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Staff Picks for Kids

Click any staff member below to see his or her kid’s book recommendations.



Meet Liz

My father read me THE HOBBIT as a bedtime story when I was four, and it definitely set my baby mind firmly in the land of the fantastic. I'm a huge fan of any books that challenge our idea of what the "real world" is and should be. Magical realism, speculative fiction, revolutionary ideas--if it's a little (or a lot) out there and different, I'm here for it. My tastes for the weird and eclectic spill over into my love of plays and graphic novels: the stranger and more provocative, the better. For nonfiction, I love any kind of overlooked stories, especially about forgotten women of the past or present. I'm also a big fan of the classics--I spent four years in Wellesley College's Shakespeare Society, so if you ever want to talk about the Bard, look me up!

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060853976
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow & Company - August 7th, 2007

This longstanding favorite collaboration between
two clever and inventive writers tells the story of an Apocalypse thrown
off-kilter when the Antichrist is switched at birth. There are dozens
of comic asides in footnotes, an incredibly rich ensemble (including a
demon who threatens his houseplants into growing instead of watering
them), and a deeply moving meditation on destiny from an eleven year-old
boy. Yet somehow, in the face of all the supernatural messes, the
ordinary humans become the heroes. Good Omens is not only going to make
you laugh until you cry, but also provoke some of the most interesting
questions about faith and reality you've ever considered.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451666175
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Touchstone Books - October 29th, 2013

Based on her award-winning blog mixing the absurdity of ordinary life with the evocative simplicity of MS Paint art, this first book by Allie Brosh is pure funny distilled into solid form. Her genius for storytelling, especially when discussing her neurotic pets or out-there childhood, will result in the most undignified laughter you may ever produce in your lifetime. The highlight of the book, however, is her spot-on and keenly felt recounting of her struggle with depression.

Little Brother Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765323118
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - April 13th, 2010

When its young hacker protagonists are detained by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco, LITTLE BROTHER brings us 1984 for the modern generation (with a more optimistic ending, thankfully). Winston might have done better if he could hack the government with an Xbox. Particularly relevant in our era of government surveillance and terrorism paranoia, Little Brother is a breakneck-paced, all-nighter kind of read.

Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307377395
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Pantheon Books - March 12th, 2013

El Feki perfectly balances a journalist's eye and a creative writer's turn of phrase to offer us an incredibly important look at an underrepresented aspect of Egyptian life. With Arab women and their culture often othered and alienated in Western eyes, this intimate yet open mix of bold analytics and deeply personal stories gives us a complicated and multidimensional view of sex in a changing region, and what that means for its future.

The Most of Nora Ephron Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385350839
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - October 29th, 2013

Nora Ephron's life and work is celebrated in this survey of her best pieces, crossing all genres and including essays, screenplays, journalism--even the commencement address she delivered at Wellesley College in 1996 (she was an alumna of the class of 1962), exhorting each student to "be the heroine of your own life." Always wise, violently brilliant, and above all funny as hell, this enormous collection is a fitting tribute to one of our best.

The Golem and the Jinni Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062110848
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - December 31st, 2013

Two fantastic creatures find their way through turn-of-the-century New York in Wecker's intricate debut novel. Weaving multiple strands of mythology and immigrant folklore with more human and grounded concerns, like the always-understandable desire for belonging, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI draws you into its vivid, sprawling, magical world--this historical fiction is anything but sepia-toned. Just try to put it down, if you can.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: A Play Cover Image
ISBN: 9780571211012
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Faber & Faber - December 27th, 2005

A deeply emotional and sometimes chaotic play, THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT relates a Kafkaesque trial held in heaven to determine the ultimate fate of Judas Iscariot. Witnesses are called and arguments about faith and friendship are made, with a down-to-earth reality brought to Guirgis's vision of heaven by his vivid and diverse cast of characters. With its powerful monologues, irreverent language, and final wrenching look at the man himself, THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT offers a clear-eyed, skeptical look at Biblical episode our culture takes for granted.

Eurydice Cover Image
ISBN: 9780573662447
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Samuel French, Inc. - January 4th, 2010

Did you think there were no fresh takes on Greek mythology to be found? Sarah Ruhl has something for you. By turns knife-sharp and achingly soft, this retelling of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is as lyrical on paper as it is on stage. Love, memory, and language itself are tied together, haunting the protagonists across increasingly blurred boundaries of life and death. "Dreamlike" is the best word for this revolutionary play--whether it's a gentle dream or a gorgeous nightmare is up to interpretation.

Meet Brooke, Shipping & Returns

The classics were my first love – Jane Austen, the Brontës – pretty much anything that involved long dresses, a lot of talk and not very much action. I was raised on the Little House books and devoured anything set in the past, especially if it involved a lot of butter churns and pioneer women in bonnets.

I have now entered this century. Contemporary American fiction is my stomping ground. I love wacky, revealing first person narratives that tell the truth about what it’s like to be human – especially if they involve unseemly personal details. Dark and sinister stories with a sense of humor also grab me.

In non-fiction I love American travel narratives – William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways is a long-time favorite. I love and envy writer-adventurers like Jon Krakauer and think early aviation stories are great fun. I also like funny guys like David Sedaris and Bill Bryson.

Brooke's book recommendations
Brooke's Kids Book recommendations

Meet Mary-Catherine, Kids Specialist

Hi! I’m Mary-Catherine, the Brazos kids’ specialist.

Reading was a huge part of my life growing up and I’ve never lost my love of children’s literature, from picture books up through young adult. I’m a total idealist, and strongly believe in the power of books to effect positive change in children’s lives. My goal for the children’s section of our store is for every child to see themselves in at least one book on our shelves and that they feel at home when they walk into the kids room.

Some of the most powerful books for me growing up were Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, Madeline L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME series, Sharon Creech’s WALK TWO MOONS, and, of course, HARRY POTTER! Each of these and many, many more taught me how to understand the world around me and deal with the more complicated experiences of adolescence. I also love to laugh, so some of my very favorite kids picks are witty and create opportunities to laugh together.

Since college, I’ve been an avid reader of YA fiction and am a particular fan of anything John Green or David Levithan, particularly WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON. I’ve also recently discovered Rainbow Rowell, and don’t know how I lived without ELEANOR AND PARK in my life until now. I also have a high tolerance for all things ridiculous and YA (love triangles, supernatural creatures, dystopia), and read widely in order to give you the best recommendations possible.

I also find time for grown up books and gravitate towards postcolonial fiction, Middle Eastern and South Asian fiction, and 20th Century American literature. Some favorites of mine include Jeffrey Eugenides, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee, Isabel Allende, Sylvia Plath and Khaled Hosseini. I’m also an English major to the core and wannabe English professor, so I love literary theory and particularly the work of Franco Moretti.

Mary-Catherine’s Book Recommendations
Mary-Catherine’s Kids Book Recommendations

New and Noteworthy

We've handpicked some of the best new and noteworthy titles to arrive on our shelf this week for your reading pleasure.

The Unamericans Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393241136
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 3rd, 2014

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385351836
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 4th, 2014

Strange Bodies Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374270650
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - February 4th, 2014

Staff Pick Logo
The Castle of Whispers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609451820
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Europa Editions - February 4th, 2014

Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393239362
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 10th, 2014

The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393239799
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 10th, 2014

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205460
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Press - February 4th, 2014

Amity & Sorrow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316220873
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - February 4th, 2014

The Woman Upstairs Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307743763
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage Books - February 4th, 2014

Staff Pick Logo
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Cover Image
ISBN: 9780770436421
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Hogarth Press - February 4th, 2014

Karate Chop: Stories Cover Image
By Dorthe Nors, Martin Aitken (Translator)
ISBN: 9781555976651
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - February 4th, 2014

See Now Then Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374534363
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - February 4th, 2014

The Free Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062276742
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - February 4th, 2014

Staff Pick Logo
Southern Cross the Dog Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062225023
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - February 4th, 2014

Annihilation Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374104092
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - February 4th, 2014

Coolidge Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061967597
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - February 4th, 2014

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend Cover Image
ISBN: 9781620400654
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - February 4th, 2014

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing Cover Image
ISBN: 9780803736719
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Kathy Dawson Books - February 4th, 2014

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy Cover Image
By Lemony Snicket, Lisa Brown (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781938073786
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: McSweeney's - February 11th, 2014

Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594746499
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Quirk Books - February 4th, 2014

Wildwood Imperium Cover Image
By Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062024749
Availability: Backordered
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - February 4th, 2014

Elsewhere Cover Image
By Eliot Weinberger (Editor)
ISBN: 9781934824856
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Open Letter Books - March 15th, 2014

Mark's Kids Book Recommendations...

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9780547028644
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarion Books - April 21st, 2008

This book is as scary for adults as it is for younger readers! WAIT TILL HELEN COMES has all the ingredients of a great creepy read: ghosts, evil stepsisters, and a house in the country that was once an old church. Molly doesn’t trust her stepsister Heather, who is always getting Molly and her brother Michael into trouble. But when Heather begins talking to a ghost named Helen, warning her step-siblings about certain danger, things get worse. That is, until Helen comes! A truly scary read that’s excellently written to boot.

Fortunately, the Milk Cover Image
By Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062224071
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - September 17th, 2013

FORTUNATELY, THE MILK is an inventive and highly adventurous story that shows kids the endless possibilities of storytelling. An unsuspecting father goes out in search of milk for his children’s cereal and then the hi-jinks ensue! There are aliens, pirates and even dinosaurs in this high-speed thrill ride! Clever black-and-white illustrations by Skottie Young add that little something extra to Gaiman’s rip-roaring text. Gaiman is a deft writer in any genre and this book is no exception. Fun for ALL ages.

Mark recommends...

Our Dead World Cover Image
ISBN: 9781943150113
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dalkey Archive Press - May 26th, 2017

A blend of the fantastic with the every day, Colanzi's first story collection is a dark and mesmerizing set of eight stories that mix realism with altered states of consciousness. Animals, meteorites, even stories set on Mars, this is a highly original collection highlighting a new voice from Bolivia.​

On Imagination Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941411476
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sarabande Books - July 25th, 2017

This brief essay by the inimitable essayist Mary Ruefle is a profound and witty meditation on the imagination. Invoking history, the Bible, and an unmistakeable wit, Ruefle explains why the imagination is so valuable.

My Heart Hemmed in Cover Image
By Marie Ndiaye, Jordan Stump (Translator)
ISBN: 9781931883627
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - July 11th, 2017

A haunting parable for our times. A married couple in a small French town begin to feel ostracized by everyone. A devastating tale of paranoia, nationalism, and mob mentality.

Compass Cover Image
By Mathias Enard, Charlotte Mandell (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226622
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - March 28th, 2017

In a single night, amidst a haze of opium smoke, musicologist Franz Ritter reflects on memory and dreams and his lifelong fascination with the Middle East. As beautiful as it is intellectual, this powerful narrative manages to blend the East and the West, focusing on cultural figures from the past two hundred years amidst myriad other subjects. Enard's novel has been shortlisted for the Booker International Prize and for obvious reason. An ideal novel for fans of W.G. Sebald and Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

The Rings of Saturn Cover Image
By W. G. Sebald, Michael Hulse (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226158
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - November 8th, 2016

Although I had already read a couple of books by W.G. Sebald, I had yet to read THE RINGS OF SATURN, a novel many claim to be his best. W.G. Sebald was a German author who spent the latter half of his life in England as an author and lecturer. His books defy description but are testaments to the possibilities of literature.His novels often deal with nature, memory, decay and deftly mix fact and fiction - they are curiously scattered with photographs detailing the works of art or nature he is writing about. THE RINGS OF SATURN - merely an account of a walking tour through Suffolk - creates an astonishing web of history, nature, philisophy, the rise and fall of civilizations and a lot more. Although he largely eschews plot, his books are immensely readable. Put simply, there is nothing in the world like Sebald's work.

The Magician of Vienna Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941920480
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - April 25th, 2017

Mexican master Sergio Pitol returns with the third book in his 'Trilogy of Memory'. A mix of travelogue, memoir and fiction, THE MAGICIAN OF VIENNA infects the reader with Pitol's knowledge and passion for a life filled with travel and literature. These books do not have to be read in order and I can't recommend Sergio Pitol highly enough. You will see the world and find yourself emersed in gorgeous and profound writing.

Chronicle of the Murdered House Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940953502
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Open Letter Books - December 13th, 2016

Have you ever read a book and felt that you were holding in your hands a classic, something indipsensable to a language and a culture? Chronicle of the Murdered House is such an example. This book has hints of Dostoyevsky, Garcia Marquez and Antonio Lobo Antunes. Already a classic in Brazil - this book is not only beautifully written and profound, but a joy to read. The dysfunction of a prestigious family in a provincial Brazilian jungle, complete with gossip, backstabbing, cross-dressing and suicide attempts.There's a fully-formed universe taking place in a run-down mansion rotting away in the jungle. Despite having the weight and breadth of a classic, its 600 pages fly by. I dare anyone to read it and not appreciate its artistry and breadth.

His Only Son: With Dona Berta Cover Image
ISBN: 9781681370187
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - October 4th, 2016

A comedy of manners and a classic of Spanish literature, Leopoldo Alas' book focuses on Bonifacio, a timid and a failed clerk, a man who is frightened of everything, including his wife. Bonifacio falls in love with a second-rate opera singer who believes him to be a wealthy patron. Part satire, part heartfelt snapshot of provincial Spain, HIS ONLY SON, is a tender and often hilarious novel.

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

Already a hot commodity in Latin America, Samanta Schweblin's
English-language debut, FEVER DREAM is exactly that. A haunting, sparse,
undefinable book that whispers in the ear, imparting a quiet sense of
existential dread. Simply a conversation between a woman in her hospital
bed and a young boy named David, who kneels beside her and demands she
recount a series of recent events. What transpires is a short, creepy tale
that is hard to define but impossible to put down. One of the books I'm
most excited about this year!

Iza's Ballad Cover Image
By Magda Szabo, George Szirtes (Introduction by), George Szirtes (Translator)
ISBN: 9781681370347
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - October 18th, 2016

Magda Szabó, the brilliant author of THE DOOR, returns with another psychologically complex story about family and the rifts between generations. Ettie has just been widowed and her daughter, Iza, urges her to move to Budapest where she practices medicine. However hard the mother and daughter try to accomodate the other, rifts seem inevitable. Szabó has a keen eye and a masterful sense of the motives that drive us. Behind the backdrop of Communist Hungary, IZA'S BALLAD is another unforgettable tale of family and the unseen destruction of good intentions.

A Whole Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374289867
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 13th, 2016

The title of this quiet and remarkable book perfectly sums up the beauty that's inside. A WHOLE LIFE by Austrian author Robert Seethaler, tells the entire life of Andreas Egger, an unremarkable man living in a remarkable century. In its brief 150 pages, the reader experiences the simple but eventful life of Eggers, from a young mountain climber to a widower to a prisoner of war in World War II. Fans of STONER and TRAIN DREAMS will find much to love in this elegant and universal story, as a man sees the world around him transform. A book of astounding restraint and quiet beauty, A WHOLE LIFE is illuminating, reminding all of us of the fleeting time we're given on this planet. Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and translated beautifully by Charlotte Collins, A WHOLE LIFE is brilliant.

Angel of Oblivion Cover Image
By Maja Haderlap, Tess Lewis (Translator)
ISBN: 9780914671466
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Archipelago Books - August 30th, 2016

This poetic and haunting novel, translated from the German by Tess Lewis, centers around a young girl coming to terms with the history of her family—a Slovenian-speaking minority in Austria. By telling her grandmother's story of war and oppression, the narrator finds her own voice. The prose is gorgeous and endlessly quotable. ANGEL OF OBLIVION delves fearlessly into the nature of identity, language and tolerance, speaking to the power of resistance and the courage required in not forgetting.

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250094735
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - August 2nd, 2016

Underappreciated in her lifetime, Lucia Berlin's selected stories, A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN, displays the lucid eye of an American original. From blue collar settings in the American Southwest to her grandfather's dentist's office, Berlin seemingly tosses off words and sentences that serious readers will relish. An astonishing collection that introduces (or reminds) us of an important voice in American fiction.

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

An early novel by Nobel Prize winner Herta Muller and in English for the first time, this hypnotic novel delves into the relationships of two young couples in Romania during the Ceausescu regime. Paranoia quickly sets in when one of them is suspected of being in the secret police. Taut, precise and morally complex, this novel is a literary page-turner of the highest order. Deftly translated by Philp Boehm.

Bad Light Cover Image
By Carlos Castan, Mike McDevitt (Translator)
ISBN: 9788494365850
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Hispabooks - July 12th, 2016

This debut novel by acclaimed short story writer Carlos Castán is a deeply moving and darkly rewarding novel, reminiscent of Javier Marías. A middle-aged man, fighting depression, seeks solace in the friendship of Jacobo. Both men discuss books, movies and lost relationships deep into the night, that is until Jacobo is found stabbed to death. More introspective and probing than thriller, the voice of the protagonist burrows deep into the reader's mind, not releasing its grip until the final page. Dense, literary and philosophical, BAD LIGHT is sentence by sentence, one of the strongest, best-written novels of the year.

The Clouds Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940953342
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Open Letter Books - May 10th, 2016

Another excursion into the great mind of Argentina's Juan José Saer. Faux history merges with absurdist humor in sublime language; THE CLOUDS follows a doctor as he takes five mental patients to a recently constructed asylum. Notorious for his sentences (nay, paragraphs) that meander like the best of Proust, this novel does not disappoint. Beautifully excessive and wonderfully astute, THE CLOUDS will leave the reader breathless. A meditation on madness, exile and the process of writing.

A Little Lumpen Novelita Cover Image
By Roberto Bolano, Natasha Wimmer (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811225151
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - March 21st, 2016

LIke a fine-cut gem, this short novel tells the story of a brother and sister in Rome who are suddenly orphaned. Beautiful, tragic, surreal, A LITTLE LUMPEN NOVELITA is a great introduction to Bolaño.

The Time of the Doves Cover Image
By Merce Rodoreda, David H. Rosenthal (Translator), David H. Rosenthal (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780915308750
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - October 1st, 1986

A timeless masterpiece about a young shopgirl and her experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Vivid. Heartbreaking. Utterly essential.

The Guilty: Stories Cover Image
By Juan Villoro, Kimi Traube (Translator)
ISBN: 9780807600139
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: George Braziller - June 1st, 2015

Juan Villoro is a prolific and celebrated author in Latin America, though, shockingly, THE GUILTY is his first book to be translated into English. And what a revelation! Villoro’s stories are funny, contemporary and not afraid of the darker sides of Mexican culture. While mocking every absurdity in modern life, Villoro cunningly reveals the deep dissatisfaction in Mexico and its inhabitants. Some of the most razor-sharp stories I’ve read in a long time, packed with mariachi singers, illegal migrants and much more.

The Door Cover Image
By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (Translator), Ali Smith (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590177716
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - January 27th, 2015

Have you ever begun a book and immediately felt you were in the hands of a classic? That's what Magda Szabo's THE DOOR is like. THE DOOR has the simplest premise, but the moral complexity of a great tragedy. Magda, a successful author, decides to hire Emerence, a peasant housekeeper well known in the village. What follows is a psychological portrait of two very different women over a period of decades, replete with the passions and barbs inherent in complex friendships. Beautifully translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix, THE DOOR will leave you speechless with admiration.

H Is for Hawk Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802123411
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - March 3rd, 2015

There’s hardly a subject more universal than the loss of a loved one. One of the biggest challenges of literature is finding an approach that feels vital and new, a way of examining such a monumental topic without falling into the tired and the trite. Helen Macdonald’s incredible memoir, H IS FOR HAWK, feels like something new and important, and without even trying to be.

After the unexpected death of her father, Macdonald falls into a depression. She picks up falconry, a lifelong passion, is picked up again when she adopts Mabel, a young goshawk. Her own story is set against that of TH White (a falconer and author of THE SWORD IN THE STONE).  I have little if any interest in hawks and falconry: the magic of this book is that it doesn’t matter. The language and intelligence of Macdonald’s writing sweeps the reader away. H IS FOR HAWK contains some of the most beautiful writing about nature I’ve ever read. It also describes depression, the English countryside, history and the unspoken relationship between human beings and nature. It is both an elegy and a celebration. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. 

The Art of Flight Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920060
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - March 17th, 2015

Sergio Pitol is a celebrated name in his native Mexico, a winner of the prestigious Cervantes Prize. He has lived in Warsaw, Rome, Barcelona, Beijing, Paris and Moscow, both as a translator and a diplomat but, I think most importantly, as a reader. I emphasize reader, because THE ART OF FLIGHT is a book about reading. It is a multi-genre hybrid, described as a memoir on a “life lived through reading.” It is a memoir and yet, it is so much more. An entire library is contained within its pages. Reflections on the architecture of Venice can lead to a chapter on translating the Hungarian great Gombrowicz. Meditations on Joseph Conrad to Anton Chekhov to Jorge Luis Borges. The heady politics of 1960’s Mexico crop up, as does the construction of the Berlin Wall. The simultaneous existence of living and reading in the 20th century cohabitate brilliantly in this book.

If you are one of those who believes the experience must be lived to be true, that Alice and the Cheshire Cat are merely words on a page, that Ahab’s biblical diatribes are just hyperbole from the brow of Melville, and that these in themselves do not count as experience—if you are one who does not believe in the transportive and life-affirming nature of literature, than this book is not for you.

That said, this book is for everyone else. Dallas-based publisher Deep Vellum has the bragging rights for being the first publisher to bring Pitol into English, with more Pitol books on the way.Translator George Henson does an incredible job translating Pitol’s style into beautifully rendered English.  A few years ago, author Valeria Luiselli was asked which writer should be translated into English that hadn’t yet been, and her unequivocal answer was Sergio Pitol. Lucky for us, that is no longer true. The art of flight, indeed.

Dreamers of the Absolute: A Book of Hours Cover Image
ISBN: 9781909631083
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Sylph Editions - November 15th, 2014

Anna Sun’s first novel, DREAMERS OF THE ABSOLUTE, is the story of a young woman searching for both love and the meaning of life. This may seem common enough fodder for a novel, but in the modest hands of Sun, a quiet masterpiece emerges. This young woman travels to rural Kentucky to visit her brother, her only living relative, who has taken a vow of silence at a Trappist Monastery. Unable to speak with him, she spends seven days contemplating and reflecting on past relationships, as well as her own future. Quiet, meditative and revelatory, this small novel is a powerful reminder of the importance that simplicity and beauty play in literature.

Staff Pick Logo
Bartleby & Co. Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811216982
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - April 1st, 2007

BARTLEBY & CO. is Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas’ strange and unconventional novel about writers who can’t (or don’t) write, tackling silence in literature. In a series of footnotes (part anecdote, part philosophical) he explores the history of writers who were “artists of refusal,” that is, writers who refused to write, or writers who wrote once and stopped--or perhaps wrote, but only for themselves. Erudite, wistful and immensely readable, BARTLEBY & CO. explores phantom books and invisible texts; it ponders projects abandoned and confidence usurped. Vila-Matas’ protagonist writes that a book knocks at our door, and “when we go receive them, they disappear; we open the door and they are no longer there. It was undoubtedly a great book, the great book that was inside us, the one we were really destined to write, our book, the very book we shall never be able to write or read now. But that book, let it be clear, exists.” What do Franz Kafka, J.D. Salinger, Arthur Rimbaud and more have in common? Mainly they were all “writers of the no” - authors who by choice or chance, bad luck or the times in which they lived, resolved to stop writing. The novel’s namesake has much in common with his creator, for Herman Melville, as in Bartleby’s famous line, ‘I would prefer not to,’ spent the second half of his life in almost total publishing silence. For anyone interested in the writers who existed between the margins or didn’t find (or chase) success or were abandoned by fate, this is the book for you. As our narrator tells is, “there are as many writers as ways of abandoning literature.”

Meet Mark, Store Manager

For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with books. Reading them, obviously, but smelling them, touching them and just generally being around them. To me, books show the possibility of the human mind and, at their best, can even change us. In high school I discovered satire and devoured everything by Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut introduced me to Celine who, in a sense, introduced me to the importance of translation. How could something as visceral as DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN, I wondered, be rendered so beautifully from French into English? I spent my twenties obsessed by the 19th Century Russians, mostly Dostoevsky, but also Tolstoy, Chekhov and Lermontov. 

My obsession is still books, and a large amount of those have been translated into English. I am in love with Latin American and Spanish language writers especially, from Javier Marias to Cesar Aira, from Garcia Marquez to Alvaro Mutis. Contemporaries like Valeria Luiselli, Yuri Herrera and Guadalupe Nettel are incredible and display some of the most vibrant minds of the Spanish language bending and shifting genre. I’m also a fan of Enrique Vila-Matas, Sergio Pitol, Mario Bellatin, Santiago Gamboa as well as the underappreciated books of Reinaldo Arenas. I’m also an enormous fan of the Portuguese writers Fernando Pessoa and Antonio Lobo Antunes. I love English language writers too, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Raymond Carver, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy to name a few. There’s a lot more from many languages but those stand out. In 2008 I had a collection of short stories, Deathbed Conversions, published. In 2015 I was a juror for the 2016 BTBA (Best Translated Book Award). That same year I was also a recipient of the James Patterson Holiday Bonus for booksellers. 

One of the best aspects of working in a bookstore is having wonderful conversations about books with the customers and (selfishly) having great books introduced to me as well. I hope to see you in Brazos Bookstore!

Mark's book recommendations
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