New Staff Picks
Piranesi is the Beloved Child of the House, which is not a house at all but an endless maze of classical halls, flooded with fearsome ocean and filled with silver clouds. Besides the fish, the birds, and Piranesi, there is only The Other. Half-mystery and half-fantasy, full of magic and suspense, Piranesi transcends both genres to become a moving meditation on timeless themes: What is ignorance? What is knowledge? What kind of knowledge is worth gaining, and at what cost? Piranesi is a lovable guide, his purity and innocence at times heart-rending - a model of what human goodness could be.
Imagine you find yourself living in a mansion full of thousands of marble statues, lining hundreds of rooms, which take days to reach. Piranesi has an extensive knowledge of almost everything in this house, from the changing tides of the ocean on the floor below, to the migration of the birds in the sky that is the floor above. The one thing he doesn’t know is why he is there, and the only other resident is oddly quiet about it... One of my favorite books in recent years, I loved trying to piece together the mysteries of the marble halls on my journey alongside Piranesi
Published in the early 1930s, Conjure-Man Dies feels both highly mannered, with its British 'ou' spellings and Poirot-esque locked-room-style mystery, and surprisingly contemporary, its characters closely resembling people I pass on the street all the time. Full of the requisite twists, turns, and reveals of the genre, Conjure-Man is also a kind of ode to the denizens of 1930s Harlem. Had he lived longer, Fisher might have become a household name, one of the first ever black detective novelists.
Stitches, quite frankly, blind-sided me. The sketchy, black and white imagery keeps you in the ghostly and emotionally vulnerable space that was the childhood of author, David Small. I was constantly stuck between studying every image in this graphic novel, while at the same time yearning to get to the next frame. It combines beautifully illustrated, extreme-perspective shots, with gut-wrenching family dysfunction and silent pain. If you’re looking for something that will make you “feel” with just a few pencil strokes, definitely read this book.
In an extended meditation on Levinas’s theory of the subject as both host and hostage, Derrida performs two thrilling lectures on the notion of hospitality for the other. The lectures are, by themselves, highly recommended reading for those trying to think about ethics and foreignness, but are also presented with then-student Anne Dufourmantelle’s response on the verso pages, making for a thrillingly inventive reading experience that performs its call and response as it calls to us to respond.
When I heard Jemisin was going to be writing about New York City, I almost died right there. This book is for lovers of this city and anyone who has ever asked themself what exactly makes a city BECOME.
Go in expecting a transcendental commune with nature -- a challenging season of solitude -- and leave feverish, shivering by a fireplace, dripping with Myth. Like if Blake hijacked one of Thoreau’s journals to write a home invasion thriller.
Vivian Gornick's interviews and dissections of Americans who in their salad days were drawn to the Communist Party is a must read for anyone left of center. I was moved by how accounts from almost a century ago from the disillusioned and damaged souls the movement left behind were almost identical to my own observations, as one ex-member passionately stated: "How do you have leadership, organization and discipline...and still retain democracy, avoid cruelty and contempt for human beings?"
The book is a cautionary tale of the almost invisible lines between solidarity and tyranny, and loyalty and evil, and how the corruption of power knows no boundaries.
Stringing together multi-generational epic, queer coming-of-age, and
magical realism, K-Ming Chang's breathtaking debut novel establishes her as a distinct, new voice of 21st century fiction. Each sentence contains its own world of poetry; I underlined at least one on each page. Chang is a ferociously talented writer that demands to be read, and read again.
A prostitute who gets reviewed on a fictional site for potential johns is quickly swallowed up by a world of snuff films, grotesque fetishes, and the miasmal cloud of internet freaks obsessively chronicling/following/causing his decline. This vulgar, amoral, critique of our vicious web culture and the way we fetishize ‘celebrity’ deaths and demise could easily be written off as escapist, revolting, dangerous, porn...and ultimately it is a little bit of all of those things…
Can I convince you that this book is hilarious? A turn-of-the-century German bro goes to visit his cousin in an Alpine sanatorium, becomes obsessed with mortality, contracts TB, stays seven years. Is he really sick? Is it an elaborate procrastination? Is the suspended existence of the sanatorium a metaphor for our own incapacity to face life? Or for the final gasps of a doomed bourgeoisie? The interpretations are endless; the execution is flawless.
Certainly the loneliest, most vortex-addled epistolary novel I’ve read. A correspondence in letters viewed from a single side, we only know as much about Emma as our narrator responds to; in lieu of it we get moments of boxing obsession, micro-particle data, a tripodal dog, and the accidental wisdom of the weak and delirious. A thin thing so good it’s a struggle not to race through—but give it time; the strangeness may unlock much for you.
M is seven years old and accompanies her dad on his route as a traveling salesman in Pinochet-era Chile. Sparse and tender, M gives us the principles of the universe that she collected selling Kramp Hardware and coming of age in a tumultuous time.
This story tells the heroic journey of a family spanning multiple generations in the twentieth century of Vietnam history. Told in part by the grandmother who experienced the French Colonial Period, Japanese Invasion, and Land Reform, and the other part by the granddaughter who is coming to age during the Vietnam War. The Mountains Sing is a story of loss and sorrow, but also brings to life the heroism and what many families did to protect the ones they love, all with the hope of providing a better tomorrow.
In a year where so many people died suddenly this collection renders like a loosening grip the heart-aching ways in which we each die gradually, piece by piece – through a mother’s cancer, a father’s dementia, and the parts of ourselves we never get back from grief. Poetry v. atrophy: let’s go let go.
Because it’s good to be reminded why it’s good to be alive.
Robinson writes calamity so beautifully you might miss the train wrecks, floods, and fires for all your satisfied sighs.
Reading Marilynne Robinson is like skipping stones: scouring the shore for a small, flat rock; casting it away with a flick of the wrist; mourning the loss of that weight in your hand; listening for the satisfying plip-plop-plips; watching the concentric circles of light and water expand and merge and disappear back into the smooth reflective surface. If a stone skips and no one saw, did the water ripple? (Yes.)
Based off of the Fibonacci sequence, Alphabet is about everything at once, but somehow doesn't feel like it's taking on too much. About creation, destruction, and the being we do in between: the expansive world around the apricot tree and the apricot tree itself. Read and exist.
Galla, the 14 year old child of poor Italian immigrants in France, bikes 20 miles from her high school to surprise her mother at home. With the curiosity, frankness, self-awareness, and charm of some of the best-loved kid main characters (think Scout or Harriet the Spy), we are guided by her inner monologue as she tries to make sense of a world that hasn't done her any favors, where the sobering stuckness of her fate is as tangible and heavy as a winter sky full of rain clouds ready to burst.
Naamah is an enchanting and unexpectedly funny retelling of the biblical story Noah’s Ark from Noah’s wife, Naamah’s, perspective. In it, she battles her guilt over her family’s survival as she dives into the water that floods the earth and meets both the ghosts of the children who perished in the flood and one very attractive angel, who grants her the power to breathe under the waters. As a queer with a fair amount of religious trauma, it’s a refreshing, queer take on the original story.
If Mary Anne and Wanda from the song “Goodbye Earl” had a book club, this would probably be their first pick. With gender politics that are far more complex than your typical kill your abuser revenge fantasy, OUT is a sharp and excruciatingly suspenseful story of women coming together, falling apart, and coming together again. Best read in broad daylight and better with a friend, just make sure it’s not that friend who recently went through a bad break up.