General blog posts

Women Are Humans: A Q&A with Laia Jufresa and Sophie Hughes

How to stump me as a bookseller: come into the store and ask me for a funny, happy book where nothing bad happens. Because the truth is, I will fail you, one hundred percent of the time. The flip side? People ask me about my favorite books and often, I can see their eyes glaze over as I mention rape, suicide, addiction—as if those books can’t also have moments that are funny and happy.

Umami Cover Image
By Laia Jufresa, Sophie Hughes (Translator)
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9781780748917
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: ONEWorld Publications - September 13th, 2016

Not Conjectures but Delusions: A Q&A with Mauro Javier Cardenas

There are certain novels that announce their significance in simple and subtle ways: the style, the language, the sense of entering a space you haven’t been before. When starting THE REVOLUTIONARIES TRY AGAIN, the debut novel by Mauro Javier Cardenas, I found myself returning to the first few pages over and over again, mostly to grasp what was taking place and to keep my footing. Important books demand this. Important books insist that you adjust your thinking, sometimes even your reading habits, because the space you’re entering is something wholly new. Think THE AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH.

The Revolutionaries Try Again Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566894463
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - September 6th, 2016

THE REVOLUTIONARIES TRY AGAIN goes on sale September 6, 2016.

Gifts Spotlight : Introducing poppin and Elum

I love September. It’s my birthday month, and also the time that everyone goes back to school—which means NEW OFFICE SUPPLIES! As a buyer, there is nothing more exciting to me than when a box from a new vendor arrives at the store and the rest of the staff crowds around to see what's inside.

SKU: 846680028220

SKU: 846680056117

With Elum, I like that their products are quirky but still beautiful. The large square memo pad stands out because of its size and its abstract pansy background. On the top in copper foil, it says, “This is the bucket list, at least for today.” It's functional and fun, which is what I think desk items should be. Like the memo pad, the notebook is large and funky but it lays flat so it's not fussy.

SKU: x3062

SKU: x3063

Basically, there will always be things that need to get done. Why not make it less stressful by having office supplies that reward you for finishing things?

Prior to her position as the gift buyer at Brazos Bookstore, Ülrika Moats spent eight years working as a corporate visual merchandiser and district manager.

Rerouting the River: An Interview with Angela Palm

It’s hard to plan an escape when you’re young. When your only means is patience, a place like rural Indiana might seem like an immense snare. The nearby Kankakee River might begin to resemble a ribboning borderline between ‘stuck’ and ‘free,’ and its potential for portage—for carrying you away—might be constantly implied by the speed of its slopes, the bend of its banks, the flow of its floods. In RIVERINE, Angela Palm is an adult writing lyrically into her past, and with the merciful prescience that the girl whose story she narrates will one day flee.

Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977467
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - August 16th, 2016

RIVERINE is on sale now.

Lawrence Lenhart studied writing at the University of Pittsburgh and holds an MFA from The University of Arizona. His essay collection, THE WELL-STOCKED AND GILDED CAGE, was published in 2016 (Outpost19). His prose appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, Passages North, Prairie Schooner, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. He is a professor of fiction and nonfiction at Northern Arizona University and a reviews editor and assistant fiction editor of DIAGRAM.

#BrazosBest: Lily Hoang Does Not Sleep

Say you get to do an interview for the first time in four months and it is with the woman that wrote your favorite book this year. What you don't know is that she is in Europe during the weeks you have to reach her. In fact, she's been in Europe for eleven weeks: fourteen countries, one book tour, one week-long writing workshop in Barcelona. The last time you used Skype, you were a junior in college, and it was to talk to your best friend while she was in Scotland, and your crappy ex-boyfriend during his year in Japan.

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

Annalia Luna is currently the shipping & returns manager at Brazos Bookstore. She earned her B.A. in Music & Literature from Butler University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Rumpus, Ploughshares, and Heavy Feather Review. She lives & writes in Houston, TX.

So You Think You Know YA?

So yes, the Brazos children’s and Young Adult (YA) sections are in the back of the store. Kid lit consumers have a lovely little cave in which to sit around and peruse titles and rock on our orange rocking chair and read picture books. Or ooh and ahh over the awesome covers of the newest YA titles.

Bone Gap Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062317629
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - April 26th, 2016

The Walls Around Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616205904
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - March 22nd, 2016

Or THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (who wrote the Raven Boys series, which you should also read. Then read the very fabulous ACCIDENT SEASON by Moira Fowley-Doyle. And I haven’t even mentioned the talking pagoda in PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A. S. King, whose work you also need to be reading. While you’re at it, check out this blog post.

Staff Pick Logo
Grasshopper Jungle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142425008
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Speak - February 17th, 2015

Have you read absolutely everything by Andrew Smith, who really seems to be a genre unto himself? Start with the weird and wonderful GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, (beware the preying mantis sex), then move on to THE MARBURY LENS and THE ALEX CROW and all the rest.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Cover Image
ISBN: 9780786838196
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Disney-Hyperion - August 1st, 2009

E. Lockhart’s big YA book in the past few years was WE WERE LIARS. But I say you should start off with her funny as hell feminist-leaning titles like THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU BANKS. And then move on to the Ruby Oliver quartet, which you would probably skip if you weren’t reading this because the first one is called THE BOYFRIEND LIST. Don’t skip it. You are welcome.

Want a YA author who rivals Anne Tyler for her spot on depiction of Baltimore? Find a copy of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford. And if you are lucky, you can hear her play in the all YA author rock band called Tiger Beat along with Libba Bray, whose work, including the very satirical BEAUTY QUEENS and the very amazing Diviners series set in the 1920s you must read. Yes, Amy Tan is not the only author in a band.

Beauty Queens Cover Image
ISBN: 9780439895989
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Paperbacks - June 1st, 2012

Want sparse prose? Try anything by Lauren Strasnick.

Want hard-hitting contemporary? Read Houston’s own Jennifer Mathieu’s THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE (and all her other work).

Want someone who nails boy voice? Try Geoff Herbach.

A retelling of Amityville Horror? AMITY by Micol Ostow, a master of horror.

Amity Cover Image
ISBN: 9781606841563
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Egmontusa - August 26th, 2014

And that’s just the beginning.

Try these out and I’ll be recommending more in the future.

Joy Preble is the author of several young adult novels including the DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks), the first book of which was named an ABC Best Book in 2009; the quirky/humorous SWEET DEAD LIFE series (Soho Press); a contemporary road trip/family drama, FINDING PARIS (Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins), which SLJ called, “An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation,” and IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, which Kirkus Reviews called ‘a modern Tuck Everlasting with a thriller twist.’ (Soho Press) Joy lives in Texas with her family, including a sweet but slightly unhinged basset/boxer. In between writing and working at Brazos Bookstore as bookseller/Children's Specialist, she teaches and lectures widely on writing and literacy and is currently on faculty at Writespace Houston.

Translation Spotlight: On Kafka and Müller

Philip Boehm has translated some of the world’s great German-language authors, from Franz Kafka’s LETTERS TO MILENA to numerous books by Nobel Prize winner Herta Müller (THE HUNGER ANGEL and THE FOX WAS EVER THE HUNTER). His newest translation, THE LAMENTATIONS OF ZENO by Ilija Trojanow, has just been published. Besides translating over thirty novels and plays, Boehm is also a stage director and a playwright based in St. Louis.

The Lamentations of Zeno Cover Image
By Ilija Trojanow, Philip Boehm (Translator)
ISBN: 9781784782191
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Verso - May 3rd, 2016

This latest book I translated THE LAMENTATIONS OF ZENO by Ilja Trojanow, there’s some little lines in Bavarian. Now, imagine if I set that in “Texan.” You can’t do it that way so you have to negotiate. I have this theory of balance: I accept the fact that something is gonna be lost. So I look for opportunities to hint at it in some other way—how can I convey that Bavarian-ness in some other way? The foreignness in translation is another thing to consider. And in this Kafka, which is a whole set of problems there. I translated a Polish novel that had a lot of German phrases in it. And the German sounds different to the Polish ear than it does to the Anglophone, and there’s all these ramifications, you know. So trying to get those, and then how do I do that all in English, and neither German or Polish?

BB: The first interview I did when I started doing this was George Henson. He’s translated from the Spanish for that Dallas press Deep Vellum. He translated Sergio Pitol and I got to speak to him. He was the first one that mentioned the whole idea of the exoticism, the foreignness. You know, back in the 60s and 70s, they would try to stress how different it is and there’s that belief of you would try to make it as flat and American as possible. There’s all these different schools of thought.

PB: I know very little about translation theory. What I do—and this is what I do with the plays, I think each book is its own being, and I try and figure out what works best for that particular book.

BB: That to me makes sense. Every book, every novel, is kind of its own universe.

PB: It is its own universe, and I dunno. Sometimes, I hear these academic school of thought—“We want to feel the roughness of the translation!”—but most readers are just gonna say, “That’s just basket translation! It’s a mistake. Something was messed up in the translation.” And sometimes, you know, they talk about improving or not improving, you know, but an author doesn’t…

If an author makes a mistake, as they might, then they usually are grateful that you can correct it. You know, if you catch a name that wasn’t followed through two hundred pages later or something, they go, “Oh! I didn’t see that.” And the editors are different, in different countries—there’s a different degree. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Sara Bershtel, who’s like wow. She’s...

BB: Is she here? Is she in Europe?

PB: She’s here. She’s the publisher at Metropolitan Books. She’s just remarkable, really. I mean, she sees things, and she always improves things. She hones in, right on—“We can make this sharper and keep it with that.”

BB: That’s a great editor. That’s a gift.

PB: Truly.

BB: I’m not sure how it came about that you were able to translate Kafka’s LETTERS TO MILENA. Was there a self-induced pressure because you were translating Kafka?

Letters to Milena (Schocken Kafka Library) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805212679
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Schocken Books Inc - November 3rd, 2015

PB: It came about this way. A new edition had come out in German. The original letters had been published, and the story was that something had been entrusted with the letters. He then published them. But his version...it’s as if you took them through a blender. I mean, they were little fragments and they weren’t dated, all this stuff. So, these German scholars—very organized, very specific. They even used chemical analysis on the paper just to date it, and they were able to reconstitute this order of letters. In some cases, they weren’t sure, but also, someone had left out a lot of stuff, just randomly or some of it understandably.

BB: So when he left it out, it’s not as if he destroyed anything. He just edited.

PB: He edited. In particular, his wife was one of the people who edited. But these German scholars, they published this new annotated version, and I looked at that. I can also make my way through Czech a little bit, because of Polish. I talked to Sara, who was publishing this. At first, we were talking about just updating it—I said, “You can’t do that. You have to do the whole thing.” You can’t have different styles. And also, I wanted to add those things that we ended up adding, like Milena’s obituary of Kafka. I looked around and the Germans had published a few things by Milena in their book, but I had a slightly different suggestion. Anyway, so that’s how it happened, and it kind of mushroomed. The funny thing is that I was living at that time in Poland, and it was still communist Poland. So the communication back and forth was challenging. This is way pre-internet. I would have to go to a friend’s house, wait hours for the phone call go through.

BB: That’s its own novel right there.

PB: I know. I think at one point, I was going to the airport to get somebody a manuscript because it was going to the United States, because the government was suspicious of all these...Anyway, so that came out—it must have been 1990. They had just gone through all these changes in Prague—they were still going from 1989 on—and I was in the middle of all this stuff. There was a strange circumstance that I found someone who had a connection in Prague, and someone had found a book in a used bookstore and a bunch of letters that fell out. They were a bunch of letters—they weren’t to Milena but they were bunch of letters to his parents!

Anyway, the book came out and we had to decide what to do with the Czech, since it was these letters, and I wanted to keep the fact...People don’t think about Kafka being bilingual but of course he was. Whether or not his Czech was really good or not is another matter, but he still was bilingual. He talks about it. Milena also was a translator—that’s how they met, because she was translating one of his short stories. So, you know, what greater gift can there be to a translator than this book? Also, I was an unknown translator at the time—this was my first.

BB: Really? Wow. To come out of the gate with this! This is probably my favorite book of his, because I think you get a window of his soul, a lot more than his fiction. I mean, it’s fiction but it’s exquisite—the writing! A good, good, dear friend of mine, a really great reader, says, “I don’t like reading him because I get claustrophobic.” So I would say, “Read the letters!”

PB: There’s an intensity applied to the prose. He’s crafting things—you see him starting, scratching it out, and starting again while he writes the letters.

BB: So Herta Müller—I’ve read about her and she sounds incredible. The new book that’s coming out THE FOX WAS EVER THE HUNTER.

The Fox Was Ever the Hunter Cover Image
By Herta Muller, Philip Boehm (Translator)
ISBN: 9780805093025
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Metropolitan Books - May 10th, 2016

PB: Well it’s way before THE HUNGER ANGEL. It’s one of her first novels. It’s much more about Romanian dictatorship than anything else.

BB: What’s it like working with her? Do you work with her directly?

PB: I know her very well. We went on tour together once. I was hoping, actually, that she’d be coming. We’re friends, you know, but she doesn’t necessarily like to travel very much. She has...You know, some people change a great deal, when they these big prizes like this, but she’s very much her own person. She has an integrity to her and she has this electricity about her, and she has this energy. When it got the Nobel Prize, it was very...Obviously, it catapulted her. To Sara Bershtel’s credit, she had been publishing her for years and there had been very little resonance—you know, ‘Herta who?’

BB: Not anymore.

Houston Reads: Marian Luntz

One of the joys of working in a bookstore is finding out what our friends and customers are excited about. This month, we check in with Marian Luntz, Curator of Film and Video at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston!

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

One of our Movies Houstonians Love presenters in Season 12 will be Chitra Divakaruni, a suggestion somewhat inspired by several of our Film Committee members who attended her recent reading at Brazos. So her book would be one (because I have been wanting to read it).

Larose Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062277022
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - May 10th, 2016

Then I’d go with the new novel by Louise Erdrich, which I also haven’t read yet. But we were dorm neighbors our freshman year at Dartmouth, and have remained in touch via a mututal friend. I am a huge fan and admirer of her work.

100 Things Astros Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (100 Things...Fans Should Know) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781629371962
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Triumph Books (IL) - April 1st, 2016

Next, let’s go with Brian McTaggart’s book, since I'm a huge Astros fan. I have the game they’re currently playing minimized on my computer as I write this!

Two Weeks in the Midday Sun Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226314433
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: University of Chicago Press - April 6th, 2016

Finally, this gem. I was fortunate enough to be at a luncheon at Cannes with his widow, Chaz, and she gifted the organizer of the lunch with a signed copy of this book.

Marian Luntz has worked in the film and media arts fields for over three decades, including positions with Kino International and the American Film Institute. As Curator of Film and Video at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston since 1990 she had overseen and programmed over 200 screenings annually. She also manages the museum’s archive and distribution of films by Robert Frank, the renowned photographer and filmmaker. She served as Director of Exhibition at the Southwest Alternate Media Project from 1983-90, and continues to serve on the selection team of the SWAMP-Houston Public Media PBS shorts showcase, The Territory. She serves the Board of Directors for the Houston Cinema Arts Society and chairs its programming committee. She is a founding member of the Houston Jewish Film Festival’s selection committee and the advisory board of the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts. Ms. Luntz is a community blogger for the Houston Chronicle under the banner, “SmArtFilm.”

Staff Chat: #BrazosBest Is the Thing with Feathers

The Book: GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS, a novel by Max Porter
The Plot: A woman dies, and her husband—a Ted Hughes scholar—and two young sons struggle with grief; then, a crow shows up, won’t leave, and says bizarre shit
The Chatters: Mark Haber (Store Manager), Keaton Patterson (Buyer), Benjamin Rybeck (Marketing Director)

Keaton: Caw!

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

The Play Is the Thing: The Importance of Being a Play Reader

Oftentimes you don’t even notice it. You walk into your local bookstore and mosey toward your familiar haunts. The most anticipated releases in fiction greet you with their colorful jackets, thick with adventure and intrigue. Adjacent to the newest fictional fare is a gallery of faces: leaders, creatives, and celebrities tell their life stories—or somebody else does it for them.