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
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.
(Since this is a hot-button issue, let me say that true anarchism is not about lawlessness, it's an alternate system of democracy.) This book's full of dense theory, but if you can handle that then it's an informative read, tackling a question currently on the minds of many: is anarcho-syndicalism possible in the real world? As Amborn skillfully proves, the answer is yes because it has existed in the world for a long time.
People are showing an increased interest these days in alternate forms of communal living. Well, why not turn to the fruits of one of the foremost 20th century experiments in it? Black Mountain was a project of shared responsibility as a way of unleashing shared creativity, and this book contains many of the fantastic works that came out of it.
I love Sun Ra more than words can say. A hero of art and philosophy, an iconic visionary who made so many excursions into the farthest realms of music that it seems beyond human—and escaping humanness was, for him, the whole point. This book is the best resource on the whole of Ra's life, and is a testament to what is possible when someone truly, deeply believes in art and a more beautiful future.
Love it or hate it, Zhang is doing something interesting here. She takes chances, uses common parlance (even internet-style) in a way that seems honest and not an ironic affectation, and these poems are so charged with anger and neuroses and pseudo-incestuousness that they're hard to put down. These pieces aren't melodious odes to cranes, and I'm glad.
A meticulous book—maybe essential reading. This affects us all, and we have a chance to change it. It's increasingly the norm in tech and government for our digital lives to be tracked incessantly, and for the information mined from us to be used to manipulate our political, personal, and financial choices. Zuboff can help show the nature of the beast, and then it's up to us to fight for an age of ethical interconnection.