General blog posts

Ben's 2016 Holiday Recommendations

Television: A Biography Cover Image
ISBN: 9780500519165
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - October 25th, 2016

Also available in women's sizes

Joy Picks Books for Kids of All Ages

Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat Cover Image
By Katie Harnett (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781909263376
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Nobrow Press - September 6th, 2016

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

The Cat King of Havana Cover Image
By Tom Crosshill, Mia Nolting (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062422835
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - September 6th, 2016

Audiobooks Are Now Available!

Dive into one of our favorite bestselling audiobooks and listen anytime, anywhere.

We have partnered with Libro.fm to bring you the best digital audiobooks for adults and children alike. You'll find bestsellers and great books hand picked by Brazos Bookstore and other independent bookstores. You can easily listen on any device (phone, tablet, PC) as all our books are DRM-free.

Lydia's Gift Giving Secrets

Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632170576
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sasquatch Books - October 11th, 2016

The Secret Keepers Cover Image
By Trenton Lee Stewart, Diana Sudyka (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780316389556
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - September 27th, 2016

Made in Texas

At Brazos, we think of ourselves as having something for everybody, wherever they’re from, but of course we cannot escape a key part of our identity: Texas. Good thing for us that Texas means a lot more than just cowboys and ranches. It also means great food, natural beauty, art, and multiculturalism. If you’re in love with all things Texas, or if you just want to give a taste of the Lone Star State to somebody else, we have some great books and gifts for you.

Pretty Paper Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735211544
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Blue Rider Press - October 25th, 2016

Nothing says Texas like Willie Nelson, and his song “Pretty Paper” is a holiday classic. Now, Nelson brings us a companion piece to his song: a charming book that imagines the life of the Texas street vendor who inspired his song. An inspirational holiday tale, and perhaps another classic by Nelson.

Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert Cover Image
By Helen Thompson, Casey Dunn (Photographer)
ISBN: 9781580934732
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Monacelli Press - October 25th, 2016

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Marfa, TX, is one of the nation’s most renowned artistic getaways. This photography book takes another look at Marfa and the West Texas desert: by looking at the region’s beautiful artistic interiors of the people who live there. A perfect way to take a trip to Marfa any time you want!

Seeing Texas History: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Cover Image
By Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Victoria Ramirez (Introduction by), Jan Bullock (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781477310892
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum - November 29th, 2016

Texas has a rich and varied history, one that remains tied to its present identity. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum has been presenting artifacts of Texas history of years, and this volume brings together some of the most striking items. This beautiful book is perfect for lovers of Texas history, and also a great way to get newbies acquainted with the state.

The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes from Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250082916
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - November 1st, 2016

Food! That’s right, no Texana list would be complete without it. We’re crazy about enchiladas here, and Sylvia Casares has been dubbed “The Queen of Tex-Mex Cuisine.” This new cookbook reveals some of her secrets of how to make delicious Tex-Mex dishes, and just flipping through and looking at the images will make your mouth water.

Houston on the Move: A Photographic History (Focus on American History) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781477310946
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Texas Press - October 25th, 2016

America is figuring out what Houstonians have always known: that H-Town is one of the nation’s leading cities for food, culture, and architecture. This delightful coffee table book presents a photographic history of the Bayou City, which makes it the perfect gift to give someone who wants to understand all the ways Houston has developed, and continues to develop, into a great American city.

SKU: GeotoysHOU

Do you know a Texana geek who needs a fun way to pass the time? Pick up this magnetic Hosuton puzzle. It contains 100 pieces and comes in a beautifully designed canister that is itself a work of art.

Last but not least, check out our exclusive t-shirts that map out Houston’s bayous. Exclusive because, well, we made it ourselves! Houston is nicknamed “Bayou City” for a reason, and this shirt shows the intriguing and evocative shape of Houston’s water.

Exclusively in store:

The poetry of Texas is on display in the Texas Poetry Calendar! An always popular item, the new edition keeps it simple: clean calendar pages paired with great Texas poems. A wonderful way to acknowledge Texas art and culture while planning your new year!

Another calendar, this one for a desk or easel. The title says it all! Here are twelve great views of old-fashioned Houston, from the state flag to the San Jacinto Monument to city hall and downtown. A great piece of nostalgia to remind you of the past while you move into the future.

Call us at 713-523-0701 to reserve your Texas calendars

Mark Recommends Books for the Holidays

Thus Bad Begins Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101946084
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - November 1st, 2016

The Last Wolf & Herman Cover Image
By Laszlo Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226080
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 27th, 2016

The Book: A Cover-To-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393244793
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 23rd, 2016

What's Keaton Recommending for Christmas?

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

El Paso Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631492242
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - October 4th, 2016

The Lyrics: 1961-2012 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451648768
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 1st, 2016

Ode to a Poet: An Interview with Sharon Olds

It’s hard to intimidate me. But give the universe a dare, and it will call your bluff. This past week, I drove Andrés Neuman to the airport and spoke on the phone with Sharon Olds. Can anxiety be measured? In my car, the memory of Neuman digging in his fanny pack for his glasses to help with directions; at the bookstore, hiding behind a case pack of alkaline water in the back office while the line connects Texas to New York.

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

ODES, published in September this year (four years after STAG’S LEAP), is just that, odes on everything from her sister to her whiteness, from tampons to the penis. In other words, the opposite of STAG’S LEAP, but is it a joke?

“The way it works for me, which is not the way it works for every poet, is that I don’t write books,” Olds says, “I write poems.” She writes them all in “a grocery store notebook” with a ballpoint pen, wide lines. She writes them all out, one at a time, by hand because ink is “not percussive like hitting piano keys, like typing is,” and “my thumbs are too big to dance on that little screen, on my phone.”

After five years, give or take, she goes through the “collection” she’s created, to see if it is enough or if any threads emerge. During the writing process, she might type some of them up, but not all of them, and even that step is more of a thinking-through. The transition from page to screen is not just transcription, but an editing process.

“Once I type it up, I change it for the better, I hope,” she says. In the case of STAG’S LEAP, she “tried to rewrite each one to get it right.” When arranged in chronological order of events, the poems told a story, and that story became the book.

“I write poems,” she says. “That’s what I do.”

We talk for a minute about her teaching, but after that, she wants to know if there’s anything else I’d like to ask about, any subject. And it’s hard because I do have one question, but it’s not one I think is smart or even fair to ask. It’s a question I have for her not as a faux journalist or fellow poet but as a human being. Olds waves her hand at me with her voice and says that I am free to ask her anything; it’s her choice whether or not she would like to answer.

Again, I did not think that this moment would ever materialize so when it does, the words come out like a postcard she might receive from an elementary school student: “Are you still sad?” She pauses for a moment, intrigued that I think of STAG’S LEAP as a sad book, then offers this: “It seems to me that each of us in a lifetime has some real mourning to do.”

Already, she goes on to say, “Children have things to mourn!” but I am so moved by her first answer, this idea that grief is not a punishment but a task that each of us completes, a thing that no one escapes. Somehow, it makes it smaller and larger, at the same time. “Citizens of this country are in a time of fear and mourning,” she says, “and fear of future mourning.”

If STAG’S LEAP has a thesis, it is this: “Sadness and anger are just as important as joy and happiness.” When she says it, it’s so simple, and not a concept that I think anyone would dispute, but Olds wrote it out regardless, in a book that is not meek, maudlin, or morose. It captures a time, this ugly awful time, and paints it as just that: layered. It says, “You are allowed,” the way that Olds says to me now despite the distance between us, in years and miles.

For ODES, Olds says, “There isn’t a test. There isn’t a correct amount of humor to respond to.” Instead, “it’s meant to be a gift.” Not a free one, of course—“that’s how I can afford to pay my rent,” she says—but “what I care about is that you have whatever experience is right for you about the book. We want each other to get whatever each of us can get out of what we give each other in a work of art.”

I was promised fifteen minutes with Olds but she gave me twenty. Before I had even dialed the number, I knew that her other callers slated for her afternoon may well be The New Yorker or The Atlantic, somewhere—someone—more worthy. However, she uses our last minute to ask if there is one more, anything else that I would regret not saying if she were to hang up now, and that kindness and generosity is so pure that I can only say no and thank her for taking the time that she did. She says she is looking forward to meeting me, we say goodbye, and here come the tears.

Annalia Luna is currently the shipping & receiving manager at Brazos Bookstore, and a contributor at HTML Giant. She earned her B.A. in Literature & Music from Butler University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming at The Rumpus, Ploughshares, Literary Hub, & Heavy Feather Review. She lives & writes in Houston, TX

Gifts Spotlight: Journals

There are many uses for what we affectionately call a journal. I, for one, have and continue to use a journal for logging notes, keeping track of my orders for the store, and occasionally trying (without much success) to use a guided journal. Many people have very strong feelings about the uses for their journal: To some, it is the keeper of all things personal. To others, it is the place they list the books they have read and for others a place to list favorite new restaurants.

642 Things to Write Journal Cover Image
ISBN: 9781452105444
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Chronicle Books - April 11th, 2012

642 Things to Draw: Journal Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811876445
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Chronicle Books - September 1st, 2010

For those who want a weekly list guided journal for insight about yourself, Moorea Seal’s 52 LISTS FOR HAPPINESS is the way to go. Last year, we carried her 52 LIST PROJECT, which had been gifted to me from a friend. One of the many responses was that you had a week to fill out the prompt, and you are just listing items. Again, as a person who only uses a journal for note taking, this gives someone an opportunity to make a list from the prompt a week before you move on to the next one.

52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632170965
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sasquatch Books - September 20th, 2016

The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632170347
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sasquatch Books - September 8th, 2015

Working in a bookstore and working with several of our Kids Specialists, I wanted to find something that would fit between the guided journals for adults and the ones we carry for Middle Grade kids. What I discovered was WRITE HERE, WRITE NOW. One of the main things that drew me to this guided journal, outside of the quirky prompts, was that it created a place where you could draw, explore and really have some fun with the journal, all while being creative.

Write Here, Write Now Cover Image
ISBN: 9781452129396
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Chronicle Books - August 18th, 2015

I know that there are strong feelings on the topic of guided journals and their place in the world of journalling, but with all of the choices out there, this is just a sample of what is available.

Staff Chat: The Horror.... The Horror...

The Books: Spooky stories, new and old
The Plots: No spoilers, but monsters, killer clowns, zombies and haunted places figure prominently
The Chatters: Keaton Patterson (Buyer), Lydia Melby (Events Coordinator)

K: All right so here we are to discuss the horror genre, because it’s that most wonderful time of the year.

Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Restless Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632060785
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Restless Books - June 14th, 2016

L: Oh yeah, that’s a good one.

K: I could read it over and over again. It’s new every time, and it’s classic gothic horror, but it’s got a psychological aspect that a lot of literature at that time didn't have. It was very modern in that sense, and that’s always been what I really gravitate towards, this horror of the mind more than the good ol’ blood and guts.

L: Yeah and I think FRANKENSTEIN does a lot with the far-reaching consequences that you don’t always see a lot of, even in modern horror. You know you have the monster coming at you, or the moment where something jumps out at you and it’s all very present and immediate, but in FRANKENSTEIN the monster is haunting him and keeps coming back—it’s this one choice he made that he’ll never get away from, it just keeps coming back and you have this building, hopeless dread that’s really perfectly done.

I never got into Stephen King though. I have a lot of friends whose taste I trust who rave about him and always talk about that feeling they miss of sitting in the treehouse or on the basement couch and reading King, but I think you have to get into his stuff at the right part of your life, when you’re a kid or a teenager because I’ve tried to come back to him as an adult since he’s kind of a mainstay of this genre I love, but I just can’t get into him. But I have to say, it’s not very welcoming for readers outside of what you’d generally think of as your regular horror crowd—women, people of color, queer people. So, I’ve always wanted to have that experience of reading King for the first time that I’ve heard people talk about, but I’ve never found it.

K: For me, it’s his short stories and novellas where he really excels, like FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT. His short stories are always on another level as far as his writing goes. But he writes so much—he throws out books all the time that aren’t always good, but he’s got some real classics too. MISERY is maybe the first novel I read that really frightened me. IT, not the book but the original miniseries with Tim Curry, that gave me nightmares for at least a couple of weeks. Killer clowns, you know, they’re always freaky.

But King was really more of a springboard for me—his book were what I read first and he’s always great for introducing you to other writers too. It was from King that I learned about Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft, and started reading more of the horror tradition, and then I found FRANKENSTEIN and that was all she wrote.

Of all the genres though, I think horror gets the short end of the stick most of the times. It’s really not considered literary, and other genres get that too, like science fiction. I think of genre literature as sort of like poetry—you can have poetry that’s free-form, or you can have poems that are very defined by their form, like a villanelle or a haiku. And that’s how I see genre, as writing with constraints, writing within a designated form, and then of course you can stretch that form or play with it, break it, subvert it however you want. And that’s when you really get the genius writing I think.

But horror really is a wonderful genre, to investigate the unknown and unnamable, what we don't like to deal with or talk about, whether that’s the things that go bump in the night or the possibility that your next-door neighbor may be a serial killer.

L: I agree, I think a lot of other genres like science fiction or fantasy or mystery, people give them more grace, saying “well this counts as literary instead of genre, we can call this literature and teach it in schools” and I think a lot of that goes back to the purpose. For example, the purpose of writing and reading sci-fi has always been to push the boundaries of what we know, to satirize or to reflect present society in this future world, and people can see value in that. But what’s the intended purpose of horror? Why do we read it? Are we just gratifying our basic nature, do we just want to see whatever gross darkness is inside us thrown against this dark mirror? Is it cathartic? It’s pretty indulgent a lot of the time, but there is a purpose to it after all.

K: There’s definitely a level of catharsis in reading horror. I think people naturally have a desire to face their fears, at least to understand them. And there’s a purpose in that. And also with horror as well as sci-fi, I like what you were saying about how the purpose is satirizing or making a social commentary about our world. I think horror and science fiction especially really allow for that to a greater degree that straightforward, realistic literature.

L: Yeah, those “Serious” books.

K: Take Colson Whitehead’s great zombie apocalypse novel that came out a couple years ago, ZONE ONE.

Zone One Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307455178
Availability: Backordered
Published: Anchor Books - July 10th, 2012

It’s a tremendous horror novel, but it’s also an allegory for gentrification. He could have approached that in so many ways, there are a lot books on the subject I’ve read—John Lancaster’s CAPITAL pops into my mind—that are straightforwardly about gentrification as a social issue.

But there’s something a little more affecting when you throw the living dead in there, and now you have to go clean them out to build your new shining city.

L: That’s a good point. Something you said earlier too that I wanted to come back to was that you tend to gravitate more towards the horror of the mind. I do that as well, like if I want to something scary or horrific, I don't always pick up the “monster” books, even though I love a good monster here and there. But there’s something more terrifying and haunting about the monster being in your mind, and being something you don't know if or when you’ll ever get away from it.

Something my friend and I were talking about recently as we were watching another great “monster” show, Stranger Things. He was saying that he thought it was decently scary until somewhere around the fourth episode I think when you finally get a good look at the monster, this really well-put together CGI monster who has no face. Spoiler alert, I guess. And from then on, it becomes more of an adventure story, where the characters are venturing into this sort of underworld, and it’s still a really well-written story, but it’s not scary anymore.

Once you’ve seen the monster and you’ve seen it has a physical form, it’s not as frightening anymore. It’s like, ok we’ve seen it, we can try to figure out how to kill it, but even if it’s right behind me or hiding there in the shadows, we know where it is.

Whereas if you look at something more psychological—and here’s where I have to bring up Dan Chaon—if you look at something like Dan Chaon’s collection STAY AWAKE or his new book ILL WILL coming out in March, you see those “monsters” don't exist in the real world. They’re much harder to escape.

Ill Will Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345476043
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - March 7th, 2017

K: I think also that not seeing the object of horror, the object of fear, really heightens that experience and makes the terror more potent. Another cinematic example is Spielberg’s JAWS. You barely see the shark in that movie—they didn't plan it that way, it’s because the shark broke and they couldn't get it to work half the time.

L: But it’s a much better movie because of that!

K: Right, it’s much scarier because you can see the shark, you just know it’s lurking there in the water under you where you can’t see it. But really what people fear more than anything is the unknowable, the thing they can’t quite name. Facing that is really the point of horror, I think.

One of the best examples of this horror of the mind is Shirley Jackson. We’re celebrating her 100th birthday this year so it’s fitting to mention her, but I really think THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is really the height of that sort of horror. The title says it’s a haunted house book, but really it takes place inside the characters’ minds and the reader is just watching people go crazy, little by little, and it’s truly frightening.

L: That’s a great example, I really love Shirley Jackson. I actually just read WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE for the first time last year, and that’s another great example of a horror story that bends the usual tropes.

Staff Pick Logo
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Orange Collection) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143129547
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - October 18th, 2016

If you’re paying attention as you read, you know who the murderer is, who the real monster in this story is, from the first few chapters. You have a classic set up, with this narrator who’s twelve or thirteen with a sweet, naïve voice, whose best friend is a cat and who lives in an isolated, rotting old mansion with her sister and dying uncle, and the town hates them because of their tragic past. And then the stranger comes to town, and then there’s complications, but you start to realize the monster in the story has manufactured this situation, and for the entire book you’re watching her just tighten her grip. You realize there really is no escape, and when you get to the end of the book, the thing you thought would happen happens, but it’s amazing watching it.

K: And it takes so much skill to do that, to let the reader know at the beginning how it’ll turn out, but still keep them riveted, that’s real talent.

L: She’s the queen.

K: There’s a lot of really great new stuff coming out that I’ve stumbled across that has really blown me away. COLLAPSE OF HORSES by Brian Evenson is a stellar collection of horror and scifi and other surreal stories. BLOOD CRIME was really great too—have you heard of that?

Blood Crime Cover Image
By Sebastia Alzamora, Martha Tennent (Translator), Maruxa Relano (Translator)
ISBN: 9781616956288
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Crime - September 13th, 2016

L: I have but haven’t gotten to read it yet.

K: It’s this riveting Spanish Civil War era vampire story, with elements of a detective thriller mixed in. This vampire, not your typical sort of just undead guy but an immortal being of pure evil, is taking advantage of the chaos and bloodshed of the civil war to kill people and add to the horror. If you read the first page and you’re not sucked in, it’s probably because you don’t have a soul, because this monster just ate it.

L: Ha! Yeah, you’re one of the dead already.

K: I also love when the author works in a good deal of comedy too, like in that new book, MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM—this totally 80s exorcism that hilarious at points. He wrote that HORRORSTOR book too, that IKEA store book.

My Best Friend's Exorcism Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594748622
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Quirk Books - May 17th, 2016

L: A haunted store is such a perfect extension of the haunted house story, I’m so glad that book exists.

K: I think it’s also a good point to make, that horror is a genre with constraints and tropes, but it’s also very expansive, you can stretch and subvert those tropes in all sorts of different ways. There’s always something new to be afraid of.