Staff Selections


Notes From No Man's Land
Eula Biss


 These spare, sometimes lyric essays explore the legacy of race in America, artfully revealing in intimate detail how families, schools, and neighborhoods participate in preserving racial privilege. Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remains hopeful about the possibilities of American diversity, "not the sun-shininess of it, or the quota-making politics of it, but the real complexity of it."


Lie With Me
Philippe Besson, trns. by Molly Ringwald

France, the 1980s, first love. Celebrate Pride by picking up this novel written by French author, Philllipe Besson. This heartbreaking love story recounts the heady thrill and excruciating longing of first love between two young men at a time when gay and lesbian relationships were unacceptable in mainstream French society. The drama of teen love, burning romance and unresolved farewells is set alight by the translated prose of this novel, which is velvet, demure--both elegant and coy, rendered in English by Molly Ringwald (yes, that Molly Ringwald). Gorgeous. I read this book in one sitting, and was titillated, nostalgic, and moved to tears.



Katie Kitamura

The protagonist of Intimacies is the daughter of bi-cultural parents, whose international upbringing left her with a facility for mastering languages and the ability to feel as at home in once city as another.  The death of her father in New York City, where she also soon finds herself at the end of a job, inspires her to apply for (and she is accepted) the job of translating for the International Court in the Hague. There in the Netherlands she is new and yet not new- they had lived there for a time when she was a small child, but now she has no real connections to speak of, other than an acquaintance from when she worked in London.  While at dinner at that friend's apartment, the evening is disturbed by the police responding to a mugging closeby, where a man is seriously injured. She gets back to her apartment without incident, but the event's occurrence disturbs her and she becomes obsessed with finding out more about the victim. She finds out more about him from her friend, from information in the news, from visiting his bookshop, and her curiousity grows.  She is involved with a man who may or may not be completely available.  At work, she becomes the translator for a war criminal- the former President of an unnamed country, whose words she must interpret and translate for the court, to have them, in turn, translated by someone else to the victims. 

Intimacies has stayed with me. One of the things that the protagonist says of her work is that court translation takes a deep level of concentration and focus- that the job of the translator is to keep the gaps that exist between the words of one language and another as small as possible.  The novel shows how gaps exist not only in the translation from one language to another, but between people sharing an experience, between criminal and victim, witness and witness.  The book is that and a lot more. I read it in a single day, and emerged from it in awe.


Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life
Carol Sklenicka

 Guided by Carol Sklenica's compelling and clear voice, we visit the key places, meet the crucial personalities, and overhear the domestic drama that informed and inflamed Raymond Carver's short fiction and short life. The exhaustive research and countless interviews that Sklenicka conducted for this book are what make is so superb and give it such rare authority.


The Magic Years
Jonathan Taplin

Jonathan Taplin may have literally handed Bob Dylan his Stratocaster as he took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival. From rock star producer in the ‘60s to cutting edge independent film in the ‘70s, to Merrill Lynch executive in  the ‘80s, add cuing up the first video-on-demand at Intertainment in the ‘90s, like Zelig, he shows up with the cultural zeitgeist through the last 60 years.  And he can write a clear, concise, entertaining chronicle of that era as seen from the inside.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
Andrea Lawlor

Pick up Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl  for the Iowa City references, but keep reading for this formally innovative, absolutely brilliant novel by the inimitable Andrea Lawlor. Paul, a “shapeshifter,” can morph his body and move among genders and sexes at will. Just as Paul’s form shifts, so too does the novel’s, from fairytale to screenplay to bildungsroman and back again. What results is a wonderful journey of youth, gender, sex, and love. For Patti Smith fans, zinesters, and lovers of queer lit alike: Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is one wild romp.                                                                         


My Darling Detective
Howard Norman

In “My Darling Detective” Norman successfully blends several genres into an entertaining, warm-hearted whole. It is at once a family drama, cold case detective story and  WWII historical fiction  deftly bound together with just enough humor. The characters are charming and vivid and the setting (Halifax, 1977) is atmospheric.



The Falcon Thief
Joshua Hammer

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird has it all.  Part true-crime adventure and part history of falconry and wildlife, the book unfolds in 2010 when Jeffrey Lendrum was stopped in a Birmingham National Airport with a suspicious packet bundelded to his chest that was discovered to contain 14 peregrine falcon eggs...


The Paper Menagerie & Other Stories
Ken Liu

 An outstanding collection of thought provoking speculative fiction. The stories cover a variety of genres including SF, Magical Realism, Detective fiction and Fantasy. What unites them is exquisite prose and original ideas.


Adventures with Dad
Kenny Deuss

 The father of two children under 4, Kenny Deuss was in charge of the kids every Tuesday while his wife was at work.  After getting constant messages from her asking if "everything was okay," he began photoshopping images of the kids involved in very precarious situations.  The popular Instagram account is now in book form, with very funny (and incredibly well-done) fake photos of Mr. Deuss and his children, indulging in activities that serve as hysterical cautionary tales.  A great gift for Father's Day -- especially so for new Dads.


Deb Olin Unferth

In Deb Olin Unferth's debut novel, a man with a dented head named Meyers embarks on an impulsive quest, full of misadventures, through Central America in search of an old college acquaintance with a brain tumor named Gray, the man he blames for the disillusionment of his marriage. In the meantime, a young woman seeks out her biological father, a man who steals dolphins and releases them back to the wild. Unferth's writing is first-rate, strange, exciting, haunting and structurally imaginative. This book draws you in with its characters, and surprises you sentence after sentence. Worth checking out.


The Snow Child
Eowyn Ivey

This novel takes place in the beautiful wilderness of Alaska in the 1920s.  Jack and Mabel have built their home with grit and labor.  They are determined to succeed.  Things become very difficult and they feel almost defeated until a little girl with her red fox appear from the woods. 

A fairy tale come to reality.



City of Bohane
Kevin Barry

A rip-roaring romp through the “retro-future” city of Bohane, set in the West of Ireland in the 2050s. Scheming factions vie for control of the city as a ganglord’s reign comes to an end. Spurred on by machinating underlings and a fraught love triangle, rival gangs go to war in the streets, and the angina-stricken editor of the city’s only newspaper, the Bohane Vindicator, sends his hunchback photographer to snap shots for a photo spread. All of this unfolds in loud, lively language sprung from the voices of Limerick and Cork, where Barry grew up. A 90-year-old crime matron who has dreams about Yul Brynner, an ambitious young ganglady and local fashion icon (“white vinyl zip-ups tighter than sin”) whose star is on the rise, and a sacrifical goat paraded through town on the eve of a dissolute August Fair fill out the crazed Bohane atmosphere. Entertaining, lurid, and, to quote Barry, “perhaps most importantly, a comedy.”


The Dark Is Here
Kiki Petrosino

“The Dark is Here” is a short collection of poems from the young poet, Kiki Petrosino, and is illustrated by Philip Miller. The pieces are sound-disciplined and driven by a layering of simple images that simultaneously make a face smile and heart ache. This beautiful little blue book is a must read.


Quiet Until the Thaw
Alexandra Fuller

This deeply emotional novel is the tale of two Lakota Sioux cousins growing up in the mid-twentieth century. A fable of patient endurance and violent rage. Will appeal to readers of Louise Erdrich and anyone interested in modern native life on the great plains.


Ling Ma

Horror is usually an exploration of existence and inherited fears, and while Ling Ma’s novel engages this tradition, it achieves so much more. Through her dry wit, this zombie apocalypse is more a laughable condemnation of late capitalism and office bureaucracy than a keep-you-up-at-night scary story. At the end of the world, Ma holds a mirror to our trivial daily concerns to laugh with us, not at us.


The Collected Stories of Diane Williams
Diane Williams

I'd never read Diane Williams before encountering this book, which I now keep by my bedside and flip through like an oracle. Many of these profoundly strange stories, most of which average around a page, have the read-out-loud quality of poems. You often don't know exactly where you are in a Diane Williams story, or who's there, or sometimes even what's going on--but you're always confronted with a perplexing, irreverent, delicious sense of life, life that can't be caught and pinned to a page. For fans of Lydia Davis, John Ashbery, and Renata Adler.


My Heart Hemmed In
Marie Ndiaye, trns. by Jordan Stump

Surreal, mesmerizing, and one of the most subtly terrifying books I've ever read. There is a character with a festering wound, but the real horror here is psychological: private things becoming public, a slow, painful shift in self-image. I couldn't stop turning the pages of this brilliant novel, except when I got so nervous I had to put it down for fear of passing out.


The Sellout
Paul Beatty

“This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything.  Never cheated on my taxes or at cards.  Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier indifferent to the ways of mercantilism and minimum-wage expectations.  I’ve never burgled a house.  Held up a liquor store.  Never boarded a crowded bus or subway car, sat in a seat reserved for the elderly, pulled out my gigantic penis and masturbated to satisfaction with a perverted, yet somehow crestfallen, look on my face.  But here I am, in the cavernous chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, my car illegally and somewhat ironically parked on Constitution Avenue, my hands that, much like this country, isn’t quite as comfortable as it looks.”

So begins a novel I began last night, a novel at which I’m still chuckling and at which I feel I may be chuckling out the week.  Winner of this year’s New York Book Critic’s Circle award for Fiction.  Political, poetic, imaginative, satirical, and funny on every page. Just available in pb from Picador at $16.00.  You are so dumb if you don’t read this right away.  I might forgive you, but God won’t.



The Instructions
Adam Levin

Nine years in the making, Adam Levin's first novel is a treat for ambitious readers. Fear not its weight, for the sentences are compulsively readable, making this 1,000+ page book a surprise page-turner that feels good to hold and even better to read.


Naomi Novik

While reading, I kept wanting to compare this book to some of my other favorites. To Howl's Moving Castle, except with a much more awesome Sophie and a deeper, more interesting relationship with Howl. To Sabriel, because of the magic-wielding girl protagonist and the uniqueness and clarity of the magic system. To The Hero and the Crown for its girl power and for its standing as a classic. Because I think this one will become a classic like that, a book that you read and then want to put into the hands of everyone  you know who loves a wonderful, beautifully written fantasy featuring a wild, independent girl protagonist and a fascinatingly cranky "dragon".  YA readers will love this, too, though be aware that there is some content that may make it better for 16+  


The Orchard
Theresa Weir

This story will stay with me for years to come.  Theresa Weir has written a memoir of her life on an apple farm that reads like a thriller.  It's beautifully written and haunting.  Bravo to this author on being a new clear voice for the organic farming movement and perhaps saving future lives.