Category Archives: Staff Picks

Staff Picks: Week of June 6th

Happy Monday, Everyone. It’s going to be a great day. And a great week. Say it with me!

Here are some of the collections of wordy paper we’re blabbing about this week:

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BJ has officially finished every book Kate Atkinson has published to date and  is now loving:

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection — the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette.

The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies — foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery.

Littered with memories of Claire’s years as a girl detective in 1980s Brooklyn, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

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Lucia really likes:

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, by Piper Kerman

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424—one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

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Donna is appropriately bonkers over:

The Post-American World: Release 2.0, by Fareed Zakaria

The “New York Times” bestseller, revised and expanded with a new Afterword.

“This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.” So begins Fareed Zakaria’s important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the “rise of the rest”-the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others-as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.

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If she could, Danielle would give every family a copy of:

Blackout, by John Rocco

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun–talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again. Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

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Aida hates making definitive statements of any kind, so is very happy this week to be in familiar territory with:

What?: Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History–Or is This a Game of 20 Questions?, by Mark Kurlansky

What is What? Could it be that noted author Mark Kurlansky has written a very short, terrifically witty, deeply thought-provoking book entirely in the form of questions? A book that draws on philosophy, religion, literature, policy-indeed, all of civilization-to ask what may well be the twenty most important questions in human history? Or has he given us a really smart, impossibly amusing game of twenty questions? Kurlansky considers the work of Confucius, Plato, Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare, Descartes, Nietzsche, Freud, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, the Talmud, Charles de Gaulle, Virginia Woolf, and others, distilling the deep questions of life to their sparkling essence. What? supplies endless fodder for thoughtful conversation but also endless opportunity to ponder and be challenged by-and entertained by-these questions in refreshingly original ways. As Kurlansky says, In a world that seems devoid of absolute certainties, how can we make declarative statements? Without asking the questions, how will we ever get to the answers? “Why are we here? Why is all of this here? Why do we die? What is death? What does it mean that outer space is infinite and what is after infinity? What is the significance of birdflight, why does matter decay, and how is our life different from that of a mosquito? Is there an end to these questions or is questioning as infinite as space?” With his striking black-and-white woodcut illustrations throughout, this handsome volume is a tour de force that packs a tremendous wallop in a deliciously compact package.

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Jane quietly offers you:

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journeys in “Travel as an Ordeal” and highlights some of “Travelers’ Favorite Places.” Excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work are interspersed with selections from travelers both familiar and unexpected: 

Vladimir Nabokov           J.R.R. Tolkien
Samuel Johnson               Eudora Welty
Evelyn Waugh                  Isak Dinesen
Charles Dickens               James Baldwin
Henry David Thoreau       Pico Iyer
Mark Twain                     Anton Chekhov
Bruce Chatwin                  John McPhee
Freya Stark                      Peter Matthiessen
Graham Greene                Ernest Hemingway

The Tao of Travel is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.

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The Staff Picks: Week of May 30th

Did you catch Lucia Silva on NPR yesterday morning? Listen to her talk about her picks for the summer, here.

Here’s what we’re talking about this week:

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Frank, Jr. Picks:

Twenty Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America, by Albert Brooks

June 12, 2030 started out like any other day in memory—and by then, memories were long.  Since cancer had been cured fifteen years before, America’s population was aging rapidly.  That sounds like good news, but consider this: millions of baby boomers, with a big natural predator picked off, were sucking dry benefits and resources that were never meant to hold them into their eighties and beyond.  Young people around the country simmered with resentment toward “the olds” and anger at the treadmill they could never get off of just to maintain their parents’ entitlement programs.

But on that June 12th, everything changed: a massive earthquake devastated Los Angeles, and the government, always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, was unable to respond.

The fallout from the earthquake sets in motion a sweeping novel of ideas that pits national hope for the future against assurances from the past and is peopled by a memorable cast of refugees and billionaires, presidents and revolutionaries, all struggling to find their way.  In 2030, the author’s all-too-believable imagining of where today’s challenges could lead us tomorrow makes gripping and thought-provoking reading.

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Lucia Picks:

To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays, by Gertrude Stein

“Alphabets and names make games and everybody has a name and all the same they have in a way to have a birthday,” muses Gertrude Stein in To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. Written in 1940 and intended as a follow-up to her children’s book The World Is Round, published the previous year, To Do is a fanciful journey through the alphabet. Each letter is represented by four names (including Gertrude for “G”) and features a short story told in verse. “[This is] a birthday book I would have liked as a child,” said Stein of To Do.

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Julie Picks:

Faithful Place, by Tana French

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.  But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again. Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

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BJ Picks:

Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself–through unconventional and precarious means.

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Aida Picks:

Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, by David Orr

For most readers, contemporary poetry is a foreign country. And because they’ve barely visited poetry, let alone lived there, readers struggle to enjoy the art for what it is, rather than what they imagine it to be.

In Beautiful & Pointless, award-winning critic David Orr provides a riveting tour of poetry as it actually exists today. Orr argues that readers should accept the foreignness of poetry in the way that they accept the strangeness of any place to which they haven’t traveled—they should expect a little confusion, at least at first. Yet in the same way that we can, over time, learn to appreciate the idiosyncratic delights of, for instance, Belgium, we can learn to be comfortable with the odd pleasures of poetry by taking our time and pursuing what we like.

Reading poetry, Orr suggests, is more a matter of building a relationship than proceeding systematically through a checklist. Beautiful & Pointless provides the foundation for such a relationship by examining the things poets and poetry readers talk about when they discuss poetry, such as why poetry seems especially personal and what it means to write “in form.” Orr, by turns acerbic, incisive, hilarious, and keen, is what every reader hopes for: that perfect guide who points the way, doesn’t talk too much, and helps you see what you might have missed. Stimulating, amusing, and utterly engrossing, Beautiful & Pointless allows us to see how an individual reader engages poetry, so that we may feel better equipped to appreciate it in our own way.

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Lilly Picks:

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Arguably the most influential, imaginative, and provocative designer of his generation, Alexander McQueen both challenged and expanded fashion conventions to express ideas about race, class, sexuality, religion, and the environment. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty examines the full breadth of the designer’s career, from the start of his fledgling label to the triumphs of his own world-renowned London house. It features his most iconic and radical designs, revealing how McQueen adapted and combined the fundamentals of Savile Row tailoring, the specialized techniques of haute couture, and technological innovation to achieve his distinctive aesthetic. It also focuses on the highly sophisticated narrative structures underpinning his collections and extravagant runway presentations, with their echoes of avant-garde installation and performance art.

Published to coincide with an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art organized by The Costume Institute, this stunning book includes a preface by Andrew Bolton; an introduction by Susannah Frankel; an interview by Tim Blanks with Sarah Burton, creative director of the house of Alexander McQueen; illuminating quotes from the designer himself; provocative and captivating new photography by renowned photographer Sølve Sundsbø; and a lenticular cover by Gary James McQueen.

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The Staff Picks: Week of May 23rd

Happy to see you alive and reading!

Here’s some of what we love this week…

Lilly Picks:

Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music, by Rob Young

In the late 1960s, with popular culture hurtling forward on the sounds of rock music, some brave musicians looked back instead, trying to recover the lost treasures of English roots music and update them for the new age. The records of Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and Nick Drake are known as “folk rock” today, but Rob Young’s epic, electrifying book makes clear that those musicians led a decades-long quest to recover English music—and with it, the ancient ardor for mysticism and paganism, for craftsmanship and communal living.

From Lilly:  Superb! A dream odyssey of a read revealing a musical/ideological pathway connecting some of my favorite composer/musicians – i.e., Ralph Vaughan Williams, Nick Drake… (However, doesn’t include Jethro Tull….?!)

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Donna Picks:


The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson

Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer, and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never lost touch with each other, or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik.

Dining together one night at Sevcik’s apartment—the two Jewish widowers and the unmarried Gentile, Treslove—the men share a sweetly painful evening, reminiscing on a time before they had loved and lost, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. But as Treslove makes his way home, he is attacked and mugged outside a violin dealer’s window. Treslove is convinced the crime was a misdirected act of anti-Semitism, and in its aftermath, his whole sense of self will ineluctably change.

The Finkler Question is a funny, furious, unflinching novel of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and the wisdom and humanity of maturity.

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Lucia Picks:

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

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BJ Picks:

The Letters of Sylvia Beach, edited by Keri Walsh

Founder of the Left Bank bookstore Shakespeare and Company and the first publisher of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Sylvia Beach had a legendary facility for nurturing literary talent. In this first collection of her letters, we witness Beach’s day-to-day dealings as bookseller and publisher to expatriate Paris. Friends and clients include Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, H. D., Ezra Pound, Janet Flanner, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Richard Wright. As librarian, publicist, publisher, and translator, Beach carved out a unique space for herself in English and French letters.

This collection reveals Beach’s charm and resourcefulness, sharing her negotiations with Marianne Moore to place Joyce’s work in “The Dial”; her battle to curb the piracy of “Ulysses” in the United States; her struggle to keep Shakespeare and Company afloat during the Depression; and her complicated affair with the French bookstore owner Adrienne Monnier. These letters also recount Beach’s childhood in New Jersey; her work in Serbia with the American Red Cross; her internment in a German prison camp; and her friendship with a new generation of expatriates in the 1950s and 1960s. Beach was the consummate American in Paris and a tireless champion of the avant-garde. Her warmth and wit made the Rue de l’OdA(c)on the heart of modernist Paris.

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Danielle Picks:

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps, by Jeanette Winter

Acclaimed picture book biographer Jeanette Winter has found her perfect subject: Jane Goodall, the great observer of chimpanzees. Follow Jane from her childhood in London watching a robin on her windowsill, to her years in the African forests of Gombe, Tanzania, invited by brilliant scientist Louis Leakey to observe chimps, to her worldwide crusade to save these primates who are now in danger of extinction, and their habitat. Young animal lovers and Winter’s many fans will welcome this fascinating and moving portrait of an extraordinary person and the animals to whom she has dedicated her life.
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Aida Picks:
Someday This Will Be Funny, by Lynne Tillman

The stories in Some Day This Will Be Funny marry memory to moment in a union of narrative form as immaculate and imperfect as the characters damned to act them out on page. Lynne Tillman, author of American Genius, presides over the ceremony; Clarence Thomas, Marvin Gaye, and Madame Realism mingle at the reception. Narrators – by turn infamous and nameless – shift within their own skin, struggling to unknot reminiscence from reality while scenes rush into warm focus, then cool, twist, and snap in the breeze of shifting thought. Epistle, quotation, and haiku bounce between lyrical passages of lucid beauty, echoing the scattered, cycling arpeggio of Tillman’s preferred subject: the unsettled mind. Collectively, these stories own a conscience shaped by oaths made and broken; by the skeleton silence and secrets of family; by love’s shifting chartreuse. They traffic in the quiet images of personal history, each one a flickering sacrament in danger of being swallowed up by the lust and desperation of their possessor: a fistful of parking tickets shoved in the glove compartment, a little black book hidden from a wife in a safe-deposit box, a planter stuffed with flowers to keep out the cooing mourning doves. They are stories fashioned with candor and animated by fits of wordplay and invention – stories that affirm Tillman’s unshakable talent for wedding the patterns and rituals of thought with the blushing immediacy of existence, defying genre and defining experimental short fiction.

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The Staff Picks: Week of May 16th

This is the week we turn 25 years old. Mid-twenties. Quarter century… Portrait of a Bookstore can now rent a car!

Here is what the Staff Picks this week:

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Julie Picks:

This Life Is in Your Hands, by Melissa Coleman

In 1968, Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue—a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families—pack a few essentials into their VW truck and abandon the complications of modern reality to carve a farm from the woods. They move to a remote peninsula on the coast of Maine and become disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life. On sixty acres of sandy, intractable land, Eliot and Sue begin to forge a new existence, subsisting on the crops they grow and building a home with their own hands.

While they establish a happy family and achieve their visionary goals, the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. Winters are long and lean, summers frenetic with the work of the harvest, and the distraction of the many young farm apprentices threatens the Colemans’ marriage. Then, one summer day when Melissa is seven, her three-year-old sister, Heidi, wanders off and drowns in the pond where she liked to play. In the wake of the accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother’s breakdown—and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of neighbors. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame?

This Life Is in Your Hands is the search to understand a complicated past; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, it tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.

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Jane Picks:

The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem–ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities–like the Housekeeper’s shoe size–and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

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Lucia Picks:

A Moment in the Sun, by John Sayles

Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, Sayles’s latest novel takes the late 1890’s in its sights–from the white coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in Cuba and the Philippines.
Many, many pages long.

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Danielle Picks:

A Drove of Bullocks and A Filth of Starlings, by PatrickGeorge


A litter of kittens, a colony of ants, a pride of lions: everyone has heard of these plural nouns. But what about a parcel of hogs, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, or a business of ferrets? What could be more apt than calling a group of cockroaches an intrusion? Perhaps a loveliness of ladybirds! These fanciful groups and many more are illustrated with cutting-edge design—dazzling as a dazzle of zebras.

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BJ Picks:

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason’s family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna’s life is changed forever…

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound…

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency…

These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest novel from Kate Atkinson, the critically acclaimed author who Harlan Coben calls “an absolute must-read.”

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Donna Picks:

The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee

Smart and socially gifted, Adam and Cynthia Morey are perfect for each other. With Adam’s rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. But for the Moreys, their future of boundless privilege is not arriving fast enough. As Cynthia begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family’s happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility. The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other.

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Lilly Picks:

Damn You, Autocorrect!by Jillian Madison

A buck a boat funny stuff the happens with autocorrect.

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The Staff Picks: Week of May 9th

Well, hello again! It’s a new week and we have a new set of recommendations– books we love and can’t wait to tell you about.

See last week’s here.

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Lucia Picks:

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

Viking marauders descend on a much-plundered island, hoping some mayhem will shake off the winter blahs.  A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the print of a bare foot on the inside of his car’s windshield doesn’t match her own.  Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods.  A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl.  Wells Tower’s version of America is touched with the seamy splendor of the dropout, the misfit: failed inventors, boozy dreamers, hapless fathers, wayward sons.

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BJ Picks:

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson

“Housekeeper or housewife?” the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they’ll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. “Survivor,” she answers.

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.

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Frank, Jr. Picks:

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

It’s the perfect time, Frank thinks, to revisit this classic. He’s been reading it again and trying to convince the rest of us to do the same.

Here’s where you should not go.

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Lilly Picks:

Patti Smith 1969-1976, photographed by Judy Linn

“Linn’s collection of photographs is the perfect complement to Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids . . . like Smith’s memoir, the photos-uninterrupted by titles, captions, or any other text-serve two purposes: they tell the story of young artists finding their voice and style and serve as a love letter to ’70s New York, four decades later.”
-Flavorwire.com

Lilly says:  “I LOVE it.”

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Donna Picks:


French Leave, by Anna Gavalda

Simon, Garance and Lola flee a family wedding that promises to be dull to visit their younger brother, Vincent, who is working as a guide at a château in the heart of the charming Tours countryside. For a few hours, they forget about kids, spouses, work and the many demands adulthood makes upon them and lose themselves in a day of laughter, teasing, and memories. As simply and as spontaneously as the adventure began, it ends. All four return to their everyday lives, carrying with them the magic of their brief reunion. They are stronger now, and happier, for having rediscovered the ties that bind them.

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Danielle Picks:

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, by Lucy Cousins

Eight classic stories take on new energy as Lucy Cousins ramps up her artwork. In this bold, funny, and unflinching collection, the beloved author-illustrator retains all the emotion and humor of the original fairy tales: the heroes are courageous, the villains are horrible, and the children are tasty. With her sly, simple language and vibrant illustrations, even the scariest fiends become the stuff of shared hilarity and shivery thrills.

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Aida Picks:

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake

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Jane Picks:

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah

Jane says: “Having traveled through most of the Moslem nations in the bygone era when there were still kings and emperors in Afghanistan and Iran, Morocco always haunted my mind as being so very different as to seem a sojourner outpost from an alien galaxy.  Nothing was quite solid, pathways of energy ran unseen under the surface, reality always had a half-glimpsed twin slipping around a shadowed turn.  It wasn’t until I read The Caliph’s House all these decades later that those rather hallucinatory impressions began to merge into something coherent. At first glimpse, you might take it for a crazier version of other International House Hunter sagas like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun as one reviewer put it, “the…idealistic…pursuit of greener grass through domestic upheaval”.  But it has both a darker and a more luminous adventure to offer.  At the very moment Tahir Shah is signing the purchase papers for the crumbling palatial relic he has fallen in love with, a terrorist bomb goes off in the hotel across the street, shattering windows and blowing him and the attorney bloodied across the room.  With this sonic boom of penetration between cultures we are catapulted into a universe ruled by ancient and inscrutable tribal codes of honor and invisible meddling spirit jinns.  Restoring the Caliph’s house and garden courtyards to their full glory becomes a cultural, even spiritual, trial given vivid life by Tahir Shah’s sharp observations and sharper humor.  Full of bizarre events and characters, it’s a magical and very delicious dish.”

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The Staff Picks: Week of May 2nd

Recently, someone had the audacity to call us the “best curated bookstore” in Los Angeles. We’re not sure we can take this kind of libel sitting down.

So, we’re going to get back up and tell you what books, if you were to walk into our store this week, we’d rush over and tuck under your arm, stage-whispering fervent promises about.

We might even make a weekly habit of this, quickly compiling a reading list on which anyone on the planet would be able to find something they’d love. Because although there is only a handful of us, we are  zealots about the books we love and deviants in our tastes.

Lilly Picks:

The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace’s death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions–questions of life’s meaning and of the value of work and society–through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace’s unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.

***

BJ Picks:

Started Early, Took My  Dog, by Kate Atkinson

Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective-a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other-or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge.
Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue-that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished.

***

Danielle Picks:


The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, by Dan Yaccarino

Jacques Cousteau was the world’s ambassador of the oceans. His popular TV series brought whales, otters, and dolphins right into people’s living rooms. Now, in this exciting picturebook biography, Dan Yaccarino introduces young readers to the man behind the snorkel. From the first moment he got a glimpse of what lived under the ocean’s waves, Cousteau was hooked. And so he set sail aboard the Calypso to see the sea. He and his team of scientists invented diving equipment and waterproof cameras. They made films and televisions shows and wrote books so they could share what they learned. The oceans were a vast unexplored world, and Cousteau became our guide. And when he saw that pollution was taking its toll on the seas, Cousteau became our guide in how to protect the oceans as well.

***

Aida Picks:

Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman

In 2005, novelist Franciso Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in a romantic Mexican hacienda. The month before their second anniversary, Aura broke her neck while body surfing. Francisco, blamed for Aura’s death by her family and blaming himself, wanted to die, too. Instead, he wrote “Say Her Name,” a novel chronicling his great love and unspeakable loss.
*
A word from Aida about this being a “novel”: It’s not. At least, not a novel as it’s commonly thought of. This is one of the very small handful of books I can name written in the flushed throes of fresh grief. It isn’t a memoir written in retrospect, I mean. It is,  rather, the thoughts and recollections of a man who cannot yet say, “this is what happened and this is how I got through it.” There is no “The End” and though Goldman does wrap it up at the end of the book, this is simply a transparent and long journal entry. Whether it should have been published is a moot point, of course, (though I wouldn’t have,) but it is an absorbing book, which does little more than to tell us what it was like. That’s all. It doesn’t try to make sense. For this reason, it’s unique.
***
Jane Picks:

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.
Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.
***
Frank, Jr. Picks:

Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell
Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight.
With her trademark smart-alecky insights and reporting, Vowell lights out to discover the off, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state, and in so doing finds America, warts and all.
***
Lucia Picks:

The Great Night, by Chris Adrian

On Midsummer Eve 2008, three people, each on the run from a failed relationship, become trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, the secret home of Titania, Oberon, and their court. On this night, something awful is happening in the faerie kingdom: in a fit of sadness over the end of her marriage, which broke up in the wake of the death of her adopted son, Titania has set loose an ancient menace, and the chaos that ensues will threaten the lives of immortals and mortals alike.
***
Julie Picks:


Reading My Father, by Alexandra Styron
In Reading My Father, William Styron’s youngest child explores the life of a fascinating and difficult man whose own memoir, Darkness Visible, so searingly chronicled his battle with major depression. Alexandra Styron’s parents—the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Sophie’s Choice and his political activist wife, Rose—were, for half a century, leading players on the world’s cultural stage. Alexandra was raised under both the halo of her father’s brilliance and the long shadow of his troubled mind.

Reading My Father portrays the epic sweep of an American artist’s life, offering a ringside seat on a great literary generation’s friendships and their dramas. It is also a tale of filial love, beautifully written, with humor, compassion, and grace.

***

Frank Picks:

When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead, by Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen

Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him–the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York’s Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood–he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. “All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage,” he writes. “I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: ‘Jerry Weintraub Presents.'”

***

Donna Picks:

Half Empty, by David Rakoff

In this deeply funny (and, no kidding, wise and poignant) book, Rakoff examines the realities of our sunny,  gosh­ everyone-can-be-a-star contemporary culture and finds that, pretty much as a universal rule, the best is not yet to come, adversity will triumph, justice will not be served, and your dreams won’t come true.

The book ranges from the personal to the universal, combining stories from Rakoff’s reporting and accounts of his own experi­ences: the moment when being a tiny child no longer meant adults found him charming but instead meant other children found him a fun target; the perfect late evening in Manhattan when he was young and the city seemed to brim with such pos­sibility that the street shimmered in the moonlight—as he drew closer he realized the streets actually flickered with rats in a feeding frenzy. He also weaves in his usual brand Oscar Wilde–worthy cultural criticism (the tragedy of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, for instance).

****

As you can see, what we pick won’t necessarily be new or old or funny or serious or long or short. They’re just good books that excite us and what’s a friendly bookstore for but to share all the excitement…

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