General blog posts

New Year, New Gifts: Sara and Ülrika Show Off Brazos 2018 Picks

Follow this link to our YouTube channel, where you can watch the whole video!

Items featured include: 

The 2017 Holiday Catalog

We all agree that books make excellent gifts, but choosing the perfect book can be a trick. It’s hard to keep up with the best new books across everyone’s interests, but that’s what you come to us for. We like to make it easy and fun to find the perfect book for the ones you love. To that end, we’ve broken down our featured titles by genre, so you can find the perfect gifts for the readers in your life (including you!). 

Top Ten Books Laura Discovered in 2017

These were the best books I read in 2017. Some were published a few years ago (and as usual, I’m late to the party), but they are all fantastic!

Manhattan Beach Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476716732
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - October 3rd, 2017

I love all things historical fiction, so when I found out that Jennifer Egan’s newest book would be a noir-ish novel set in the 1940s, I was completely on board. Luckily, Manhattan Beach did not disappoint. It follows Anna Karrigan, a young woman who grows up to become the first female diver working to repair battleships in the New York Naval Yard. Her life intertwines with her absent father’s business partner, Dexter Styles, and she begins to catch glimpses of long buried secrets. What I loved most about this book was the atmosphere – you can smell the smoke from the factories, feel the icy water of the harbor; Jennifer Egan has created a beautiful, haunting book that will stay with you long after you’ve reached the last page.

Exit West Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735212176
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 7th, 2017

A parable for our modern times, Exit West is the deceptively simple story of two young people falling in love in a war-torn Middle Eastern country. What unfolds is a magical story about doors that can transport the traveler instantly to anywhere in the world, and a larger meditation on what it means to be a refugee, thrown into a new culture and divorced from your homeland.

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101902783
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - October 17th, 2017

American Wolf is a non-fiction book that chronicles the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, with particular interest in O-Six, an extraordinary alpha-female who roamed Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. Wrapped up in her story, however, is the story of the humans connected to her, from the wolf-watchers who took meticulous notes on her every-day behavior, to the hunter who eventually took her life. It’s a complex story, but Blakeslee handles it deftly, with the research driven approach of a journalist, and the story-telling chops of a novelist.

The World of Tomorrow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316382199
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Little Brown and Company - September 5th, 2017

If you’re looking for an epic page turner, this sweeping debut historical novel is for you. Set in 1930s New York, it follows three brothers (two of them on the run from the law) and the many lives that intersect their own. From the underbelly of New York to the bright promise of the Wold’s Fair, this book has something for everyone!

Goldeline Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062498755
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - November 14th, 2017

This is the best middle-grade novel I’ve read in a long time. It follows Goldeline, a young girl who escaped to live with bandits after her mother was killed for being a witch. On the run from The Preacher, a man who can spin lies so sinister a whole town will believe him, Goldeline must find the courage to save her friends and rediscover the magic her mother taught her. Goldeline is a fantastic character – at times spiky and unlikable, at times completely endearing. The world Cajoleas has created is ripe with magic, and there were a few genuinely terrifying moments. I’d highly recommend this book to people of all ages, especially fans of Neil Gaiman.

The Gypsy Moth Summer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250087515
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - June 6th, 2017

Wow, what a book. This is a family saga set on Avalon island off the coast of Long Island, during the summer of 1992 – the summer the gypsy moths infiltrate every crevice of the island. What follows is a twisting, at times grotesque tale about the things we hide from each-other, and the dark, twisted roots of privilege.

A Gentleman in Moscow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670026197
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - September 6th, 2016

Yes, I know this book is ever popular, but Amor Towles is honestly one of my favorites. A Gentleman in Moscow follows a Russian count who is sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s famed Metropol Hotel. When I first started this book, I was not expecting to like Count Alexander, but I could not have been more wrong. The count is one of the most delightful characters I’ve read in a long time, and I can’t remember the last time a book made me smile so much. He has all the charm of a 19th century gentleman, and he manages to keep his rosy disposition throughout the 30 years of his house arrest, as Russia changes drastically right at his doorstep. Towles has created a sweeping, funny, completely endearing novel that I immediately fell in love with.

Gold Fame Citrus Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594634239
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - September 29th, 2015

How did I only discover Claire Vaye Watkins this year? Gold Fame Citrus is a gorgeous apocalyptic tale about two squatters living in the Mojave desert. When they adopt (kidnap?) a child, they must strike out in search of a better life, even though the odds are stacked against them. This is an impossibly lush, fever-dream of a book, complete with abandoned Hollywood mansions, charismatic cult leaders, and a giant ever-shifting dune sea. Really, what more could you want?

Half Wild: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062444394
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - August 2nd, 2016

This was the first book I read in 2017, and it has stuck with me. One of the best short story collections I’ve read, period, this book follows a cast of loosely connected characters through their home of small-town Vermont. The harsh, beautiful landscape is everything in this book, and MacArthur captures the loneliness of rural Vermont, but also the possibilities there for connection, beauty, and hope.

Forty Rooms Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101982334
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Marian Wood Books/Putnam - February 16th, 2016

Olga Grushin was one of my favorite discoveries of 2017. Forty Rooms is a kaleidoscope of a novel that follows one woman’s entire life through the many rooms she inhabits. Both a coming of age tale and a mediation what it means to be a woman artist, Forty Rooms is a beautiful poem of a novel that I didn’t want to end.

Augusta's Favorite 2017 Items

These are a few of my favorite things from 2017!

Craft Design Technology is the most recent acquisition to the Brazos Bookstore stationery and pen selection. They offer a plethora of beautifully designed Japanese products; my favorites are the Tradio Pens and the Notebooks. The Tradio Pens are the perfect mix of felt tip pen and fountain pen (I know it sounds crazy but you’ll have to see them in person!) and write like a dream. They have a great price point ($7.00) and we sell refills in red, black, and blue. This is soon to be your new favorite pen!

SKU: 4535819471315

SKU: 4535819471322

The new Craft Design Technology notebooks are also amazing. The design is minimal and sleek and the colors are understated and lovely. I highly recommend these for fans of Japanese stationery and minimalism.

We brought in the Aquiesse candle line a few months ago and I’m obsessed! It’s hard for me to choose a favorite scent because I love all of them. The packaging is beautiful and luxe and the scents are even better -- these make for great gifts for the holidays or a nice treat for yourself. The medium and large sizes come in a glass jar with a lid and the candles burn cleanly, with enough scent to fill a room. If you aren’t sure which one will be your new signature scent, we also offer many of the scents in a travel size candle, perfect for a stocking stuffer or someone on-the-go. I can’t recommend these candles enough!

The Revolution of Marina M. Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316022064
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little Brown and Company - November 7th, 2017

My absolute favorite book of the year! Just in time for the 100th anniversary, Marina’s coming of age tale during the Russian Revolution is enchanting and engrossing; I read this 800+ page book in just 5 days! After waiting 11 years for Janet Fitch’s next book, this was worth the wait. Gift this to someone who loves literary and/or historical fiction.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Cover Image
By Samin Nosrat, Wendy MacNaughton (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781476753836
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 25th, 2017

I enjoy cookbooks and love to explore and create new meals in my kitchen but I wouldn’t say that I’m a master chef by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not advanced enough to create meals from my imagination or know which flavors go together; I rely on cookbooks to guide me. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat was exactly what I had been looking for. She breaks down the 4 elements of cooking and teaches you how to use your knowledge of these elements to create meals on your own. I’m still working my way through the book and my cooking skills but there is a lot here and I think it would be useful for those interested in cooking at all levels, from novice to expert. The illustrations are amazing as well and keep it fun and not too stuffy.

SKU: 092633301944

SKU: 092633301913

Faber-Castell is known for their amazing art supplies for children and these Creativity Cans are some of the coolest things I’ve seen -- I wish they had been available when I was a child! Each Creativity Can includes a ton of craft components to keep young minds active and creating. I really like the Motion kit, which include items geared toward aspiring engineers, but all the sets are inspiring and fun and make great gifts for the young people in your life. These hands-on activity sets develop problem solving, imagination, and critical thinking skills that have lifelong importance so don’t miss out on these fun, educational crafts.

Adults aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a book tote! These Elephant & Piggie Read totes feature my favorite trio of children’s book characters, with art done by Mo Willems, of course. The miniature size of these totes is perfect for children. Out of Print is also a socially conscious company -- each purchase funds literacy programs and book donations to communities in need -- and I enjoy the quality and design of all of their products. Get this for your favorite little today!

Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501126062
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - September 5th, 2017

If you haven’t read Jesmyn Ward before, seriously what are you doing start reading her work right now!! Her writing is masterful and raw and almost always makes me cry. Her latest Sing Unburied Sing doesn’t even need me to promote it -- it won the National Book Award this year and was a New York Times Top 10 book of the year -- but it definitely deserves all the praise. It is lyrical and beautiful and weaves magical realism with Southern family epic and is just so well crafted. Like a modern Faulkner, Ward does something extraordinary with words and this one should not be missed.

SKU: 794813302504

Uncle Goose is known for making high quality wooden gifts in small batches and are a perennial favorite here at the store. This year, my favorite set they have made is Women Who Dared, featuring women who have made significant contributions to the progress of humanity. Each set is 100% handmade in the USA from sustainable Michigan basswood and use non-toxic inks that are safe for children. I think what I like most about this set, besides highlighting women throughout history, is that they appeal to both children and adults; we’ve sold just as many to be gifted to young girls as we have to women finishing higher education degrees so this truly is a gift for all ages.

Keaton Talks Flights

You still have a couple weeks to sign up for our Brazos Flights program before January. Take a closer look at our four themes in this video

Tickets to our Brazos Flight paths are available HERE.

Ülrika's Top Ten Gifts and Books

This is the time of year when we reflect on our favorite things over the past twelve months. As the gift buyer I seem to have favorite things each day, week, and month, so compiling a list of 10 always takes a bit of effort. This year my focus is going to be on my top gift items with a side of books.

For everyone who misses the art of letter writing the Jabara Accordion Letter Set offers a new world of taking pen to paper. The manufacturer, Haibara, was established in 1806, and has continued to offer high quality paper products. Each kit features 90 lined perforated sheets along each fold that can be cut to any length as well as 10 envelopes. This beautifully formed writing set gives you the option to write just a few words or a longer letter.

As a person who loves journals (probably more than I should), when I found out about Rustico I really appreciated the fact that these journals were handmade to order from high-quality top-grain leather as well as refillable. Each of the leather journals use raw stiff leather, it allows the journal to take shape and patina over time as you handle it, giving each journal a unique look. The simple elastic strap closure holds the 5" x 8.125” dot grid notebook, which can be used to bullet journal to writing about your adventures. Come in and see our other styles.

SKU: 046728489215

These lightweight, hand-dyed and hand-printed 80% cotton, 20% silk scarves are perfect for our weather here in Houston. They’re also ideal for yourself or for those who have an appreciation for nostalgia and all things writing. Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

SKU: 5060481810883

I am a sucker for tea towels, especially after having them gifted to me last year during the holidays. Jay’s magnolia are 100% cotton-made and feature a beautiful image of the magnolia on the front and the back of the tea towel. Each towel is dyed with non-toxic dyes. As with all tea towels the more you wash them the softer they become.

These beautiful meal planners from Ramona and Ruth feature a letterpress cover and 55 weekly sheets for all of your meal planning needs. Each sheets has space for daily meal planning as well as an entire column for your shopping list. You have more than a full year of staying organized and looking forward to meal planning.

SKU: 3070900074569

Djeco 1001 Nights Observation Puzzle is more than just the average 200 piece puzzle. After you have completed the puzzle the fun starts again; use the border items to find the images inside of the picture. This puzzle will continue to be enjoyed once it is complete. It also features a poster as a bonus.

SKU: 3070900030817

This reminds me of an updated Mr Potato Head. Everything you need is in the metal box to create your very own monster. The box has two different sides that makes creating with the 49 wooden pieces endless. You can choose to create both sides or use as many pieces for your masterpiece on one. Inzebox offers hours of creativity and playing time.

Francesco Mastalia has taken his experience of photographing indigenous people, religious, and spiritual, throughout the years. In his new collection, boasting both photographs and text, Mastalia explores the personal experiences of 108 of today’s leading yoga practitioners and how their practice has transformed their mind, body, and spirit. Each photograph is taken on a large format camera using glass plates, which gives each photograph a new dimension.

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook Cover Image
ISBN: 9781943679058
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spurl Editions - October 25th, 2017

First published in in 1966 this memoir is now being republished by Spurl Editions. The novel follows two writers in their turbulent relationship and marriage. Seabrook, a renowned writer of the occult and Worthington, a novelist and short story writer find themselves caught in Seabrook’s sadist world and his alcoholic destructive downward spiral. This intense memoir is also a self-reflecting piece while Worthington was married to Seabrook.

Love Your Lunches: Vibrant & Healthy Recipes to Brighten Up Your Day Cover Image
ISBN: 9781784880958
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hardie Grant Books - April 4th, 2017

I can’t seem to say enough about this cookbook. And it’s so much more than just having innovative recipes to pack in your lunches. Most of the recipes make a great dinner and could be a staple at your next dinner party. One of my favorite things is how Bec Dickinson arranges things to make ahead the morning before. I have found myself coming back to this cookbook more and more throughout the year. Most of the recipes are either vegan or vegetarian, however there is room to add your favorite protein. A great tool in my food planning.

Nathan's Top Ten Poetry Collections of 2017

2017 has been an amazing year for new poetry and, since I never think it gets its proper due, I decided to compose my Top Ten list from my favorite collections from the past twelve months. Many of these books are timely in topic and current to our particular moment, and each of them are beautifully lyric in one way or another. Most are at least a little experimental in style, since that’s what I tend to gravitate toward, but you’ll find just as much pleasure as challenge in these pages.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938584671
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Alice James Books - September 12th, 2017

Kaveh Akbar’s poems feel like they’re always moving, as they spiral from image to image rendered with the utmost attention. The main premise of this collection is dealing with alcoholism and addiction, but the scope is way bigger: language, identity, family, and faith are present in every poem. Akbar gives every idea and object in his poems the full weight of his attention, to the point that a sense of wonder is brought back into the world. Nothing is taken for granted here, and the poems are dripping with song.

Precis Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632430304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Omnidawn - February 7th, 2017

PRECIS is born from the U.S./Mexico border and its relation to American identity, and those that are bound by its arbitrary existence. Alvergue’s poetic style is lyric, experimental in form and content, and somehow manages to turn theoretical language into song. Much of the book is rooted in uncertainty, refusing to lay down definitive claims about the body or the narratives around its identity. Fragmented, meditative, and precise, PRECIS challenges modern poetics and politics, with its oversimplified slogans and chants, alike.

While Standing in Line for Death Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940696553
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wave Books - September 5th, 2017

CAConrad’s newest collection continues his process of (Soma)tic poetry rituals—exercises paired with resultant poems—by attempting to write through grief and depression. Conrad’s poems begin with the murder of his boyfriend in 1997 and branch out from there, touching on his primary concerns around our relationships to the earth and to each other, and how to live holistically. Tumbling, stream-of-consciousness poems are paired with straight descriptions of each ritual, which are often humorous and admirably absurd.

The Happy End / All Welcome Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937027735
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ugly Duckling Presse - June 20th, 2017

The poems of THE HAPPY END / ALL WELCOME are set in the middle of a job fair where there’s an open position for anyone who wants to be an artist. Here the poems appear as wanted ads, interviews, office gossip: whatever serves as generally accepted in the structured workplace. This collection is full of a deadpan humor that is wry but never overly ironic, and the poems deconstruct the power dynamics present in any office. De la Torre offers in this book an escape or upward mobility that sadly is becoming less and less of a reality in the corporate setting.

Fast: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062663481
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - May 2nd, 2017

I don’t think there’s a poet writing today whose work is as dense, cerebral, or monolithic as Jorie Graham. Every single poem of her newest collection, FAST, completely floored me. The scope of this book is huge, ranging from Graham’s own cancer treatments to ecological concerns at the bottom of the ocean to bots and the post-human in our technological age. The music in her dense, prose-like style is so strong, and I feel like I learned something new on each page. Graham continues to take risks late into her career and presents a collection that is contemporary, collective, and her most personal to date.

Whereas: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977672
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - March 7th, 2017

This collection takes its title from a single word often used in political language present in the treaties, apologies, and other statements from the United States government to Native American tribes. Long Soldier takes that official language and strips it down into something more lyric and subversive, and she creates a poetics that is structurally inventive and staggeringly beautiful. The poems of WHEREAS explore the doubleness of language and dual citizenship, motherhood, and the nature of apology. At once cerebral and beautiful, this book was my personal pick for this year’s National Book Award (nothing against Frank Bidart).

The Blessing of Dark Water Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938584336
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Alice James Books - April 11th, 2017

THE BLESSING OF DARK WATER is the debut collection from local Houston poet Elizabeth Lyons, and it explores mental illness through the life and works of artist Walter Anderson. Lyons’ voice is subsumed into Anderson’s 70 years later, plumbing the depths of his manic states and the suffering they bring on. These poems are wild, compassionate, and give new voice to Anderson, his wife, and his doctors by using their own words and quotations in the poems themselves. In the process, the speaker in Lyons’ poems also finds the strength to communicate her own emotional reality.

Late Empire Cover Image
ISBN: 9781556595189
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Copper Canyon Press - October 10th, 2017

Lisa Olstein’s latest collection of poetry feels timely in its political and personal commentary on the American empire, with appearances by Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Kurt Cobain, and the enduring signs of global warming, among plenty others. LATE EMPIRE is driven by its observational wit and meditative considerations. The poems are approachable and welcoming, yet intelligent in their construction, and create an almost dreamlike atmosphere in which the poet and reader can muse together on our contemporary condition. Another Texas poet, Olstein is based in Austin.

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977856
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - September 5th, 2017

Danez Smith is one of those rare poets that can make you laugh out loud and, three lines later, shatter your heart into several pieces and leave you broken on the floor. His newest collection, DON’T CALL US DEAD, explores race and sexuality in an America where it’s still dangerous to be anything but the norm, but these poems are so full of hope in spite of that. Smith doesn’t turn his gaze away from history or its horrors, and rather confronts them through lyric. Erotic, funny, and fierce. Bonus points if you watch Smith read these poems out loud, as he’s a hell of a performer to boot.

The New York Editions Cover Image
ISBN: 9780823278152
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Fordham University Press - November 7th, 2017

The latest collection from another Houston local. THE NEW YORK EDITIONS is inspired by Snediker’s love of Henry James and the re-releases of several of his works by Scribners in 1907-1909. The poems in this collection are wildly lyric, exuberant even, and explore our relationships through temporal links that tie us to our past selves and drag us into the future. Identity, sexuality, and music fly out of every one of these poems at a pace that will dizzy you. Don’t be afraid to grab a dictionary for this one; the only thing more impressive than Snediker’s lexicon is his song.

Ben's Top Five Books (and Top Five Categories)

Exit West Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735212176
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 7th, 2017

If you know one thing about EXIT WEST, it’s probably the magical realistic coup Hamid pulls off here: creating a global landscape linked by doors that transport people across oceans, from continent to continent. Hamid’s narrative, which follows a young couple trying to escape an unnamed, war-torn country in the Middle East, uses this magical touch to level the horror of the situation: bombs falling, military executions, and displaced populations of unwelcome immigrants. But the real heart of this book is the relationship between the young man and woman, drawn together by tragedy, kept together by trauma, and then, finally in safety, remembering that they’re both still young and that love is a finicky thing. I rarely read a book twice; EXIT WEST, however, I read in one sitting and then, as soon as I’d finished, immediately returned to page one.

Fever Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399184598
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - January 10th, 2017

(Plus, an extra...)

You Should Have Left Cover Image
By Daniel Kehlmann, Ross Benjamin (Translator)
ISBN: 9781101871928
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - June 13th, 2017

Two books of claustrophobic horror, both in translation, that echo/complement one another. FEVER DREAM is the masterpiece, the story of a woman, holed up somewhere (where?), talking to a young boy (who?). This mysterious novel, told entirely in dialogue, recounts a strange period of time in an even stranger town that seems to be under threat of an impending natural disaster. A terrifying book, FEVER DREAM is also about motherhood, and the fear, both practical and existential, that comes from not being able to protect your child. YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT is slighter, but still intriguing—a riff on The Shining, with a family living in seclusion and a father having a supernatural breakdown. Read these books with the lights on.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977887
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 3rd, 2017

The year’s best short story collection—and maybe the year’s most fun book to talk about. Everyone I know seems to love it, although some in a begrudging, bemused way. Take, for instances, the book’s centerpiece story (novella?), “Especially Heinous,” a beguiling piece that takes a surprising form: a summary of every single episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It starts normally enough, with descriptions that feel like they could be accurate, until the prose becomes loopier, stranger, weaving together ghost children and doppelgangers, unless Machado has created a haunting portrait of violence told through a pop culture filter. She does this elsewhere too—some stories take the form of fairy tales, others take on generic tropes (her post-apocalyptic sexual inventory is especially striking). But I don’t mean for this to sound grim: did I mention this is also the funniest short story collection of the year?

Lincoln in the Bardo Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995343
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - February 14th, 2017

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO seems so ubiquitous at this point that we maybe need to remind ourselves why it’s actually startling. There’s no reason why this novel, which merges American history and Tibetan philosophy, should work, yet somehow its experimental narrative structure—taking the story of Abraham Lincoln’s grief as he buries his son, and fracturing it through the voices of untethered spirits in the cemetery—invites, rather than alienates, the reader’s emotional engagement. Saunders has had an equally unexpected road to success: he started publishing relatively late (close to forty years old) and gained “writers’ writer” success with short stories and essays until his collection TENTH OF DECEMBER brought him sudden and surprising commercial appeal. LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, his first novel, combines all his skills as a short story writer into a work that, while fragmentary, builds to an astonishingly moving climax.

Shadowbahn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735212015
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Blue Rider Press - February 14th, 2017

It seems to me that Steve Erickson sees what the rest of us do not, or cannot, or don’t want to. Since his first novel came out in the mid-eighties, Erickson has been an apocalyptic visionary (and America’s most painfully underrated author). Each new book feels less like a standalone work and more like another truck stop along the narrative highway he’s been travelling his entire career. SHADOWBAHN is a surreal road novel in which the Twin Towers inexplicably appear in the middle of the Badlands and people travel from far and wide to see this bizarre spectacle. At the same time, SHADOWBAHN creates an alternate history of the second half of the twentieth century based on one hypothetical: what if Elvis Presley, not his twin, had died in childbirth? How does Erickson bring these two narratives together? Don’t ask; just read, and watch his American mythology grow denser with each page.


Plus, the five categories below:




After years of swearing off short story collections, I fell back in love with them in January, mostly because of these three books, which have very little in common except for the form and release dates. ALWAYS HAPPY HOUR is cluttered with shitty apartments and rundown motels, filled with women who smoke too much, drink too much, and fuck too much, while seeing their lives as grand things. THE MAN WHO SHOT MY EYE OUT IS DEAD embodies historical periods and different modes of storytelling, the author disappearing behind each in a ventriloquistic feat. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO INTERRACIAL LOVE? (actually published at the tail-end of 2016) posthumously collects the work of an author who explored race and gender as deftly as anyone ever has, although with a humor and dexterity that, at times, given the weight of her subject matter, seems unfathomable. These stories are short only in page count; they contain sad, lonely universes that, somehow, expand ever outward.

Always Happy Hour: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631492181
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - January 10th, 2017

The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062490759
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - January 17th, 2017

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062484154
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco Press - December 6th, 2016


These books, from the St. Louis publisher, are, first and foremost, beautiful objects, nearly perfect squares with bold covers. Plus, they’re all short, exploring the forms of novella and short story without self-aggrandizing mission statements. I bought most all of them this year. The first I read, SUITE FOR BARBARA LODEN, is still my favorite, an elliptical exploration of a largely forgotten 1970 film that blends film criticism, personal anecdote, and fiction. Also of note: the scathing Plath-isms of Suzanne Scanlon, the abstractions of Renee Gladman, and the bonkers “realism” of Joanna Walsh. You can read these books in a sitting and carry them in your pocket, yet they’ll haunt you.

Suite for Barbara Loden Cover Image
ISBN: 9780997366600
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dorothy a Publishing Project - October 17th, 2016


First of all, the bear, Kuma-Kuma Chan (which translates from Japanese as “cute little bear”), is cute. He lives alone in a little house up in the mountains. He has a friend he invites over for dinner sometimes. Other times, Kuma-Kuma Chan fantasizes about the trips he will go on. He packs his bag but then can do nothing more than imagine his journeys. He writes letters to his friend telling him about his “travels,” but his friend cannot read them because Kuma-Kuma Chan gets over-excited and writes too fast and his handwriting is sloppy. These are picture books for kids, but also somehow either: a) incredibly potent portraits of loneliness, or b) monuments to the tranquility of being alone. Actually, they’re both, and they’re perfect.

Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940842011
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Museyon - December 1st, 2014

Kuma-Kuma Chan's Travels Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940842189
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Museyon - October 1st, 2017

Kuma-Kuma Chan's Home Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940842097
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Museyon - April 1st, 2016


Destruction was on my mind a lot throughout 2017: destruction of a personal nature, and also, eventually, on a citywide scale, the latter thoughts engendered by the pounding of Hurricane Harvey. One of these books, THE END WE START FROM, a lyrical meditation on a flooded landscape, I read as the rainfall beat against my window-unit air conditioner, the outward-sticking metal amplifying the sound hammer-like. IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, a graphic novel/memoir, takes destruction more metaphorically, as a young woman wanders through and ruminates on a series of deserted spaces. More abstract still, THE ILIAC CREST, which shrouds itself in horror’s garb, seems about nothing less than the destruction of the body and the mind. This isn’t always cheery fiction, but who the hell wants to be happy all the time?


The End We Start from Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802126894
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - November 7th, 2017

The Iliac Crest Cover Image
ISBN: 9781558614352
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Feminist Press - October 10th, 2017

Imagine Wanting Only This Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101870839
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - April 18th, 2017



Some people: you don’t realize how much you miss them until they’re gone. I’d always been a casual fan of JESUS’ SON, as most one-time, booze-guzzling MFA students are. “And you,” I remember yelling at people during grad school, “you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you?” Also, from his under-read poetry collection THE INCOGNITO LOUNGE: “Darkness, my name is Denis Johnson.” To break into one’s self like that is really something. When he died, I read and re-read nearly all of them: the belligerent gothic ALREADY DEAD, the bizarre cross-dressing noir RESUSCITATION OF A HANGED MAN, the haggard genre experiments of NOBODY MOVE and THE LAUGHING MAN (“Oof, this ain’t literature, folks,” I remember him saying while reading from the former at my university). Ultimately, for me, it comes down to TRAIN DREAMS and its haunting final image of a silence that sucks up everything—even time itself. As evidenced by the aforementioned masterwork JESUS’ SON, full of reprobate behavior and yearning that almost drowns you, nobody has ever been better at making the poetic seem so natural. I go looking for that feeling everywhere.

Jesus' Son Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312428747
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - February 17th, 2009

Joy's Top Ten Books to Make You Feel Good About the World

So I started writing my top ten list a COMPLETELY different way. Books to get you ‘woke’ was what I thought of. Because there are so many problems and so much we need to fix and kidlit and its authors are very much in the center of that awareness--writing books that everyone, not just kids and teens, should read. So let me just say briefly, if you haven’t read Angie Thomas’s THE HATE U GIVE, you need to. And Jason Reynold’s raw and fierce verse in LONG WAY DOWN is on the YA part of my store holiday list so you need to pick up a copy. Follow it with Nic Stone’s thoughtful debut DEAR MARTIN.

Professional Crocodile Cover Image
ISBN: 9781452165066
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Chronicle Books - August 1st, 2017

As mentioned in my intro above, I am in love with this book. It is charming and wordless and when you get to the end and find out where the titular croc is headed and what his profession is, you will laugh and smile for the rest of time. Possibly you will act out scenes from the book while at work. As one does.

Ivy and the Lonely Raincloud Cover Image
ISBN: 9781911171157
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Nobrow Press - August 15th, 2017

<p>A grumpy girl named Ivy. A lonely raincloud. Precious illustrations. A happy ending. A diverse cast of characters. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with this girl and her cloud.</p>

Why Am I Me? Cover Image
By Paige Britt, Selina Alko (Illustrator), Sean Qualls (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781338053142
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Press - August 29th, 2017

A diversely cast picture book that asks big questions in simple yet profound ways. This book is a celebration of what makes each of us unique and special and human.

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) Cover Image
By Dan Santat, Dan Santat (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781626726826
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Roaring Brook Press - October 3rd, 2017

This is the Humpty Dumpty book you need. He’s been patched up. But now he’s got an understandable fear of heights. And the ending is perfect as it is unexpected! Or maybe we should have expected it, but either way it will delight you.This is the Humpty Dumpty book you need. He’s been patched up. But now he’s got an understandable fear of heights. And the ending is perfect as it is unexpected! Or maybe we should have expected it, but either way it will delight you.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Cover Image
ISBN: 9781454923459
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sterling Children's Books - September 5th, 2017

I love this debut middle grade so much that I’ve chosen it for our next Middle Grade book club in January. Aven was born with no arms. Aven is witty and funny and awesome and she lives her best life. And then her dad gets a new job running a dilapidated Western theme park in Arizona. Part mystery, part family story, part friendship story, this book will uplift you and make your heart happy.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316508889
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 31st, 2017

Morrigan Crow is (supposedly) a cursed child. At least that’s what everyone thinks, including her family, who makes her write sorry notes to everyone whose milk curdles or who gets a hangnail or whatever! And then, just as her curse is supposed to result in her death, she is whisked away by a Willie Wonka-esque character to a magical world to compete for a place in the Wundrous Society. Morrigan is everything you want in a narrator and hero--and girl who has always been amazing, just waiting for the world to take notice.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062382801
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - June 27th, 2017

This 1700s-set historical adventure romance with LGBTQ themes is irresistible, as is Henry ‘Monty’ Montague, who takes Europe and the reader’s heart by storm. Funny, sweet, moving and wonderful.

When Dimple Met Rishi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481478687
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon Pulse - May 30th, 2017

Delightful, funny, filled with voice YA about two Indian-American teens who both defy and manage to please their parents in this nerdy wonderful romance.

Moxie Cover Image
ISBN: 9781626726352
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Roaring Brook Press - September 19th, 2017

Small-town Texas girl tires of the endless sexism at her high school. She takes a page (literally) from her mother’s zine-making Riot Grrrl protesting days and ends up starting a feminist revolution. Sweet. Hearfelt. I love a book that takes its issues seriously but also gives you the ending you want and need. #moxiegirlsfightback has been the hashtag for this one, which will make you think and cheer.

The Upside of Unrequited Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062348708
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - April 11th, 2017

Molly Peskin-Suso has had a ton of crushes. But she’s never found quite the right guy. She’s always felt reasons to be cautious, even as she wants to find love--unlike her cynical twin sister Cassie. But love has a way of finding you even when you’re expecting something else. With its wonderfully diverse cast of characters (size, race, family, sexual orientation, religion/culture and more)--this sophomore novel from the author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda, is just the sweet treat you need to ride out this crazy year with a smile.

Four Seasons of Sara's Favorite 2017 Releases

What a fantastic year of books this has been. In the interest of covering both early 2017 and late 2017 releases, I’ve broken my favorites up by season (though Houston this year has really only had two: Monsoon and Not-Quite-Cold-Enough-To-Be-Winter). And in the interest of leveling the playing field compared to, say, a certain newspaper’s “100 Most Notable” list, I’ve tried to tend more toward indie press-released, female- or queer-authored, and translated books. A few others snuck in, as you’ll see. You’ll also find a lot of speculative books on this list.

Recitation Cover Image
By Suah Bae, Deborah Smith (Translator)
ISBN: 9781941920466
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - January 24th, 2017

At the beginning of this year, our national Han Kang obsession led me to pursue more female Korean authors. Bae Suah is an acclaimed Korean author with many titles to her name, but unfortunately we only have a few of her works in English. RECITATION is by far my favorite so far (though this year’s short story collection by her is also fantastic). The narrative begins with an unnamed woman stepping off a train in Europe, and flows into a tale of intrigue, a mysterious group of emigrants, magic shows, wanderers, and questionable identities. Bae Suah has shaped a fantastic, subtle series of characters for RECITATION. The book reads like a dream. It IS a dream. Beyond being in my Top Ten, this book is also in my Top Three.

Recombinant Cover Image
ISBN: 9780932716866
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Kelsey Street Press - March 1st, 2017

Ching-In Chen is a local poet (how lucky we are!), and (again, lucky us) we had a wonderful event for the release of their book of poetry. RECOMBINANT functions as an intricate, beautiful assertion of genderqueer and diasporic identity. It’s bleak at times, sure, but what a gorgeous merging of history, future, identity, theory. I don’t even lend this book out to other people; it’s installed permanently on my bedside table.

The Book of Joan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062383273
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - April 18th, 2017

A space opera, a retelling of Joan of Arc’s life, or a deep, almost mythical exploration of our relationships to gender, sexuality, environmentalism, and reproductive rights? ALL OF THOSE THINGS. That’s right. How has Lidia Yuknavitch done it without writing an overwrought piece of gimmicky genre fiction? She just has. This book made me laugh and cry. I’ve recommended it to any of my friends interested in THE HANDMAID’S TALE or science fiction, but also to folks who care about really good character development and subtle human relationships.

Notes of a Crocodile Cover Image
By Miaojin Qiu, Bonnie Huie (Translator)
ISBN: 9781681370767
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - May 2nd, 2017

I really just… Love this book. Definite Top Three This Year pick. It’s a Taiwanese cult favorite from the 90’s that totally reinvents the college novel and the sense of outsidership we feel in our teens.

Most of the book is the narrative of the main character’s connections to other young men and women, and resulting relationships with them (platonic and romantic). There are these fascinating small dips through the book in which the narrative retreats to these weird, surreal news articles and media snippets, which serve to reinforce the narrator’s sense of being an outsider and unease with constant confrontation.

I chatted about this book earlier this year on our website. Check it out!

Not One Day Cover Image
By Anne Garreta, Emma Ramadan (Translator)
ISBN: 9781941920541
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - May 16th, 2017

In the interest of keeping my Top Ten to books released in 2017, I’m focusing on Anne Garreta’s release from this year. Garreta is the first female member of the French experimental writing group Oulipo, and the first of its members to join after the group was formed. NOT ONE DAY charts the sultry, sensual series of encounters Garreta has had with the women in her life (“not one day” without women, so to speak). But ALSO, Garreta is the author of my favorite 2015 book SPHINX (a story of love and loss based in Berlin’s nightclubs). Garreta's books are so, so good at inducing very strong moods – I read NOT ONE DAY alone in one evening at the bar next to Brazos the day it came out, and the experience is one I’ve never duplicated. 


Amatka Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101973950
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 27th, 2017

In a world where objects are dependent on being spoken into solidity (literally; forget to re-label a suitcase and it will turn to mush), a bureaucratic colony worker discovers her own desire for abstraction and unsureness. Tidbeck forms a plot out of the inadequacies and subjectivities of language, creating new possibilities for both the environment and the characters. The characters are immediately subtle but personable and the story is invigorating.

Especially in a political climate such as ours, it seems fitting to spend time with a book that so experimentally digs into what objectivity, truth, and individuality are (and could possibly be).

Kingdom Cons Cover Image
By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (Translator)
ISBN: 9781908276926
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: And Other Stories - June 13th, 2017

The Artist moves through the city, singing songs of success and drama for anyone who will listen. He is hired by the King to act as court bard, and is privy to a whole new level of intrigue and violence. This isn’t just a fantasy story; this is Yuri Herrera’s amazing rendering of drug cartels along the border. Though Herrera wrote KINGDOM CONS years ago, it’s newly out in English and I hope we’ve all spent 2017 adequately celebrating that fact. Haven’t read it yet? At about 100 pages, you’ll breeze through this book with awe and delight. 


Mammother Cover Image
ISBN: 9781943888108
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Featherproof Books - September 12th, 2017

This book rounds out my Top Three of this year. Schomberg’s book is an epic!!! In a town called Pie Time, we witness the growth of a child and factory worker, Mano Medium. As people die from a strange plague, they leave objects behind. Mano collects these objects, growing larger by the day as he ages. He takes over the jobs of the people who die, until finally two outsiders find a solution to the deaths. Mano’s purpose in the town shifts, but he maintains an evocative importance. What a beautiful, tender, weird snapshot of a community over a period of years.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977887
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 3rd, 2017

My favorite short story collection of 2017, hands down. Machado explores female sexuality and personhood with a deft hand. This book is both speculative and erotic, with a strong focus on bodily disintegration, disease, apocalypse, and epidemic.


Houses of Ravicka Cover Image
ISBN: 9780997366662
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dorothy a Publishing Project - November 1st, 2017

Renee Gladman’s Ravicka series WAS a trilogy. It was one of my favorite trilogies. And now, thanks to HOUSES OF RAVICKA, there are four books in the series, and I love them all. Gladman inspects the methodologies by which we get to know the physical places around us. Then she takes them all apart and reinvents piece by piece with poetry and with rigor. HOUSES OF RAVICKA charts the city comptroller’s search for a mysteriously missing house, and it’s equally mysterious invisible counterpart across the city. I don’t think I’ll ever quite understand all the facets of this series, nor do I think that’s important to enjoy RAVICKA thoroughly.

Madonna in a Fur Coat Cover Image
By Sabahattin Ali, Ureen Freely (Translator), Alexander Dawe (Translator)
ISBN: 9781590518809
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Other Press (NY) - November 7th, 2017

I’m always excited to recommend this to customers in the store. Translated into English for the first time, Other Press brings to us this 1930's Turkish author's beautiful little masterpiece of interwar relations. An office worker finds the handwritten memoir of his dying coworker; in it, his coworker's memoir of a love affair in Berlin. Compared to THE GREAT GATSBY, its portrayal of smart, disaffected youth is top notch.

Old Rendering Plant Cover Image
ISBN: 9781931883672
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - November 7th, 2017

Hilbig's command of language is unparalleled. A young European man discovers that an area behind his neighborhood isn't as it seems; as he comes of age, he recognizes it for what it is (yes, literally a rendering plant), and as such peels back the layers of naivety that youth provides for us. This book is a subtle look at post-War difference and division, at adulthood, at exploration, and man's effect on his surroundings.