This is for any kind of written article like a blog post about a certain topic.

Cooking with the Brazos Staff

Let’s face it: many of you reading this right now will have to do a LOT of cooking in the next couple months. Yes, the holidays can be wonderful, with all the family gatherings, but the kitchen usually sits menacingly at the center of these pleasantries. What to do? We’ll help you through it!

Come browse our new cooking display, which features books like LITTLE FLOWER BAKING, HOME COOKED, and the always popular Ina Garten’s COOKING FOR JEFFREY. Brazos is here to help you freshen up your recipes and maybe find some new favorites!

Chickpeas: Sweet and Savory Recipes from Hummus to Dessert Cover Image
ISBN: 9781623540746
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Imagine - February 2nd, 2016

I love chickpeas in all forms! Hot, cold, whole, ground into dips, concentrated into tahini. This cute slim cookbook has everything from hummus to Mediterranean tangine. However, the recipes are simple (no treatises here), use fresh ingredients, and don't require a separate closet for your spices. My favorite recipe is the phyllo triangles with chickpeas, feta, and parsley. Using phyllo dough sheets, they are quick, easy to make in bulk, and freeze well! I recommend CHICKPEAS for enthusiasts, home cooks, and beginners alike.
—Annalia (Bookseller and Shipping Clerk)

The Tacos of Texas Cover Image
ISBN: 9781477310434
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Texas Press - September 20th, 2016

Who doesn’t love tacos? A tortilla. A filling or two. A little spice…or not. Roll it up. Enjoy. One of the world’s best portable meals. I’ve eaten tacos all over Texas--from the basic breakfast tacos at food trucks to the fancier ones at Mexican restaurants (including tacos al pastor at the Navigation Ninfas, and the fabulous puffy tacos of San Antonio) to the crazy creative ones from Torchy’s, which I fell in taco love with when it was still just an Austin thing, started as a food truck on South 1st Street. And whatever non-taco tater tot and sunnyside up egg thing that one of my Brazos colleagues just ordered from Velvet Taco and arrived from those Uber Eats elves… And dozens of tacos in between, especially culinary fusion ones that fit so well here in Houston. A long way from the grease bombs that we would get at Jack in Box at 2 am when I was a student at Northwestern--three for a dollar and this weird textural mix of sort of crunchy, sort of soggy, sort of beef, but obviously sort of not. (I loved those things. Don’t judge.)

So of course I was immediately drawn to THE TACOS OF TEXAS in our cookbook section. Written by Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece, it’s both history and recipes and lots and lots of pictures of yummy, yummy tacos in all their incarnations. I love this book. I even love the chapter on page 288 where Carmen Tafolla, the State Poet Laureate of Texas waxes poetic about bean and cheese tacos and handmade corn tortillas.

Me? I’ll be trying out the recipe for shrimp po-boy tacos on page 286.
—Joy (Children’s Specialist)

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

Just on the coolness factor alone, I have to go with Anthony Bourdain’s most recent cookbook, APPETITES: A COOKBOOK. Not only is the book packed with great recipes like eggs Benedict and chicken salad, but it’s also filled with anecdotes from Bourdain’s life, not as a celebrity chef or world traveler, but as a father. From sandwiches and salads to hamburgers and pasta, this is a very accessible book and filled with humorous and world-weary wisdom.
—Mark (Store Manager)

Anna Mae's Mac n Cheese Cover Image
ISBN: 9780224101219
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House UK - November 1st, 2016

It may sound a little silly—a cookbook solely for mac n cheese? Sure, it’s a timeless dish beloved by busy moms, picky kids, and shiftless bachelors like myself. But it’s also gaining momentum as a hip re-imagined street food, as the popularity of Anna Mae’s “Legendary London Food Truck” can attest.

MAC N CHEESE would make a great gift or conversation book alone, since it’s full of great photos and hipster-punny humor—some of my favorite recipe names are Cheesus Loves You, F*ck Yoga, Macgic Mushroom, Lil’ Kimchi, and the Glastonbrie. It’s a practical recipe book, too—it begins with a recipe for their easily-made and easily-customized Starter Sauce—and shrugs off giving any heavy-handed directives: “Use elbow macaroni or don’t; spend a bomb on fancy fromage or just use the supermarket stuff… it’s up to you.” The individual recipes themselves are a delight, simply written and easy to follow, full of inspiration and, well, cheese. What’s not to love?
—Lydia (Event Coordinator)

Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, with More than 500 Recipes Cover Image
ISBN: 9781607745259
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ten Speed Press - October 7th, 2014

The invention of the craft cocktail matters not as to who the inventor was, right? What matters is who perfected it and the experience. This NYC bar is spreading the history of the cocktail, explaining the chemistry and adding customer stories about their regulars. Want a page on glassware with diagrams? Want to know what “needs a bump” means when you say it to a bartender? This book’s information and recipes will make a true connoisseur out of any reader, as well as make them appreciate the bartenders out there perfecting their craft.
—Molly (Bookseller)

Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566569958
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Interlink Books - January 20th, 2015

To say that I have marked this cookbook to make it look like a rainbow from the beginning to the end would be an understatement. Ghayour makes making Persian food not only a great experience but she has transformed this recipes easy for even the novice cook to understand.

My go-to recipe out of this wonderful cookbook as well as the most requested meal is the Saffron & Lemon Chicken recipe. It is amazing how just a few ingredients can make sure a delicious meal. Hint: marinating the chicken overnight makes a world of difference.
—Ülrika (Gift Buyer)

New Signed Books

Here's a sample of the signed books we have in-store right now. Supplies of signed books are limited and first come, first served!

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399589812
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - May 8th, 2018

Calypso Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316392389
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - May 29th, 2018

Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of a City Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316485241
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hachette Books - May 1st, 2018

Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804138000
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown - August 7th, 2018

It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501174162
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - January 16th, 2018

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631494406
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - September 4th, 2018

Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316518963
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Hachette Books - July 24th, 2018

Sanpaku Cover Image
ISBN: 9781684152100
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Archaia - August 21st, 2018

The New Inheritors Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802128171
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - July 10th, 2018

Warlight: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525521198
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - May 8th, 2018

Lake Success: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812997415
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House - September 4th, 2018

Clock Dance: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525521228
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - July 10th, 2018

How to Walk Away: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250149060
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: St. Martin's Press - May 15th, 2018

French Exit: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062846921
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - August 28th, 2018

Lion Cross Point Cover Image
By Masatsugu Ono, Angus Turvill (Translator)
ISBN: 9781931883702
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Lines Press - April 10th, 2018

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.

The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632170347
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
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: Special Order - Subject to Availability
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.

Mexican Literature, Past and Present

Mexican writers, both alive and dead, have a way of honoring the past. In celebration of The Day of the Dead we bring you Day of the Read, highlighting two great Mexican writers of the past and two from the present who reflect a great tradition of storytelling.

Pedro Paramo (Letras Hispanicas #189) Cover Image
ISBN: 9788437604183
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Lectorum Publications - October 1st, 1989

Juan Rulfo
Considered by many to be the beginning of modern literature in Mexico, Juan Rulfo’s small body of work (a slim a novel, a slim story collection) are made all the more powerful by their sheer influence and originality. Writer’s as far-ranging as Cormac McCarthy and Yuri Herrera can be found in the style and settings of Rulfo’s writing. His single novel, PEDRO PARAMO, tells the story of a young man who travels to his recently deceased mother’s hometown to locate his father, only to find himself in a ghost town, literally; a city populated by specters from the past. Strange and surreal, and highly modern, this novel will have you reaching for his short story collection, THE PLAIN IN FLAMES, another masterpiece.

The Labyrinth of Solitude Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802150424
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - January 12th, 1994

Octavio Paz
If Mexico has a national poet it’s Octavio Paz, whose influence resonated throughout the 20th century. So influential, in fact, his work was translated by the likes of Samuel Beckett and Elizabeth Bishop. His poetry crossed many styles but much of it was considered surrealist. His book-length essay, THE LABYRINTH OF SOLITUDE, is a polyphonic work that speaks from the mouths of the Mexican people. Paz observes that solitude is responsible for the Mexican's perspective on death and identity.

Staff Pick Badge
Faces in the Crowd Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566893541
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Coffee House Press - May 13th, 2014

Valeria Luiselli
As quirky and contemporary as she is innovative, Valeria Luiselli is also a Mexican author who examines the past. Her debut novel, FACES IN THE CROWD, is replete with dead Mexican poets and ghosts, while themes of identity and displacement drift throughout. Her most recent novel, THE STORY OF MY TEETH, not only takes place in Mexico City, but was an art project in collaboration with Jumex juice factory, whose employees would read chapters of the book as a group and make comments to send back to Luiselli. Her books are an astonishing look at what’s possible by looking both forward and back.

Signs Preceding the End of the World Cover Image
By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (Translator)
ISBN: 9781908276421
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: And Other Stories - March 10th, 2015

Yuri Herrera
Herrera’s novels take place on the border of Mexico and the United States, but far from realism, his novels are slim, artful and fantastic tales that carry a weight much heavier than their 100-page sizes suggest. SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD and THE TRANSMIGRATION OF BODIES are both excellent examples of the possibility of merging highly contemporary issues (immigration, violence, drugs) with eternal themes of identity, family and what it means to be Mexican. His third book, in a disconnected trilogy, will be published next year.

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
By Francine Prose (Introduction by), Mary Shelley
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: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - 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: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345476043
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
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.

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 Classics - 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 (Translated by), Maruxa Relano (Translated by)
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: A Novel 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.

From Shame to Strength: An Interview with Monica Youn

There are exceptions to everything but for the most part, living artists are the be all, end all for me. I like the connection and contradiction between a piece of art and the person behind it. The only type of surprise I savor: the one where somewhere in Houston, I am waiting to hear the speaking voice of a writer I don’t know.

Blackacre: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977504
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - September 6th, 2016

Monica Youn will read in store on Friday, November 4 at 7PM.

Annalia Luna is currently the shipping & receiving manager at Brazos Bookstore. She earned her B.A. in Literature and 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

Asking What It Means to Be THE MOTHERS: A Q&A with Brit Bennett

This week marks the release of one of the most buzzed-about novels coming out this fall: Brit Bennett’s THE MOTHERS. This book is one of those exciting debut novels that not only deserves every ounce of preceding hype, but also announces a brilliant new author we’re all looking forward to seeing more from.

From the first page, the rousing choral voice of the church mothers, who narrate from a perceptive but not-quite omniscient viewpoint and provide one of the many reflections of motherhood in the book, grabs you by the wrist and pulls you in.

#BrazosBest: A Rock-n-Roll Indie Press

The Book: THE GLOAMING by Melanie Finn, our October #BrazosBest
The Plot: A young woman abandoned by husband, involved in horrible auto accident, has her sense of reality upended; she disembarks to Tanzania, where she wanders into nowhere on a morbid journey of self-discovery
The Chatters: Keaton Patterson (Buyer) and Benjamin Rybeck (Marketing Director), talking over tacos and beer

Ben: All right. So we’re chatting about the October Brazos Best pick, THE GLOAMING.

The Gloaming Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937512477
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Dollar Radio - September 20th, 2016

Ben: A lot of their books do that. A lot of them even mix genres, you know, or use generic tropes. This one plays with horror and thriller stuff, but makes it literary. Older books do that too. Grace Krilanovich’s THE ORANGE EATS CREEPS is a vampire story, and last year there was Colin Winnette’s HAINTS STAY, which is a Western that uses those tropes but fucks with them.

Keaton: HAINTS STAY is kind of an acid Western in that sense. And with ORANGE, I mean, it’s teenage meth head vampires: you can’t get much more out there and creepy than that. THE GLOAMING represents something Two Dollar Radio does well: they publish literature that pushes the boundaries of acceptability, so to speak. Their highbrow but down-and-dirty, just like Brazos.

Ben: Yup. That’s what we like. They fuck shit up on the regular. I’ve always thought they’re a fantastic press, right down to their branding. They don’t do the same thing over and over again, but their books all feel of a piece. I’ve always thought of them like an indie rock record label from the 90s, or something, like Elephant 6.

Keaton: They’ve got Radio right there in their name, right? I consider them the most rock-and-roll indie press. They’re a great small operation. It shows what you can do when you’re simply dedicated to good books.

Ben: How do you think THE GLOAMING fits into their catalogue? Does it remind you of their other books?

Keaton: Um, I mean, it’s definitely a piece of its own, for sure. It’s very psychological, all in the head of the protagonist, Pilgrim Jones. I mean, that name—“pilgrim.” You know there’s an allegorical aspect.

Ben: Sure, sometimes you don’t have to be subtle.

Keaton: For sure. And what’s interesting—and I don’t know how often Two Dollar Radio does this—but this book was originally published in the UK, a year or two ago. They called it SHAME.


Keaton: Yes. And that’s what it’s about: dealing with guilt, and shame, and obsession, and how our actions resonate throughout our lives. All the chances and lack of chances we have for redemption.

You know, when I first picked up this book, I was a little worried it might devolve into Chinua Achebe’s criticism of HEART OF DARKNESS: that Conrad uses Africa as a metaphorical backdrop for the disintegration of a European mind. But Finn definitely avoids doing that. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that she was born and raised in Kenya, then moved to the states, went to school and everything, and now she lives in Tanzania. I think she runs a medical clinic, and she and her husband make nature documentaries. THE GLOAMING reminded me of TRAM 83 (from Deep Vellum), which paints a portrait of post-colonial Africa that doesn’t hide extreme aspects of the content: superstition, murder, crime, the plight of poverty, corruption—those kinda things. The characters that Pilgrim meets are all fully fleshed out, very complex. Nobody’s all good, and there’s a lot of bad people, but nobody is a stereotype. You’ve got mercenaries, doctors without borders—a motley cast all around.

Ben: Yeah, the book is very grounded in reality, in place. You feel the grit of the land. You feel your feet on the ground. But at the same time, it’s a novel of ideas. Two Dollar Radio is very good at books like this: they’re intellectual and work in theoretical spaces, while never devolving into whimsy or flights of fancy the way some other books do when you think about “philosophical fiction” or whatever. THE GLOAMING deals with very big themes, but through concrete actions, settings, and characters. It reminds me of Sarah Gerard’s BINARY STAR, which is about big, metaphysical stuff, but remains anchored in the body ultimately, since it’s about a woman with an eating disorder. It’s always concrete.

Keaton: I would agree. BINARY STAR is a great example of that, and THE GLOAMING is too. One word that always springs to mind when I think about their books is “viscera.” The books are very much informed by the messiness and meat of life. You’re always within the setting, but also within the humanness of the story.

Ben: Oh, they also did the Scott McClanahan book, CRAPALACHIA.

Keaton: “Crapalachia”: that’s fun to say.

Ben: It is. So who the hell will like THE GLOAMING?

Keaton: I think people who love psychological thrillers, stuff along the lines of Didion’s PLAY IT AS IT LAYS.

Ben: One of your favorites.

Keaton: Yeah. It’s for people who love books that can very easily slip between internal and external storytelling, in ways that come off natural. It’s a scary read, but it ultimately has reassurance at the end.

Ben: That’s important.

Keaton: Yeah, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Ben: I never feel Two Dollar Radio books are devoid of hope. The worlds in their books are complex ones. I think it’s just as uncomplicated to make a piece of art that is totally bleak as totally happy. They’re equally simplistic notions, even though we prize the former quality in the critical world over the latter. But Two Dollar Radio books show you up close the horrors of the world—there’s rough shit in their books—but they work through it or something. They don’t leave you in despair.

Best American Writing of 2016

It’s that wonderful time of the year again, when The Best American collections hit the shelves and give us the perfect sampler of the best and most exciting short-form writing to be published in the last year. The Best American publications started with THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES in 1915, making it the oldest series of the sort. As readership has expanded, they’ve added several more genres and focuses, with the most recent being THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (added in 2015).

The Best American Short Stories 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Junot Díaz (Editor), Heidi Pitlor (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544582897
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Karen Joy Fowler (Editor), John Joseph Adams (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544555204
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Rachel Kushner (Editor), 826 National (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544812116
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544748996
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Travel Writing 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Bill Bryson, Jason Wilson (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544812093
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Mystery Stories 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Elizabeth George (Editor), Otto Penzler (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544527188
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Essays 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Jonathan Franzen (Editor), Robert Atwan (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544812109
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Infographics 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Gareth Cook (Editor), Robert Krulwich (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544556386
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

The Best American Sports Writing 2016 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Rick Telander (Editor), Glenn Stout (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544617315
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 4th, 2016

Sidelines Spotlight: Magpie and Jay

Halloween is not technically part of the holiday season but is still one of my favorites. This month, to highlight my love of dark, creepy things, we are featuring vintage-inspired pieces from Magpie and Jay’s New Curios collection.

Last year, when we introduced Magpie and Jay to the Brazos repertoire, we featured their nervous system mugs and journals. The items were cartoonish and had bold colors, but offered something beyond literary merchandise. This year, I wanted to focus on the New Curios line, which has more of a gothic, hand-painted look.