Nick, Assistant Buyer Emeritus
Favorite Genres: Literary fiction (usually surreal, often foreign, and I'm always open to a fierce satire), science fiction (preferably with minimal military or governmental intrigue), weird graphic novels, non-fiction about dark political truths and astronomy, poetry, and biographies by artists and thinkers I admire
Favorite Authors: Boris and Arkaday Strugatsky, Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Hanselmann, Alejandra Pizarnik, Cordwainer Smith, Catherynne M. Valente, Ikkyu
A beautifully translated, relentlessly harrowing journey through just about every facet of "human-as-chattle." Shows a map of complicity with horror, and how our desperation can lead us into the kind of suggestibility that forces us to further the abuse of our fellow humans. The people in this book mirror us: they feed on propaganda, do its bidding, then complain about the results. An artful, harsh political parable.
Cults, con artists, pirates, polygamists, ladies dressin' like fellas in old-timey times, government raids, the list goes on. This, much like Wild Wild Country, is the story of an American religious community so odd and large that it's a wonder the story isn't better known. Heck, my Mom regularly vacationed on Beaver Island and she never heard about the HUGE CULT that rose up there. Fascinating!
WAS that interstellar object crafted by aliens? I dunno. There's no definitive answer for 'Oumuamua yet, not in this book or in the hypotheses of Loeb's detractors (though there is a lot of promise in the notion that it was a chunk of nitrogen from a Pluto-like planet). It remains one of the most fascinating scholarly public debates with ET implications we've witnessed, so crack this open and get in on the action!
Ever wonder why they didn't call it "The Autobiography of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz"? That's what he changed his name to, after all. But it's not a "brand." Anyway, this book is an incredible supplement to The Autobiography, filling in gaps and correcting/clarifying things which Malcolm glossed over in his own book. Things I'd wrongly presumed about him for years were corrected in the course of reading this. A+ journalism.
Like Contact, but written decades earlier by somebody smarter than Sagan (and better with prose). Hard sci-fi which, after a droll prologue, moves into an incredibly compelling thought experiment that will have you looking at life with eyes lit up by curiosity. Its science is limited by the needs of fiction, but the skepticism displayed by the narrator is rigorous, and the scenario yields an exceptionally refined story of discovery.
Chaudhuri does a better job than almost any author of describing music on the page, both in terms of its feeling and its technical elements. This book's an invitation to a vast world of incredibly (though, like European classical music, class-ensnared) gorgeous music, and elucidates its complexities and context in a way that makes the listening experience richer. Throw on some Kaushiki Chakraborty and open this up.
When lockdown hit I found myself unable to read fiction for over a year, which was a scary change. Recently I picked this book up and was pulled in by the joyfully rich writing and fantastical images that Ross deploys. It's a life-affirming book, not smarmy or "inspirational" but filled with what matters: love, fruit, wonderment, community. Perfect if you want a classy magical-realist read that's neither too bleak nor too rosy.
I can vouch for this book because I watched the world it is describing unfold in real time, as a devout listener through the evolution of the "beat scene," and as somebody who keeps his bedroom stuffed with MPCs and records. Fintoni has covered not only the hits, but also the forgotten groundbreaking stuff like Ricci Rucker, Heralds of Change, and others. Meticulous work on a hugely relevant artistic movement.
This is my last month at BBS, and Dhalgren was the first book I bought here, almost 9 years ago. A masterpiece of gorgeously written sci-fi, depicting an anarchic city where some vaguely defined occurrence has led things into gang warfare, unfettered exploration of sexuality, and frightening disarray. It begins and ends in the middle of the same sentence, and has 17 points that could be considered its beginning. Truly unique.
Kate Bush was the first woman in England to have a self-penned #1 single, and the first woman anywhere to have a platinum self-penned album. She's a genius. Take the song "Breathing": a fetus sings about the nuclear fallout it's taking in from its mother. But then she turns around and does tearful love songs, Broadway ballads, and glitchy computer funk. This is one of the all-time great lyric books.
I heard Kid A when I was 11 and it was like finding religion. Hyden goes into a lot of cultural commentary, which I skipped because I only care about the album (his writing on the band/album is GREAT). Of course, Thom said the vocal effect on EIIRP was Jonny scrubbing a ProTools file, and Hyden says it was a Kaoss pad, but whatever. This book pointed out Ed's old blog to me!
First-hand accounts are absolutely necessary when approaching human issues. Numbers and sound bites can't convey the same nuance, or induce the same empathy. The mix presented here of refugees alongside "big-picture" political professionals allows us to have an intimate look at something which is all too easy to misunderstand when presented in the brief articles which normally make up our exposure to it.
SHELLEY Jackson, not Shirley. These stories, all based on bodily parts/functions/failures, have engaging prose that's able to summon genuine emotion, and are also just the weirdest and funniest dang things I've read in ages. What do you do when the egg from your period keeps growing? My top story: the medieval guide to everyone's favorite, uh, I guess the term is "marital aid." An author having a great, surefooted ol' time!
No witness to his rise denies it: he worked obsessively hard on music (even when it wasn't close to profitable), battled his personal demons and won, and now he's a healthy, sober millionaire who clearly loves and respects his wife. I'm not normally one for self-help books, and especially not celebrity advice, but I believe Gucci, and absorbing these words from a trustworthy source made me feel empowered and alive.
Baker is an incredibly good writer, which makes it easy to digest the dark points brought up in this book, which is centered around his research into the USA's interest in (and possible deployment of) biological weaponry during the Cold War. It doubles as an indictment of the government's disdain for the Freedom of Information Act. If you didn't yet realize that our security apparatuses are evil, then ooooh boooy..........
Diogenes rules! The ancient philosophy of Cynicism (as opposed to the modern definition) rejected those superfluous concerns of the world which people now increasingly realize have been integral to the downfall of nature and our collective sanity. This book often presents Cynicism as possessing a zen-like ineffability, but it still may help you articulate why what seems sane to many is truly insane, and vice versa.
Don't let the cover fool you: this isn't arguing that Western society is awesome. It's more a breakdown of how historical factors made the Western psyche so freakishly aberrant that it developed into the chimera we see around and within us. A compelling book which makes plain that we are not experiencing consensus reality and "logical" views, but a cultural, anthropological mode by which we organize the world.
Thrilled to see a reissue of this book! Told entirely (or nearly) in dialogue, this is an overlooked classic of American satire which captures our post-Horatio Alger spirit of economic fervor through the entrepreneurial instincts of a precocious kid. The adults around him are represented in an equally wryly funny—but poignant—fashion. See if you can spot which '90s author stole their entire model for dialogue rhythm from Gaddis.
It's no surprise that we hadn't heard of Prigov until this moment, given how unabashedly Russian he was and how America long regarded that state of being. Now we have the pleasure of gazing through this window into the vastness of Soviet life. The universal beauty of washing dishes, looking back at the waning of youthful vigor. No need for me to gussy it up: the writing is great.
I wish I had a cool niece to give this to! An amazing book that runs the gamut of all kinds of people and skate styles. This operates as a technical manual for skating, a baseball-card-like guide to heroes and promising amateurs in the sport, and a discussion of gender in a community that has long been bro-centric. It's the perfect gift for that rad, kinetic person you know.
The Kids Write Jokes Twitter is one of the four or five things that can make me smile right now, and I was over the moon when I heard they have a book. These kids are geniuses—we grown folk are NOT the masters of comedy. What did the big baby say to the little baby? "Where is the medium baby?" Why are snakes long? Because they are old. Often gut-bustingly funny.