The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

Future Home of the Living God

By Louise Erdrich

(Harper 9780062694058, $28.99)

"Powerful, prophetic, and absolutely pertinent to our times, Louise Erdrich's new novel, Future Home of the Living God, is a horrifying, haunting story about the lengths the government will go to control women's reproductive rights and ensure the success of mankind as we know it. Riveting, repulsive, and revealing at the same time, Erdrich captures the essence of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and spins a new twist sure to tantalize and terrorize readers' thoughts and play on their fears. Once again, Erdrich challenges societal constraints and conceives a novel guaranteed to leave you guessing. I highly recommend it!"
--Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

photo: Hilary Abe

Booksellers have chosen National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich's new novel, Future Home of the Living God (Harper), as the number-one Indie Next List pick for December.

Erdrich's latest novel is a departure for the author, as she delves into a new genre: speculative fiction. In the midst of a cataclysmic crisis, the seeming reversal of evolution is affecting all life on Earth, and women are giving birth to babies that appear to belong to be a primitive human species. In Minnesota, 26-year-old adopted writer Cedar Hawk Songmaker is four months pregnant when she decides to seek out her birth mother, an Ojibwe living on the reservation. It is not long before she is on the run, as Congress begins imprisoning pregnant women and religious extremists infiltrate the government.

Erdrich is the author of 16 novels as well as poetry, children's books, short stories, and a memoir. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her debut, Love Medicine, as well as her last novel, LaRose, both won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

Erdrich, whom booksellers chose as their 2017 Indie Champion, lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore specializing in Native American books and arts. In addition to Future Home of the Living God, three of her novels--LaRose, The Round House, and Shadow Tag--have appeared on previous Indie Next Lists.

Here, Erdrich talks about the book's origin in the early 2000s, the idea of writing as a means of survival, and her new novel-in-progress to be set at Birchbark Books.

How do you feel now that indie booksellers have chosen Future Home of the Living God as the number-one Indie Next List pick for December?

As the owner of a small independent bookstore, I know that choosing a book to feature is taking a chance. There is limited space, so you must choose wisely. You know many of your customers, and they depend on your suggestion, so you must choose a book that doesn't let them down. You must choose a book that has integrity. But you also need a book that will sell. As a writer, I don't think about this, but as a bookseller knowing what getting chosen means, I have to hope that Future Home of the Living God sells like crazy.

And I am highly honored.

How did you come up with the idea for the story?

The idea for this book has been with me for a long time--and, to be honest, when I started the book it was an experiment. I was not intent on publishing it so much as writing something that pulled me along the way the science fiction novels I first read pulled me into them. Yet the science quickly became secondary. The story took off. I began to really enjoy writing some of the minor characters, like Eddy and his 3,000-plus page memoir, and also I decided to see if I could write suspense. 

Your new novel deals with the concept of government overreach when it comes to women's reproductive agency as well as the ongoing degradation of the natural world. What were the modern-day parallels on your mind during this writing?

When I began the book in 2002, it was with a sense of outrage that women's reproductive rights were under siege. Fifteen years later, we have actually lost ground. Women's rights are also men's rights, of course. So there has been a tremendous erosion of human choice. It is nearly impossible to obtain an abortion in some states, and our vice president has tried to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape or incest. I decided to finish the book after the last election, but most of it was written on and off in the years between 2002 and now.

Writing this book felt so strangely relevant that I couldn't stop. And this surprised me. As I said, I wasn't sure that I would ever publish it. Perhaps I would not have done so had Hillary [Clinton] won. Now every day is so chaotic that we can hardly stop to think.

When we do think, we realize that we are in a vertiginous moment in time. Our world is heating up faster than anyone predicted. That's crucial, and terrifying, so we have to act.

Cedar and her stepfather, Eddy, both use writing as a way to try to make sense of what is happening. Why do these characters turn to writing as a mode of survival?

Art is in so many ways about surviving as human beings who create the strange, the evocative, the beautiful, and the fearful. Writing is the way I live and I can't imagine what my world would be like without it--I would have to make something else. My mother is an artist and constantly made things. She had seven children in 10 years, so I grew up with her as an example of a person who could make art under almost any condition.

Can you give readers an idea of what you are working on next?

I am working on a mystery set in my bookstore, Birchbark Books. My greatest difficulty is that all of the characters I write about will have to be as wonderful as my colleagues who actually work in the bookstore. And that is impossible. --Liz Button

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The City of Brass

By S.A. Chakraborty

(Harper Voyager 9780062678102, $25.99)

"S.A. Chakraborty introduces a fantasy set in the Middle East that thrusts us into the magical world of Daevabad. The City of Brass follows, in parallel, Nahri, a con artist and naturally gifted healer, and Ali, prince of Daevabad and fiercely trained soldier. Nahri and Ali find themselves learning new lessons on how to survive changing environments and difficult challenges, while trying to figure out the complexities of their lives. I found myself turning page after page, following Nahri's and Ali's story while deciphering the fantastic terminology and the world that is Daevabad. The City of Brass is a wonderfully written, mystical adventure that keeps you guessing about what will happen next."
--Barry Nelipowitz, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Year One: Chronicles of the One, Book 1

By Nora Roberts

(St. Martin's Press 9781250122957, $27.99)

"This new novel from legendary romance author Nora Roberts feels entirely fresh and utterly compelling. A plague that starts on a small farm manages to destroy almost the entire human population on Earth, and those who are left find themselves changed--some for better, some for worse. The scattered bits of humanity that remain struggle to fight the chaos that descends, as some characters--Lana and Max, Arlys and Fred, and Rachel and Jonah--find themselves immune to the plague. This fabulous departure from Roberts' usual storytelling is refreshing and compulsively readable!"
--Annie Carl, The Neverending Bookshop, Bothell, WA

The Story of Arthur Truluv

By Elizabeth Berg

(Random House 9781400069903, $26)

"If ever there were a perfect ointment to soothe the increasing incivility of today's world, Elizabeth Berg's The Story of Arthur Truluv could provide that salve. A warm story about elderly neighbors Arthur and Lucille and a teenage outsider, Maddy, this book demonstrates that all love and kindness have not disappeared, that there are pockets of caring living in certain people. Complete with cemeteries, warm cranberry-nut bars, a bully boyfriend, loneliness, and a baseball bat, Arthur Truluv is the right book at the right time. Let your heart soar!"
--Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Reservoir 13

By Jon McGregor

(Catapult 9781936787708, $16.95, trade paper)

"Reservoir 13 is deeply stirring and incredibly poetic. While the intricacies of relationships and the echo of sorrow over one family's loss ripples through years of ordinary days, the simple flow of daily life in a small town will resonate with everyone who has lived in or visited a rural area. This beautiful and melancholic book is perfect for anyone who wants to explore the deep connections of a small but tight-knit community."
--Ashley Dickson, Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, NY

A Hundred Small Lessons

By Ashley Hay

(Atria Books 9781501165139, $26)

"This a beautifully written, important, quiet gem of a novel that takes hold of you and wends its way into your psyche. It tells the story of two families who live in the same house at different times in Brisbane, plumbing the relationships between mothers and children, husbands and wives. Marriage and motherhood are explored in-depth within the context of the story's rich character development. A Hundred Small Lessons is a welcome addition to the genre of thoughtful novels with much wisdom to offer the reader. I highly recommend this novel, whose life lessons will continue to live with me for years to come."
--Sarajane Giddings, Blue Door Books, Cedarhurst, NY

Three Daughters of Eve

By Elif Shafak

(Bloomsbury USA 9781632869951, $27)

"Elif Shafak's Three Daughters of Eve depicts a sophisticated and compelling story of modern Istanbul. Peri is now a rich and glamorous woman living a comfortable life. While suffering through a tedious dinner party with the international elite, she ponders her days as a student at Oxford, when her life was profoundly impacted by two friends and a charismatic professor. As a young, unformed student, Peri felt lost in her search for faith and self. Looking back on these years from the perspective of adulthood, Peri must confront her past before it collides with the present. Compelling, poignant, and highly relevant, Three Daughters of Eve is a modern exploration of identity in a changing world."
--Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

Into the Drowning Deep

By Mira Grant

(Orbit 9780316379403, $26)

"In Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant has conjured up scary mermaids living in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. An expedition sets out to learn if mermaids truly exist and to uncover the fate of a previous expedition. The new crew is being recorded for a documentary, with the hope it will prove mermaids are real and clear the network of wrongdoing. Both Tory, whose sister was killed on the first expedition, and Jillian, who has been teaching about mermaids for years, are going out on the state-of-the-art ship; however, that ship has one major flaw. You will not look at The Little Mermaid the same way again!"
--Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel

By Dean Koontz

(Bantam 9780345546807, $28)

"If you haven't read Dean Koontz's exciting new action-thriller series, you must! The first was The Silent Corner, and now, with The Whispering Room, I was totally blown away! Koontz is a master of the thriller, and FBI agent Jane Hawke is a kick-ass kind of woman that you will root for all the way! "
--Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL

The Ice House

By Laura Lee Smith

(Grove Press 9780802127082, $25)

"Laura Lee Smith continues to impress with her second novel, The Ice House. It's a lovely story full of heart and wry humor that manages to convey life in all its rich, messy, tragic wonder. Johnny MacKinnon has it good but seems to be on the verge of losing it all. The ice company he runs in Florida is in trouble with OSHA, and then he discovers that he may have a brain tumor. While he is supposed to be taking it easy as he waits to find out the diagnosis, Johnny decides he must try to mend his estranged relationship with his son in Scotland and with the granddaughter he's never met. The result is a touching, funny, heartbreaking ride you won't soon forget."
--Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us: Essays

By Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

(Two Dollar Radio 9781937512651, $16.99, trade paper)

"With the depth and versatility of an immensely talented poet and the strong, perceptive wit of a cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib shows us his tremendous ability to bend language to his will in this collection of essays. For him, like for many of us, music is an entrance into a larger discussion of our emotions and our collective cultural understanding. Deftly moving from ruminations on Chance the Rapper, Atmosphere, and Future, to Bruce Springsteen, Fall Out Boy, and Johnny Cash, Abdurraqib is able to traverse conversations on black excellence, grief, and hope. This book taught me something fresh about humanity with every turn of the page, and it will stay with me for a long time to come."
--Matt Keliher, SubText Books, St. Paul, MN

Silence: In the Age of Noise

By Erling Kagge

Becky L Crook (Transl.)

(Pantheon 9781524733230, $19.95)

"Kagge's deceptively simple meditation on silence complicates something we all think we understand. Quoting from a wide range of artists and thinkers, Kagge constructs a graceful mosaic of definitions, statements, and paradoxes. We all have a 'primal need for' silence, Kagge states, and in this noisy world, it's 'the new luxury.' Though it's found inside of us, Kagge, an explorer and publisher, traveled to Japan to look for it in meditation and yoga; he walked to Antarctica in search of it, spending 50 days alone. Made up of 33 brief sections and ending in a blank page, Kagge leaves plenty of room for the reader's own reflections, demonstrating the kind of active engagement he believes silence invites."
--Laurie Greer, Politics and Prose, Washington, DC

The Vanishing Season

By Joanna Schaffhausen

(Minotaur Books 9781250126047, $24.99)

"Officer Ellery Hathaway is the ultimate damaged character. Kidnapped at age 14 and tortured by a serial killer before being rescued by FBI agent Reed Markham, Hathaway is now a woman who fiercely protects her privacy. But, every year on her birthday, three people have disappeared, and no one, including the sheriff, believes they are connected. To get to the bottom of the mystery, Hathaway reaches out to Markham. The Vanishing Season is a thriller, a police procedural, and a psychological study of PTSD and workforce burnout. It is a look at serial killers and the impossibility of knowing who will become one and why. But, most of all, The Vanishing Season is a terrific read that you won't be able to put down once you start."
--Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Improvement

By Joan Silber

(Counterpoint 9781619029606, $26)

"Improvement is a wide-ranging novel told in stories that connect disparate people through time and place to one tragic accident. Kiki, a free-spirited young adult of the 1970s turned wise woman, is the novel's lodestar. Silber masterfully pulls together the threads of lives in places as remote as rural Turkey and as common and close as New York City like a finely made Persian rug."
--Arsen Kashkashian, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

Mrs. Caliban

By Rachel Ingalls

(New Directions 9780811226691, $13.95, trade paper)

"This book, which New Directions has unearthed from the 1980s, is such a surprising, delightful gem. It's like a mix of Lucia Berlin's knack for character, dialogue, and tone with the sci-fi realism that's become so popular lately. A strange, beautiful book by a writer who's getting her rightful recognition (and who may have predicted the current avocado craze?!)."
--Jacob Rogers, Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC

Elmet

By Fiona Mozley

(Algonquin Books 9781616208424, $15.95, trade paper)

"Elmet is a great read. The writing is beautiful, and I found myself totally entranced by both the characters and the scenery. I'm stilling mulling over the end. I love having something to think through after finishing a story!"
--Randy Schiller, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO

Ultraluminous

By Katherine Faw

(MCD 9780374279660, $25)

"No one is just one thing. Take K, for instance: She spends her days getting just high enough and managing the men who pay her for sex. Time passes in a blur of heroin, hedonism, and risky sushi from Duane Reade, but underneath that routine is something else. And it is this something else that is with K all the time, throughout the manicures and the art films and the stain on the ceiling above her bed and the memories of what came before. Who is K, really? Ultraluminous is raw, hideous, and beautiful, an open wound of a book."
--Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science

By Karl Sigmund

(Basic Books 9780465096954, $32)

"When the heirs of physicists and philosophers Ernst Mach and Ludwig Boltzmann came together in Vienna, little did they realize that their intellectual enterprise would figure so greatly in the annals of history and science. Over the years, the group, corralled by Moritz Schlick and Hans Hahn, grew to include such names as Kurt Godel, Karl Popper, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Sigmund provides a vivid account of the personalities involved in these debates on the philosophy of science and whether philosophy belongs in science, and breathes new life and energy into this important time period. In this extremely readable and accessible volume, Sigmund's familiarity with the Vienna Circle makes for fascinating observations about the people who made this part of science history possible."
--Raul Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, TX

Strangers in Budapest

By Jessica Keener

(Algonquin Books 9781616204976, $26.95)

"With the fall of the communist regime, Budapest let in the light of new ideas and new people. Into this world of new opportunity move Americans Annie and Will. They are excited to create a new life together when then they meet mysterious, dangerous Edward. Will's instincts warn him to stay away from this new acquaintance, but Annie is compelled to help him. As she and Will go deeper into the darkness of this stranger's plan for revenge against his daughter's supposed murderer, the tension becomes almost unbearable. Make no mistake--Strangers in Budapest is a tight, well-written thrill of a story you will not forget."
--Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA

Signal Loss

By Garry Disher

(Soho Crime 9781616958596, $26.95)

"Set in Australia, the seventh in Disher's Challis and Destry series is just as action-packed and exciting as the previous books. Meth kingpins, hit men, and a serial rapist are the villains of this installment, and the Australian location adds interest and flavor."
--Susan Taylor, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

By Louise Miller

(Penguin Books 9781101981214, $16)

"This charming debut follows big-city baker Olivia Rawlings as she flees her cushy Boston job for small-town New England after accidentally setting her dessert--and the building--on fire. Along the way, she finds new friends, family, and a sense of belonging. Perfect for fans of Kitchens of the Great Midwest and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a comforting, big-hearted book that will enchant readers with its delightfully quirky characters, beautiful setting, and mouthwatering descriptions of baked goods."
--Rebecca Speas, One More Page, Arlington, VA

Dragon Teeth

By Michael Crichton

(Harper 9780062473363, $9.99)

"I cried for two days when Michael Crichton died, in part because there would be no more novels. However, after all these years, Dragon Teeth is a true surprise, and a joyful one indeed! Although he's more associated with futuristic science, Mr. Crichton was a dab hand at the historic thriller, and this novel is deeply grounded in fact. At its heart are two feuding paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh, participants in the late-1800s Bone Wars, a period of frenzied fossil discovery. Add to the mix a fictional Yale student, friendly and unfriendly Native Americans, a heap of varmints and scoundrels, and a lady or two, and you've got a rollicking good story!"
--Susan Tunis, Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco, CA

The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963

By Ed Ward

(Flatiron Books 9781250138491, $19.99)

"This is a great, fun book by Ward, a correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered and one of the founders of the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals (SXSW). Covering the period of 1920 to 1963, almost every chapter in the book is devoted to a single year and the songs that were recorded and/or released during that year. Ward's sweeping survey reads like the 400-plus page liner notes for a 1,000-song box set and, as a music nerd, that is one of the best compliments I can give!"
--Joe Turner, BookPeople, Austin, TX

Homesick for Another World: Stories

By Ottessa Moshfegh

(Penguin Books 9780399562907, $16)

"This phenomenal collection of short stories has ruined me forever. Ottessa Moshfegh is brilliant when it comes to showing off the uglier, twisted side of humanity, the part that we would never share on Facebook or Instagram. Her characters are often desperate, hungry for something they might be able to obtain if only they could name it. Their bitterness often leads to grotesque, yet honest, reactions to the world around them. I can't wait to recommend this dark little oddity to as many readers as possible."
--Becca Chavez, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

I Will Send Rain

By Rae Meadows

(St. Martin's Griffin 9781250145932, $15.99)

"As I read I Will Send Rain, I was transported to the West of the 1930s as the Dust Bowl storms began. Annie Bell is struggling to keep her home, body, and family free of the layers of dust that reappear as fast as they are wiped clean. Her husband has constant dreams of rain; her teenage daughter is blinded by love; her young son suffers from dust pneumonia; and now an admirer is forcing Annie to question her own ethics and being. I was moved by the simultaneous longing and complacency that make this a beautiful and powerful story."
--Lori Fazio, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT

I'll Take You There

By Wally Lamb

(Harper Perennial 9780062656308, $15.99)

"Lamb offers another nostalgia-fueled foray into the world of Felix Funicello, last seen in the hilarious and poignant Wishin' and Hopin'. This time around readers find Felix as a film studies professor in the present, being schooled by the ghosts of silent screen icons, all of them women. Through the magic of film, they reveal Felix's childhood and the stories of the unforgettable women who shaped him. Lamb, in his inimitable way, weaves a family dramedy in the era of bobbysoxers and hidden 'women's problems,' with the rise of feminism and one man's history as a brother, husband, and father."
--Chrysler Szarlan, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

The Impossible Fortress

By Jason Rekulak

(Simon & Schuster 9781501144424, $15.99)

"You don't have to remember the 1980s to deeply 'get' this sweet memory trip back to the decade when video games, personal computers, and mixtapes were new. But if you did come of age in the 1980s, look out. All those awkward boy/girl moments, all those songs that comprised the soundtracks of your make-out sessions and your break-ups, all the wonder of your first encounters with MS-DOS buried deep in a far corner of your memory... Jason Rekulak will bring it all back to you."
--Carol Spurling, BookPeople of Moscow, Moscow, ID

Out of Bounds: A Karen Pirie Novel

By Val McDermid

(Grove Press 9780802127266, $16)

"McDermid is a thriller writer at the top of her game and Out of Bounds has everything readers want in a character-driven suspense novel: fully human characters, tight plotting, unexpected twists, and a story that grabs and won't let go. Karen Pirie is still reeling from the death of her partner and is coping by throwing herself into her work as detective chief inspector of Scotland's Historic Cases Unit. As the unit works to unravel a 20-year-old case through a DNA match from the driver in a recent car accident, Pirie digs into the background of a mentally disturbed man who appears to have committed suicide. Highly recommended!"
--Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

Nobody's Son: A Memoir

By Mark Slouka

(W.W. Norton & Company 9780393354751, $15.95)

"This is a grueling, soul-searching study of memory and personal pain written in the most soaring prose. To some extent, most of us think we came from dysfunctional families, but this memoir is going to become the calibration standard for dysfunction. How Slouka survived his parents and their scarred Czech pasts, their humiliating years as refugees, and their years of unhappy marriage in America is a small miracle. What's left are some large emotional holes that Slouka attempts to patch up in front of the reader. An absolutely mesmerizing read."
--Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

By Chelsea Sedoti

(Sourcebooks Fire 9781492652755, $10.99)

"Hawthorn is an engaging young woman with a vivid imagination, even if a bit rude and narcissistic. She is finding her place and trying to answer a lot of life's tough questions. Her journey through the disappearance and death of Lizzie brings the reader right into her struggle. With an interesting and diverse supporting cast, this novel is full of topics that are relevant to teens, bullying, self-esteem, family dynamics and suicide."
--Holly Frakes, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

A List of Cages

By Robin Roe

(Disney-Hyperion 9781484776407, $9.99)

"Adam and Julian were foster brothers, but they haven't seen each other in years. Adam is a senior just trying to finish high school, while Julian is the quiet freshman who likes to keep his secrets to himself, and stay out of trouble. Serving as an aide to the school counselor, Adam is reunited with Julian when the counselor asks him to track down the reticent student. When the truth of Julian's living situation is revealed, both of their lives are put on the line. This raw, heartbreaking story is one that beautifully speaks to the true meaning of friendship, brotherhood, and family."
--Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Scythe

By Neal Shusterman

(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 9781442472433, $11.99)

"In the future, people no longer age or die. All diseases have been eradicated, people are immortal, and everyone is the age they want to be, but there is a catch. Since no one dies naturally, a society of reapers, called scythes, keeps the population under control. Every year they are given a quota of people that they must 'glean' in order to keep the world from overflowing. Citra and Rowen are young apprentices who are fighting to be scythes, a position neither of them really wants. In order to win, they must learn all the ways of taking a life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. This is the first book in a new series from the award-winning Shusterman."
--Kris Stephens, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS