Square Books's blog
A large crowd waited patiently Friday evening, February 2, for Timothy Tyson’s arrival, when he gave a passionate, rousing, extemporaneous presentation on The Blood of Emmett Till and how Till’s brutal and unresolved murder, racism, and endangered civil rights are reverberating now in early 2017.
Jack Smith, of Tupelo, Mississippi and the son of Robert B. Smith, the prosecutor in the Till trial, was in the audience with a scrapbook of related clippings and memorabilia, which he talked about prior to Tim Tyson’s appearance.
Timothy Tyson is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Professor of American Christianity and Culture at Duke, and adjunct professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina.
Pictured below are Jack Smith (right) with the author (left). We thank Tim’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, for publishing this important book and for sponsoring Tim’s appearance here in Oxford. Signed first edition copies of the book are available from Square Books.
Wednesday, February 8th at 5pm
Amor Towles - A Gentleman in Moscow
From the author of the delicious 1930s period piece, Rules of Civility, comes this lively novel set in post-revolution Moscow. Count Alexander Rostov, worldly aristocrat and enemy-of-the-people expects to be "put against the wall" or incarcerated in the hellhole of Lubyanka when called before the People's Commissariat. Instead, he is sentenced to live the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel where he has been living for four years. But--no longer will he be in the swank Room 317--he's assigned to a bleak attic room and the state takes his elegant furnishings. He will be shot if he ever leaves the hotel. The wily Rostov makes the best of things in this tale peopled by an Eloise-like 9 year old, a group of novice ballerinas, a famous actress, an old beekeeping custodian, an orphan, a musician prince, and numerous hotel employees who befriend him. Drama, intrigue, food and wine talk! -- LH
Thursday, February 9th at 6pm (Thacker Mountain Radio)
Michael Farris Smith - Desperation Road
Russell Gaines returns home from a prison term only to confront two brothers with revenge on their minds. And when he meets a homeless woman and her child, his troubles are compounded. Michael Farris Smith sets his characters on a path that was begun by Faulkner and continued by Larry Brown but it is one not confined to the Deep South but part of the undercurrent of American society. While it may be a road of desperation it can also be, sometimes, one of redemption. In Smith's case, it is all that and more in a powerful, unforgettable work. -- BC
Pop Up Oxford will kick off on Sunday, January 22 through Saturday, January 28 with events and programs celebrating Oxford’s rich cultural scene. Square Books will be participating with a week full of author events at Off Square Books. Visit http://visitoxfordms.com/pop-up-oxford/ to learn more.
When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?
Acerbic and ruefully funny, Always Happy Hour weaves tales of young women—deeply flawed and intensely real—who struggle to get out of their own way. They love to drink and have sex; they make bad decisions with men who either love them too much or too little; and they haunt a Southern terrain of gas stations, public pools, and dive bars. Though each character shoulders the weight of her own baggage—whether it’s a string of horrible exes, a boyfriend with an annoying child, or an inability to be genuinely happy for a best friend—they are united in their unrelenting suspicion that they deserve better.
Kevin Wilson’s anticipated follow-up to The Family Fang, Perfect Little World is a warm-hearted and emotional story about a young woman charting her own course.
Thursday, 6pm (Thacker Mountain Radio Show)
After the stunning historical novels The Clearing and The Missing, Tim Gautreaux now ranges freely through contemporary life with twelve new stories and eight from previous collections.
From the hills to the coast, the people of Mississippi have stories to tell. Author and storyteller Diane Williams traveled across the Magnolia State to gather these local legends and has compiled them into an inquisitive, laugh-out-loud collection.
Among our 2016 bestsellers, we were glad to see on the list National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead’s #97 Underground Railroad and #100 The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, along with Calvin Trillin and #98 Jackson, 1964, a book that should continue to be regarded as one of the best books about race in America; Yaa Gyasi’s #87 Homegoing, a bookseller favorite here; Paul Kalanithi’s national bestseller, #77 When Breath Becomes Air; #74 Girls by Emma Cline; and Ta Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking #72 Between the World and Me; and an old book made new by the film, #73 The Free State of Jones by Victoria Bynum.
Jennifer Ackerman, who has been here with several books, was unable to come with her excellent #57 The Genius of Birds, now in a tenth printing, as her husband, Karl Ackerman – who in past years has been here with his novels, The Patron Saint of Unmarried Women and Dear Will, as well as a couple of nonfiction books, and who in 1977–78 worked with Richard and Lisa Howorth in the Savile Bookshop in Washington, D. C., where Jennifer and Karl met – passed away at their home in Charlottesville. It’s important to focus on and prepare for what is ahead in 2017, but it is perhaps more important to remember and honor what and whom we have lost. Karl Ackerman was a friend to many in Charlottesville, a beast of good humor and a warrior for truth, justice, and the written word.
In addition to Karl and the irrepressible Pat Conroy, who visited here at least a half dozen times, we also lost this year Jim Harrison, who came to Oxford and Square Books well over a dozen times with his larger-than-life presence and his consistently wise, entertaining, and moving books, including novels, poetry, non-fiction, and, this year, #87 The Ancient Minstrel. We also remember with great fondness the late Ron Borne, who in recent years attended readings at Square Books more reliably than anyone in town. Because of this, he was like a member of our staff, a kind of special ambassador, a renaissance man with a wide variety of both interests and friends who always made a visiting author feel welcome and appreciated. He wrote the biography of Bill Clegg, Troutmouth, and it is our understanding that he had completed or very nearly completed a book about Jim Carmody, called The Big Nasty, that Nautilus plans to publish this year. And Richard Adams, Elie Wiesel, Katherine Dunn, C. K. Williams, Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, James Salter, W. P. Kinsella, Gloria Naylor, William Trevor, and, among others – amidst all the noise and, finally, in peace – Harper Lee.
While hardcover editions of new books comprise more than two-thirds of the 2016 Square Books bestseller list, 32 paperback titles appeared, including Larry Brown's #93 Facing the Music, William Faulkner's Selected Stories and Light in August, Lisa Howorth's #70 Flying Shoes; Eudora Welty's #83 Delta Wedding; How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others by Kiese Laymon; Tom Franklin’s #61 Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and Laura Lane McNeal's #88 Dollbaby; national bestsellers and our #30 A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman as well as Jojo Moyes’ #24 Me Before You; Adichie Chimamanda’s #99 We Should All Be Feminists; Curtis Wilkie's enduring #23 The Fall of the House of Zeus; # 27 In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White; and several by those who made an author appearance here, including Sally Mann with #84 Hold Still and Erik Larson with #44 Dead Wake ; many of the contributors to #29 Mississippi Noir; Julie Cantrell and #35 Feathered Bone; Michael Henry and #21 Murder in the Grove; T. J. Ray and #60 Side by Side; Pulitzer Prize winner #78 The Sympathizer by Viet Nguyen Thanh; and Preston Lauderbach for #82 Beale Street Dynasty.
More books by writers known to many folks around here included #13 The Innocents by Ace Atkins; #12 Confessions of an Undercover Agent by Charlie Spillers; #19 The Land of Rowan Oak by Ed Croom; #8 For a Little While by Rick Bass; #14 Free Men by Jackson's Katy Simpson Smith; Meridian native Brad Watson's National Book Award Finalist, #9 Miss Jane; #81 Riot, by Ed Meek; Julia Reed and #20 Julia Reed’s South; the pair by Al Povall, #s 22 & 32, A Time Remembered and Tapestry of Red and Blue, respectively; #33, Crisis Point by Trent Lott with his liberal pal Tom Daschle; another pair from Jack Pendarvis, #s 58 & 68, Movie Stars and The Cigarette Lighter; contributions from the pair, Chris Offutt and Melissa Ginsburg, #s 33 & 56, My Father the Pornographer and Sunset City; Mary Hamilton’s #28 Trials of the Earth, with help from Kerry Hamilton and Shelilah Hamilton Pantin; and the nicely done brief biography of Faulkner, #32 Myself and the World, by Robert Hamblin, whose book on Evans Harrington in 2017 we eagerly anticipate.
Leading books by writers-from-afar visiting us this year was Nathan Hill and his remarkable first novel, #6 The Nix, accompanied by the likes of #17 Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney; #15 Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, who made a memorable initial visit to Oxford; Jaqueline Woodson's #16 Another Brooklyn, also her first time in Oxford; #89 El Paso by Winston Groom; Richard Russo's #11 Everybody's Fool; #26 The African Svelte, which was specially signed and shipped from New York by both author Daniel Menaker and illustrator Roz Chast; and, due in part to his forthcoming engagement here, February 20, 2017, Amor Towles and #91 A Gentleman in Moscow.
Other guests at Square Books included C. E. Morgan and her brilliant #10 Sport of Kings; #96 Perfume River and Robert Olen Butler; Jonathan Rabb and #94 Among the Living; John Gregory Brown and A Thousand Miles from Nowhere; #18 The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith; #90 Ten Restaurants That Changed the World by Paul Freedman; #61 The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie; Taylor Brown's Fallen Land; #53 The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan, introduced here by Ann Patchett, who later slipped into town to sign copies of #7 Commonwealth.
Every year our annual best seller list is dominated by books written by Mississippians, particularly writers from Oxford, and by books whose authors visit Square Books. In 2016 this seems to be especially the case. Of our top 100 books 45 are by writers who now live or once lived in Mississippi, and, of those, all but ten have a connection to Oxford. Book signings at Square Books still rule, as 69 of our top 100 authors have done an event at Square Books.
The top five spots are filled by John Grisham's #1 The Whistler, Oxford restaurateur John Currence’s #2 Big Bad Breakfast, Jackson resident Richard Grant's #3 Dispatches from Pluto; and two books from Neil White's Nautilus Publishing, #4 The Mississippi Book of Quotations by David Crews and #5 The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees.
Stuart Stevens came home with #36 The Last Season, as did James McCafferty and his #43 Bear Hunter, Bill Ferris with his lovely #52 The South in Color and Teresa Nicholas with her book on Willie Morris, #45 Willie, while David Sansing, Robert Khayat, and John Hailman simply drove to the Square with, respectively, #38 Governors of Mississippi, #42 The Education of a Lifetime, and #39 Return to Guntown.
Michael Black didn’t need to come here for #64 A Child’s First Book of Trump, nor did Kristen Hannah for #65 The Nightingale, or Bill O’Reilly with #59 Killing the Rising Sun, or Lars Anderson with #46 The Mannings, or J. D. Vance for #63 Hillbilly Elegy, or Elena Ferrante and #48 My Brilliant Friend, or Anthony Doerr and his imperishable #50 All the Light We Cannot See. S. C. Gwynne did not come with #67 Rebel Yell paperback edition, but he did for the hardcover last year, and Ron Chernow, of #47 Hamilton, visited Dan Jones and Ole Miss a couple of years ago.
Candace Millard’s appearance with #51 Hero of The Empire was brilliant, and David Sibley’s 2nd trip to Oxford helped boost The Sibley Guide to Birds to #49 on our list. Vivian Howard and #40 Deep Run Roots made a good impression here. Greg Iles’ forthcoming novel, Mississippi Blood, the last of his recent trilogy, made the list at #53 by virtue of pre-event sales, as he’ll be here this spring and people are ordering early.
We are grateful to Lee Annis for coming to town with his #69 Big Jim Eastland; ditto Anton DiSclafani with #66 After Party, as well as, especially, Cassandra King, for coming with #59 Lowcountry Heart and bringing us memories of her late husband, Pat Conroy. Thanks also to Sally Thomason with Jean Carter Fisher for presenting their most welcome book on Betty Pearson, #92 Delta Rainbow; likewise to Jimmy Thomas for his #76 Conversations with Barry Hannah; Bill Dunlap and #85 Short Mean Fiction; Augusten Burroughs and #79 Lust and Wonder; and #80 Redemption Road by John Hart.