Book Lists

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

The Freedom to Tell Stories: A Banned Books Week Manifesto

When it comes to books, “necessary” might actually be one of the most dangerous words. It suggests that some books should—nay, deserve!—to fade into obscurity, while others should be lauded by all. Every year for Banned Books Week, schools, libraries, and bookstores huddle around a similar list of (admittedly great) English-language titles—BELOVED, CATCH-22, CATCHER IN THE RYE, etc. After all, they were saved from hellfire! But what about books beyond the standard list?

Gargoyles Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400077557
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books USA - October 17th, 2006

Thomas Bernhard may be the only author on this list to have banned himself. In a legendary act of spite that he referred to as “posthumous literary emigration,” Bernhard directed in his last will and testament that his novels and plays could not be published or staged in his native Austria for the duration of his copyright over them. Which seems a little counterproductive as a punishment, as his literature is often an exacting condemnation of precisely what he detested about his fatherland—wouldn’t he want Austrians to read it? But anyway, thankfully he did not disbar the rest of the world from publishing it, and this is a right you should definitely exercise. I recommend you start with the grotesque, spectacular GARGOYLES.

Kiss of the Spider Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679724490
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - April 3rd, 1991

As politics in Argentina were going from bad to worse—that is, from a fascistic government under the military officer Juan Perón to an outright military junta that murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens—Manuel Puig decided to publish a brazenly sexual novel about two Argentine men locked away in a military prison, one of whom was an insurgent fighter, and the other of whom was a homosexual. If ever there were a book destined to be banned. But it is also an astonishing novel that was far, far ahead of its time—for starters, it anticipated the sampling and cultural recycling that has been popularized by Internet culture, and it also pioneered an understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity that has only just recently become widespread and popular. Plus, it’s just an incredibly entertaining, moving, and beautifully-written book.

Petals of Blood Cover Image
By Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Moses Isegawa (Introduction by), Chinua Achebe (Editor)
ISBN: 9780143039174
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - February 22nd, 2005

This is an author who has done many different things to get himself banned. The troubles started in 1976 with his novel PETALS OF BLOOD, which deals with the aftermath of the Kenyan independence movement. This book was incendiary because it delved into the incredibly controversial and frightening Mau Mau Uprising (a thing many in Kenyan politics would like to forget).

His next work, a play titled I WILL MARRY WHEN I WANT, was controversial for its themes, but even more because Ngũgĩ chose to write it in the indigenous language Gikuyu, which the Kenyan government has sought to suppress. Since then, as he has continued to write important, politically-charged works, he has been imprisoned and harassed in his native Kenya, forcing him to live much of his life in exile. His magnum opus, and an extraordinary read, is the 800-page WIZARD OF THE CROW, a remarkable modern fable about African power politics that also is a deep examination of storytelling and folktales.

Scott Esposito is the co-author of THE END OF OULIPO? His book THE SURRENDER will be published next spring. In August, he interviewed Ben Moser about Clarice Lispector for The Paris Review Daily, and other recent publications include the San Francisco Chronicle, the Literary Hub, Words Without Borders, and the Times Literary Supplement. He's a Contributing editor to BOMB magazine.

Lori Feathers picks...

The Stalin Epigram Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416598657
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 1st, 2010

We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay,
More than ten steps away you can’t hear what we say.

These first two lines of Osip Mandelstam’s STALIN EPIGRAM (reproduced with the permission of translator Dmitri Smirnov) distill the emotional alienation inflicted by censorship. The poet and essayist Mandelstam lived for years in debilitating fear, not knowing whether he and his wife Nadezhda would be executed because of his writings. Stalin enjoyed playing psychological games with Mandelstam, once arresting and sentencing him to death only to later reduce his sentence to exile to Russia’s interior.

Mandelstam wrote STALIN EPIGRAM in 1933 but was not arrested for it until five years later. He died soon after in a Soviet prison camp at the age of forty-seven. The artist’s years of creativity and anguish are captured in Robert Littell’s absorbing historical novel, THE STALIN EPIGRAM, and in Nadezhda Mandelstam’s memoirs, HOPE AGAINST HOPE and HOPE ABANDONED.

Life and Fate: Cover Image
By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590172018
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New York Review of Books - May 16th, 2006

Rightly compared to WAR AND PEACE for the grandeur of its scale and ambition, LIFE AND FATE portrays the life of ordinary Soviet citizens and soldiers during World War II. Grossman not only provides a vivid, historical account of the hardships endured by Hitler’s invasion but through the novel’s flesh-and-blood characters, he exposes the terrors wrought by Soviet totalitarianism, questioning whether fascism would be any worse than Stalin’s dictatorship.

Although he finished the novel years earlier, Grossman waited until 1960 to submit the manuscript of LIFE AND FATE for publication under the mistaken belief that Khrushchev’s “thaw” signaled what would be a likely openness to his novel. In February 1961, the KGB came to his home and confiscated what they believed to be the only copies of the novel, and according to Robert Chandler in his introduction to the novel (New York Review of Books edition), this is the only time that Soviet authorities “arrested” a book rather than its author (other than the temporary confiscation of Bulgakov’s A DOG’S HEART).

Grossman died in 1964 and it was not until ten years later that his friend was able to smuggle out of the Soviet Union one of the two secret copies of this remarkable novel.

The Family Mashber Cover Image
By Der Nister, Leonard Wolf (Translator), David Malouf (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590172797
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: New York Review of Books - May 20th, 2008

Der Nister, which means “the hidden one,” was the pen name of Ukrainian author Pinhas Kahanovitch. His THE FAMILY MASHBER is a detail-rich, dramatic novel about a prosperous Jewish family living in 1870s Ukraine. Along with its colorful depiction of Yiddish society in Eastern Europe and the robust commercial ties that existed between Jewish merchants/bankers and the local Polish nobility, the book’s focus is the family crisis that develops when one of the Mashber brothers breaks with the community’s religious traditions.

Der Nister was among a group of Yiddish writers that was arrested by Soviet authorities in 1949, and he died soon after in a Soviet prison hospital. The first two volumes of THE FAMILY MASHBER are contained in the New York Review of Books edition; the third, completed but not published prior to Der Nister’s death, has never been found.

Lori Feathers is a freelance book critic. Her recent reviews can be found at Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, Three Percent, Rain Taxi, and on Twitter @LoriFeathers.

Sophie Hughes picks...

Lysistrata Cover Image
By Aristophanes, Douglass Parker (Translator), Judith Fletcher (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9780451531247
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Signet Book - April 7th, 2009

LYSISTRATA is perhaps the best known of Aristophanes’ surviving comedies, and was banned in 1967 in Greece because of its anti-war message. If you don’t know anything about the plot, you won’t spot the implicit irony in the mere single accusation that it is anti-war. By modern standards, it is also incredibly lewd and explicit. Our titular heroine’s name, Lysistrata, translates as “she who disbands armies.” She does so by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands, forcing them to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata’s sex-strike speeches, and the MONTY PYTHON-esque double entendres are simply unmissable:

CLEONICÉ: And why do you summon us, dear Lysistrata? What is it all about?
LYSISTRATA: About a big affair.
CLEONICÉ: And is it thick too?

Mein Kampf Cover Image
By Konrad Heiden (Introduction by), Ralph Manheim (Translator), Adolpf Hitler
ISBN: 9780395925034
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - September 15th, 1998

Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto, was unsurprisingly banned in most European countries and in several others around the world. In early 2014, digital sales soared, and arguments for whether Mein Kampf should still be read or not abounded. Of course, one must decide for oneself. Oddly, there is also a nice piece of bookshop trivia about MEIN KAMPF: during WWII, at the start of the Blitz, co-founder of London’s Foyles bookshop, William Foyles, filled sandbags with old books to protect the shop from damage and covered the roof with copies of Mein Kampf to ward off bombers.

Ulysses Cover Image
ISBN: 9780199535675
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - September 1st, 2011

James Joyce’s novel ULYSSES was temporarily banned in UK, Australia and U.S.A for its sexual content. There’s really nothing I can add to Adam Thirwell’s incisive, joyous essay/review, “It’s Still A Scandal!,” which I read earlier this year in The New York Review of Books. For me, as a literary translator, ULYSSES is a bible. Do I understand it all? Of course not! But Joyce is my unfailing saviour when I’m stuck for a voice…

Sophie Hughes is a literary translator and editor living in Mexico City. Her translations and reviews have appeared in Asymptote, Dazed and Confused, Words Without Borders, The White Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. Her translation of Iván Repila’s internationally acclaimed novel THE BOY WHO STOLE ATTILA’S HORSE is published this fall by Pushkin Press.

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho picks...

Kiss of the Spider Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679724490
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - April 3rd, 1991

It almost feels silly to include on this list a novel that has been, we assume, so widely read—and then there's the 1985 movie adaptation, directed by Hector Babenco, and the Broadway adaptation, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1993 and ran for more than 900 performances. But have people actually read it? I'm sure I'm not the only one who watched the movie first and then read the book, as I'm convinced somebody else has already said this: nothing prepares you for this book. KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, which depicts the relationship between two inmates inside a prison cell during the Argentine dictatorship, is not only a devastating portrait of the abuse of power and machismo in Latin America, but a master class in the novel form in and on itself. Puig, who lived in exile for most of his life, reveled in the use of raw, unmarked dialogue and alternating points of view, and in turning seemingly vain pop culture references—B movies, soap operas—into profound and hysterical, twitching and heartbreaking classic pieces of storytelling.

Dirty Havana Trilogy: A Novel in Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060006891
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - February 5th, 2002

In October of 1998, the prestigious Barcelona-based house Anagrama published Matanzas-born Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's first book, DIRTY HAVANA TRILOGY, to instant critical and commercial success. Three months later, Bohemia, the Cuban magazine where he had worked as a journalist for twenty-six years, fired him without further explanation. Censorship of his works—unsentimental, seismic, in-your-freaking-face depictions of life, poverty, hunger and sex in Cuba under the Castro regime, that reject definition—ensued.

While some of his books have been translated to English and even published here in the past, they are still somewhat hard to find in the U.S. Banned in the island for years, Gutiérrez is now being published, and recognized, in his homeland. With a new book published by Anagrama last week—FABIÁN Y EL CAOS—and our newly restored buddy-ness with Cuba, make sure to watch out for the writings of soul-searing, flesh-slapping Gutiérrez. He might as well become the next Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent Into Darkness Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143125532
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2014

With eighty-eight journalists killed since 2000, Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters. "They are threatened and murdered by organized crime or corrupt officials with impunity," explains Reporters Without Borders. "The resulting climate of fear leads to self-censorship and undermines freedom of information."

Alfredo Corchado, a Nieman, Woodrow Wilson, and Rockefeller fellow and the Mexico bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News, knows one thing or two about the willingness of Mexico's dark forces to silence journalists. One night in 2007, Corchado, who had long been reporting on government corruption, murders in Juárez, and Mexican ruthless drug cartels, received a tip that he could be the next target of the Zetas, a violent paramilitary group—and that he had twenty-four hours to find out if the threat was true.

MIDNIGHT IN MEXICO is not only the moving and gripping journey of a reporter to understand and expose the truths of the newfound country he left as a kid. It is also a must-read for those on this side of the border willing to understand the hidden war next door we are, admittedly or not, part of—one that keeps getting more convoluted, and more tragic, by the minute.

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho is the author of the critically-acclaimed story collection BAREFOOT DOGS. A former John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University and a Dobie Paisano fellow in fiction, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Texas Monthly, Salon, Etiqueta Negra, and elsewhere. He lives in Austin, where he's at work on a novel.

Join us for our 5th Annual Banned Book Celebration on Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Pulitzer Prize Winner, a Neuroscientist, and a Nobel Prize Winner Walk into a Bookstore

This fall, we are proud to have a calendar full of amazing authors. Three of our biggest events will be hosted at Christ Church Cathedral downtown and the soon-to-open Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH).

Intellectual Cats

Sure, cats rule the internet with their adorable videos, but they've also conquered the pages of literary fiction!

The Guest Cat Cover Image
By Takashi Hiraide, Eric Selland (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811221504
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - January 28th, 2014

Last year, New Directions quietly published THE GUEST CAT by Takashi Hiraide and it became an unexpected breakout hit. The story concerns a quiet couple in Tokyo who's lives are changed by the arrival of a stray cat.

Fancy Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940400075
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ellipsis - February 3rd, 2015

FANCY is a delight! Ostensibly a list of instructions to tend a housecat while the owner is away, FANCY surprises with digression after digression about the nature of life and, of course, cats.

Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong Cover Image
By Caroline Casey (Editor), Chris Fischbach (Editor), Sarah Schultz (Editor)
ISBN: 9781566894111
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - September 15th, 2015

Our friends at Coffee House Press created this collection of literary essays abougt the importance of cats and cat videos in the social order. Thoughtful, funny, and endlessly interesting, you'll love this book as much as your kitty loves a new ball of yarn.

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811224499
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - August 27th, 2015

#BrazosBest Picks for September

In September: on the (im)possibility of becoming a good man in a dying world; Mexican dentistry and the art of storytelling; the rise of America’s first female deputy; surviving rape and finding one’s self on the Pacific Crest; a love letter to the inimitable Joan Didion.

Scrapper Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616955212
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - September 15th, 2015

Set during the apocalypse of our present, in a slowly decaying Detroit, Matt Bell’s latest novel is a vertiginous plummet into the darkest heart of man. A “scrapper” who makes his living selling off the remnants of America piece by piece stumbles upon a kidnapped child in an abandoned house, starting him on a disturbing quest for justice and redemption. Yet, what he uncovers will unearth secrets from his own inescapable past, ultimately culminating in a reckoning at the intersection of who we are and who we choose to be. Complex, troubling, and written in lyrical prose that belies its harrowing narrative, you will not easily forget SCRAPPER.


The Story of My Teeth Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566894098
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - September 15th, 2015

Lovely, exuberant, and unlike anything you’ve read before, THE STORY OF MY TEETH is the story of Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez Sanchez, the self-proclaimed “greatest auctioneer in the world.” Sanchez is a model of self-invention, a worthy successor to Quixote or, at the very least, Sancho Panza. With wondrous prose, Luiselli explores the relationships we have to the objects in our lives, as well as the context of their worth. Bursting with imagination, playfulness, and good-natured invention, THE STORY OF MY TEETH is a letter to stories and the profound act of telling them.


Girl in the Woods: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062291066
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow & Company - September 8th, 2015

You are allowed to give yourself permission. For Debby Parker, that meant leaving Colorado College after the institution shamed her and saved her rapist. Rather than retreat to her hometown in Massachusetts, Parker hiked the Pacific Crest Trail—all 2,650 miles, from Mexico to Canada—and became Aspen Matis. With her memoir GIRL IN THE WOODS, Matis illustrates these mantras: trust yourself and only rapists cause rape.


Girl Waits with Gun Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780544409910
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Houghton Mifflin - September 1st, 2015

Constance Kopp and her sisters like their secluded farm life: Constance keeps the house, Norma keeps her pigeons, and teenage Fleurette keeps them entertained with her theatrics. When an obnoxious tycoon runs their buggy down with his car, Constance tries to get him to pay damages—and unwittingly unleashes a campaign of deadly intimidation upon their tidy life. This crackling page-turner is ripped from the headlines of 1916, based on true events, with a phenomenally larger than life heroine. GIRL WAITS WITH GUN is a zinging detective story, a late-bloomer's coming-of-age tale, and a painfully heartfelt story of family, all in one easily-devoured package.


The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250010025
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - August 25th, 2015

As a Didion devotee, I was in love with this book from its conception. When the advanced copy came, though, I hesitated. Would THE LAST LOVE SONG, the first and only Joan Didion biography, prove to be a death knoll? Would it be like some other celebrity biographies, where so much has been invented by the author that it’s hard to call it non-fiction? On the contrary, Daughtry always remembers his place: a biographer of a living person. He aims to illuminate Didion through her work, not the other way around. Delicate but thorough, THE LAST LOVE SONG is a love letter in its own right.


Hurricane Lit

I have an intimate relationship with hurricanes. A Galveston native, one of my earliest memories is sitting on my father’s shoulders as we walked through the waist-deep water in our house following Alicia. Everything gone. Over the years, I came to think of the annual choreography of preparation, anticipation and hysteria that would sweep the island as one of the natural signs of time passing—like tree leaves changing colors.

Katrina: After the Flood Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451692228
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 11th, 2015

An awe-inspiring work of reportage that amounts to a people’s history of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Gary Rivlin splices together the experiences of New Orleanians from all walks of life, culminating in the most comprehensive study yet of this American tragedy. What emerges is a microcosm of our country’s fraught relationship with race and class that is as insightful as it is infuriating. Don’t be surprised if KATRINA wins the National Book Award for nonfiction!

Landfall Cover Image
ISBN: 9780988265776
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Forest Avenue Press - August 11th, 2015

The opening passage of this debut novel describing the catastrophic flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina is quite simply terrifying. Yet that is only where the story begins. With alternating plotlines and a twist you won’t see coming, Ellen Urbani perfectly captures the desolation and resilience of the people of New Orleans. Urbani reads at Brazos this Wednesday, 8/26 at 7pm!

The Distant Marvels Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609452520
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Europa Editions - April 7th, 2015

Hurricane Flora was the second deadliest natural disaster of the twentieth century. It tore a swath through the Caribbean and decimated Cuba, where Chantel Acevedo set this mesmerizing novel. A group of women ride out the storm in the Governor's mansion, telling stories to pass the time. However, one woman’s tale will place their country’s troubled path to independence in stark relief, revealing more about them than any would have guessed. Another tremendous work of international fiction from our friends at Europa Editions!

The Promise Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632206459
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Skyhorse Publishing - May 5th, 2015

Local Ann Weisgarber’s second novel is a tale of love and loss set during the “Great Storm” of 1900 that all but wiped Galveston off the map. Two women, at odds over the same man, try to navigate the wakes of personal tragedies, while the looming disaster threatens all. This is pitch-perfect historical fiction and a completely human story that this BOI gives his seal of approval!

The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062364654
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow & Company - August 11th, 2015

America’s weatherman, Al Roker, explores the destruction and aftermath of the 1900 Storm. The unprecedented disaster of the hurricane literally changed the trajectory of American history and—out of necessity and fear—helped the nascent science of meteorology evolve. An accessible blend of history and science that is certain to unearth new information on this infamous storm!

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375708275
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books USA - July 11th, 2000

This is the book that really launched the career of mega-star popular historian, Erik Larson. It is also the seminal depiction of the 1900 Storm. Larson’s gift for crafting a pulsating narrative out of myriad historical sources is in full force here. He expertly brings to life pre-storm Galveston and treats the approaching hurricane as an intriguing character in its own right. This is a terrifying, illuminating and unforgettable book. An out and out classic!

The Literature of the Iraq War

With the never-ending war in Iraq back on, let’s take a minute to examine some of the best artistic works to come out of that war and the one in Afghanistan.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060885618
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco Press - November 27th, 2012

Unquestionably the greatest novel dealing with the military experience post-9/11. Indeed, it is perhaps the Great American Post-9/11 Novel. Impossible to describe other than to say a tour de force of storytelling and empathy for an infantry soldier and his fellow teammates who are put on a propaganda tour for the war and spend a surreal 24 hours in Dallas on the day of the annual Cowboys Thanksgiving day game. Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee.

Green on Blue Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476778556
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Scribner Book Company - February 17th, 2015

A debut novel written by a veteran of Special Operations, it is set in Afghanistan. A moving story, and told from the point of view of an Afghani. It ranks at the top of works to come out of the wars.

Eleven Days Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307951038
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books - March 11th, 2014

A debut novel about a mother and her son who goes missing in a Special Operations raid. A good tale, which is distinguished by being seen from the perspective of a female. It is also being turned into a movie.

Mike Freedman lives in Houston, where he was born and raised. After graduating college, he served in the Army in the infantry and in the Special Forces as a Green Beret. His first novel, SCHOOL BOARD, about Enron was released in 2014.

#BrazosBest Picks for August

In August: check fraud as cure for existential dread; taxi rides and past lives in modern Beijing; the return of Pulitzer Prize-winning friendly giant Adam Johnson; broken relationships, weird crushes, and other people; Hurricane Katrina ten years later; the cultural mathematics of race in America.

Into the Valley Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616955090
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - August 4th, 2015


For a while, the counterfeit checks and brand new Mustang give the nameless young woman in Ruth Galm’s debut novel a sense of agency. She finally feels she can escape both the oppressive strictures of her mother and the degenerate hippies that frighten her even more. Yet, is it ever truly possible to slough off the chains of society? And what if when you do get beyond all the meaningless claptrap, you only find a void staring back at you? At once a throwback to the novels of Joan Didion and Richard Yates and the arrival of a startling new voice in American fiction, INTO THE VALLEY is a relentless character study that refuses to turn away from the most unsettling of truths—that there may in fact be none.

The Incarnations Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501106781
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Touchstone Books - August 18th, 2015

ON SALE 8/18

A taxi driver in Beijing begins receiving mysterious letters from a person who claims to be his soulmate, detailing their past lives together as parent and child, as siblings, as lovers. As his personal life deteriorates, the letters spill forth vivid tales of lives entwining across eons of Chinese history, in this novel of obsession and buried secrets. Barker’s incredibly rich writing captivates even as it disgusts, empathizes even when the acts it portrays are unforgivable. Both an epic drama and an intimate painting of one man’s psyche, THE INCARNATIONS doesn’t let you go easy.

Fortune Smiles: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812997477
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - August 18th, 2015

ON SALE 8/18

Adam Johnson’s first book since winning the Pulitzer, these six stories deal in tragedy, technology and the the effort involved in gaining wisdom. He also returns to the subject of North Korea, the setting of THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON, telling the story of two Pyongyang defectors who struggle to assimilate to their new life in Seoul. A masterful mixture of the everyday set against extraordinary circumstances, this collection is another example of Johnson’s gifts as a writer.

Barbara the Slut and Other People Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633782
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - August 4th, 2015


Girlfriends, boyfriends, siblings, dogs: the ways we form relationships are the core of this phenomenal debut collection of stories about sex, friendship, and breakdowns in communication. Every story in this book is so viscerally real, whether it’s a teenager enduring a family road trip to break up with her long-distance boyfriend, a worker in an STD clinic giving bad news, or a young woman pretending to be gay to work in a sex toy shop. All right, that last one’s a little out there, but no matter how outrageous some of the circumstances may seem, Holmes hits perfectly on the vulnerabilities, insecurities, and buried needs that live in us all.


Katrina: After the Flood Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451692228
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 11th, 2015

ON SALE 8/11

When the levees broke, Hurricane Katrina became a man-made disaster. Even once the waters receded, political infighting, bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption left the revival of one of the greatest American cities in doubt. Gary Rivlin’s meticulous rendering of the storm and its aftermath--published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of landfall--is journalism at its finest. It is quite literally a deluge of facts wrapped in a gripping narrative that provides the most complete understanding yet of this American tragedy.

Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941411049
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - August 11th, 2015

ON SALE 8/11

With MULTIPLY/DIVIDE, Wendy S. Walters steps out of poetry and into prose. Her topic? Race in America. Using fiction, non-fiction, and lyric essay, Walters explores the universal and the personal, ranging from contradictions within American identity and aspirations to her own entrance into motherhood as a biracial woman. Beautiful, compelling, and relevant, MULTIPLY/DIVIDE is one of those rare books that prompts self-examination without preaching.

#BrazosBest Picks for July

In July: a family history of drowned mermaids; surfing the swells of gender fluidity; ruination and renewal in the wake of unwelcome truths; assuaging grief through rocket science; occupied New Orleans as the Southern heart of darkness; literature, travel and the search for a meaningful life.

The Book of Speculation Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250054807
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - June 23rd, 2015

An old, handwritten book, delivered to a house perched precariously on a cliff over the sea—I got chills every third page reading THE BOOK OF SPECULATION. It’s a debut novel, but it feels like a classic: obsessions, mermaids, carnivals, and card-readers fill this story, as family secrets spill out and flood the pages like the oncoming sea that hammers throughout the book. A fantastic page-turner about the bonds between siblings, breathing underwater, and living side-by-side with a past that’s never quite gone. 

-- Liz

Becoming Westerly: Surf Legend Peter Drouyn's Transformation Into Westerly Windina Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937402747
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Outpost19 - July 1st, 2015

In BECOMING WESTERLY, retired surfer and active journalist Jamie Brisick pens the transformation of young charismatic Aussie surf legend Peter Drouyn into bubbly, Marilyn Monroe-inspired entertainer Westerly Windina, age sixty-four. Brisick follows Windina to Thailand and back as she pursues her long coveted gender reassignment surgery and prepares for what she considers her greatest performance yet: a special appearance at the Fiftieth Anniversary Surfing Awards Ceremony. There, she will reveal herself not as the ghost of Drouyn (whom she claims is deceased) but her own woman. In this book, Brisick tells the story of Westerly, his close friend, with memoir-like intimacy.

-- Annalia

Among the Ten Thousand Things Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995220
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - July 7th, 2015

In the first fifteen pages of AMONG THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS, a box addressed to the matriarch of the Shanley family arrives at her home in New York City. Inside the box? Page after page of dirty emails exchanged between patriarch Jack Shanley and his mistress. However, when the box falls into the hands of his teenaged daughter and not his wife, the Shanley family is ripped from their tenuous roots and thrown into a tailspin of self-discovery and self-destruction. This book was so compelling I couldn’t stop reading it throughout our meeting to choose this month’s favorites. 

-- Mary-Catherine

The Last Pilot Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250066640
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador USA - July 7th, 2015

Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the U.S. Air Force who gives up his astronaut hopes—in the midst of the Space Race, no less—when his wife welcomes their long-awaited daughter. But when tragedy hits, their lives are thrown into tumult and neither knows what they want or who they are anymore. Pulled in a million emotional directions, Jim and Grace navigate one of life’s most dire griefs while trying to maintain their grasp on themselves, their marriage, and the changing world around them.

-- Mary-Catherine


Secessia Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780802123619
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Grove Press - July 7th, 2015

Beautiful poetic writing, an unsettling Southern Gothic atmosphere, a dark undercurrent of sexual obsession—Kent Wascom’s second novel is another macabre feast of impeccably researched historical fiction. Set against the Union occupation of New Orleans, SECESSIA follows five very different characters clawing their way to power and prominence amid the waning days of the Confederacy. There are lies, murder, manipulation, and—in the guise of General Benjamin “The Beast” Butler—a steelfisted tyrant hellbent on breaking the will of the South’s largest, proudest, and unruliest city.

-- Keaton

The Journey Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Alvaro Enrigue (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920183
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - August 18th, 2015

Winner of the prestigious Cervantes Prize, acclaimed Mexican author Sergio Pitol’s second book in his Trilogy of Memory is a firsthand account of living in Soviet-era Prague and Moscow. Told in intelligent and warm prose, Pitol once again shows the reader the profound importance of literature and travel in living a meaningful life. Bursting with wisdom and memories, THE JOURNEY is another unforgettable trip with a masterful guide.

-- Mark


by Keaton Patterson

No great work of literature exists in a vacuum, and all reading leads guessed it, more reading. In “Further Reading,” Keaton picks one great book and discusses all the other books it leads him to.

The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway's Ghost in the Last Days of Castro's Cuba Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250043702
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - June 9th, 2015

Brin-Jonathan Butler is a man of obsessions. As a child, to avoid horrendous bullying and his family’s legacy of alcoholism and suicide, he escaped into his love of literature and boxing—passions that would last a lifetime. Books showed him a world of possibilities beyond the narrow prospects of his troubled upbringing. Boxing let him imagine a sense of pride and discipline he’d never known in his own life.

As you’d expect, this dual love of books and boxing quickly led young Butler to Hemingway. From there, it was a natural progression for him to become enamored with Cuba. Like most kids of my generation, raised during the Cold War’s protracted denouement, the small Communist country less than 100 miles from American shores captured his imagination completely. Why did Hemingway—the lion of modern American fiction—spend the waning years of his life there, writing his final masterpiece and even helping aid the revolution that would ultimately send him packing? Why did so many Cubans choose to leave their beloved home with no chance of ever returning? Why did so many choose to stay? Why did such a small island nation exert such an immense psychic hold on the rest of the world? These were all questions that would never be answered without visiting. So, when the opportunity for an open-ended trip to Cuba presented itself, Butler jumped at the chance. With no contacts to aid him and no plan other than meeting the actual “old man” from THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and training with Cuba’s bevy of olympic champion boxers, Butler boarded a plane, beginning an odyssey that would last nearly ten years.         

As the product of this journey, THE DOMINO DIARIES is far more than a travelogue or sports memoir. While boxing is the centerpiece of Butler’s pursuits, it’s through the lives of boxers (and other Cuban athletes) that he explores the strange relationship between Cuba and America, and between Cuba and Cubans. Hands down, Cuba produces the most world class fighters of any nation. Yet, they are forbidden by the Castro regime from ever turning professional and live in poverty like the majority of their comrades. Of course, it is well known that many Cuban boxers do defect to America in order to pursue their dreams, but far more decide to forego potential millions and remain. It is this impossible choice that fascinates Butler. And THE DOMINO DIARIES will fascinate any reader with an interest in culture, politics, literature, sports, and the ways they intertwine.

Over the course of his time in Cuba, Butler interviewed locals, expats and experts for THE DOMINO DIARIES. Even though (unapproved) books are banned in Cuba, it has one of the highest literacy rates of any nation, and Cubans are just as fanatical about literature as they are about sports. Numerous books related to Cuba are mentioned to Butler in passing or consulted by him during his research. So, if you’re interested in all things Cuba, here’s some further reading to consider: 

The Old Man and the Sea Cover Image
ISBN: 9780684801223
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - May 5th, 1995

For Whom the Bell Tolls Cover Image
ISBN: 9780684803357
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 1st, 1995

There is no American more revered in Cuba than Ernest Hemingway. The literary legend spent nearly a third of his life in the country, only leaving his storied Finca Vigia estate after the revolution made it impossible for him to stay. Still, to this day he is fondly remembered. Castro himself is a fan of Papa, and he even studied FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS while waging his guerilla war against the Batista regime. Several other locals and fellow travellers Butler meets are also seen reading the famous war novel. However, none of Hemingway’s works are more synonymous with Cuba than THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. His love for the Cuba is apparent in every word of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel—Hemingway’s last—effortlessly capturing the natural splendor of the island nation and the indomitable heart of its people. It is an unabashed classic, a near perfect book that everyone should read.  

Invisible Cities Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156453806
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - May 3rd, 1978

Upon a rendezvous with one of Castro’s granddaughters, she asks Butler if he has ever read Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES. For her, the Cuban-born Italian writer’s surreal ruminations on the way certain locales ingrain themselves within our consciousness—structured as a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan—is the perfect metaphor for understanding Havana’s maddening effect on people. It is a city of desire that exists in memory as much as in reality, something all the more beautiful for its unattainability.      

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780743246415
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Free Press - January 13th, 2004

In his attempts to gather as many perspectives on Cuban life as possible, Butler interviews Carlos Eire, author of this National Book Award-winning memoir. The story of one of the thousands forced to flee their homeland with no hope of ever returning, WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA is simply heartbreaking. Perhaps no other book so thoroughly conveys the cultural chasm created by the post-revolution diaspora. 

The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812992564
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Villard Books - September 2nd, 1998

Cubans love boxing, but baseball is religion. No other sport arouses anywhere near the mania on the island. Ironic that the true passion of this communist nation is America’s national pastime. As with Cuba’s fighters, their baseball players are among the best in the world, possessing talents worth millions anywhere but where they live. Case in point: Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. THE DUKE OF HAVANA charts the odyssey of his impossible decision to leave Cuba in order to play in the Major Leagues. Like many before him and since, Hernandez faced unmentionable hardships to chase his dream, sacrificing all he’d ever known in the process. Still, less than a year after making it to American shores, he was leading the New York Yankees to a World Series championship. An amazing true story.     

Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today Cover Image
By Yoani Sanchez, M. J. Porter (Translator)
ISBN: 9781935554257
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Melville House Publishing - April 26th, 2011

Yoani Sanchez is a dissident blogger, chronicling all the harsh realities of living in Castro’s Cuba. Even though her life is in constant peril, she persists in releasing her missives and in hoping for a brighter future for her country. She is a testament to undaunted courage and an unwavering voice recounting the daily life of a people most of the world has never seen. In a land where freedom of speech is banned, telling the truth is the most revolutionary act.

#BrazosBest Picks for June

In June: Waterloo witnessed by a rabbit; getting to know THE STRANGER from an Algerian perspective; a portrait of the artist as a young woman; killers caught in the hallucinatory heart of the Old West; the appeal of nudism and the necessity of sunscreen; finding humor amid the absurdity of life in modern Israel; love...Tom Haverford-style 

The Sage of Waterloo: A Tale Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393246919
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 1st, 2015

I thought the same thing you’re thinking now: why would a debut novelist write about one of the most decisive battles in history from the point of view of a rabbit, or a family of rabbits to be more precise? Yet, this narrative choice puts enough separation between humanity and its history to approach a well-told tale in an entirely new way. We see our history enmeshed in the natural world, at once of us and not of us. We see how our actions reverberate through time and space and that we are never truly shed of them. 


The Meursault Investigation Cover Image
By Kamel Daoud, John Cullen (Translator)
ISBN: 9781590517512
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Other Press (NY) - June 2nd, 2015

While primarily a postcolonial re-rendering of THE STRANGER, recounted by the brother of the anonymous "Arab” killed by Camus’ anti-hero, THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION is also an unnerving psychological thriller, an absurdist origin story of (post)revolutionary Algeria, and a virulent screed against the nationalism and religious fundamentalism that have overrun Daoud’s home country ever since its independence. Much like the book with which it converses, this slender novel belies its multilayered profundity.

The Body Where I Was Born Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609805265
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Seven Stories Press - June 16th, 2015

Guadalupe Nettel is a badass—one of the most impressive authors of contemporary Mexican fiction (a pantheon with no shortage of impressive writers). This autobiographical novel shows how she got that way. A coming-of-age tale wrapped in a rousing appeal for outsiders and the ostracized to accept their flaws.


Haints Stay Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937512323
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Dollar Radio - June 2nd, 2015

Brooke and Sugar. Brothers. Killers. They make their way through a nightmare of the Old West just trying to stay alive in a land teeming with death. The literary equivalent of Jarmusch’s DEAD MAN or Peckinpah’s PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, this is the joyously violent, supremely strange head-trip of a novel you’ve been bleeding for. 


Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist's Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780802123510
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Grove Press - June 2nd, 2015

Whether you call it immersive, participatory, or gonzo journalism, Smith goes all in, giving us the full monty if you will. His latest obsession? Nudism (or naturism, depending on who you ask). While an insightful social commentary and (sub)cultural history, what really drives this book is Smith’s own comic exploits in letting it all hang out. As an experiment, read it naked.


The Seven Good Years: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633263
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - June 16th, 2015

Have you heard of Etgar Keret? You will. An Israeli author known for brief and comically absurd fiction, he is poised for a huge breakthrough. And this breezy, delightful, thought-provoking memoir might just be the ticket. Set during the seven years between the birth of his son and the death of his father, it is filled with ruminations on everything from pilates (because he’s lazy) to terrorism (because he’s anxious). But he always comes back to a sense of love and humor that is unflappable. Keret is an immediately likable writer. To read him is to want to have a beer with him. 


Modern Romance Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594206276
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - June 16th, 2015

Comic Ansari could have just written a funny little book on trying to find love in the age of social media, and it would have been a bestseller. I mean, is anything more rife with humorous material than the pitfalls of dating? Yet, while MODERN ROMANCE is hilarious, Ansari also brought in bona fide social scientists to help ground his comedy in actual research. So, now you can bust a gut laughing and learn something at the same time. Bonus!