General blog posts

The Adventurist on Independent Bookstore Day

Since 2015, Independent Bookstore Day has been a celebration of cultural hubs around the country. For one day only, hundreds of indies invite their communities to a full day’s worth of activities and exclusive IBD merchandise, unavailable anywhere else.

A 10:30am, kicking off a full day of activities, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Curious George with our beloved former Kids Specialist Mary-Catherine as our featured reader! At 11am, the Houston ZooMobile will arrive with animals and artifacts on display.

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

Pre-order your copy of THE ADVENTURIST to be signed on Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 7pm

Between Two Countries: An Interview with Rob Spillman

Let’s do some math. If Tin House editor and co-founder Rob Spillman receives twenty thousand submissions per year, and his goal is to “try to feature at least one fiction writer and one poet, an essay and a nonfiction person who haven’t been published before” per issue, what is the probability that I will be chosen? Not a lot. Yet, for this website, someone will give me Spillman’s email, I can call him on his cell phone, and I can ask him anything. Life continues to be strange.

All Tomorrow's Parties: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802124838
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - April 5th, 2016

Annalia Luna is currently the marketing assistant at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX. She earned her B.A. in Literature and Music from Butler University. Her work has been published at The Rumpus and Ploughshares.

Collaboration as Activism: En/Gulf at Brazos Bookstore

When I call her at the beginning of March to ask her about En/Gulf—what does it mean?—the first thing poet and University of Houston professor Martha Serpas does is ask me if she can grind some coffee beans. “We have to have coffee,” she says, and I don’t argue. That is an easy thing to understand—everyone has their rituals. Hers, though, has been disrupted. She is speaking to me from Florida, about to head off to a residency in Ireland.

Hand-Made, Organic, Artisanal, Small-Batch, and So On: An Interview with Dan Fox

In PRETENTIOUSNESS: WHY IT MATTERS, British author Dan Fox writes an unpretentious and effective overview of the role of pretense in the arts. Fox’s unapologetic mode of cultural criticism spans music, writing, visual arts, film and television, and the domains in between in order to provide a novel lens that allows readers to reclaim their perception of art and artists that have been routinely dismissed because of accusations of pretentiousness.

Pretentiousness: Why It Matters Cover Image
By Dan Fox
ISBN: 9781566894289
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - April 5th, 2016

Brazos Best: Painting With Water on Walls

The Book: VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL, by Svetlana Alexievich, our April Brazos Best pick
The Chatters: Mark Haber (Floor Manager), Keaton Patterson (Buyer), and Benjamin Rybeck (Marketing Director)
The Plot: An oral history of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster—a nuclear meltdown—told through many different voices of people affected directly and indirectly by the tragedy

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

The Act of Looking: A Q&A with Stephanie Ford

Writers read—they need not be pushed. However, I’ve found that I am stubborn when it comes to poetry. Sometimes (often), I think I have “my” poets, and why seek others? Anxiety limits me to recommendations by friends or new releases by certain publishers. After all, there are piles of collections that come out every year—not to mention chapbooks!—and everyone already knows [IMPORTANT BOOK OF THE MOMENT] is good, right?

All Pilgrim Cover Image
ISBN: 9781935536598
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Four Way Books - October 6th, 2015

Stephanie Ford will read on Friday, April 8 at 7PM

Annalia Luna is currently the marketing assistant at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX. She earned her B.A. in Music and Literature from Butler University. Her work has been published in Plougshares.

The Lone Star Book Festival Launches Next Weekend

Ask anyone: Houston is a city on the rise, expanding so rapidly that sometimes the Loop feels like a belt on a guy who suddenly realizes he’s gained twenty points. (Or is this the right simile to use? After all, the pounds are welcome ones, mostly.) Talking about Houston on the rise has become, in the last few years, a bit of a cliché: everyone knows it, but where can you actually see it?

My Lagos Story: A Q&A with A. Igoni Barrett

Satire is not the same as comedy. While satirical works can often be humorous, they are never played simply for laughs. Satire points out the absurdities in societal habits and perspectives by letting their bias come to the forefront. Critically engaged with the world, satire aims to incite us (as humans) to do better, to change—think of Voltaire’s CANDIDE, Brecht’s MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, Kafka’s THE METAMORPHOSIS, or the recent NBCC Award-winning THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty.

Blackass Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977337
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - March 1st, 2016

AIB: Most of my earlier fiction is set in Poteko, an imaginary place influenced as much by Lagos as by Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Abuja, Warri, all of the Nigerian communities I had spent my life collecting impressions from. But from the start I thought of BLACKASS as my Lagos story—a book written for Lagos, about Lagos, and, in a sense, by Lagos. Almost from the first moment of my adult engagement with the city, I had been struck by my mixed emotions towards it, emotions so intense that over the years I’ve caught myself using the term ‘hate-love’ to express my reaction to Lagos society. In this book, I wanted to peel back the layers of my contradictory response, as much for the sake of the story as for myself. I’ve come to see that sense of place is crucial to me in fiction, both as a writer and as a reader.

BB: BLACKASS has a plot that is odd, outlandish, and imbued with no small amount of humor. Still, the narrative posits quite serious questions of social importance, especially in regards to the legacy of colonialism. Why did you choose satire to approach these topics?

AIB: As anyone who has ever seen a performance by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen knows, humor allows the artist to adopt outlandish guises and verbalize the most outrageous ideas. We forgive Cohen because we recognize the sensitivity it takes to capture the nuances of his role-playing, and we understand the seriousness, indeed the socio-political depth, of his purpose. In my case, I didn’t decide ab initio to write a satirical novel—it just turned out that way because, I suspect, whenever the unstoppable force of humor meets the immovable object of social commentary, what you’re left with is satire. As for how the concepts of race and whiteness are perceived in Nigeria at large, I really can’t give more insight than I’ve attempted in my novel. Generations of Nigerian writers would be needed to exhaust that lode.

BB: I am always intrigued when novelists insert themselves into their works of fiction, and you do appear in various guises in BLACKASS. Why did you make this aesthetic decision? Did you always know you’d have a character part to play in the narrative, or is it something that developed over the course of writing?

AIB: It was an impulsive choice that grew to feel integral. I’ve subsequently ruminated on that decision long enough to expound theories about its function within the novel’s narrative, but I’d rather let each reader decide for themselves what the point of that puzzle is.

Keaton Patterson is the book buyer at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX. He earned his M.A. in Literature from UH-Clear Lake.

Where I Am: An Interview with Rick Bass

My tendency when I am on the phone is to pace. Unless it’s windy, outside is best, but every roommate I have ever had can tell you I am not afraid to make laps around the house. For interviews, though, I have to stay put: I use a hands-free headset and type. For this reason, it’s comforting when I can tell the authors are doing something, some activity other than simply talking to me, to remain a body outside of their voice. When I spoke to Mary Karr last fall, she was moving pots and pans; University of Houston’s Martha Serpas took a moment to grind some coffee beans.

For a Little While Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316381154
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Little Brown and Company - March 1st, 2016

Annalia Luna is currently the marketing assistant at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX. She earned her B.A. in Music and Literature from Butler University. Her work has been published in Plougshares.

Inspired by the Emerald Isle

In which Keaton Patterson (Buyer) and Mark Haber (Store Manager) discuss books—what they’ve already read, what they’re currently reading, and what they’re excited about reading in the future.

Beatlebone Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385540292
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Doubleday Books - November 17th, 2015

Keaton: Kevin Barry.

Mark: Yes! Kevin Barry's fantastic. He's really funny and really—he's got that really weird grasp on language. He can make it bend and do stuff.

Keaton: Comedy's hard! It's one thing to be able to write a good, gut-wrenching, heartstring-pulling work of drama, but when you can make people laugh, that means you've got some special talent. He's a strange writer, too. Very funny, but always kinda goes into those underground areas—kinda flirts with crime, even. CITY OF BOHANE [another Barry novel] was one of the first books I read when I worked here, actually, and I remember, it was funny and odd, and it had this certain voice. The one thing that I really thinks comes through with Irish authors, whether you're talking about Joyce or Donal Ryan, Kevin Barry or Edna O'Brien, or Eimear McBride, who made a big splash last year with her debut from Coffee House Press, A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING, is that the narrative voice that Irish authors come up with is very, very powerful.

So, moving away from Ireland, what have you read recently, that you've really enjoyed?

Against Nature: The Notebooks Cover Image
By Tomas Espedal, James Anderson (Translator)
ISBN: 9780857422354
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Seagull Books - May 15th, 2015

Mark: I read a book called AGAINST NATURE by Thomas Espedal (Coming May 15, 2016), and it was fantastic. It was really beautiful. It's kind of a mix of memoir and fiction, and it reflects his life—you don't know what’s real and what’s not. And he's friends with [Karl Ove] Knausgaard, another Norwegian writer—they're kind of contemporaries. There's a twenty-or-so-page passage where the girl [Espedal is] with basically leaves him. And he's just wandering around this empty house, and I've never seen a better description of just heartbreak. I mean, you're just like, Wow, this guy has just hit the bottom. Really, really beautiful, though—really, really good stuff. So I'm interested in reading more of his work from Seagull Books. They have other books of his that I've ordered for myself and for the store that I'm looking forward to reading.

Keaton: Yeah, I have to say that Seagull's been putting out some stellar stuff, especially recently. Beautiful hardcover editions.

Mark: Yeah, beautiful—they're like works of art. How about you? What have you read lately that's blown you away or that you've enjoyed?

Keaton: Well, anybody that's walked into the store recently is probably tired of hearing me talk about A COLLAPSE OF HORSES, a new short story collection by Brian Evenson. Just top-notch, stellar, psychological horror. I mean, fans of Edgar Allen Poe, fans of Shirley Jackson, Twilight Zone, those kind of things where the horror is really in the mind more than the creepy, outdoorsy, in the shadows kinda stuff—fans of that kind of stuff will really just love it. Evenson is just stellar. For anybody who grew up reading scary stories, this is like that for adults. It's very mind-bending, unnerving, lovely, scary stuff. I've been a big fan of it.

Golden Years: An Iranian Punk Beat Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780571321063
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Faber & Faber Social - March 15th, 2016

Also, this novel GOLDEN YEARS that I read recently, by Ali Eskandarian, who was tragically murdered back in 2013. It's an Iranian-American immigrant story, but in the guise of a beat road novel. Just lots of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, but also soul searching. It's the only novel he wrote before he was killed. He seemed a very promising writer.

So, what are you looking forward to that's coming out in the next few months?

Mark: Well, I think the last time we did this, last month, I was excited about the Javier Marías book THUS BAD BEGINS. I have it now, and I'm going on a short vacation to Florida, so I'm going to probably try and read that, if I can. It comes out in November, and it should be good—a big, promising novel by one of my favorites.

Keaton: Well, let's see. I just finished a couple books, and I'm in-between right now. I'm not exactly sure where I'm gonna go next. I'm very intrigued by the new Alejandro Jodorowsky book that's coming out, ALBINA AND THE DOG-MEN. That's coming out from Restless Books—a nice, short novel that’s being put forth as this Western meets werewolf story, plus surreal trippy Mexican psycho-babble magic. I'm looking forward to it. I'm kind of at a loss for what to read next because there's so many choices. Bookseller problems.