woman go to save her family?

Web-radio personality Bo Riccardi is pushed beyond her mental and physical limits when her husband, Oscar, is kidnapped by a man from her dark past. The abductor commands her to interview him live on her show, with Oscar's life on the line.

Giving in, though, creates an endless nightmare for Bo, as Oscar's captor begins to destroy her career and alienate everybody she loves.

Bo's secret asset is chromesthesia, seeing colorful shapes that reveal the intentions behind anyone's speech. She can literally watch what they say. But relying too much on this gift renders her vulnerable to the madman's purpose, making her even less likely to rescue Oscar--and escape the guilt and shame that bind her to the kidnapper.

Sfk Press | 9781970137859 | November 5, 2019 | Read the first chapter

top | share this fb tw
Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending December 8. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.


Southern Indie Bestsellers

See the full list here.
The Southern Book Prize | A SIBA Okra Pick
Special to the Southern List | Read This Next!
Printable versions (PDF): Hardcover | Paperback | Children's

1. The Dutch House
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
2. The Starless Sea
Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541213
3. Nothing to See Here
Kevin Wilson, Ecco, $26.99, 9780062913463
4. Olive, Again
Elizabeth Strout, Random House, $27, 9780812996548
5. Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens, Putnam, $26, 9780735219090

1. The Body
Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 9780385539302
2. Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, $30, 9780316478526
3. A Warning
Anonymous, Twelve, $30, 9781538718469
4. Educated
Tara Westover, Random House, $28, 9780399590504
5. The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians
David M. Rubenstein, S&S, $30, 9781982120252
Special to the Southern List
 Dead Astronauts  Jeff VanderMeer, MCD, $27The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians  David M. Rubenstein, S&S, $30The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100  Dan Buettner, National Geographic, $30Tiny Love: The Complete Stories  Larry Brown, Algonquin Books, $18.95The Flame  Leonard Cohen, Picador, $18The Night Before Christmas  Clement C. Moore, Roger Duvoisin (Illus.), Knopf Books for Young Readers, $8.99Ghost Boys  Jewell Parker Rhodes, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $7.99, 9780316262262Allies  Alan Gratz, Scholastic Press, $17.99
top | share this fb tw
What's happening at Southern Indies across the South?
See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you.

Holiday Open House with Coe Steinwart  (author appearance)
Coe Steinwart | 12/15/2019, 2:00 PM | Bookmiser | Marietta, GA

Tina Freeman - LAMENTATIONS  (author appearance)
Tina Freeman | 12/15/2019, 3:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Author Event: Marco Rafala  (author appearance)
Marco Rafala | 12/15/2019, 03:00 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

AN EVENING WITH PATTI SMITH  (author appearance)
Patti Smith | 12/17/2019, 7:30 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Stuart Eizenstat - President Carter: The White House Years  (author appearance)
Stuart Eizenstat | 12/17/2019, 7:00 PM | A Cappella Books | Atlanta, GA

- CHASING THE BUTTERFLY MAN: The Search for a Lost New Orleans Cabinetmaker  (author appearance)
Cybele Gontar | 12/17/2019, 6:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Phyllis Rose  (author appearance)
Phyllis Rose | 12/18/2019, 6:00 PM | Books & Books at the Studios | Key West, FL

Cliterati Open Mic: featuring Poet Porsha Olayiwola  (author appearance)
Porsha Olayiwola | 12/19/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Alex Counts  (author appearance)
Alex Counts | 12/20/2019, 7:00 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Shaun Hamill signs A Cosmology of Monsters  (author appearance)
Shaun Hamill | 12/21/2019, 1:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Carlie Sorosiak, I, Cosmo, and Ali Standish, Bad Bella  (author appearance)
Carlie Sorosiak | 12/21/2019, 11:00 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Book Signing with Jeff Pearson  (author appearance)
Jeff Pearson | 12/21/2019, 1:00 PM | Books on Broad | Camden, SC

Authors Round the South |
top | share this fb tw
Lady Banks is sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, in support of independent bookstores in the South | SIBA | 51 Pleasant Ridge Dr.| Asheville, NC 28805
You are receiving this email at @@email@@. If you wish to stop receiving email from us, you can simply remove yourself by replying with "unsubscribe" in the subject or by visiting: @@unsubscribe_url@@