Staff Selections


Dark Constellations
Pola Oloixarac, trns. by Roy Kesey

Is literature about cyber-punk hackers set in the Argentine jungle your cup of tea? It sure wasn't mine until I started reading Dark Constellations and was hooked. Pola Oloixarac's mind-bending novel is a critique of tech and surveillance culture that explores the concepts of science, genius, and justice all while following an awkward hacker through his formative years. The prose style is undeniably addictive; lightning fast and written in the style of an automaton, this exhilarating  translation by Roy Kesey is out of this world. This book is strange, sexy, and surprising.


The Ocean of Life
Callum Roberts

If you like nature, swimming, going to the beach or eating fish, this is for you.  It consists of three sections: a fascinating history of human exploration and exploitation of the oceans, a clear-eyed account of the damages and dangers their ecosystems currently face, and a hopeful call to action to protect and heal the intricate, beautiful web of life under the sea.  An important book on ecology, but even more a great piece of natural history writing.


The Winter Soldier
Daniel Mason

This atmospheric WWI novel is a gorgeous tale of war, medicine, love, and mystery. Vividly descriptive, I was engrossed in this world from the moment 22 year old Lucius gathered his bag, coat, and saber, and disembarked the train, and summoned a hussar.

This reads like a classic!


Beartown & Us Against You
Fredrik Backman

These books are about a minor league hockey team in the middle of nowhere. They are also about everything else in the universe. Families, small town mentalities, immigration, toxic masculinity, decisions that change the course of everyone's lives, the fragility and resilience of ourselves. Backman's prose reaches straight through your sternum to strangle your heart before he slowly resuscitates you. I cried cover to cover, laughed throughout, and found humanity in every character of this novel.


Susan Howe

Howe's gorgeous new poetry collection (rumored to possibly be her final) unspools over five sections, which also include an essay and her signature cut-up text. Written in part while in residence at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, Debths interrogates the curatorial/archival impulse, American history, aging, law, poetry, and above all, loss. I think it's Howe at her clearest.


Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables
Joshua McFadden

This title has become a best-selling cookbook at Prairie Lights, and deservedly so.  Joshua McFadden seems to have distilled his knowledge from an impressive resume as chef and owner of great restaurants in Oregon, learning his skills in New York at Momofuku and Blue Hill, and working with Alice Waters in Rome and as manager of Four Season Farm in Maine.   Using the harvest of a season as a guideline, this book champions fresh produce and the recipes yield big flavor, sometimes with surprising simplicity.  My favorite part is its stocking suggestions, from cold brined raw vegetables to sauces and seasoned butters and dressings.  You will find yourself collaborating deliciously with this exciting approach.


Michelle Hoover

Michelle Hoover who wowed Prairie Lights’ audience, reading from her first book, The Quickening, now has a second book.  It’s called Bottomland and, like her first, deals with rural culture in Iowa in the early 20th Century.  This book is more of a thriller than The Quickening, involving a Germ, as always, well researched with characters formed by the dark circumstances of their lives.  She’ll be reading the end of April, a reading all lovers of Willa Cather and the great mid-western writers will not want to miss.


The Mechanical Horse
Margaret Guroff

This book is a winner on several levels.  The bicycle’s progressive influences on American life are manifold, and Guroff manages to tell the story with a convincing thoroughness and a prose style that never drags.  The bicycle improved mobility for the working class, allowed women greater freedom and a more practical mode of dress.  Cyclists were instrumental in getting the awful 19th century road improved, and the list goes on.  For what is a relatively brief book, the notes and bibliography are impressive.



The Water Knife
Paolo Bacigalupi

A near-future dystopian novel by the author of The Windup Girl.

Through his compelling characters, Bacigalupi explores the disparate effects income inequality has on technology, society and personal ethics in the face of changes brought about by climate change.  It deals with water rights and water privatization on the Colorado River in an arid American Southwest, making it a particularly timely “summer read”—but one that will leave you thinking about it past summer.


Haints Stay
Colin Winnette

A quirky and interesting take on the Western. It’s short (just a tad over 200 pages) but it packs an outsized wallop. It reminded me of Patrick DeWitt's excellent Sisters Brothers, but with all the fat stripped out. This is pure literary muscle. (And if you haven’t read Sisters Brothers, you now know what to read when you finish Haints Stay).


Dear Mr. You
Mary-Louise Parker

In this stunning debut, award-winning stage and screen actress Mary-Louise Parker reveals her talent as a writer of incredible skill and sensitivity.  One part memoir, one part poetry and one part storytelling, Dear Mr. You is a series of letters written to the men (both real and imagined, both known and unknown) who have influenced and impacted her life.  Readers will find themselves struck by Ms. Parker's unforgettable imagery and way with words.  A very good read.


Home Made Winter
Yvette Van Boven

Perfect book for the upcoming frigid season: Beautiful photos and delicious recipes - a cookbook lover's must.


The Vegetarian
Han Kang

I loved The Vegetarian so much. A beautiful, harrowing, bizarre short novel about a woman whose life unravels after a disturbing dream prompts her to give up meat. I couldn't put it down, and I can't stop thinking about it now.