Staff Selections

Allana

The White Book
Han Kang, trns. by Deborah Smith

This is the perfect book to read on a snowy winter day. Han Kang's precise prose rendered exquisitely by translator Deborah Smith is hushed, contemplative, and mysterious. The short vignettes that make up this novel are dedicated to a series of white objects and offer a delicate introspection of the spirit's form, the past's confluence with the present, and memory. I was already a fan of The Vegetarian, but fell in love with this book even more. Best when read all the way through, near a window in a snowstorm.

Kathleen

Mayhem: A Memoir
Sigrid Rausing

This beautifully crafted piece of writing by GRANTA editor, Social Anthropology PhD, and Swedish heiress Sigrid Rausing contrasts Rausing’s elegant, ordered, and intellectually and artistically vibrant life with the chaos and heartbreak of her brother’s and his wife’s drug addiction. Mayhem is both a personal and intellectual exploration of the nature of addiction.

 

Kelli

Sourdough
Robin Sloan

 

Sourdough is for the foodie, the techie, the Luddite, the adventure-seeker, the problem-solver, and of course, the San Franciscans at heart.

As Sloan did with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Sourdough offers a nuanced look at the relationship between food and technology that the current world (or the very near-future one) has fostered. A 20-something Midwestern woman moves to San Francisco to begin programming for a robotic arms manufacturer, but after a serendipitous encounter with two eccentric brothers and a killer sourdough starter, she begins to question whether efficiency and money are worth the loss of tradition and handmade quality. Mirroring Penumbra’s adventure sequence, Sloan has perfected his gaze in this second book, critiquing cases of the pendulum swinging too far in either direction, and positing that there is value in both—like say, solving global food insecurity and making a loaf of sourdough with a perfect crust and crumb so lovely it would bring even your Paleo friend to tears.

Mary

Pachinko

Pachinko, a sprawling historic novel set in 20th century Korea and Japan, follows four generations of the Baeks, a Korean family.  Occupied in their homeland, unwelcome in the land of their occupiers, they struggle with war, discrimination and poverty as zainichi, chiefly in the slums of Osaka. Disenfranchisement, sexuality, ambition and cultural beliefs form their fates, and the clash between national directives and personal needs plays out in the iniquitous relations between the Japanese and Koreans.  A page-turner for fans of family sagas.

Paul

The Jesus Cow
Michael Perry

Michael Perry once again takes us to small town Wisconsin, where his main character, Harley Jackson’s already complicated life is further complicated when a cow in his barn gives birth to a calf, bearing the image of Jesus Christ on its side, you know, the image that somehow shows up on tortilla chips from time to time, bringing its discoverer 15 minutes of fame.  Harley senses trouble on the horizon.  Perry does this kind of small town deadpan humor as well as anyone.  His first novel is a pleasure all the way through. 

 

Terry

Blood Brothers
Ernest Hafner

A hyper-realistic account of a gang of boys living on the streets of Berlin on the cusp of the Nazi take over. Haffner's prose is spare but has a depth of detail that gives the novel an immediacy that makes you feel as if you are in the midst of it.

Tim

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins

Which of us has not noticed the same people every day of our lives and, not knowing anything of their real circumstances, created an imaginary narrative around them to satisfy our own fantasies?  This is certainly the case of Rachel, our protagonist, who sees a couple on their terrace every morning on her commute to work, and builds her own biography of their lives.  When the woman goes missing and is the subject of endless media reports, Rachel feels she knows this woman and tries to help the police with their investigation.  This intriguing premise is the springboard of Ms. Hawkins' fascinating suburban thriller -- a tale told by three women:  Rachel, an alcoholic; Megan, the missing woman; and Anna, who remarried Rachel's husband, Tom, after their divorce.  All three narrators are unreliable, wearing the blinders of their addictions, dissatisfactions, and jealousies.  Full of red herrings, flashes of revelations, and plenty of twists and turns, this is a splendid mystery populated with fascinating characters.  Enjoy!

Deb

The Essential Best Foods Cookbook
Dana Jacobi

A great hot weather cookbook, with economical recipes that are extremely delicious!

Liz

A Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara

This novel shattered me. At first, the story seems to be about four young men, college friends, building their adult lives in New York City. But the narrative ultimately settles on one of the men, Jude, slowly revealing the extraordinary brutality of his childhood, the physical and psychological scars of which shape the rest of his life. Yanagihara is unflinching in her exploration of the terrible violence visited upon Jude, but almost more startling is how boldly, how hopefully, she writes of love. This is not a heart-warming book, but it’s a full-hearted one. You’ll think and worry about these characters long after you finish reading, as if they were real people you once knew.