Brad, Assistant Buyer
Favorite Genres: Literary fiction, gritty fantasy, world travel, books in translation, and anything obscure
Favorite Authors: Marlon James, Virginie Despentes, Kurt Vonnegut, Susanna Clarke, Paul Theroux, Jill Lepore
Possibly Ferrante's best stand alone novel. When Giovanna hears her father compare her to an aunt whom the family has distanced themselves from, she wants to meet her hidden family and learn about them. What unfolds is a story of a teenager who loses her footing in the world, who comes to realize that no one is what they seem. Ferrante's descriptions of Naples are stunningly picturesque.
After civilization collapses, there are roughly 12 human beings left on earth. Several animals have a meeting to vote on the future of humanity: do we let them live, or do we kill and eat them? This light-hearted tale about the end of the world was really fun in a dark way, and the animals all seem well-thought out, but do not resemble their archetypes. My favorite were the silent ninja moles.
Twin sisters that are nothing alike want to share fame, one as the voice of a singer, the other as the public image. But when one twin kills herself, the other must take over her life, but can you remain yourself while living as another? This reminded me of Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, but with a strong European flair.
Soyinka's first novel in 50 years does not disappoint. The story follows two best friends, one the new UN ambassador who hasn't taken his seat yet, the other a surgeon who found out that his staff has been selling amputated limbs behind his back. The mystery that follows is spell-binding. A wonderful novel from one of Nigeria's most outspoken dissidents.
The first adult novel from a writer from my childhood. Snicket wakes up one morning with a note stating 'You had poison for breakfast' slid under his door. As he tries to unravel the mystery and his life, we see a snippet of his day-to-day. I really read this because I read the Series of Unfortunate Events books when I was younger, but I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.
This reads more like a lyrical essay than a novel. Maria Stepanova is tracking down her family history after an aunt dies and she inherits numerous letters and photographs. Through all of this is the underlying question: what does memory mean in modern times, the age of endless selfies, as opposed to the early 1900s, when you would have maybe a picture taken once in your lifetime.
The beginning to a classic sci-fi trilogy. Robinson explores the potential of colonization of mars with murder, romance, revenge, betrayal, and revolution along the way. I love this trilogy because of how in the weeds they get about the science; obviously there is a lot of speculation but it feels more plausible in the short term than other sci-fi novels. Kim Stanley Robinson may be the best eco-sci-fi writer to ever publish a book.
One of my five favorite books of all time, made fresh by a new translation by Margaret Jull Costa. The author himself described this as the saddest book ever written. The Book of Disquiet is a beautifully written memoir about a man creating his art that lives beyond the means of his own life. This is the closest equivalent to the original Portuguese that exists to date.
Weird in all of the best ways. Belt Magnet is writing his memoir about the alternate United States he lives in, where the internet has never existed, everyone carries around a cute little robot until the robot becomes so cute they just want to kill it, and inanimate objects wish for death. All the while, Belt is trying to get in touch with his former best friend who is now a billionaire astronaut.
Tove Ditlevsen had a difficult life. Her parents treated her horribly. She was divorced four times, and one of her husbands kept her on prescription drugs. She struggled with alcoholism. Those struggles eventually turned her into one of Denmark's most famous poets. This three part memoir is the story of her life from birth to the end of her third marriage, and is devastating and beautiful.
Fiona Mozley came to my attention with her first book, Elmet. Her second novel, Hot Stew, cements her as one of my favorite working writers. A wealthy property owner wants to tear down a building in central London, but the residents rise up and join together to fight back. These residents include the homeless people that live under the building, the workers at a brothel, and some of the clients.
A tale of identity and belonging. This is the story of Jesse McCarthy, a male prostitute of Jamaican descent living in London after his family (and church) kicks him out of the house for being in the LGBT community. It's also the story of Norman Alonso, a Jamaican man living in England in the 1950s. Incredibly raw and real, Mendes shows us London in the early 2000s through 2016.
I remember finding a used copy of this book my teens and buying it for the title alone. It turned out to be the first book that made me laugh hysterically while reading. Stewart can turn anything into a comedy, from the Kennedy compound to the chatrooms of AOL in the late 90s, from the Oval Office to the death of the Taco Bell chihuahua. At this point it is filled with callbacks for anyone who was alive in the 90s.
A small community of religious fanatics are all that is left of humanity. They live on the moors of England, a frugal and lonely existence. And they are being hunted by a creature who is picking them off one by one. Kingsnorth has an incredibly unique voice, and it matches this world perfectly. It is related to his 2014 The Wake, but you do not need to read the first to enjoy this story.
This book is an absolute work of art, from the words through the presentation. Karimi writes about a family who has moved from a war torn country to the United States. The story is about not only the family, but about the ones they left behind, about trying to assimilate to a culture that is so different from their native land.
Finnegan details his life in the context of surfing, something that he is so passionate about that he made me long for the sea even though I don't surf. In pursuit of the perfect wave, he took a round-the-world trip over several years in the 70s, including a stint on an uninhabited island and a teaching gig in South Africa. This may be one of the best books I've read in my entire life.
An incredible mixture of stories about travel and anatomy. Intertwined are a man who loses his wife and child on a trip in Croatia, Chopin's heart, and the person who originally found the achilles tendon by operating on his own severed leg. In between is the narrator, who has beautiful passages about what it means to be a traveler, about being in motion and refusing roots wherever they try to cling.
A quick read about a family who moves in stages from China to outside Dallas, TX. They seem like the typical immigrant family until you see them behind closed doors. One misunderstanding leads to another until their lives spiral out of control. I enjoyed not only the story, but also the style in which this was written. Hard to believe this was a debut, and I can't wait for Han to write another novel.
This is the first book in the best fantasy trilogy written in the last few decades. Joe writes incredibly well, and his dark gritty style makes the story. Of all the main characters, my favorite is Logan, also known as The Bloody Nine, a feared warrior and named man from the North who winds up at the king's court before heading off to save the world. Read everything Abercrombie has written, but start here.
Clarke's first book in 16 years has been well worth the wait. The main character lives in a world like a huge museum, a labyrinth filled with numberless statues that never repeat. The only human that shares these halls is The Other, a person who our main character cannot quite understand, but meets with twice a week. A beautifully executed story, and perfectly worded.
A writer lives on an island where the police can make entire concepts disappear from people's memories, such as emeralds, hats, or music boxes; she is constantly worried that words will be the next to go. A few can remember the past, and they are rounded up and taken away, and no one knows where. The writer attempts to hide one who can remember, her publisher, for a taste of the world she once knew.
This book was written in 2015 but has been translated into English for the first time. Kadare discusses his childhood and his relationship with his mother, a woman who felt trapped in her house (a house with an actual dungeon) and trapped in her own life. Mostly, this story is about how Albania changed from the author's birth in 1933 until his mother's death in the 2000s. A must read for any Kadare fan.
A brilliant ending to a beautifully written quartet. Two siblings who can't seem to agree on anything, their mother, and two young adults who created a nature blog drive to see a 104 year old man whom none of them have met. This provides the framework for a story about the times we live in. While I don't think it is necessary to read the first three volumes, it will add an extra layer to the tale.
The everlasting legend of Tyll Ulenspeigel, one of the most famous characters in German story-telling history, is made new again in this novel set during the Thirty Years' War. Tyll is a jester who knows no bounds and can turn a crowd on itself so quickly that they don't know what has happened. Is the jokester truly happy, or is at all a part of an elaborate show? Darkly lyrical and powerful.
One of my all-time favorite memoirs. Nick Flynn's father abandons his very young kids and wife for alcohol. Years later, Nick is working at a homeless shelter and his father checks in; they try to have a relationship again. Flynn has a way of bringing pure emotion through in writing that very few writers possess. Poetic and heartbreaking and brutally real.
Another brilliant memoir from Nick Flynn, author of my favorite memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. In this book, Flynn tries to come to terms with new information he learned about his mother years after her suicide: when he was a child, she lit the family home on fire while he and his brother were asleep. He also writes very candidly about his affair, and how his family survived his indiscretions.
I loved this book for reasons that I find hard to explain. Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Beuys and Basho and Wittgenstein (and many others) are all detailed, their lives all interconnected. In between Sagasti talks about fireflies, asteroids, haikus, and the art of story. This is the best book I've found from Charco Press so far, a small publisher with which I have become enamored.