Fiction

The Line That Held Us//David Joy

If you’ve run into me in the last two years, I’ve talked your ears off about N.C. novelist David Joy. In this third novel, his best to date, he depicts human frailty as an equal-opportunity offender. Through richly drawn characters, Joy reminds us that grace is afforded to the most wicked, and the most wicked are often shaped by forces beyond their control. Not since Flannery O’Connor has an author tackled these themes with more finesse. One of the best Southern writers today.

Sing, Unburied, Sing//Jesmyn Ward

This winner of the National Book Award for fiction by Mississippi novelist Jesmyn Ward provides all the feels while examining systemic and cultural inequalities. While we see the world through several narrators’ eyes, we feel the most for 13-year-old Jojo, who loves all living things with a tenderness few possess. Ward weaves time so we understand the present is always shaped by the past, and one decision can affect everything in its path. Ward’s prose is lyrical like a poet, her storytelling as shrewd as an elder’s life lessons.

Nonfiction

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia//Elizabeth Catte

If you’ve read JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, you will want to read this work. Catte responds to Vance’s broad, stereotypical depiction of Appalachia, providing a more thorough and nuanced treatise on the complexities that make up Appalachian life and culture. Using current and historical data, and, perhaps more importantly, personal experiences as a native who left and came back, she shreds the stereotypes that seek to whitewash and isolate this diverse region

Cookbooks

Deep Run Roots// Vivian Howard

What I absolutely adore about this cookbook is twofold: firstly, Howard devotes chapters to ingredients. Don’t know what to do with that vegetable you picked up from the Saturday Market? There’s a chapter for that! Secondly, Howard both elevates and stays rooted to great Southern staples. Duck, date, and rutabaga potpie with duck-fat biscuit crust? Yes, please.