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Theatre Communications Group, 02/01/2008
CJ says: ""
I thought I had tired of 'family dramas,' but then I saw August: Osage County
on Broadway when it first premiered in 2007. It won the Pulitzer Prize
and was recently made into a film starring Meryl Streep. Letts writes
fiery dialogue that rivals Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. This is easily my favorite play written in the past ten years. Nothing can prepare you for the Weston family. Just dive in."
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 01/08/2013
Ryan says: "
In Tenth of December Saunders dissects the sorrows of everyday life with a matchless tragicomic
voice. To great effect, Saunders tones down the grotesque comedy of his
earlier collections in favor of a warmer, more redemptive approach.
Stories such as 'Puppy,' 'Tenth of December,' and 'Al Roosten' explore
slow-burning tragedy with a boundless amount of wit and humanity, while
fans of Saunders' more dystopian works will appreciate the unnerving
'Escape from Spiderhead,' 'My Chivalric Fiasco,' and my personal
favorite, the dreamlike 'The Semplica Girl Diaries.' This is a
collection overflowing with empathy, something we all need a dose of."
Penguin Books, 12/29/2009
Kirby says: "
This book is my ultimate new year, new me motivator. I
make a point to read it frequently to remind myself that I am what I
eat and having healthy eating habits is extremely important.
Unfortunately, I am often times a cheeseburger, so Food Rules
always helps get me back on track. The chapters are short and concise
and the writing gets to the point while also being very informative.
Everyone should read this book before eating their next meal!"
Molly says: "
This tiny jewel of a book is pensive,
heartbreaking, glorious and deftly, impeccably pieced together. Our
narrator, known only as the wife, makes her way through endless everyday
challenges: a crying baby, a shaky marriage, the never-ending task of
reconciling the person you thought you'd be with the person it seems you
actually are. Ovid, Rilke, Kafka, astronauts, I Can Has Cheezburger --
the things woven into her observations and consolations are familiar,
but Offill’s brief, poignant snippets of a life are anything but
ordinary. This little book is hard to explain and impossible to put
down; at about 175 pages, you can devour it in one cold night."
Graywolf Press, 09/24/2013
Katie says: "
This gritty collection from Kevin Barry plunges deep into the deterioration of the Irish everyman. Dark Lies the Island
presses against challenging subject matter that at times riled a cringe
of discomfort in me and at other moments brought about deep affection
for the vibrant array of characters. Tough yet elegant in its lyrical
nature, Barry's storytelling is flawless."
Ten Speed Press, 10/05/2010
Christina says: "
This book changed my bread-making life. It breaks
the process down into easily digestible (har har!) parts so that you,
the novice baker, can really understand what that sticky, inflating mess
is that's sitting in front of you. Never shall a loaf defeat you again,
and it's chock full of other recipes including pizza dough and sticky
buns. Go ahead and re-gift that breadmaker you have taking up space on
your counter. You won't need it."
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W. W. Norton & Company, 09/30/2013
Zach says: " Dirty Love is an extraordinary collection of
stories, no less for its larger organization, its overlapping
characters, and consequent internal resonance, than it is for its
systemic empathy. The title story alone would be a worthy purchase but
the book works best as a whole. (Also recommended: Townie)"
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 05/02/2013
Chad says: "Teens hiding beers in the snow; weird high
school parties; cover bands at the mall; coffee in filthy homes; and,
wait, what, is that dad’s face on the news in the ocean? The first
volume of Knausgaard’s autobiography-as-novel, My Struggle ,
is overflowing: with meditations on art, writing, family and, finally,
death. And though an 'autobiography' of sorts, one does not require any
familiarity with the author or his other works. Rather, all you need in
an interest in any of the aforementioned, you know, the big, the small,
the stupid, the beautiful, the unthinkable, and all the rest of it.
Viking Children's, 01/07/2014
Christine recommends: "I absolutely loved this newest work by the
endlessly talented Laurie Halse Anderson (mother of our own Manager
Emeritus Stephanie and tireless champion of indie booksellers and
librarians everywhere). Teenager Hayley has had a tough few years
bouncing from place to place as her veteran dad tries to escape from his
hellish memories of his time in Iraq. The book is hard to put down from
page one as we follow Hayley through her struggles in a new school
trying to live a somewhat normal life despite her (and her dad's)
psychological scars. There's some romance, some humor, and tons of
heart, and I think it's a perfect crossover for YA readers and adults
Emily says: "
Perhaps I have a weakness for coming-of-age stories
and novels that grapple with mental illness (this book is both), but I
was truly impressed with Cornwell's debut, which centers on a mother and
a daughter and the ways that mental illness has had an impact on them
through generations. You're reading, you're enthralled by the story and
the characters and the Jersey Shore in the summer, and sprinkled
throughout are these wonderful sentences that make you stop, simple yet
resonant like the clear ping of crystal stemware. It reminded me a bit
of Simon Van Booy, and I don't think I've seen as strong and solid of a
debut since Emily St. John Mandel."
Penguin Books, 03/12/2013
Molly says: "In Ruth Ozeki's new novel [now available in paperback!], a
writer named Ruth finds, on a cold Canadian beach, a parcel containing a
watch, some letters, and a journal. As she reads the journal, growing
obsessed with the young woman who wrote it, Ozeki's book shifts, so we
read along with Ruth. The journal belongs to Nao, a Japanese girl who in
turn is interested in the life of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun.
Ozeki knits her two tales together with unexpected threads: quantum
mechanics, Schrodinger's Cat, Buddhist practices, cultural divides, the
internet, and the reader are all pieces of the whole.
A Tale for the Time Being
is both lonely and comforting, and very aptly named. It's a story that
could only be written now, but it's a bridge between times."
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NYRB Classics, 06/13/2012
Chad says: "Vasily
Grossman's epic was
'arrested' by the KGB upon its completion in 1961. Too dangerous, the
Soviet State said. So all known manuscripts were confiscated and
destroyed, as was the ribbon with which the book was typed, as if the
horrible truths of the the twentieth century could be mystically unwound
from that tiny spool alone. Madness. Life and Fate Life and Fate is a book
about individuals -- most notably, those surrounding Viktor Strum, a
state experimental physicist whose work, though monumental, appears to
threaten the party line. Consequently his world is turned upside down
(many times over). He and his affiliates--family members, friends, and
friends of friends -- spend time together over meals. They conduct
scientific experiments in labs. They muse over books, huddled in
trenches. They are under fire, in transit, in prison camps, in
conversation. They are arrested; tortured; exiled. They disappear.
Stalin the symbol permeates: he's all but infallible. Stalin the man
appears: he is insecure. Hitler, upon losing at Stalingrad, muses on
what it means to be a truly great man. For Grossman, no individual is
too big or, more importantly, too small to be worthy of story. On par
with War and Peace. I have been shaken."
Walden Pond Press, 09/24/2013
Molly says: "Strange happenings force Oscar, a magician's assistant, out
of his safe cellar room and into a world where children are falling
terribly ill, and something big and scary is leaving a path of
destruction through gardens and towns. People are a mystery to Oscar,
but plants and herbs and cats are not - and those skills will turn out
to be more useful than he expected. Fans of William Alexander's
Goblin Secrets might look next to Ursu's magical tale."
Jenn says: "I can't stop telling people about this book, which follows a young girl
who ends up on the high seas with a rag-tag group of pirates, her
governess, and her magical gargoyle. I wish I could go back in time and
give this to my 8-12 year old self. Recommended for every reader who has
a sense of adventure and a strong imagination, especially fans of
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Alice in Wonderland. Carlson has written a smart, funny, and captivating debut, and begun a wonderful new series."
Emily says: "
Going Clear is equal parts gossip and even-handed
journalism, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wright is a truly talented writer.
The epilogue is masterful in the way it brings together so much and
also cements the cultural analysis that is just beneath the surface of
the rest of the book. In the end, I wonder whether the creation of a
religion was, for Hubbard, the true pinnacle of being a good science
fiction writer: he not only created a convincing world on the page, but
he got people to truly believe in it."
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Curbside Splendor Publishing, 09/09/2013
CJ says: "I've read a lot of personal essay collections recently, but
none have made me laugh out loud as much as Samantha Irby's
Her voice jumps off the page, telling it like it is and refusing to
play nice. I found myself thinking, "Oh man, she totally gets it!" as
she laments about loss, rants about messy men, and celebrates the joys
of living alone. I want everyone to read this book -- especially men.
This woman knows what she's talking about, and you should take some time
to listen up."
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NYRB Classics, 01/24/2012
Katie says: "Having moved to Berlin in the early 20th century, a young Walser recorded alluring insights into his burgeoning love affair with the city. Written with a certain familiarity accessible to anyone with an affection for urban living, Walser takes the ordinary stroll through the park, visit to the market, or experience at the theater and turns it into something intimately elegant. These stories offer the perfect escape during your crammed commute or any other time you need a reminder of what it is you love about city life."
Jenn says: "As the TV show version nears its 3rd season and I still can't get over how accurate Robert Taylor's portrayal of Walt is, I think it's high time to mention this series. The books are more or less what would happen if Lonesome Dove and The Long Goodbye had babies: hardboiled noir set on the plains of Wyoming. They're perfect winter reading, full of snowdrifts and storms and the chill of unpleasant memories."
CJ says: "The episodes of awkwardness, embarrassment, selfishness, and
loneliness that exist in this collection hit humanity on the nose.
Barbash's crisp, minimalist storytelling cuts to the chase and leaves
his characters exposed. What particularly moved me were the incredible
flaws of his older characters. Often, his youthful characters are flawed
in the way youth is flawed, but are open, kindhearted people. The older
characters, however, are self-seeking and completely, utterly lost.
Each story is better than the next, and I am sure I will go back to them
Reagan Arthur Books, 04/02/2013
Jenn says: I can't decide if this is a profoundly hopeful book or a
profoundly depressing book, but either way, once I had picked it up I
couldn't put it back down. Ursula Beresford Todd's life is normal enough
on the surface -- except for the fact that she keeps repeating it. Does
life in fact have a goal? Can we truly change our future?
Life After Life
is ambitious both in structure and in theme, and Atkinson pulls it off.
Good for both historical fiction buffs and sci-fi (particularly time
travel/parallel universe) fans.
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Other Press, 09/24/2013
Jenn says: "Through the lens of his own family's lives as citizens of
Pakistan and the United States as well as through his extensive
ancestry, Mufti examines the evolution of Pakistan from its formation to
its current status. It's a huge project to undertake but he balances
the personal with the political well, finding the human moments in
history and the sweeping themes in everyday life. As a memoir and a
biography of a nation both, it's well worth a read."
Molly says: "If I had my way, there would be a new Aimee Bender book
every year (if not even more often). The details of her gorgeously
written stories are often surreal -- in one, a girl travels with her
sister to learn how to mend a wounded tiger; in the title story, an
apprentice works to dye cloth the precise color of the moon -- but the
feelings they evoke are bittersweet and familiar."
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Two Dollar Radio, 11/18/2013
Emily says: The narrative flows with both a breathy intensity and a cool hollowness in Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon's debut novel,
The rise and fall of a toxic friendship, the pulsing house parties that
stop after a girl dies, the wildfires and mountains, the middle class
kid who hops trains to Missoula to find the truth about his father --
they swirl and converge and blur together like smoke in your eyes, but
the light, it's sharpened and heightened somehow too. She captures
perfectly that early adulthood wasteland where you're friends with
people and you do things, but you're not really sure why anymore, and
either the momentum carries you through or it doesn't, either you emerge
at the other end of the tunnel or the walls come crashing down, and
there's something about the dialog, the rhythm. I don't know, it's just
that the ambivalence and hesitation and put-on confidence are exactly as
they should be.
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New Directions, 11/18/2013
Chad says: "Filiberto Garcia is a foul-mouthed Mexican revolutionary turned gun-for-hire. He is, in his own cold estimation, nothing but a "stiff factory": the rough-around-the-edges killer in his faceless employers' games. A rumor drifts into Mexico City, downwind of Soviet Russia, and it joins the opium-filled air of the city's small Chinatown, an area Garcia is known to frequent: The Mexican and American presidents are to be assassinated in three days. Next thing Garcia knows, he's eating Cantonese with agents from both the KGB and the CIA. Their meetings are more Three Stooges than Three Musketeers, and Garcia is exhausted, in love, annoyed by the ludicrous antics of international intrigue, and increasingly aware that he's the only player that can actually figure anything out. Irreverent and unapologetic, The Mongolian Conspiracy is '60s noir to the core. It's dead serious and dead funny; it's fast-paced and wise. It's totally great."
Jenn says: "I never thought there would be another Bridget book -- what could possibly come after the triumphant reunion with Mark Darcy? Turns out: A WHOLE LOT. There are some serious sniffle-moments in Mad About the Boy, as well as the usual hilarity and hijinks. Watching Bridget tackle parenthood, texting, middle age, and many other trials and tribulations is like finally getting back in touch with a college roommate and getting tipsy (or squiffy, as Jonesy would say) as you hash out the last decade. Welcome back, Bridget. I missed you!"
Katie says: "Caitlin Moran is a leader both in how women should be writing and what they should be writing about. She comes with her guns blazing but offers thoughtful debates for the choices women have to make."
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Chad says: "It's 2145 on Earth and as a result of solar radiation and
global warming, civilization is underwater and overrun with vegetation,
malarial insects, large reptiles, and oppressive heat. Men and women
boat or fly here and there, gathering data and looking for relics of the
past, but more often they are asleep and dreaming: of an even more
distant past, of the deep, primordial South. This is a science-fiction
Heart of Darkness, complete with a Kurtz-like mad man. Haunting, sticky, and frighteningly prescient."
Katie says: "From
About a Boy to How to Be Good, I've
always found that the mastery of Nick Hornby lies in his knack for
creating characters with whom readers can find camaraderie. Those found
in High Fidelity (the story surrounding the owner of a small,
London-based record shop) are no exception. While our leading man, Rob,
knows what works in the world of music and has no qualms asserting his
firm opinions on the subject, he's much less certain on how to feel
about his girlfriend Laura getting together with the neighbor from
upstairs. I often find myself re-reading the beginning of this book when
I'm in need of a good laugh. The story unfolds with Rob listing off his
top-five most memorable (and equally traumatizing) breakups and the
lists only get better from there."
Viking Adult, 10/01/2013
Emily says: "I was surprised to be so taken in by this book. It just
reminded me that I shouldn't make assumptions about my own reading
tastes, let alone anyone else's. In Alma Whittaker, we get to see
firsthand the frustrations built in to being born privileged and
brilliant -- and a woman -- in the early days of the American republic.
And Gilbert has also crafted one of those rare novels that presents the
reader with a life, a full life, and keeps your interest the whole time.
I haven't read one done so well since John Williams'
Reagan Arthur Books, 05/21/2013
Jenn says: "NoViolet Bulawayo’s
We Need New Names is a
must-read, whether or not you find yourself drawn to international
fiction. It follows a young girl who starts out as a child in Zimbabwe,
first in a middle-class enclave and then a ramshackle village, and then
goes to Michigan to live with relatives. It’s about alienation and
suffering and being a kid and growing up too fast and what it’s like to
try to find a home, and it’s affecting and wonderful."
Chad says: "With the rest of Colombia suffocating in his fist, drug
kingpin Pablo Escobar opened a zoo. Many years later, two hippos escape.
They are tracked and shot. This is the haunted madeleine gathering
saliva in narrator Antonio Yammara's mouth. He remembers a
sort-of-friend who was shot in the street following a game of billiards:
The Sound of Things Falling is Yammara's search for
answers, and the ensuing pages are tragic: a sad, soft-spoken meditation
on Colombia, memory, trauma, and flights in and out of each."
The Penguin Press, 09/17/2013
Jenn says: "This book is a moving target through and through, and trying
to sum it all up feels impossible. Instead, here is a list of things
you can expect: ‘90s and ‘00s references; mafioso and hackers and dotcom
billionaires; unscrupulous government agents of uncertain affiliation;
terrorism (this is, after all, a novel about 9/11); finances both legit
and shadowy; conspiracy theories galore; underground videotapes and the
Deep Web; murders; karaoke nights, parties, school playgrounds; and New
York City, the most important character in the whole book, blazing and
shady all at the same time."
Mulholland Books, 06/04/2013
Jenn says: "I don’t read a lot of horror. But when Lauren Beukes writes
something (have you read her yet? READ HER), I read it. She’s smart,
she’s political, and she’s one of those writers who manages to turn the
world on its ear while making it look easy. Her newest novel,
The Shining Girls,
just came out and wow. It’s a serial killer story, with time travel,
set in Chicago between the 1930s and the 1990s. It’s complicated and
dark and gory and almost gave me nightmares, and I feel like if you have
a beach visit or a plane ride coming up, you need it."
Jenn says: "We've recommended this book before, but it's worth
recommending again. It's been my go-to book for people in any and every
transition moment you can think of -- graduating, moving, breaking up,
getting together, losing their cool, taking advantage of new
opportunities -- as well as my own personal back-up for those days when I
need a little kick."
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Unbridled Books, 05/01/2012
Emily says: "In her latest (now in paperback!), Emily St. John Mandel
shows how relationships formed in high school, so often fraught with
drama, can ebb and flow and fade and come back to haunt. Among her
characters, the perception of what's important and the potential impact
of actions varies widely, and something as seemingly insignificant as a
photograph can become riddled with layers of meaning, differing for each
person who sees it. The writing is taut and Mandel's characteristic
infusions of moral ambiguity and complexity remind us, as good novels
should, of what it means to be human."
St. Martin's Griffin, 09/10/2013
Molly says: "Rainbow Rowell's second YA novel this year is just as wonderful as her first (
Eleanor and Park). The most striking thing about Fangirl,
which follows fanfic junkie Cather as she goes off to college, is the
perfect way Rowell captures a time of endless, tumultuous change. New
people, new situations, new friendships, maybe new relationships -- all
crowd Cath's time at the computer, where she writes popular Simon Snow
fanfic (think Harry Potter, but, well, not). Rowell's
enthusiasm for fandom is as boundless as her sense of humor -- and this
book, like her last, has a really, really big heart."
Del Rey, 09/29/2010
Jenn says: "
I decided on a summer reread of Adams' five-book
trilogy since it has probably been a decade since I last spent time with
Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod (if you don't count the recent movie
version, which I almost do because it was such a great adaptation). My
recommendation is, do not try to eat or drink while reading, because no
matter how many times you've read them before, these books are still
hilarious enough to induce spluttering."
Emily says: "Like David Simon's The Wire and Dave Cullen's Columbine,
this book is about all of the moral dilemmas that surround massive
tragedy, and about the ways that interconnected systems succeed and fail
and undermine each other when infrastructure breaks down. Fink does a
remarkable job of remaining, for the most part, neutral -- and yet there
are heroes and villains (often in the same person) and no shortage of
drama. Natural disaster, medicine, corporate hierarchies, crime, law,
media -- they feed and play off of each other. You ask yourself, "What
would I do in such dire circumstances? Was what happened right or
wrong?" and as is often the result of the best investigative journalism,
I couldn't always answer those questions with certainty. It was hard to
read sometimes, but utterly riveting."
Nan A. Talese, 09/03/2013
Jenn says: "Like all truly good series books, this newest installment
will make you want to read The Flood novels over again from start to
MaddAddam follows the surviving Gods Gardeners,
revealing the history of Adam One and Zeb -- and the surprising ways
they influenced Crake in his early years. Happily for fans like yours
truly, we also get lots of the Crakers and of Toby, who is the
scrappiest scrapper that ever done scrap. And if you haven't read these
yet, I can't recommend them highly enough; it's one of the best-written, most frighteningly plausible post-apocalypse series I've ever read."
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 02/10/2004
Jacob says: "I may be fascinated by serial killers, and I may have only
picked up this book because it involved H. H. Holmes (a serial killer
responsible for creating a type of murder mansion), but there is so much
The Devil in the White City than just murder. Larson
weaves the story of H. H. Holmes with that of the 1893 Chicago World's
Fair. The combination is riveting, rich with fascinating historical
detail, and hard to put down. I'd heard about the World's Fair, but I
had no idea it was so influential -- so many prominent historical
figures were involved or in attendance and a number of iconic things
were created for it. Larson highlights the glamour and grime in ways
that will leave you in awe."
Not On Our Shelves, Usually Arrives In 1-5 Days
Quirk Books, 2/2013
Adrian and Christine say: "This lively retelling of the classic Abbott
and Costello skit has Adrian and his father in stitches every night. It
is a read aloud that seems to get better over time, and it's the perfect
gift for a baseball fan or a nostalgic parent."
Jenn says: "Against my expectations, I adored Rakoff’s
I am highly allergic to hype, and this book couldn't really have more.
It's Rakoff's first and only novel, published posthumously, and it's in
verse, AND it's got the full Chip Kidd treatment, plus illustrations by
Seth. There's a lot going on there, you know? But it was lovely. The
rhyme scheme is very Seussian, which seems weird at first but then turns
out to be a lot of fun even during the sad parts (and there are a lot
of sad parts), and Rakoff's wit has a lot of bite to it. Honestly? I
might even read it again." Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
Emily says: "I trust Europa when it comes to world noir, and they
certainly have succeeded with this one. Zane Lovitt writes like sort of
an Australian Chandler, with the quick, snappy dialogue and observations
that you'd expect from a private investigator, but also with the
stunning descriptions of beauty and squalor that have perhaps nothing to
do with his cases. It jumps around chronologically, so you have to
enjoy each chapter on its own to an extent. But the final story, and the
way it brings everything together, and the way it ends, the last few
pages, they took my breath away."