This fall we decided to invite some of our favorite customers to act as our very own book buyers and staffers; we knew they had great taste, and we wanted to showcase it in the shop. In September, Bookshelf customers got to know Hunter McLendon, our first customer of the month. (You can listen to me interview him on the podcast here.) Then last month, we chose Suzanne Alexander -- a longtime customer and staff favorite -- to come into the shop and share some of her favorite titles. Suzanne was our October customer of the month, and I asked her a few questions about life in the South and the books she loves so much.
Tell us about you and your family. What brought you all to Thomasville?
My husband’s job brought us here...three times! In his early years with his company, we were transferred every couple of years and had the chance to live in some other neat places, but we have been back in Thomasville for 16 years and are here to stay!
You've got the entire day to spend as you choose. What do you do?
Read, knit, cook. Repeat.
Go-to Thomasville spots for:
- Morning coffee. Grassroots... either to satisfy my daily tea habit or to enjoy the occasionalSalted Caramel Mocha.
- Celebratory dinner. That’s a tough one. Either Chophouse on the Bricks or Liam’s.
- Favorite date night spot. Sweetgrass! As empty nesters, we enjoy date nights there regularly. We especially love the amazing local, domestic and international cheeses.
- Lunch with friends. Hard to beat Jonah’s for Gingersnap Salmon or Blackened Grouper Wrap, but Sweetgrass is becoming a regular stop for the Empire State Salad---YUM.
What section do you go to first in a bookstore?
New releases are probably what I head to first, then I really love to check out staff favorites and customer favorites sections. I’m a book list junkie, so I’m really drawn to any sort of favorites section or list. I love the monthly BookPage newspaper and Indie Next List flyer. When the new one hits the street, I’m so excited to see what’s out. So many great titles, not enough time. My TBR list is pretty long and always growing.
Last book you read and loved?
I think the one that I’ve been recommending the most lately is Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. I learned about this one when I attended a book club workshop in September at Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN. When the speaker mentioned this title, there was a huge collective sigh of agreement from all 75 people in the room and I heard people all around me whispering to their neighbor, “Oh, I just LOVED that book!” From my chair, I immediately began to scan the shelves to locate this one so that I could make a mad dash for it when the presentation was over. It was indeed a wonderful book. It’s a beautifully written powerful story of love and faith and loss and community. I think that the sense of community was so profound in the book and really resonated with me because Thomasville has such strong community spirit.
You gave us such a great list of your favorites to stock in the shop. How'd you decide what to put on your shelf?
This was such a hard task for me because there are so many titles I’ve really enjoyed in the past few years. I think your request was for 15-20 titles. I failed miserably in following directions and finally gave up and sent you 26 titles. Even so, there were dozens more that I was so sad to leave out. It was a bit like asking me to pick my favorite children! I think I really wanted to pick some favorites that have not been featured recently and to hopefully present a variety. My husband and I love to travel, and I enjoy historical fiction set in the places we are going to visit (The Invisible Bridge, The Passion of Artemesia). I also love books that present me with an issue (Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains), a culture (State of Wonder, Cutting for Stone) , or a way of life (Delancey, A Window Opens, Eight Hundred Grapes). I am also drawn to books that make science, art, or medicine more accessible through the structure of a novel (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Martian, The Art Forger, Left Neglected). This year, I’ve also found myself enjoying some rather quirky books (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Rosie Project, A Man Called Ove).
Favorite indie bookstore (present company excluded)?
So in addition to The Bookshelf here in Thomasville, I really love Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s owned by Ann Patchett, an author I really admire.
You're a bookseller for the day. Which book (or books) do you recommend over and over again?
Probably Ordinary Grace, Station Eleven, The Nightingale, The Light Between Oceans and All the Light We Cannot See.
Go-to baby gift book?
A huge favorite of mine is The Napping House. It has such a wonderful cadence and even though my youngest child is now 21, I can still recite this sweet story. Of course, Goodnight Moon is a must-have for nursery bookshelves, too.
Book that made you fall in love with reading?
Undoubtedly, the Nancy Drew stories. She was such a smart, strong female protagonist. I adored that series. I remember that one year for Christmas, I made the [unreasonable] request of the entire series.
Classic you've never read but wish you had?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
You read so many books! What's your secret to tackling so many titles?
Haha—book addiction, I think. No secret, really; there are just so many great titles out there I can’t wait to jump into. I am, however, a one-book-at-a-time gal. I’m definitely not one of those people who can have several going at once. I guess we’d call that book monogamy.
We love chatting about our favorite podcasts. What's on your playlist?
At the moment, I have just two podcasts—The Bookshelf’s very own From the Front Porch and Books on the Nightstand. BOTN is a podcast produced by two book reps for Random House, as a project independent from their RH jobs. I look forward to the weekly episodes from each of these and have gotten some great book ideas.
We also know you love to cook -- what's your favorite cookbook?
I’m really pretty disciplined and usually stick with Cooking Light magazine and their website/cookbooks, but lately I’m also crushing on Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. It’s a fabulous collection of delicious, healthy recipes. My favorite go-to gift cookbook is The Forest Feast. It’s Erin Gleeson’s GORGEOUS cookbook that is an extraordinary visual feast. Erin is a talented painter (Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy), photographer (for the James Beard Foundation in the food scene in NYC), freelancer and teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology in CA and passionate recipe developer. She has combined these talents into a fabulous coffee-table-worthy cookbook that also offers simple, clean yet sophisticated recipes easy enough for the kitchen novice.
Best part about life in the South?
Undoubtedly, the friendliness and sense of community. Sounds hokey, but it is so true. People in our part of the country are really outgoing and friendly. I often hear that visitors from other regions are a little baffled by it. The sense of community is so profound here as well.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve just started Americanah, my book club’s next pick. I think it is going to be a story that will provide lots of topics for discussion. Next up: The Book of Strange New Things.