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
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.
This is a weird one. Originally published in Japan in 1948, the narrator of three notebooks talks about his life and how he can't fit in with society. From class clown to Casanova, from wretched drunk to despondent and depressed, he brings us around his Tokyo, eventually attempting suicide. Oba Yozo is not a sympathetic character, and I think that is why the book works so well.
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.
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.
A must read for anyone living in the West right now. Gessner visits locations made famous by two of the great writers of the American West and sees how they exist in the here and now. With climate change accelerating the yearly fires, it is more important than ever to heed the words of these literary giants of the conservation movement.
Absolutely fascinating. Harper started writing this book before the COVID pandemic, so most of it is about historic context and not modern times. How did the spread of disease shape civilizations, and how did the growth of civilizations hinder or help the spread of infectious disease? I found this book to have incredible depth, while still being extremely accessible.
One of my favorite books of 2021. Labatut describes the lives of physicists and mathematicians, trying to see what makes their lives different, what makes them see the world at a different angle, culminating in the battle for quantum mechanics between Schrodinger and Heisenberg. My favorite chapter is about Schwarschild and his solving of the equations of general relativity, while coming up with black hole theory.
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.
A soul is given 10,000 attempts to achieve perfection, but no one tells Milo this until after attempt 9,995. Milo revisits some of his former lives, both historical and futuristic, and falls in love with Death along the way. I found this book to be enjoyable, humorous, and philosophical all at once. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for Michael Poore's next work.
The story of the struggling artist made fresh for the 21st century, Margo Price's memoir reads like an intimate blues/country concert. I had no idea that Price had suffered in obscurity for as long as she had. It seems like she knows everyone that was coming out of Nashville in the mid-2010s, from Brittany Howard to Shakey Graves. Perfect for those who know her work, or for those who are unfamiliar.
A little known piece of history is dissected from all the major players in this novel of the 1800s. Known as the Fetterman Fight, this was the battle where Crazy Horse earned his status as a warrior, where the Lakota tried to take back their hunting lands from a newly built fort. Punke builds the world in such vivid detail, I could feel the tall grass singing in the wind as I read along. Incredibly evocative.
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.
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.
Part Agatha Christie, part Groundhogs Day, we witness the same murder from eight different pairs of eyes and try to figure out who pulls the trigger before it actually happens. There were a few twists and turns in here that kept me reading through the night, trying to figure out the clues for myself.
For fans of horror and mystery. A voice speaks from the dark offering passengers on a long boat ride their hearts' desires in return for a single heinous deed. The 'Sherlock Holmes' of the era is locked in a cell and can't help, so his bodyguard and another passenger must follow the clues. The story builds slowly which adds to the suspense.
For nearly 20 years, the public was assured that the war in Afghanistan was running very well. Whitlock puts forward the facts: that the war was in bad shape from the beginning, that the objective was lost early on, and people on the ground had difficulty figuring out what they were doing, who they were fighting, and where the money was being spent. Especially important after the less than graceful exit from Afghanistan.