Book Lists

This category is for lists of books (example: Top 10 Books for Summer Reading)

So Good Looking

We have a joke here at Brazos: some books are for readin’, and some books are for lookin’. The holiday season is a great time to browse some lookin’ books for people—the gorgeous books that people will keep on their coffee tables for friends and family to flip through at parties. Sometimes these books dovetail perfectly with somebody’s interests; other times, they’re just too beautiful to ignore. Here are some of our favorite lookin’ books of 2016, with some other gift items that’ll also spruce up your living room.

John Derian Picture Book Cover Image
$75.00
ISBN: 9781579656478
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Artisan Publishers - October 4th, 2016

John Derian is an artist who works from notions of home and domesticity, cultivating oldness and making it new. In this book, you get hundreds of pages of lovely, full-color images: horses, owls, strange faces, and household objects. This is our numero uno coffee table book of 2016, and your friends will love it!


Motown: The Sound of Young America Cover Image
$60.00
ISBN: 9780500518298
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - September 13th, 2016

There is no overstating the importance of Berry Gordy’s Motown Records on pop music or American culture in general. This book is a celebration of that legacy, replete with numerous publicity materials and candid photos of some of the most important and influential musical artists of all time.


Three Centuries of American Prints Cover Image
$60.00
ISBN: 9780500239520
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - August 2nd, 2016

From colonial times to the latest in graphic art/design, this is the most comprehensive collection of reproducible art you will find. Beautiful, historic images in one gorgeous volume, this book is catnip for graphic designers. It’s an expensive book, but for the amount of time somebody will spend poring over it, a little money goes a long way.


The Vincent Van Gogh Atlas Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780300222845
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - November 15th, 2016

All great artists grow and change over the years, and Van Gogh was no different. From rural Netherlands to the hustle and bustle of Paris and London, this affordable coffee table book covers his whole journey with engaging text and beautiful images. For the art geek in your life!


The Voynich Manuscript Cover Image
By Raymond Clemens (Editor), Deborah E. Harkness (Introduction by)
$50.00
ISBN: 9780300217230
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - November 1st, 2016

A mysterious book? Surreal images? Strange text? THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT has been around for centuries, and nobody knows what it is. But a mystery is a compelling thing, and this book is a great “nerdy” home accessory, perfect to take out at parties and ask, “What the hell is this thing?”


Marimekko Large Cloth-Covered Journal Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9781452138794
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Chronicle Books - September 22nd, 2015

A great, unexpected notebook: whimsical, and a great size!


$14.00
SKU: 846680044251

This bag is good for anything small: pens, makeup, whatever. And who doesn’t like shiny things?


$70.00
SKU: LamyG

Anyone who has used Lamy fountain pens knows they’re the best. But with these sturdy cases? Turn your Lamy pen into a snazzy weapon!


Brazos Best 2016

Yep, you got us: we love books here.

$140.00
SKU: x4545

Get all ten of the 2016 Brazos Best featured titles for 20% off. Tax is included in the $140 price.


The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse Cover Image
By Ivan Repila, Sophie Hughes (Translator)
$16.00
ISBN: 9781782271017
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pushkin Collection - November 24th, 2015

January: Ben and Mark, Down in the Well…

“It’s part fable, part allegory. There are two boys in the well, Big and Small. We don’t know why they’re there, but they can’t get out. It becomes a myth-like story of love, humanity, and the struggle to survive. With customers, I’ve called it ‘haunting and beautiful.’” —Mark


The Vegetarian Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781101906118
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth Press - August 23rd, 2016

February: Lose Weight! Lose Your Mind

“Her dreams start off the whole thing of her becoming a vegetarian. And it’s creepy to watch her slip into madness and how her family reacts to that.”
—Ulrika


Margaret the First Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781936787357
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - March 15th, 2016

March: Intangible Consciousness: A Q&A with Danielle Dutton

“Dutton’s novel, almost a fictionalized diary, alternately in Margaret’s own voice or that of a detached observer watching this brilliant woman work, gives a gorgeous realism and immediacy to Margaret’s longings, cravings, and intellectual agonizing.”
—Liz


Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780312425845
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Picador USA - April 18th, 2006

April: Painting with Water on the Walls

“Well, there was no one Chernobyl experience. That’s what comes through. [This book seems] to capture the essence more than the historical structure of the event.”
—Keaton


Night Prayers Cover Image
By Santiago Gamboa, Howard Curtis (Translator)
$18.00
ISBN: 9781609453114
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - March 1st, 2016

May: See the World with Santiago Gamboa's NIGHT PRAYERS

“For all the conversational tone, it’s a dense, complex novel, with a lot of points. And there’s always that sinister backdrop behind things. Things can get a lot worse really quickly.”
—Keaton


The Sadness Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781939419705
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Unnamed Press - June 14th, 2016

June: In Pursuit of the Real Benjamin Rybeck

“In my book, yes, a character named Max is obsessed with cinema to the point where it’s all he sees when he looks out into the world. I used to be that bad, but I’m not that bad anymore (I don’t think, though I do still sometimes imagine a camera tracking in front of me when I walk through the grocery store).”
—Ben


Grief Is the Thing with Feathers Cover Image
$14.00
ISBN: 9781555977412
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - June 7th, 2016

July: Brazos Best is the Thing with Feathers

“It’s a polyvocal novel. It has a lot of different voices speaking in it. It’s also a very human story, and its universality lets you connect with it in the intense way you often connect with lyrical books. GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS made me think a lot of poetry, especially whenever the boys speak—they seem to be in a Greek chorus. And the verbal acrobatics of the crow: very poetic.”
—Keaton


A Bestiary Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780996316743
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Cleveland State University Poetry Center - April 15th, 2016

August: Lily Hoang Does Not Sleep

“When I call Hoang, she knows that I have read her book, which means I know what kind of sex she likes (rough), the name of her best best friend (Dorothy), all of her hate (and love) for her Vietnamese parents. I know about her abusive ex-husband and her abusive on-again, off-again boyfriend, the fling she had in Albuquerque; I know that she masturbates every day. In other words, I already know everything I want to know, more than I deserve to know.”
—Annalia


Vampire in Love Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780811223461
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 27th, 2016

September: Vila-Matas Stories Translated at Last

“Vila-Matas is one of the most celebrated writers in Europe. His work has been translated into over thirty languages. His novels, artful and experimental and mixed with a strong tradition of storytelling, are ideal for anyone who’s a fan of Paul Auster, J.M. Coetzee, or Roberto Bolaño.”
—Mark


The Gloaming Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781937512477
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Dollar Radio - September 20th, 2016

October: A Rock-n-Roll Indie Press

“It’s definitely a psychological thriller, all wrapped up in how people punish themselves, mentally as well as physically. And I love how the book occupies the sweet spot between intellectual heft and also just page-turning thrills.”
—Keaton


Augusta's List of Ten

I had a harder time than usual coming up with a top 10 list this year—Ülrika and I often trade our favorite books back and forth and have similar taste when it comes to gift items, so many of my favorites were the same ones that she has already discussed in her top 10. Fortunately, there were a lot of exciting things that came out this year, both books and gifts, and in no specific order, here are ten items that captivated my attention in 2016.

The Veins of the Ocean Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780802124890
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - May 3rd, 2016

I visited Key West with my family this past spring and this was the perfect book to take along for the trip. After a shocking act of violence and the subsequent aftermath that rocks Reina’s family, she struggles to rebuild her life and learn how to exist without her brother in the Florida Keys. She meets a Cuban immigrant, Nesto, and the two, scarred from painful remnants of their previous lives, develop a friendship, exquisitely rendered in Engel’s beautiful prose. The complexity of the characters and powerful descriptive language left this one lingering in my mind for months after I finished it.


Love and Ruin: Tales of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak from the Atavist Magazine Cover Image
By Evan Ratliff (Editor), Susan Orlean (Introduction by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780393352719
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 26th, 2016

The Atavist magazine, to those who are unfamiliar, publishes one longform narrative nonfiction piece each month and has, previously, only been available in digital format. I was one of those who was unfamiliar with The Atavist but as a lover of good narrative storytelling, thought I would give LOVE AND RUIN, a collection of some of the best pieces from the website, a try. I am now a convert. The topics are diverse, the styles are wide ranging and like any good narrative nonfiction, the author starts off investigating a particular theme of interest but end up somewhere entirely different and unexpected. By deeply exploring one very specific fascination, the essayists end up speaking to the much larger universal human condition and I feel greatly enriched by their words. If there is one essay collection not to miss this year, this is the one.


The Mothers Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780399184512
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - October 11th, 2016

I find myself, over and over, gravitating towards debut novels, especially by women writers. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of fresh voices wrangling the human experience or my desire to see women succeed and validated as capable of writing Literature, but with all the buzz around THE MOTHERS (and its beautifully designed cover), I knew it was one that I wanted to check out. It didn’t disappoint. Told by a chorus of voices, the narrative follows three African-American teenagers as they mature into adulthood and work through the interrelated complexities that life throws at them. Bennett possesses a perceptive and delicate approach to race, religion, family and love and I couldn’t put THE MOTHERS down. She has set the bar high with her debut and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next.


Appetites: A Cookbook Cover Image
$37.50
ISBN: 9780062409959
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - October 25th, 2016

I’ve always been a big fan of Bourdain’s attitude—towards food, towards life, towards cooking as a universal human experience. His latest cookbook is a more intimate look into where Bourdain is at this point in his life no longer the raucous, hard partying chef but a father and husband. The recipes are less focused on being of a particular style but more reflective of what he likes to make at home, with his daughter, for his family and friends. Some of the recipes are more complex than others, some don’t seem to fit a particular cuisine or style, but they all are representative of who Bourdain is, flaws and all, and that makes this all the more interesting. The awesome Ralph Steadman cover art doesn’t hurt either.


Vampire in Love Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780811223461
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 27th, 2016

I am a recent convert to (and lover of) books in translation but I must admit: I had never read any Enrique Vila-Matas. Recently translated into English for the first time, this collection spans his whole career and was filled with gems. Intellectual and witty, I found myself laughing out loud in waiting rooms over these brilliant stories. If you are looking for a way to get into translated fiction, this collection by arguably one of Spain’s greatest writers is an enjoyable introduction.


Have a Little Pun: Oh Snap! / Dill with It Tea Towels Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781452149653
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Chronicle Books - March 22nd, 2016

I’m a sucker for adorable kitchen accessories for the holidays so these punny tea towels are right up my alley. Literature nerds will love them and they make perfect gifts for the hosts of all those holiday parties you will inevitably be attending. Everyone will be bringing the requisite bottle of wine so why not bring something thoughtful that can be enjoyed year round?


$14.00
SKU: x3073

The new year is a time for starting fresh and what better way to do that than with these adorable clipboard weekly planner pads? They look great on your desk and are sure to keep you focused on the week ahead. Give the (pretty) gift of organization this holiday season.


$20.00
SKU: 846680028473

Yes, I’ll admit it—I am one of those people who organizes their books by color. This set of mini notebooks, arranged in a rainbow of colors (!) in a shiny gold slipcase (!!), immediately jumped out at me and I covet them daily. These will make the perfect stocking stuffer for those special colorful people in your life.


$15.00
SKU: X1326

I love everything Rifle Paper Co. makes. If I could style my entire home around Anna Bond’s beautiful designs, I would. The Joie de Vivre notebook set is no exception. The stripes and watercolor patterns are so striking and high quality, you may be tempted to just stare at them all day long. Treat yourself or someone you love to these gorgeous notebooks.


Joy Picks Ten You May Have Missed

The thing about publishing is that not every book gets the publicity it needs or deserves. This is simply the way the business works, and it has little if anything to do with the quality of the writing and pretty much everything to do with months, if not years, of advance marketing decisions about what will sell the most copies and why. Even books that get a bigger push may still fly under readers’ radars.

Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781481461122
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - August 30th, 2016

Set in Cuba in the nineteenth century, a time when the country was fighting for freedom from Spain, LION ISLAND is a middle-grade historical fiction novel-in-verse by award-winning author Margarita Engle. It’s the story of Antonio Chuffat and his journey to become an advocate of civil rights.

But it’s not just Antonio’s story. Told in multiple points of view, LION ISLAND starts in 1871, the year of the anti-Chinese riots in Los Angeles, and it’s also the story of Wing and Fan, a brother and sister who escaped those riots. It’s the tale of indentured servant and slaves and the overthrow of the Spanish sugar cane empire.

The verse format and multiple narrators makes this a page turner and a story set in a Cuba that few of us know makes it a must read for middle-graders who love history and based-on-truth stories. A great way to introduce social justice.


Lily and Dunkin Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780553536744
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Delacorte Press - May 3rd, 2016

From award-winning author Donna Gephart, LILY AND DUNKIN is a compelling dual narrative about two remarkable young people: Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder. When they meet, their lives change forever. In lesser hands, this middle grade novel would digress into an “issues” book Instead, it’s powerfully crafted and a must-read for every middle-grader and adults, too.

And if you want to know more about Donna Gephart—and of course you do!—and how she’s also an amazing teacher of the craft of writing, check out this podcast from her time at Austin author Bethany Hegedus’s Writing Barn.


Just My Luck Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062330659
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - February 23rd, 2016

Oh how I love Cammie McGovern’s writing. She gets the complexities of teens and children, especially those struggling with illness, just right. I’m a huge fan of her young adult novel SAY WHAT YOU WILL. And now comes her middle grade debut—and it’s a gorgeous, moving book. There’s fourth grader Benny, whose life is sucking hugely. He doesn’t have a best friend and he wants one desperately. He can’t do tricks on his bike even though his autistic brother George can. And he’s worried that his dad’s recent accident might be his fault. And then things get worse. But Benny has a big heart and it’s going to help him get through tragedy and figure out that he was more to offer the world than he thinks he does.

McGovern’s writing is strong and sure and gentle. I am such a huge fan and I hope you will be, too! I’d recommend for age eight or nine on up, for readers who enjoy a quieter, thoughtful story.


Read Between the Lines Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780763691028
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - October 11th, 2016

If you aren’t reading Jo Knowles’ amazingly crafted novels for young people, then you need to be. READ BETWEEN THE LINES came out in hardback last year, but is on our shelves now in paperback and so it’s a perfect time to become a fan of the author of such books as SEE YOU AT HARRY’S (one of my absolute favorites!) and more. RBTL is a novel—moving, gritty, unflinching, and humorous—of interlocking stories that follow nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day. Everything begins with Nate, who, thanks to a bully in gym class, suffers a broken finger. Of course it’s the middle one and it’s splinted to give ‘the finger’ to the world. But that’s not the only middle finger that will be raised that day in that small town. The cover says it all. For age thirteen and up, particularly teens who like contemporary fiction.


The Great Shelby Holmes: Girl Detective Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781681190518
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books - September 6th, 2016

Just named to the Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet List, this adorable middle-grade debut from internationally bestselling YA author Elizabeth Eulberg gives Sherlock Holmes a fun, sweet twist with delightful young heroes and black and white illustrations throughout. You’ll love this tale of Shelby Holmes, who is definitely not your average sixth grader, not only because she’s tiny and only nine years old but also because she is the best detective in Harlem! And when eleven-year-old John Watson (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) moves in downstairs, they end up teaming together for a dognapping case. Friendship and mystery-solving ensue. For age ten and up, mystery lovers or not!


Afterward Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781626722385
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - September 20th, 2016

Friend of the store and one of our very favorite Houston authors of contemporary young adult fiction such as THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE, Jennifer Mathieu tells AFTERWARD, a wrenching story of the aftermath of a tragic kidnapping in her trademark steady, solid, and authentic teen voice. Like Donna Gephart’s work, Mathieu is able to elevate an “issue” book to something much deeper and more profound—a story of kidnapped and rescued Ethan and Dylan and Dylan’s older sister Caroline and the scary awful truths of what happened and how they will all get beyond it. As I mentioned when she made us all laugh with her reading of the BFG during Roald Dahl Day, I am such a huge fan of Mathieu’s work and you should be, too! A definite recommend for all teens, particularly those who enjoy stories inspired by real events.


A Fierce and Subtle Poison Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781616205218
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - April 12th, 2016

What more can you ask for in a debut novel than to be a stunning retelling of Hawthorne’s “Rapaccinni’s Daughter,” but set in Puerto Rico?  Dallas author Samantha Mabry’s A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON is a story where legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison. It’s stunning prose, magic realism, and star-crossed romance.

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl—Isabel, the one with green skin and grass for hair, who feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family's Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill. Seventeen-year-old Lucas is about to find out whether the stories are just stories, or maybe some strange kind of truth. But will he survive this weird new world? Mabry’s written a story on many levels—from fairy tale, to warning of cultural appropriation, to crazy love. For teens and up, especially readers who like something different and strange and wonderful.


More Happy Than Not Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9781616956776
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Teen - April 26th, 2016

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT debuted in 2015 and quickly hit the New York Times bestseller list while garnering numerous awards and starred reviews. It’s on our shelves this year in paperback with a gorgeous new cover and if you haven’t read this gritty, twisty, wrenching, set in a dangerous near-future New York, haven’t discovered Bronx native Adam Silvera, then now is a good time to do so! His voice is one of the most authentic of any author for young adults, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s the story of sixteen year old Aaron Soto, struggling to recover from his father’s suicide. He’s got support from his girlfriend and from his loving but overworked mom, but he’s also got sadness and a smile-shaped scar on his wrist. But when Aaron’s feelings for a new boy named Thomas turn into something he isn’t expecting, complications stir. And the existence of a shadowy hospital called the Leteo Institute offers the possibility of surgically altering painful memories. But the question becomes, Does Aaron want to forget, or has he already forgotten? An important read that confronts race and sexuality with unflinching honesty.


The Serpent King Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780553524024
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Books for Young Readers - March 8th, 2016

Oh this story! Oh Jeff Zenter’s writing!! Oh THE SERPENT KING! This debut young adult novel is a story about friendship and family and forgiveness and casts an unflinching eye on growing up and finding your true self in the Bible Belt. It’s the story of the son of a Pentecostal minister, of extreme faith, of friendship and love and forgiveness. Like Zentner himself, it’s witty and funny and moving and different. Your teens will love it. So will you. And then you can all wait with me for March, 2017, when Zentner’s next YA novel, GOODBYE DAYS, arrives!!


The Memory of Things Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250095527
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - September 6th, 2016

With the proliferation this year of 9/11 fiction, you might have missed this one. I’m here to tell you that you need to read it! THE MEMORY OF THINGS is a beautiful young adult novel of friendship and first love, and the impossible yet possible ability to carry on with day-to-day living in the midst of horrific, unspeakable tragedy. It’s a hopeful, wonderful, wholly original story about sixteen-year old Kyle Donohue, fleeing the danger of the falling towers by running to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge. But when he meets a girl covered in ash, inexplicably wearing a pair of costume wings, a mystery unravels along with tragedy and survival. For teens who want an unconventional love and survival story. Once they’ve read it, they’ll want to read Gae Polisner’s other titles, like THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO.


The Best Ten Books Lydia Hasn't Talked About Enough This Year

The title pretty much says it all: for someone who talks about books for a living (and for fun), I still have not managed to shout about these ten books enough. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be considered socially unacceptable for me to wander the streets, asking if you’d heard the Good News about my current favorite book yet, and in an even more ideal world, I’d have an unlimited supply of these books to press feverishly into your hands.

Him, Me, Muhammad Ali Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781941411315
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - October 11th, 2016

#10

Jarrar switches easily from the brightly whimsical to the painfully real in this collection following Arab and Arab-American women as they struggle through love, lust, and longing. Whether rooted in fable or realism, whether following the journey of an Egyptian woman grieving her father or a woman with mountain goat legs searching for love, these stories hold truth.


Private Citizens Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062399106
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow & Company - February 9th, 2016

#9

Knife-blade-sharp social satire with deft characterization (as well as deft caricaturization, if I may), this debut novel set in the Bay Area is the greatest Feel-Bad Read of the year. Deliciously mean-spirited in tone but refreshingly equal-opportunity in scope, Tulathimutte spares no one, eviscerating the self-righteous, the branding-obsessed, the insecure navel-gazer, and the narcissistic in turn. You might end up hating many of the characters you come across in the book, but you'll also find yourself groaning in empathy and—let's be honest—in painful recognition. Mostly, you’ll find yourself laughing and turning page after page.


Another Brooklyn Cover Image
$22.99
ISBN: 9780062359988
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Amistad Press - August 9th, 2016

#8

The quiet coming-of-age story of four young black women "growing up Girl" in the frenetic, sharp-clawed Brooklyn of the 1970s. With her hazy, dreamlike narrative, her prose clear and resonant as struck crystal, Woodson perfectly evokes four talented girls scrabbling to take hold of their futures, trying to hold onto themselves and each other, filled with fear and despair and hope, so much hope.


Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977597
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - October 18th, 2016

#7

Equal parts personal essay and writing instruction, THRILL ME breaks away from Percy’s mountain-bear gruff-n-tuff persona to reveal the perfectionist nerd he really is—and writers and readers alike benefit from his generosity in doing so. Written with hilarity and clear-eyed, no-frills insight, THRILL ME is a quick read you’ll come back to again and again.


Cannibal Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780803290631
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Nebraska Press - September 1st, 2016

#6

A gorgeous, weighty debut collection, CANNIBAL explores Sinclair’s homeland of Jamaica, wrestling with the nation’s fertile land and turbulent history. Both the author’s home and her female body are war-torn, foreign, and post-colonial—the poet is an exile from both.  Evoking THE TEMPEST and Old Testament mythology, these brutal, ravishing poems bring forth a landscape at times raw with anger, at times lush with longing and beauty.


The Other Boy Cover Image
By M. G. Hennessey, Sfe R. Monster (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062427663
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - September 20th, 2016

#5

A sweet, sometimes painful but ultimately triumphant story about first love, true friendship, and the greatest game ever played: baseball. Shane, a white transgender boy in middle school, has settled into his new school, made the team with his best friend, developed a crush on the cutest girl in his class, and has almost forgiven his dad for his parents’ divorce, but of course things can’t stay simple for long. Though Shane struggles with discrimination, the story stays lighthearted and upbeat without sacrificing realism. THE OTHER BOY is as enjoyable a book as it is important.


What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781594634635
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - March 8th, 2016

#4

Helen Oyeyemi may have started her career as the prodigy darling of the literary world, but she’s published her seventh book now and shows no sign of plateauing. Oyeyemi effortlessly injects fantasy into the social and political realities of these stories, loosely centered on the theme of keys and the literal and metaphorical doorways they lead to. Playful and mysterious, often queer and always fun, these are stories you can escape into.


Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062311566
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - July 5th, 2016

#3

At the time of my writing this, Blair Braverman’s Twitter handle is “Feminist Jack London”—a more perfectly apt description of the contents of her brilliant memoir than I could write myself (but of course I’m going to try). WELCOME TO THE GODDAMN ICE CUBE is ostensibly about the author’s experience learning to race sled dogs in the coldest parts of the world, but like the best of memoirs, it’s about a lot more—it’s about fear, about being the perpetual outsider, about her great longing for the North and her desire to test herself, and we can’t help but hold our breath for her as she throws herself into the dangerous, dark winter to pursue a lifestyle dominated by men. Her story, told with a measured, even voice, is exciting, contemplative, gritty, and so, so real—this a book of a woman’s triumph over the discrimination we all face but in a place most of us will never see.


Du Iz Tak? Cover Image
By Carson Ellis, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780763665302
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - October 18th, 2016

#2

Yet another gem from my favorite can-do-no-wrong publisher, Candlewick Press. A sweeping drama of life and death played out by fancifully-anthropomorphic insects speaking a non-existent but still understandable language, DU IZ TAK? is an “empires rise, empires fall” tragicomedy for all ages. Seriously: no matter who you’re reading to, you won’t get tired of Carson Ellis’ gorgeous, intricate watercolor illustrations or her simple, perfect story anytime soon. 


The Fifth Season Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780316229296
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - August 4th, 2015

#1

I admit, including these two books is somewhat of a cheat—first, because I’m using one slot for two books that both deserve awards in their own right, and second, because I have already spent a good part of this year telling everyone I know about this brilliant, un-put-downable series by N.K. Jemisin, but I argue it fits the theme because I truly can't praise her work enough (and besides, it's my top ten list).

There have been many, many books, both recently and not, about the end of the world and what comes after. I have read many of these books, and enjoyed many of these books, but N.K. Jemisin’s brilliant new series managed to do something wonderful—surprise me.

Part fantasy, part prophetic warning of our possible future, THE FIFTH SEASON and its equally sharp sequel THE OBELISK GATE are set in a far-future world, so desiccated and wracked by earthquakes that its people carry emergency “runny-sacks” in anticipation of “fifth seasons,” the environmental aftermath of world-breaking quakes. Ecstatically imaginative in scope, with the most meticulous world-building a sci-fi/ fantasy nerd could ever hope for, this series is a finely-polished mirror for our own broken society, with our history of racism and imperialism, our cavalier disregard for an environment we’ve largely wrecked. Jemisin’s characters are superb, achingly human and each as complicated and angry and imperfect as the last, their battles set against the backdrop of a world in its death-throes, a civilization eating itself from the inside out.

If you only read one more book this year, make it two and make it these.


Ben Picks His Favorites

Making a “best of” list for 2016 is, I confess, either an act of self-aggrandizement or self-pity (I’m not sure which yet, because I haven’t gotten to the end of this paragraph). See, when I’m honest with myself, my favorite novel of the year was my own, THE SADNESS, which came out in June. Was it actually the best novel of the year? I can’t say (except, no, obviously it wasn’t--it was maybe somewhere near the middle). But it was the book in my life that needed the most help.

The Well-Stocked and Gilded Cage: Essays Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781944853013
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Outpost19 - August 2nd, 2016

Surveys Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781584351788
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Semiotext(e) - February 12th, 2016

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Since 2009, I have spent many nights skirting the edge of trouble with Natasha Stagg and Lawrence Lenhart. No, not actual trouble, but MFA-style trouble: too much drinking, awkward confessions and admissions, arguments that start friendly then slow-boil for hours, late nights that lead to bad freshman composition teaching at 8am. Recently, I gave a reading with both of them in Tucson and was surprised to learn that they’d never met each other before: their time at University of Arizona never overlapped (I was there longer than either of them). Here’s my point: I’m not qualified to objectively review either of these debut books. Stagg’s short novel is simultaneously sly and grim, a terse and lovely look at the pitfalls of youthful aimlessness and living a life online. Lenhart’s essay collection consists of erudite, form-shattering pieces about animals, Greek mythology, painful childhood memories. Do I sound biased if I say that bother books are terrific? I do, and they are. I couldn’t be prouder of my friends.


Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781594204838
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - February 9th, 2016

#5

Here’s a cliche: everyone’s a critic. This--often said derisively--sort of gets as Scott’s argument in this book, but for him, the notion of criticism being a communal cultural project is an optimistic one. This is the best book on the philosophy of criticism--as vocation, as art, as essential practice--I’ve ever read. Scott is one of the lead film critics at the New York Times, oftentimes a fierce canine in print, but in this work, he ranges far from cinema, sniffing around in the gardens of ancient texts, literature, performance art, returning the the reader with a historical map of the discipline between his teeth. Nothing arrogant or pretention here. Scott proves with this book that he’s not only a great critic--he’s a great writer, period. One day, a family member saw this book and its title and asked if it was a book about how to better your life through being able to take criticism. At first, I scoffed inwardly. Then I realized I was wrong, and my family member was kind of right.


How to Set a Fire and Why Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781101870570
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - July 5th, 2016

#4

Will this novel be known as the moment when Ball--one of the most formally inventive avant-gardists of his generation--went “mainstream?” Hell, it almost qualifies as young adult fiction. His narrator is a teenage girl at odds with her life, too eccentric for her peers, to perceptive to fit in. Her response? Be sassy, and set some fires. The first-person narration recalls the brash, blunt elegance of, you guessed it, Holden Caulfield, but Ball is even more unforgiving in what he puts his protagonist through, and his novel feels less like a sustained narrative (though it is) than a litany of the fragmented and often contradictory thoughts fighting for attention in a young person’s brain. So see? Still experimental--but more human.


Eve Out of Her Ruins Cover Image
By Ananda Devi, Jeffrey Zuckerman (Translator), J. M. G. Le Clezio (Introduction by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9781941920404
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - September 13th, 2016

#3

This novel pulverized me, and more than nearly any other book I can think of, it demands to be read in one sitting. Set in Port Louis, a tourist town on the island of Mauritius, its four narrators are all looking into mirrors and not liking what they see. All are trying to realize a different version of themselves in their impoverished neighborhood, trying to be sexier, tougher, smarter. As their stories intersect, they all learn the ways that these other lives are impossible to live, and they glimpse truths about one another. So what the heck is this book actually about? No way am I telling you here, except to say that halfway through, something happens that changes everything. At that point, you realized Devi’s strategy, making you focus so much on character, voice, and setting that you haven’t noticed the tense thriller uncoliningling in the background. Why read this in one sitting? The book is short, yes, but the couple sustained hours you’ll spend with it make you realized just how far Devi gets in such a short space.


The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977498
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - September 6th, 2016

#2

Here’s the thing: I’m an idiot, often stubborn, not wanting to read outside my comfort zone. When I first was given a copy of this book, I buried it in my stack. Maternity? I will never give birth to a baby, nor am I even thinking right now about becoming a father. How would this book speak to me? Like I say, I’m an idiot, because I finally picked it up, it became one of the most engrossing reading experienced so of my life. In this memoir, Boggs recalls her experience trying to become pregnant, but “memoir” should be in quotes, because her book is also a study of infertility from artistic, economic, and cultural perspectives. Every wondered why Martha’s childlessness in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Seems deployed to make her appear even more monstrous? What cultural expectations underpinned that decision? I think I had wondered, but it took Boggs to make me realize it--to realize that, specifically, and to realize many other things.


White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781101870853
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - May 3rd, 2016

#1

More and more often, my barometer for great literature is whether or not I hear the author’s voice in my head long after I’ve finished the book. To put it mildly: Dyer changed the way I see the world. In these travel essays--or are they short stories? memoristic blips? ekphrastic exercises?--Dyer uses his signature wit and urbanity to craft limber pieces that remind us of all the ways our lives intersect with art, culture, politics, you name it. Hell, why do I say “us” here? I mean me--me--and the “me” in Dyer’s pieces goes to the desert to look at installation art, travels to Asia to find unexpected personal connection, picks up a hitchhiker who may be murderous, visits the former home of Theodor Adorno, and confronts his own mortality in a very “Los Angeles” way. Travel essays, sure--but Dyer would be the ideal travel companion, smart and perceptive and curious. But then again, why would you need to actually travel with him? Read this masterpiece, and you’ll hear his voice in your head wherever you go.


Those five, and these five, in alphabetical order:


A Bestiary Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780996316743
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Cleveland State University Poetry Center - April 15th, 2016

Hoang, a shape-shifting writer, breaks out with a shape-shifting essay collection, a raw-nerved examination of race, family, sex, abuse, and the shapes we’re all expected to shift into over the course of a lifetime in order to survive.


Good People Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781942658023
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Bellevue Literary Press - January 12th, 2016

Do you need me to tell you that this title is ironic? Well, maybe it is. Lopez writes stories about characters who spin themselves into self-destruction spirals of self-delusion, and he has a better ear for interior monologues than nearly any contemporary writer I can think of. Great stuff--dark, funny, brutalizing. These “good” people are me, and they’re you.


The Mothers Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780399184512
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - October 11th, 2016

Rumors ripple through a community Southern California--rumours about a young woman’s pregnancy and her family’s response. A great debut novel about gossip told from the point of view of the gossip itself. A pernicious game of telephone between two covers.


Of This New World Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781609384432
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Iowa Press - October 1st, 2016

A debut short story collection, but no navel-gazing here. Hyde embodies cults, outlaws, even life on Mars. Her interests and talents feel infinite. I have no idea how much of herself is in these stories, and I don’t want to know.


We Eat Our Own Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501128318
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - September 6th, 2016

Another debut--this one a novel about a tortured film production in the middle of the jungle (based on the notorious found-footage forbearer Cannibal Holocaust). A tyrannical horror filmmaker intersects with guerrilla warfare. Totally original, and scary storytelling so smart if feels high-def.


This One Goes to Eleven: Keaton's Top Reads

There are too many books. Too many to read. Too many to fit on any year end top ten list. So, I’ve decided to add an additional spot this year, just because I couldn’t bring myself to leave off even one more of the fascinating reads published in 2016.

How to Set a Fire and Why Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781101870570
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - July 5th, 2016

#11

A fast-paced, stylized novel featuring a genius teenage misanthrope looking for her place in the world and finding it in destruction. Lucia Stanton is a Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield kind of character—wise beyond her years, acerbic, funny, always getting into trouble. After a family tragedy, she finds purpose in her high school's secret Arson Club. That’s right...Arson Club. Ball’s rendering of adolescent alienation and thought processes is spot on. Lucia is alive on the page—one of my favorite protagonists of the year. Through her unforgettable voice, Ball makes bald social critiques and raises complex moral questions. It’s a hell of a ride. I can see HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY becoming a cult classic—being passed among precocious high schoolers reading beyond their years and fed up with ineffectual system around them—for a long time to come.


Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was Cover Image
By Sjon, Victoria Cribb (Translator)
$22.00
ISBN: 9780374212438
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 2nd, 2016

#10

Another sparse, dreamlike, near-perfect gem of a novel by the great Icelandic author, Sjón! Translated by Victoria Cribb, MOONSTONE weaves together a young gay hustler’s coming-of-age in isolated and conservative Reykjavík, with the world-changing birth of cinema, and the cataclysm of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. The result is a minimalist epic masterpiece. It is sexually explicit, psychologically daring, and at times nightmarish. And in true Sjón fashion, the ending of the strange tale completely flips the entire book on its head, making of it something magical and almost beyond comprehension in its imaginative beauty. Nobody writes like this guy.


Seeing Red Cover Image
By Lina Meruane, Megan McDowell (Translator)
$14.95
ISBN: 9781941920244
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - February 23rd, 2016

#9

"Visceral" is the one word I’d use to describe this autobiographical novel out of Chile. Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, the story centers around a medical ordeal in which the author, Meruane, nearly lost her vision. When weak blood vessels, stemming from her diabetes, burst and fill her eyes with blood, the protagonist of SEEING RED is suddenly forced to live as a blind woman with a dwindling chance of recovery. Meruane’s writing is direct, crackling with a kinetic energy, and imbued with no small amount of bitterness. The prose is so immediate, it seems like she wrote the entire book in one go. The result is a propulsive, no-frills character study, darkly erotic, and unsettling in its depiction of bodily illness and the resulting psychological effects. And it has a great ending!


The Kingdom Cover Image
By Fuminori Nakamura, Kalau Almony (Translator)
$23.95
ISBN: 9781616955922
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Crime - July 12th, 2016

#8

A taut, lurid and deliciously dark potboiler from the reigning king of Japanese noir. Comprising a "sister" novel to Nakamura's English-language debut, THE THIEF, THE KINGDOM is a psychological thriller with philosophical leanings. Translated by Kalau Almony, it follows a remorseless prostitute and set-up artist, who uses her sexuality to entrap important men in blackmail schemes. She is a detached loner, but nevertheless gets dragged into a situation well beyond her abilities to control. At the center of it all is the villain, Kizaki—a seemingly omnipotent underworld boss whose dedication to the art of cruelty is unrivaled. Imagine him as a cross between Michael Corleone, the Marquis de Sade and The Joker. He is one of the most frightening characters in contemporary literature. All in all, this is a brilliant pulp crime novel. I read it in a single day, almost nonstop. It's vicious, depraved, contemplative, and above all FUN! Long live Fumi.


Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780399184413
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 1st, 2016

#7

Did you know that space is not emptiness, but is actually made of infinitesimally small “grains” of matter? Or how about that the very concept of time is a product of the laws of thermodynamics? One of the world's preeminent theoretical physicists lays out seven succinct overviews of the most momentous ideas in modern physics, ranging from the cosmic to the subatomic scale. Translated from the Italian by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre, Rovelli's summaries of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, quantum mechanics, particle physics, and more are conveyed in concise yet lyrical essays that make extremely complex concepts completely accessible. All in all, a perfect introduction to the field of physics for any reader. I read it in just two days, but it's changed my entire perception of reality. Utterly fascinating.


A Collapse of Horses Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781566894135
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - February 9th, 2016

#6

From sadistic childhood games, to amnesiac arsonists, to vacation resorts on the edge of insanity, A COLLAPSE OF HORSES is an absolutely terrifying collection of literary horror stories from a “writer’s writer" who is a master of exploiting the inherent suspense of the unknown. Evenson’s stories remind me of The Twilight Zone or SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK...for adults. They comprise top notch offerings of psychological horror, suspense and science fiction. He is of the same ilk as Poe and Shirley Jackson. This scratches an old itch for me. I loved it. But first, a warning: you’ll want to turn on all the lights in your house before reading this one.


The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977368
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - April 5th, 2016

#5

I will read anything Nelson writes—poetry, memoir, grocery lists. Easily one of our greatest living nonfiction writers and one of our finest cultural critics, she is simply put a most vital voice for our day and age. This recently republished work of prose is a masterful amalgamation of genres. A brave, intensely personal memoir, a true crime account of a cold case murder, and an incisive study of our society's relationship with violence, misogyny, justice, and loss, THE RED PARTS recounts the trial of a man charged with the murder of Nelson’s aunt decades earlier (first explored in her debut, JANE: A MURDER) after advances in DNA testing finds new evidence. But her real focus is the resulting psychological toll it takes on her and her family. THE RED PARTS is a powerful and necessary work. Everyone should be reading Maggie Nelson.


Kill 'em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812983739
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - November 1st, 2016

#4

Contemporary Renaissance man and National Book Award-winner McBride gives us yet another astonishing work. This time, it’s a searching, heartfelt and honest biography of the late great James Brown. KILL ‘EM AND LEAVE is an immersive work of nonfiction, equal parts personal memoir of a fan, cultural critique of race in America, and a reassessment/reclamation of the Godfather of Soul as both a man and an artist. McBride performs a literary autopsy on Brown's legacy, cutting through the myth and legend surrounding JB in order to find the real man, flaws and all. Easily the most enlightening study of an enigmatic and profoundly influential American icon from a writer who is nothing less than a national treasure.


Homegoing Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781101947135
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - June 7th, 2016

#3

This debut novel by an amazingly talented young author from Ghana follows two branches of an African/African-American family, spanning seven generations and almost 300 years. Told in unadorned and unflinching prose, HOMEGOING is a marvel of historical fiction, a breathtakingly ambitious family saga, and a novel of true social importance. Gyasi's narrative skill belies her twenty-six years. Each of her characters is wholly and vibrantly alive. She conveys inhumanity, suffering, sorrow, love, resilience, and triumph with equal force. Her nuanced look at the history and ongoing legacy of the slave trade is simply stunning. One of the more impressive debuts I've ever read.


Ninety-Nine Stories of God Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9781941040355
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - July 12th, 2016

#2

A potent collection of (very) short fiction from a longtime master finally getting her due. Recalling the parables of Kafka and Borges, the tiny works in Williams’ NINETY-NINE STORIES OF GOD can be endlessly unpacked. You will want to revisit this book again and again, and you’ll find something new every time. Alternately, odd, humorous, macabre, straightforward, and totally inscrutable, these stories remind you what can be done with fiction: anything. Absolutely tremendous stuff.


The Underground Railroad Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780385542364
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday Books - August 2nd, 2016

#1

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD is hands down the best book I read all year. A life-changing, endlessly imaginative historical novel from one of America's best young authors, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD is an escaped slave narrative that doubles as a true American epic—the continuing origin story of Africans in America. The major conceit that sets this work apart, a surprisingly obvious twist that allows the novel to transcend and become something else entirely, is that the titular network of slave emancipation is a literal railroad. Sounds simple, but it is in fact a profound literary device. And, interestingly, as an actual railroad, Whitehead is able to use the Underground Railroad as a much more powerful metaphor for the black American odyssey. Moreover, despite this sole fantastical element, the rest of Whitehead's portrayal of Southern slavery is unvarnished, graphically violent, and works as a critique of contemporary race relations as well as an indictment of the duplicitous "American imperative" that has allowed for slavery, brutality and genocide in the name of freedom, progress and purity throughout our country's history. This is a near-perfect novel. Nothing seems out of place. There are echoes of everything from GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, to INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL, to THE LOTTERY, and more that only serve to heighten the almost mythic quality of this work of fiction. It's astounding how good this book is. I can't say enough about it. A masterpiece.


Ulrika's Favorite Books and Gifts of 2016

It’s that time again when everyone is compiling top ten lists for 2016. As Brazos Bookstore’s gift buyer, my lists usually center on my favorite gift items of the year. However, this year, I have decided to mix it up a bit. This is a combination of my favorite gift items along with some of the best books that I read this year. This list isn’t in chronological order; it’s just ten of my favorite gifts and books of the year.


The Vegetarian Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781101906118
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth Press - August 23rd, 2016

This novel was originally published in Korea in three separate novellas then compiled into a novel. THE VEGETARIAN is a daring book that focuses on its central character from three different points of view. It begins when she forsakes meat, and the novel follows her descent into madness. You will have feelings of shock, unease, and wonder. It will grip you from the first page to the last.


The Natural Way of Things Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781609453626
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - June 28th, 2016

There are novels that take you to places you don’t want to forget, as well as books that never leave you. THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS is one such book. It takes the reader through a rural dystopia (the Australian outback) that leaves one in disbelief. Each female character has been kidnapped by two men. Imprisoned, they are marked for their own public scandal, a link that eventually binds them together. Scandal might link them in the beginning, but determination is the sole reason for their survival. When discussing this book with others who’ve read it, I’ve heard it rightly described as a mix of Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID'S TALE and William Golding’s THE LORD OF THE FLIES.


American Housewife Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781101970997
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor Books - October 18th, 2016

I usually don’t read collections of short stories, but working in a bookstore, there are times that you see a book and find yourself picking it up over and over again. This was true of Helen Ellis’ collection of short stories, AMERICAN HOUSEWIVES. This collection is laugh-out-loud funny, packed with dark and twisted tales ranging from a reality show with celebrity antique hunters, to best bra fitter of the South, to a book club that is more (much more) than a book club. It is an commentary on the dark, at times unsettling, world of womanhood and domesticity.


Quiet Creature on the Corner Cover Image
By Joao Gilberto Noll, Adam Morris (Translator)
$9.95
ISBN: 9781931883511
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Lines Press - May 10th, 2016

One of Brazil’s most celebrated author’s delivers a spare and surreal novel surrounding a young unemployed poet, Kurt, who, after being placed in jail for an unseeable act, is released into another kind of captivity. Is this new captivity better or worse than the earlier one? The poet is unsure what exactly is being asked of him. Moving through this novel, one wonders if we'll ever know why his new captors took him from jail, why Kurt is aging so quickly, and whether he will be lost forever in this new life.


Justine Cover Image
By Iben Mondrup, Kerri A. Pierce (Translator)
$14.95
ISBN: 9781940953489
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Open Letter Books - November 15th, 2016

Isben Mondrup’s novel JUSTINE starts from the end while working its way to the beginning. The story unfolds in flashbacks and fragmented memories, focusing on her time at the Art Academy, her influential grandfather, friends, and lovers, both long-term and short term. Mondrup was trained as a visual artist at the Royal Academy of Art, and her take on the creative process, regardless of discipline, is illuminating. The feelings of having your work shown, as well as being a woman, carries a lot of weight in this novel. JUSTINE is dark, erotic and stunning; uneasy at times, but a book I was unable to put down.


$70.00
SKU: LamyG

To say that I have a love for all things fountain pens would be an understatement. I’m the person who went out and purchased other pens just in case someone needed to borrow a pen from me. For the past year I have been on a quest to find a reasonably priced gold fountain pen and, to my surprise, just this year, Lamy released the Lamy LX with a matching anodized aluminium case. As with all Lamy pens, the German craftsmanship is impeccable. The Lamy LX has an aluminium anodized finish with a metal clip feature that is the same color as the fountain pen. 


$14.00
SKU: 846680044251

Anything that can also hold something else always is a personal favorite. I first came across Poppin a year and half ago at the Las Vegas Summer Market, and we just began carrying their products this year. As metallics have gained more popularity over the past few years, we rarely find them in the darker tones, so I wanted to highlight this great color. One of the great features of Poppin’s pencil pouch is that is can be more than just a carrying case for your writing utensils. The interior is fully lined in cotton with a contrasting pop of color that brings an added touch of class to the pouch. The metallic exterior is durable and water-repellent. We also have the pencil pouches in gold and copper.


Bestselling Event Books 2016

Anyone who follows us online or in-store knows that we host A LOT of events—more and more each year, it seems. We love the community these events help create, and we’re always looking ahead to more exciting stuff (including Zadie Smith visiting in January to discuss her just-released novel, SWING TIME).

Below, find our list of our bestselling events of 2016, which includes two we hosted offsite at the Christ Church Cathedral, Episcopal. This list of ten books speaks to the diversity of the events we host at Brazos Bookstore, and each one makes a great gift this holiday season!

On My Own Cover Image
$23.95
ISBN: 9781101875285
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 2nd, 2016

#1

The beloved NPR radio host visited us in February to discuss her memoir, ON MY OWN; needless to say, tickets sold out pretty quickly. Everyone loves Rehm—her intelligence, her bravery—and this book is perfect for people who have been following her career all these years.


The After Party Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781594633164
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - May 17th, 2016

#2

DiSclafani set THE AFTER PARTY in a voluptuous milieu: Houston’s own River Oaks neighborhood in the 1950s. The novel has glamour, suspense, and humor as it tells the story of the lifelong bond between two wealthy women. For people who want to learn about Houston’s past and also read a great page-turner.


S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781631492228
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - September 6th, 2016

#3


SPQR was one of our featured titles last year, and this year we hosted Beard as she toured around the country for the paperback release. In this book, she provides a nuanced and lucid history of Rome, so history buffs and lovers of the ancient world will rejoice.


The City of Mirrors Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780345505002
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - May 24th, 2016

#4

We’re lucky to call Cronin a Houston writer, and in this conclusion to his acclaimed trilogy of horror novels, he ends a rich and textured story of vampires and apocalypse. The whole trilogy makes a great gift for people who love horror fiction.


The Adventurist Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781250062239
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - April 26th, 2016

#5

Another Houston writer! Hipps’ debut novel of workplace mundaneness and the search for release recalls the style of Walker Percy’s THE MOVIEGOER. Here is a book of bureaucratic humor, and readers of smart, snappy literary fiction will eat it up.


A Friend of Mr. Lincoln Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780307700674
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 2nd, 2016

#6

Harrigan’s novel tells the story of a young Abraham Lincoln during his days as a lawyer in Illinois—a different look at one of America’s most looming historical figures. A lot of fun for lovers of historical fiction, and for people who want to probe our nation’s past for answers to our present.


Before We Visit the Goddess Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781476792002
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 19th, 2016

#7

Divakaruni is a beloved professor at the University of Houston, and a prolific author. This new novel—one of her best—follows an Indian-American family through its ups and downs over three generations. It’s a sly and heartwarming read.


The Sadness Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781939419705
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Unnamed Press - June 14th, 2016

#8

The debut novel from our own marketing director! Rybeck’s book tells the story of two misanthropic siblings reunited in Portland, Maine, to solve the mystery of a missing girl and how it connects to a famous cult film. Perfect for cinephiles and also people who like smart literary mysteries!


The Making of Donald Trump Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9781612196329
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Melville House Publishing - August 2nd, 2016

#9

Good lord, what to say about this one? At Brazos, we try to keep ourselves above the political fray, but this book increasingly seems like a must-read. In it, Johnston—who has reported on Trump for decades—reveals some of the more unsettling truths about our next president. Get this book for any family member who doesn’t understand why you can’t stop crying.


Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian Amiercan Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781616957605
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Press - October 11th, 2016

#10

Iconic Nigerian author Ndibe—a heroic cultural commentator in his own country—visited us to discuss this collection of essays. This is a work of great empathy, and a must-read for people who want to open their eyes to other cultures.


Annalia Runs Down Her Top Ten

Prince died in April, and that was enough for me. Add to that the Orlando shooting and Christina Grimmie’s murder in June, plus three parts election-induced insomnia...This grief has long since been a fever that takes hold of everything.

In lucid moments, though, there have been books and friends and Twitter. This year, for my top ten list, I chose books by authors and activists that both challenge me to rise and remind me to rest.

The Queen of the Night Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780544925472
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - November 1st, 2016

Many times, if there is hype about someone or something, I tend to fall back. When Alexander Chee came to the store in February, the buzz was that he has twenty thousand Twitter followers—and he does! Based on that data, I assumed that Chee did not require or desire our attention, that he would be contained and rescued from the oft-romanticized artist’s struggle.

Now, I have no idea how I could have thought this. When he read, his gentle tone and the decadence of QUEEN reminded me of when I was a girl and would listen to The Nutcracker on cassette tape. I’d imagine what it would be like to see the ballet—the ladies in their flowing costumes, the food and presents and candy, everything large, everything colorful.

After the event, when we were picking up chairs, Chee said hello and asked me how I was or thanked me for working. It’s a small thing but also something many authors do not do, and not the way he did. Leaning against the table at the front of the store where we stage our readings, Chee gave me a long look and listened to whatever it is I managed to chirp in his direction. He did not check his phone, ask about where to get a good drink. It had flipped somehow, where perhaps he had come to meet us rather than the other way round.

I added him on Twitter that night and have never regretted it.


The Surrender Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781939781291
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anomalous Press - March 31st, 2016

For many moons, I admired Scott Esposito not for his CV but for the way he handles himself on Twitter—enthusiastic about the good things, unapologetic about the bad things. There’s never the fear that his reputation could be ruined, or his brand disrupted, and I always liked that. Not knowing what he would say, I sent him a few questions for the Literary Hub feature I wrote about our break-in this past September. He sent answers back to me the same day. Since then, Esposito has remained a constant source of light in my world. He reminds me my weirdness is valid and beautiful.


Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes) Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781632861214
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury USA - October 18th, 2016

On both his hands below the second knuckle, Isaac Fitzgerald has a tattoo that reads COME HOME. I saw it for the first time in maybe January or February, when Nick Flynn was telling me about a recent party in New York. He asked if we knew each other. We didn’t (and still don’t—hi, Isaac, if you’re reading this) but that was enough to convince me. Through Instagram, I discovered that the tattoo is a copy of one that belonged to a close friend of Fitzgerald’s that had passed away, which only added another layer to my admiration—grain upon grain. KNIVES & INK is Fitzgerald’s second book about tattoos. In this incarnation, chefs share stories about their ink alongside signature recipes. (It’s on my Christmas list.)


A Bestiary Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780996316743
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Cleveland State University Poetry Center - April 15th, 2016

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that Lily Hoang and I are scab sisters. How it came to be that way is that we played phone tag while she finished her eleven-week escapade around Europe then ate dinner together over Skype. In Boston, she ordered so much Indian food that they gave her silverware for at least two people while I ate a personal pan pizza on a stool at my kitchen counter in Houston. Call it the jet lag, blame the comfort food—Hoang talked to me like we were old friends having a sleepover. (When we met in person two months later, she hugged me.)

The thing A BESTIARY showed me is how terrified I am of failing, and admitting when I do. Hoang, though, wears her shame like a tattoo—a symbol that is there and marks time and does not need to be explained unless you’re in the mood to tell. (I am trying to be better about it.)


Umami Cover Image
By Laia Jufresa, Sophie Hughes (Translator)
$21.99
ISBN: 9781780748917
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: ONEWorld Publications - September 13th, 2016

Truth: UMAMI came to me by way of The Rumpus. I volunteered to review it on the basis of Sophie Hughes as translator. As has been well-documented, UMAMI became my favorite novel of the year. Yes, there’s a style; yes, there’s Mexico City. What I want to highlight here is Jufresa’s goal to write her female characters as fully-dimensional women, and the relief I felt as a female reader to see that embodied. In other words, sometimes the absence of something—in this case, the trope of woman as the whore or the mother—emphasizes how much pain it produces.


Prelude to Bruise Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781566893749
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - September 9th, 2014

The thing Saeed Jones taught (and continues to teach) me is that there are some things that I will never understand, that will never belong to me, and that a large part of being a decent human being includes finding ways to cope with that fact. I don’t get a cookie or a free pass from the black community for being Korean. No matter what, there is always more work that can be done.


Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101875438
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 29th, 2015

Like Saeed Jones, Robin Coste Lewis never needed your permission or the invention of a hashtag to write her pain. And it’s easy to acknowledge the work that went behind the title poem, a seventy-two page piece composed entirely of descriptions and captions of art about black women from international art spaces. What has always gotten me, though, is the way Lewis writes about black women who owned slaves. If that idea breaks your brain, that’s all the more proof that the system needs to change: slavery was always complex.


Odes Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780451493620
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 20th, 2016

Sharon Olds was supposed to read with Tony Hoagland for Inprint earlier this year but then there was a flood in a series of floods that was so bad the mayor shut down the metro. At that time, I had not yet read any of her work but knew enough to attend because a legendary poet is a legendary poet. Then I read STAG’S LEAP. I wanted to include ODES here because it’s important to remember that everything—everything, even the worst things—is temporary.


Blackacre: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977504
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - September 6th, 2016

If my e-mail interview with author Laia Jufresa and translator Sophie Hughes was the ideal composed interview, chatting with Monica Youn was the ideal phone interview. I asked her about BLACKACRE thinking she would teach me something about what it means to be a recovering lawyer. Instead, she told me about the five years her and her husband spent in fertility treatment hell. The hope? That sharing her story will allow other infertile women to feel less ashamed. I have nothing but respect for her.


The Pedestrians Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781933517896
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Wave Books - April 1st, 2014

Even working at a bookstore, there’s no way to be familiar with everything by everyone. Rachel Zucker has written nine books but I discovered her through her brain child Commonplace Podcast. It’s pretty self explanatory—Zucker interviews poets and other artists. What makes it a stand-out production to me is that people talk to Zucker. Concrete example: since 2009, Nick Flynn has been part of my life in some form or another but the Flynn she conjures in the second episode is not the one I know. It’s true that you can never learn everything there is to know about a person, and that knowing it all doesn’t mean you understand them, but I liked the idea of taking someone I thought I knew and discovering how much there is left to be seen.

 


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