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November 2020: Jason

From Mamie: Jason is the General Manager at Quail Ridge Books, co-owner and co-director of the North Carolina Book Festival, and the host of the podcast Bookin'. Despite reading nearly 100 books a year, he can’t compete with his wife, Claire, who reads twice as much as he does. Depending on the day of the week, his four-year-old son, Van, is a detective, a dinosaur and Spider-Man. Here are some of Jason's favorite books from the past year of Bookin' interviews (in order of appearance).

Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall

When I read McDougall's bestseller Born to Run, I bought a pound of chia seeds and signed up for a marathon. After reading Running with Sherman, I didn't go out and find a donkey to run races with, but I wanted to!  This is a powerful story of redemption and motivation by one of the best nonfiction writers of our time.

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

It is very refreshing to read a book written for young people that takes them so seriously. Kate DiCamillo is the former American Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and a better ambassador could not have been chosen. This is the story of Beverly, who runs away from home, crashes with a kind-hearted stranger she meets on the side of the road and takes a job as a waitress in a rundown waterfront restaurant. 

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

I wasn't expecting to enjoy a sci-fi space opera trilogy that sits firmly at the intersection of Game of Thrones and Star Wars as much as I did. The third book of this trilogy, The Last Emperox, was released this year, and it is perfect reading for the COVID-era (entertaining and not too demanding, but just demanding enough). Scalzi is a master of the genre.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel wrote a famous novel about a pandemic that has gotten a lot of attention this year, but her second novel, The Glass Hotel, is the one that gripped me the most. It is a story about a sibling relationship that revolves around an abandoned hotel on an uninhabited island. This is the spooky literary novel you've been searching for. 

The River by Peter Heller

This excellent, action-packed yet meditative novel explores nature and friendship in a manner not unlike James Dickey's Deliverance. It also builds upon other river novels, such as Cormac McCarthy's Suttree, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I read this book in one sitting because the idea of falling asleep before I reached the end was unfathomable. 

Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

This was one of my favorite books of 2020. It is told in interconnected short stories and reads like the cross between a Wes Anderson film and a J.D. Salinger novel. It is very much involved with the pangs of youth, what it is like to grow up weird, rock & roll, and other similar concepts, but what I found myself comparing the book to more than anything else was James Joyce's Dubliners (if it were updated for the 21st century and took place in Halifax instead of Dublin). 

Twenty After Midnight by Daniel Galera

This is a whodunit by one of Brazil's best young writers that is also for fans of Roberto Bolaño and Jonathan Franzen. It is concerned with Internet 1.0 and involves current social media platforms in a way that I haven't seen another novel execute successfully. You will be engrossed and entertained. 

If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan

This is the final short story collection by legendary North Carolina author Randall Kenan, who recently passed away. These stories see a confrontation with Billy Idol that is not unlike Robert Johnson's meeting with the devil at the crossroads, Howard Hughes visiting North Carolina in search of someone who can cook him food that tastes like the food he ate as a child, and a healthy dose of Kenan's trademark magical realism. (Long-listed for the National Book Award)

Step It Up and Go by David Menconi

Few music journalists write about music as entertainingly and eloquently as David Menconi, and—lucky us—he has written this wonderful book about popular music in North Carolina!  From Charlie Poole to John Coltrane, from the Squirrel Nut Zippers to Sylvan Esso, Menconi covers a lot of territory. A perfect read and a perfect gift for fans of music and North Carolina.

Hallelujah Station and Other Stories by M. Randal O'Wain

This is a short story collection that shines a light on the seedy underbelly of capitalism, on the meth dealers, the sanitariums, the private eyes and the drug store cowboys, but never without a sense of growth and hope and healing. O'Wain teaches at the University of North Carolina, and someday soon, his writing is going to hit everyone like a ton of bricks. As such, I recommend you pick this one up today: It is best to be prepared.


From the bestselling author of Born to Run, a heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America, and, in the process, discovering the life-changing power of the human-animal connection.

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Beverly, Right Here By Kate DiCamillo Cover Image
ISBN: 9780763694647
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-6 business days
Published: Candlewick - September 24th, 2019

As featured on The Today Show’s Read with Jenna Jr. Book Club

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) By John Scalzi Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765388902
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-6 business days
Published: Tor Science Fiction - January 2nd, 2018


“John Scalzi is the most entertaining, accessible writer working in SF today.” —Joe Hill, author of The Fireman

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The Glass Hotel: A novel By Emily St. John Mandel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525521143
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-6 business days
Published: Knopf - March 24th, 2020

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER From the bestselling author of Station Eleven and Sea of Tranquility, an exhilarating novel set at the glittering intersection of two seemingly disparate eventsthe exposure of a massive criminal enterprise and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea.

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The River: A novel (Vintage Contemporaries) By Peter Heller Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525563532
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-6 business days
Published: Vintage - March 3rd, 2020

NATIONAL BESTSELLER From the best-selling author of The Dog Stars comes the story of two college students on a wilderness canoe trip—a gripping tale of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence.

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Aubrey McKee By Alex Pugsley Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771963114
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-6 business days
Published: Biblioasis - June 23rd, 2020

A novel comprised of connected short stories about a boy coming of age in 1970-80s Halifax, Aubrey McKee is the first in a five-part series of autobiographical novels. The second novel, The Education of Aubrey McKee, concerning the narrator's arrival in Toronto as a young man, is forthcoming from Biblioasis.

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Twenty After Midnight: A Novel By Daniel Galera, Julia Sanches (Translated by) Cover Image
By Daniel Galera, Julia Sanches (Translated by)
May not be available - email or call for information
ISBN: 9780735224797
Published: Penguin Books - August 11th, 2020

A dark and masterful portrait of a generation in crisis, from one of the most exciting young voices in international literature

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If I Had Two Wings: Stories By Randall Kenan Cover Image
ISBN: 9781324005469
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 4th, 2020

Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction
Finalist for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize

Mingling the earthy with the otherworldly, these ten stories chronicle ineffable events in ordinary lives.

Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk By David Menconi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781469659350
Availability: On our shelves
Published: University of North Carolina Press - October 19th, 2020

This book is a love letter to the many artists, scenes, and sounds that define North Carolina's extraordinary contributions to American popular music. David Menconi has spent three decades immersed in the state's music culture, where tradition runs deep but the energy has expanded in countless directions.

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Hallelujah Station and Other Stories By M. Randal O'Wain Cover Image
May not be available - email or call for information
ISBN: 9781938769597
Published: Autumn House Press - September 26th, 2020

M. Randal O’Wain’s debut short story collection, Hallelujah Station and Other Stories, introduces readers to a wide and diverse cast of characters struggling with and responding to changes and loss. These gritty and poignant stories follow the tragic parts of life, the pieces that may neither start nor end in comfortable resolution and the pieces that make up complex realities.

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