Sara Recommends

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

A narrative of a complicated biracial Mississippi family. It confronts our country's history of racism in a way that is so all-encompassing as to transcend time; past, present, and future, living and dead, humans, plants, and animals, all are necessary to tell the story of America from slavery to chain gangs to Jim Crow to Trayvon Martin. All this in rich, lyrical prose (seriously).

The Shape of Bones Cover Image
By Daniel Galera, Alison Entrekin (Translator)
ISBN: 9781594205484
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - August 15th, 2017

Galera shapes this book around boyhood memories, but refuses stillness or contemplation. Readers encounter a young man's life first through the whizzing speed of his bicycle trek through the city, and then through the visceral and sometimes brutal memories he shared with friends in Esplanada. Throughout, the high of danger is easily portrayed in succinct, smooth prose.

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

I absolutely loved this new speculative novel from Karen Tidbeck. In a world where objects are dependent on being spoken into solidity (literally; forget to re-label a suitcase and it will turn to mush), a bureaucratic colony worker discovers her own desire for abstraction and unsureness. Much like China Miéville's EMBASSYTOWN and THE CITY & THE CITY, or Renee Gladman's Ravicka Trilogy, Tidbeck forms a plot out of the inadequacies and subjectivities of language, creating new possibilities for both the environment and the characters. 

Don't be put off by this book's theoretical linguistic themes or Science Fiction designation. AMATKA is a serious plot-driven mystery/adventure. The characters are immediately subtle but personable, the story is invigorating, and the landscape isn't too far off from our own to feel endeared to.

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

The Idiot Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205613
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - March 14th, 2017

I loved this debut novel from Batuman. She spins a college narrative into an exploration of language, international relations, and communication/romance over the early internet. Also, a compelling redux of Dostoyevsky! Definite winner.

Sor Juana and Other Monsters Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937027766
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Senal (Ugly Duckling Presse, Bomb Magazine, L - December 1st, 2015

Fabre takes an enigmatic figure (17th-century Spanish nun Sor Juana) and pulls her up through scholars' attempts to demystify her into a place of super contemporary critical thought through poetry. Through his comparison of her to various monsters (Sphinx, Phoenix, etc.), he remythologizes her AND the artifice of writing itself. If this sounds complicated, it is – but somehow contained and fascinating. The translator's note at the end (by Houston poet and organizer John Pluecker), rather than trying to lay bare the text, instead nourishes the reader's sense of enigma and awkwardness. How is such a short chapbook so complete and satisfying? 

How to Survive a Summer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399573682
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Blue Rider Press - June 6th, 2017

Will is a PhD student getting his degree in film studies when he finds out a horror film is being made of a terrifying experience he had as a young adult. Forced to undergo gay conversion camp run by his mother's younger sister, he and four other boys made an attempted escape – to disastrous effect. Now an adult, he must confront his childhood at the camp while parsing through the stories of his mother's backwoods family. Is the grisly slasher an exploitative excuse for a resurgence of gay bashing? Or is it a queer-authored reclamation of the hateful violence he and the four other boys underwent? And what ever happened to the other boys? This book is a wonderfully multi-layered debut that rethinks agency in the narrative of queer violence.

Nightwood Cover Image
By Djuna Barnes, Jeanette Winterson (Preface by), T. S. Eliot (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780811216715
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 26th, 2006

NIGHTWOOD is fascinatingly decadent, both in style and in setting. Character development is at its natural peak in this 1930s portrait of a woman and her sense of society, which crumbles even as she interacts with its members. Though the narrative is laced with a sense of doom, the absurdity of the characters' sense of class and poise lends a level of hilarity that is utterly original.

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

While I loved Qiu Miaojin's other published book, LAST WORDS FROM MONTMARTRE, NOTES OF A CROCODILE is comparatively a master work. More closely driven by narrative than the letter-based NOTES, LAST WORDS focuses on a college student who, despite being a high achiever, feels like "pure carrion inside." She tackles the dissolution of the human body, both metaphorical and literal, through lengthy monologues and the occasional news reference to the waning crocodile population ("humans with reptile characteristics, not reptiles with human characteristics"). At the same time, the narrative is grounded by her romantic relationship with an older student, along with a host of other college outcasts with whom she spends her time. Miaojin's book turns a typical college story on its head while blurring the lines between memoir, fiction, and fantasy.

The Book of Joan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062383273
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - April 18th, 2017

BOOK OF JOAN is a brilliant piece of literary speculation poised to take up the mantle of the HANDMAID'S TALE. Yuknavitch reimagines our history and bodies from the ground up while retaining an deeper parallel between our world and her own: the abuse of power in the hands of the wrong people.

I'm still not sure how Yuknavitch manages to craft so many incredible characters in such a small space: the protagonist, a master of skin grafting who burns Joan of Arc's story onto her body; her best friend, a raucus jokester in a post-sexual era; Joan herself, a young but incredibly strong environmental activist; Jean de Men, the technology-reliant captain in power hiding a deep and telling secret; and a host of others who enrich the text in original, fascinating ways.

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

Anne Garreta is a spectacular writer of the underground and the after-dark. In this memoir-slash-essay-series, Garreta turns back to memories of past trysts. While her last Oulipian novel, THE SPHYNX, was highly structured, NOT ONE DAY follows a slightly more lenient train-of-thought pattern, without ever losing the sense of high intellect that Garreta brings to everything she writes. Each vignette flickers smoothly between thoughtful ruminations on memory and moodily sensual encounters with strangers and friends alike.

Such Small Hands Cover Image
By Andres Barba, Lisa Dillman (Translator), Edmund White (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9781945492006
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Transit Books - April 11th, 2017

What a remarkable storyline, bound between these beautiful compact covers. SUCH SMALL HANDS is Transit Books' first publication, and it portends a unique, gorgeous voice for the press. Marina, a young girl, has just lost both her parents to a car accident and ends up in the hands of an orphanage. The narrative transitions between her voice and that of the other girls at the orphanage, who merge into a single solemn chorus. Andrés Barba captures the nighttime world of young girls' thoughts with unsettling elegance. 

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Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375406508
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - December 9th, 2014

HERE is an understated graphic novel that explores the history of a single room through past millennia. Context grows through characters' appearances in frames that appear overlaid and out of chronological order. McGuire uses the visual form to expertly dig deeper into the artifice of the graphic novel, family history, and time itself. HERE builds, elegantly, from a series of flat images into a gorgeous, echoing, spiraling narrative.

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

RECITATION charts the travels of a mysterious traveler and voice actress after she arrives at an empty train station in Europe. As the book's pages creep by, the lone woman's narrative becomes ever more tangled in her personal identity, family past, and the imagined collective past of city dwellers in general. Bae Suah weaves a lyrical exploration of self-discovery through the eyes of what could be any number of identities. This is a remarkable book that manages both experimentation and nonlinearity and thoughtful, deliberate plot.

Last Words from Montmartre Cover Image
By Qiu Miaojin, Ari Larissa Heinrich (Translator), Ari Larissa Heinrich (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9781590177259
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - June 3rd, 2014

This book emerged to me from the mists in the downtown public library. I grabbed it, ran out, and haven’t looked back since (no, seriously, the book is about three months overdue at this point, but it’s still on my nightstand). Apparently it was a cult favorite in 90’s lesbian Taiwan as well, where it circulated from hand to hand as a sheath of photocopies for years before being published.

LAST WORDS is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Organized as a series of letters, all vaguely autobiographical, it charts the genderqueer main character’s last few months of travel, love, and heartbreak before suicide. Each letter is a gut-wrenching gem. Don’t forget to get a pack of tissues on your way home.

Running on Fumes Cover Image
ISBN: 9780889229754
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Talonbooks - September 6th, 2016

THE ROAD meets FIGHT CLUB in this apocalyptic Minotaur myth-turned-road novel. After the electricity goes out in his town, a car mechanic begins a seemingly endless journey to reach his ailing father. However, as miles travelled and his exhaustion both mount, the story winds in and out of reality and time. The narrator’s parallel quests for his father, love, and a destination, along with the strange company he finds along the way, pull together to form a marvelous, thoughtful mindbender of a novel.

Moshi Moshi Cover Image
By Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (Translator)
ISBN: 9781619027862
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - December 13th, 2016

Yoshie’s father has just died in a suicide pact and left Yoshie and her mother to deal with their grief by moving into a new neighborhood. However, Yoshie’s father keeps haunting her nightmares with a message. Banana Yoshimoto, as always, manages to merge potentially isolating introspection with a beautiful cast of characters and regular intervals of unexplained fabulist occurrences.