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
One of my favorite memoirs. Dubus III describes growing up in a city outside Boston, and about how that area turns you into a hard person. He grew up avoiding fights, but eventually got pulled into the world of boxing and bar fights. This is a reflection on a culture of violence, on the appeal and the terror of being swept up in a moment of blood and rage. He also discusses his father, the famous short story writer.
Essential reading for any fans of 90s hip-hop, or anyone who grew up in the 90s. A Tribe Called Quest was such a unique voice of the era, mixing jazz and samples to create something different from any other collective of the time. Abdurraqib writes a love letter like only a true fan can. This is one of the rare books that I can reread every year and of which I will never tire.
Urgent but not panicked, this book is as personal and vulnerable as the world Gessner is describing. There are few better nature writers working these days, and even fewer who can convey both anger and possibility for the future in such a refined way.
To assist people losing their memories, a doctor builds houses from past decades to make them feel more comfortable. What starts as an interesting psychological experiment starts turning into nationalistic policy. Funny while being profoundly disturbing, this novel toyed with my mind; it's incredible how Gospodinov can put the past and the present on the same table and make you look at the political scope of the world.
The latest novel from one of my favorite authors does not disappoint. One morning Anders wakes up and his skin has turned dark. It starts to affect other people throughout the world, and has all of the impacts that one would expect from a society struggling with racial identity and politics. Hamid's sweeping style of writing, with long run on sentences, lends itself to a quick, but worthwhile, read.
This one is all about the writing for me. The narrator (Boulder) becomes infatuated with a woman she meets while on shore leave, but the story is about how she gets pulled into a soul-breaking domesticity, from home ownership to child rearing. Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, this novel promises to live beyond the awards season.
Fascinating and daunting. Plokhy, who has a history of writing about nuclear power mishaps, delves into the six worst nuclear disasters that have occurred over human history, three in the pursuit of nuclear weapons, and three in the pursuit of nuclear power. By looking back, he hopes to shed light on what the future of nuclear power may look like, and how long until the next disaster unfolds.
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.
Holy cow this is a weird one. In the future, a spaceship takes on foreign objects which make the humanoids on board start to act... differently. Told through taped human resources statements given by both humans and humanoids on board, this creepy tale builds in your blood as it goes. This is one I recommend reading two or three times in a row.
Animal Farms meets African politics in this novel based around the coup that took Mugabe off of the throne in Zimbabwe. The Old Horse has been ruling Jidada for decades and thinks himself irreproachable, but when a newcomer takes power it is more of the same. Bulawayo weaves a fascinating story through multiple viewpoints and literary styles. This was a difficult one for me to put down.
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.
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.
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.
The 2022 Booker Prize winner and only the second Sri Lankan writer to ever win. A photojournalist awakens as a ghost, and has 7 moons to find out who killed him and to get the negatives of his most important photos into the right hands. Some spirits try to help him move on, some try to keep him in limbo forever. This story was original, and taught me an incredible amount about Sri Lankan history, culture, and politics.
A desperate novel of trying to make it in a land far away from the one you call home. Gangs from all over Africa fight for control of a little portion of South Africa, with gangs representing Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and other nations. Torn apart by violence, they all try to rehumanize themselves. This novel flows beautifully between traditional written English and several dialects, pulling you deeper into the narrative.
This is Melchor's best work to date—a series of essay-stories about the drug trade in Mexico, about the violence of ordinary places, the horror that walks side-by-side with us everyday. She writes these stories with such conviction they have to be true, or at least true to her. My favorite thing about this collection is how she weaves her journalistic ethics into tales of true terror.
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.
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.
A young woman walks into the desert and births a city out of seeds. This magical book is all about the following two centuries, about her children, and about the empire that she built on nothing but a dream. In my opinion, this is Rushdie's best book since Shame, and will not disappoint anyone who likes literary fiction or magical realism.
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 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.
I loved Melchor's Hurricane Season, but I think this may be a better book. A poor gardener tolerates an annoying teen from a rich family for the free booze. Eventually, the braggadocious teenager decides that he wants to take what is his by right with fatal results. This short, fast-paced novel made me hate characters that I couldn't turn away from. Melchor had me clamoring for the next page and the one after.
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.
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.
I think we all know that the government can track us through NSA programs, but how they actually piece that information together is elusive. Howley breaks down exactly what oversight means, how that data is utilized and stored, and does all of it in the context of a few whistleblowers (mainly Reality Winner). Fascinating and frustrating in equal parts.
I still remember the first time I heard of Forrest Fenn, the eccentric millionaire who hid a box of priceless possessions in the remote wilderness, a poem and some short stories the only clues as to where it could be found. This is the story of those who went out hunting in a way I only dreamed. Barbarisi takes to the trail himself, and masterfully tells the story of the madness of the quest, and the final 'solve' to the riddle.
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.