Book Lists

This category is for lists of books (example: Top 10 Books for Summer Reading)

My Funny Valentine

Ah, love: a perpetual Valentine’s Day where the sun shines a soft copper light on the tender conjunction of two balanced souls in perfect harmony. Or, often, a big pile of shit. For this week’s Brazos Book List, we’re setting aside the lollipops and roses and gamely probing love’s slimy, putrid underside. Five Brazos staffers went to a dark place and brought back an eclectic mix of books, from poetry to fiction to memoir, to sate your Valentine’s lust for dirty love.

Some Ether: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555973032
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - May 1st, 2000

Nick Flynn’s mother committed suicide when he was twenty-two, after reading a story he was writing about a single mother with two sons. Later, Flynn met his prison-bound father for the first time while working at a homeless shelter in Boston. Jonathan, at the time, had been sleeping outside, until the night he came in to ask for a bed, a ghost appearing. The underscore to all this: Flynn drinking, more than anyone should. SOME ETHER, Flynn’s debut poetry collection, ruminates on these times. It is a testament to bewilderment, all the ways we can leave and be left, love that keeps opening. —Annalia


The Age of Innocence (Vintage Classics) Cover Image
$11.00
ISBN: 9780307949516
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - June 5th, 2012

Despite the title (and the delicate script on the cover), there’s nothing innocent about this classic American novel or the love triangle at its center. Aristocratic young lawyer Newland Archer finds himself frothing with desire for the dangerously independent Ellen, but there are two problems: 1) she’s still married to a Polish count, and 2) she’s the cousin of Archer’s wife. What makes Wharton’s storytelling so satisfyingly brutal is the push-pull of highly refined exteriors (including Wharton’s impeccable, lapidary style) and tortured, frustrated interiors. The rarefied culture of the Gilded Age setting will appeal to the same mental taste buds that savor Downton Abbey and THE GREAT GATSBY (published just a few years later), but whereas the tragedy of Gatsby plays out in car crashes and gunshots, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE cuts out your heart with sharp wits and tongues. —Corby


Geek Love: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780375713347
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - June 11th, 2002

If GEEK LOVE hadn't been recommended to me by a friend, I probably would have thought it was a romance about a couple of gamers. But, happily, “geek,” in this context, means "a carnival performer who performs wild or disgusting acts,” including, but not limited to, biting the heads off of chickens. This book does, however, involve romance. By which I mean incest. I hope I'm not giving away too much here. I promise it's not like any kind of incest you've heard of before. The players in GEEK LOVE are members of a carny family whose parents set about breeding their own freaks. The parents experiment with a little cyanide and whatever under-the-sink poisons happen to be around and, voila, the mother gives birth to Siamese twins, a flipper boy, a dwarf and, most perplexing of all, the youngest, Chick, whose powers are disturbing and potent. Every stripe of dysfunctional family drama is on display here, except for cannibalism, maybe. Can't have everything. (If you want EVERYTHING, you should really read Titus Andronicus. I haven't, but I hear it's nice and gruesome.) GEEK LOVE touches on every dark corner of love. Also, there's a girl with a tail, so that's cool. —Brooke


Preparation for the Next Life Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780991360826
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tyrant Books - November 3rd, 2015

Love isn't always pretty. This visceral and highly charged debut tells the dysfunctional love story between an Iraq War veteran and an illegal Chinese immigrant. The setting is New York City and, much like the relationship, the things hidden in “prettier” novels are exposed. Yes, Lish seems to be saying, love is real, it exists, but here are what the bumps and bruises look like. A stunning and unforgettable book where the love between two people is as palpable as the graffiti on a subway. —Mark


The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977283
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Graywolf Press - January 19th, 2016

“Will you be my Valentine?” This dumb phrase has huge resonance in pop culture, but it’s a simplification; over the course of one’s lifetime, one has many different “Valentines.” Just ask Paul Lisicky. In this dazzling memoir, he recounts two major relationships, two major loves: one with his longtime partner, poet Mark Doty; the other with his best friend, novelist Denise Gess, who died of cancer in 2009. Lisicky has been writing for decades, but this is his breakout moment, a poetic memoir that intersects the personal with the global (all of our lives take place against the backdrop of history’s lurches, don’t they?), and a perfect story of “romance”—one that shows all the different forms love can take.  —Ben


On the Shelf Now: Get Him to the Greek

Don’t save the drama for your mama—go on and get yourself some Greek tragedy! At Brazos, we read a lot of contemporary fiction and nonfiction, but sometimes we lust for a bracing dose of the classics to give us that vertiginous sense of tradition and (let’s be honest) for all the gory family dysfunction, death, and destruction. Most of us know the cliches (incest! eye-gouging!) but not much else, which is a pity because Greek tragedy offers fascinating insights into the politics, philosophy, religion, and society of classical Athens.

The Story of the Iliad: A Dramatic Retelling of Homer’s Epic and the Last Days of Troy Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9780871408907
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Liveright - February 16th, 2015

I know what you’re thinking: wait a minute—the ILIAD is an epic poem, not a tragedy! True, but that’s what makes this new play by award-winning British poet Armitage so compelling—it’s a hybrid (or many-headed Hydra?) marrying the best plot points and themes of Homer’s military epic to the compressed time-frame and dramatic arc of tragedy. (As it happens, Aristotle said Homer was really the father of tragedy anyway, so we’ve got our bases covered.) Marvel at the hero Achilles and feel his accursed wrath; despise the deer-hearted Agamemnon; and indulge your love-hate relationship with Helen in this full-blooded modern adaptation that played at the famous Globe Theater in London just last year.


Bacchae Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062319678
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Ecco - August 18th, 2015

Never even dipped a toe into the bloody puddle of Greek tragedy? Then this is the play for you! All you really need to know about Euripides’ masterpiece is one ancient Greek word: “sparagmos,” which means “ripping something limb from limb.” Intrigued? You should be. This play’s got it all—an evil, repressive king; Jedi-style mind tricks; LOTS of cross-dressing; drunken all-night ragers; vindictive divinities; and, of course, sparagmos. Beyond all the jaw-dropping action, BACCHAE also shows a lot about Greek ideas of politics, religion, and gender norms. This new translation from acclaimed Scottish poet Robertson (who also has a wonderful translation of poems by Swedish Nobel-laureate Tomas Tranströmer) is light and nimble like Hermes, but when it needs to, it thunders like Zeus.


The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides Cover Image
By Aeschylus, Robert Fagles (Translated by), Robert Fagles (Introduction by), W. B. Stanford (Introduction by), Robert Fagles (Notes by), W. B. Stanford (Notes by)
$15.00
ISBN: 9780140443332
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Penguin Classics - February 7th, 1984

Fagles is probably the most loved, best-selling, and all-around strongest modern American translator of ancient Greek poetry (and Latin; his AENEID is incredible). Let him be the Vergil to your Dante as you step with trepidation into the dark underworld of Aeschylus’ ORESTEIA, which is hands down the richest, grimmest, most aesthetically magnificent example of tragedy in existence. THE ORESTEIA—which takes its name from Orestes, son of Agamemnon—is the only surviving three-play set (trilogy) from ancient Greece; in the ancient world, all three plays would have been performed on a single day, outdoors in the spring sunshine on the slope of the Athenian acropolis. The poet Aeschylus manages to generate such suspense (the famous carpet scene!) and such dynamic characters (you’ll have nightmares about Clytemnestra and Cassandra, believe me) that you’ll be tearing your hair, rending your clothes, and begging the Furies for a shred of mercy.


All That You've Seen Here Is God: New Versions of Four Greek Tragedies Sophocles' Ajax, Philoctetes, Women of Trachis; Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound Cover Image
By Bryan Doerries (Translated by), Sophocles, Aeschylus
$17.00
ISBN: 9780307949738
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - September 1st, 2015

These brand new translations from Bryan Doerries are beautiful on the page, but like a magic spell, their deep power lies in being spoken out loud, both in the study and on stage. Doerries (who will probably win a Genius Grant in the next couple of years) produced these direct contemporary versions in conjunction with his Theater of War project, a truly unique enterprise that brings together ancient texts, famous actors (including Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, and Dianne Wiest) and audiences of real soldiers. By experiencing the trauma of war as represented in these ancient Greek tragedies, contemporary veterans have found an avenue for talking about their own traumas, leading to more dialogue and the potential for more healing. All of this is explained in riveting detail in Doerries recent, acclaimed memoir THE THEATER OF WAR: WHAT ANCIENT GREEK TRAGEDIES CAN TEACH US TODAY (published by Knopf, also on our shelves now).


Antigonick Cover Image
$11.95
ISBN: 9780811222921
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: New Directions - May 29th, 2015

Antigo…who? You may think you know the story of Antigone—that ancient Theban Katniss Everdeen whose unwavering loyalty to family brings her to a bad end—but groundbreaking poet Anne Carson will open your eyes with this slim, challenging retelling which puts the Sophoclean original in dialogue with its many historical admirers like Hegel, Heidegger, and Brecht. The publisher—New Directions—is one of our absolute favorites here at Brazos; they also published Carson’s phenomenal NOX, an ode to her dead brother based on Catullus which took the form of an oversized, accordion-style facsimile scrapbook. This translation/adaptation is not for the timid—but lovers of Greek literature will find new ideas in Carson’s encounter with what Hegel called the confrontation of “right and right.”


Book List: North Korea

North Korea's recent test of what may or may not have been a hydrogen bomb has added a little extra spice to the kimchi of international politics. It would be easy to laugh at this propaganda state (as in The Interview, for example) if it weren’t so heartbreaking and so dangerous. Whereas war in the Middle East is spreading millions of refugees across the eastern Mediterranean and beyond, the victims of the North Korean military dictatorship are hermetically sealed off in a political and historical black hole.

The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780374175849
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - January 12th, 2016

If you’ve never read about the surreal North Korean abduction campaign, this book is for you. It’s a page-turner about various unsuspecting Japanese citizens who were disappeared in the 1970s/80s, plucked from their daily routines by teams of military commandos, put in sacks, and shipped off to live in cloistered communities in North Korea. Why? It’s complicated—but suffice it to say that the training of North Korean spies is involved. Boynton has published reporting in The New Yorker and New York Times (among other places), and this is a nonfiction thriller with the pace and excitement of a novel, but which will also teach you a lot about the troubled history of Korean-Japanese relations.

 


The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780812982626
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - August 7th, 2012

Johnson won the National Book Award in 2015 for his story collection Fortune Smiles, and this 2013 novel—which won the Pulitzer Prize—is a contemporary American classic and one of the best dystopian novels of all time. It’s protagonist Jun Do is a man of many faces—a commando, a radio operator, a diplomat (who travels to Texas, of all places), an impersonator—and the plot follows his Odyssean twists and turns up through the climactic confrontation with the Americans at the novel’s conclusion. Johnson was able to travel to North Korea during his research period for the book, and although it’s fiction, the book has been praised by journalists who’ve worked extensively in North Korea for its attention to the grim realities of life. Complex, bizarre, and compelling, the novel is a must-read.

 


Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America Cover Image
By Joseph Kim, Stephan Talty (Contributions by)
$28.00
ISBN: 9780544373174
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - June 2nd, 2015

This memoir is one of the best things we’ve read so far this year.  Yes, admittedly, part of the success of the book depends on our inevitable fascination with the surreal and macabre aspects of North Korean society; e.g. the section where the narrator and his sister try to figure out whether the soup they were served at a restaurant along the railroad tracks contained human meat (thousands, perhaps millions, of people died of starvation in North Korea in the 1990s, and the rumors about what people did for food are haunting). But what really makes this memoir compelling is Kim’s keen memory, sharp intelligence, and his way of crafting prose with a spare, light touch. You will feel incredibly close to this sensitive young man, which makes following his desperate journey—losing his family, escaping to China, and eventually ending up as a college student in New York—all the more riveting.


Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea's Elite Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780307720665
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Crown - October 13th, 2015

A truly unique memoir. Kim is a journalist who was born in the South but has traveled often to the North reporting for the New York Times, Harper's, and the New York Review of Books.  In 2011, she was hired to teach English to a small cadre of elite North Korean university students attending the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (all the other universities were closed at the time, with the students sent off to do manual labor for the state). She was struck by their unquestioning devotion to the state, but what makes this memoir engrossing are the fleeting glimpses into their individual personalities and private lives. The effect is heartbreaking because we sense just how much is suppressed in order not to run afoul of the ever-present surveillance state. A lucid, heartbreaking look at a part of North Korean society we rarely see.


Book List: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It’s a sad and amazing fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was not yet forty when he was assassinated at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel in 1968. The title of King’s last book was WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY?, and it’s hard to think of a more apt question for where we now find ourselves as a nation in 2016. This week, we acknowledge King’s incomparable strength of spirit and intelligence, as well the ongoing, evolving struggle for civil rights in America. Check out these seven titles—all on our shelves now—to get you thinking about where we go from here as a community.


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Cover Image
By Michelle Alexander, Cornel West (Introduction by)
$19.95
ISBN: 9781595586438
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: New Press - January 16th, 2012

The best recent book on the state of race relations in America; this is what you want to read if you want to really understand what’s behind #blacklivesmatter. Impassioned law professor Michelle Alexander makes a compelling case—supported with lots of data and an expert’s legal analysis—that the last few decades of America’s war on drugs has had a devastating impact on black America, essentially instituting a New Jim Crow. Cornel West blurbed it as “an instant classic” and has a characteristically brilliant introduction to this paperback edition.


Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780804137416
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Crown - January 12th, 2016

Published just two weeks ago, this emotional, truth-telling book from Princeton professor Glaude builds a case for what he calls the Great Black Depression, a perfect storm of economic and social injustices that have left black America disproportionately impacted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. This is a book from the heart, not a dry history or sociological analysis—part memoir, part manifesto. A keenly intelligent inside look at America in the age of Ferguson.


Citizen: An American Lyric Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9781555976903
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 7th, 2014

On pages 134-135 of this poetic masterpiece, Rankine has a list, a list that keeps growing with every reprinting: “In memory of Eric Garner…In memory of Tamir Rice…In memory of Sandra Bland…” These names—of African Americans who have died recently at the hands of law enforcement—are the names that define a troubling moment in American history. Rankin’s mixed-media volume has received more accolades than can be comfortably printed on the back cover—including being a National Book Award Finalist and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. This is the book that caused a stir at a Donald Trump rally—and rightly so. Widely hailed as one of the best, most original books of 2015.


S O S: Poems 1961-2013 Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780802124685
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Grove Press - February 9th, 2016

Poet Amiri Baraka started his career in conversation with the Beats and the New York school poets, but after the assassination of Malcolm X he essentially started a new life (including leaving his wife and kids) and evolved into a founder and leading voice of the Black Arts movement. SOS—a New York Times Notable book of 2015--is the most complete collection of Baraka’s poetry, from his first published work in the early 60s all the way to unpublished work written just before his death in 2014. Dip in to this tome to sense the ferciously intelligent, jazz-infused and improvisational aesthetic, much of it forged in the fire of the 1960s civil rights movement.


Between the World and Me Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - July 14th, 2015

When Toni Morrison tells you something is required reading, you’d best pay attention. Coates writes about being black in America on a visceral level, and it’s this immediacy that touched thousands (if not millions) of readers and won the book the National Book Award for non-fiction for 2015. Cast as a letter from Coates to his teenage son, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME is also an outpouring of grief over the death of Coates’ Howard University friend Prince Jones, who was shot and killed by police after being mistaken for a criminal. This book has quickly become the most important literary and cultural talking point in America.


The Sellout: A Novel Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780374260507
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 3rd, 2015

This is without a doubt one of the smartest and funniest novels of 2015. In 2006 Paul Beatty edited a great anthology, HOKUM: AN ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HUMOR, and his authorial voice in this novel is not only laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also antic, cuttingly satiric and insightful. THE SELLOUT tells the story of an artisanal watermelon and marijuana dealer who ends up in a case before the US Supreme Court (where he doesn’t shy away from lighting up in front of Clarence Thomas). Beatty does not write superficial satire, and every aspect of racial conflict in America comes in for skewering.


Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101875438
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf - September 29th, 2015

Lewis dedicates her volume “for BEAUTY,” and this glittering, enigmatic National Book Award-winning collection certainly lives up to it. The title poem is an 80-page masterpiece, constructed completely from “titles, catalog entries, or exhibit descriptions” of museum pieces representing the black female form, from 38,000 BC to the present. Lewis is a genius, and she uses her gifts for language to give voice to these anonymous, objectified women. This is a book that will stand up to re-readings for years.


Indie Inspiration: Discover Great Books

Anyone who knows us knows that we’re big fans of indie presses—especially ones that specialize in literature-in-translation. Recently, we were ecstatic to host the editors of five of our favorite presses: Archipelago Books, New Directions, Open Letter, Restless Books, and Tyrant Books. To celebrate them, check out these ten great titles that will introduce you to new characters and worlds.

From Archipelago Books…

In Red Cover Image
By Magdalena Tulli, Bill Johnston (Translated by)
$16.00
ISBN: 9781935744085
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Archipelago - October 21st, 2011

In this book, fantasy doesn’t just meet history; fantasy drives a book into history’s home. Set in an imaginary fourth partition of Poland, IN RED finds all the nastiness in humanity: greed, stasis, and cruelty. Bleak literature? Hard to say so when the writing is this exhilarating. Tulli is one of Poland’s greatest writers, and thanks to Archipelago, we have this remarkable book available in the United States.


My Struggle: Book Four Cover Image
By Karl Ove Knausgaard, Don Bartlett (Translated by)
$27.00
ISBN: 9780914671176
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Archipelago - April 28th, 2015

Come on, it’s Knausgaard. What more do you want? The man embodies everything about the European intellectual, and in photographs, he smolders. Oh boy, do I sound like I’m getting the vapors? My, my, bring me my fainting chair. Meanwhile, Archipelago will release book five of the monumental MY STRUGGLE series in April. Wake me up when it gets here.


From New Directions…


Beauty Is a Wound Cover Image
By Eka Kurniawan, Annie Tucker (Translated by)
$19.95
ISBN: 9780811223638
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: New Directions - September 8th, 2015

One of the great pleasures—perhaps duties—of indie presses, especially those that specialize in translation (like New Directions), is to introduce readers to the literature of new countries. Consider Indonesia: what was the last Indonesian novel you read? Thanks to New Directions, you can pick up BEAUTY IS A WOUND by Eka Kurniawan. He’s one of the great young world writers, and without New Directions, he would’ve been completely unavailable to American readers—which would’ve been a shame. You won’t want to miss this magical, haunting saga.


The Musical Brain: And Other Stories Cover Image
By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
$29.95
ISBN: 9780811220293
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: New Directions - March 3rd, 2015

New Directions: the only English publisher of César Aira, one of Argentina’s greatest authors. Where to even start? After all, the dude has published an estimated eighty novels, all teensy. No, he’s not precious with his work. He writes a book? He puts the damn thing out. (And he claims he never revises anything!) These books are strange and experimental, but they’re still founded in great storytelling. Aira is very much in the lineage of other legendary New Directors authors...including, yes, Bolaño.


From Open Letter…


The Things We Don't Do Cover Image
By Andrés Neuman, Nick Caistor (Translator), Lorenza Garcia (Translator)
$13.95
ISBN: 9781940953182
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Open Letter - August 25th, 2015

There’s this Bolaño quote that always gets thrown around when talking about Neuman: that twenty-first century literature will belong to him. Read THE THINGS WE DON’T DO and you’ll see why. The stories are inventive, smart, snazzy—but forget that for a second. What I remember about Neuman is when the Brazos staff joined him for dinner after an event in October. Over Italian food and wine, he proved himself a supreme intellect, regaling us with stories while also demonstrating great curiosity in all of us. Literature will belong to him indeed.


War, So Much War Cover Image
By Mercè Rodoreda, Martha Tennent (Translator), Maruxa Relaño (Translator)
$13.95
ISBN: 9781940953229
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Open Letter - November 10th, 2015

The best books from Open Letter feel fresh, contemporary, and universal, no matter what country or time they come from. Consider Rodoreda, a giant of Catalan literature, and a favorite of #CultOfMark’s leader and Brazos’ floor manager Mark Haber. In WAR, SO MUCH WAR, she tells a story about the Spanish Civil War, and a young boy’s poetic, surreal adventures. Though she wrote this book in the 1980s, it feels vital still. Literature in translation? Yes—and Open Letter proves that, through translation, we can all get closer to each other as readers.


From Restless Books…


A Legend of the Future Cover Image
By Agustín de Rojas, Nick Caistor (Translated by)
$15.99
ISBN: 9781632060358
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Restless Books - June 23rd, 2015

Smart readers know to look toward indie presses for some truly genre-defying work. Consider de Rojas, considered the father of Cuban science fiction. Not until Restless Books translated A LEGEND OF THE FUTURE was his work available in English. So, do you know people who turn up their noses at genre fiction, thinking it pedestrian? Give them de Rojas...and thank Restless Books.


Where the Bird Sings Best Cover Image
By Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alfred MacAdam (Translated by)
$27.99
ISBN: 9781632060280
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Restless Books - March 31st, 2015

Look...it’s Jodorowsky. What more do we need to say? The man is a master filmmaker and artist. You know his works: the trippy western El Topo, the surreal horror film Santa Sangre, and plenty of visionary works of visual art. This novel is no different. There are insane beekeepers. There are ghosts. There are a variety of weirdoes, all of whom Jodorowsky loves. Want strange, moving works of fiction like this? Look to indie presses like Restless Books.

From Tyrant Books...


Bad Sex Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9780991360802
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Tyrant Books - September 15th, 2015

Okay, check out Clancy Martin’s author photo: long black coat, mussed hair, cigarette to his lips, disaffected as hell. Yes, this is the portrait of an indie author. Thing is, Clancy Martin, a philosopher and novelist, published his first books with FSG, one of the big New York publishers. Now, he brings his signature style—smart, tough, and a little irreverent—to an indie press. In the past, the indies have acted as a sort of warm up for authors waiting to make the jump to big corporate publishing; it’s nice to now see the opposite happening. [Clancy Martin visits us Tuesday, 1/12, at 7pm!]


Preparation for the Next Life Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780991360826
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tyrant Books - November 3rd, 2015

The story behind this book seems so unlikely. Lish wrote a dense, troubling book about modern America. Yes, it’s a love story, but one that exposes the difficult situations of veterans and undocumented immigrants. Not an easy read, this book came from a boutique indie press. Expectations, perhaps low. But from there, well, the damn thing caught on, sold and sold, and eventually won the PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, Lish is nearly a household literary name. Powerful things, these indie presses.


2015 National Book Award Winners

The National Book Awards for 2015 were announced in New York City on November 18. For the second year in a row, a collection of short stories wins the fiction prize. Ta-Nehisi Coates' runaway hit takes the non-fiction award. Kids Lit that deals with schizophrenia and poetry that deals with biography and race win in their respective categories. Reserve your copies online or call us at 713-523-0701 and pick them up in the store!

Staff Pick Badge
Fortune Smiles: Stories Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812997477
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - August 18th, 2015

Fiction Winner -- 2015

Ben interview Adam Johnson earlier this year. Read the article here >>


Between the World and Me Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - July 14th, 2015

Non-Fiction Winner -- 2015


Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101875438
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf - September 29th, 2015

Poetry Winner -- 2015


Challenger Deep Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780061134111
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Quill Tree Books - April 21st, 2015

Young People's Literature Winner -- 2015


The Freedom to Tell Stories: A Banned Books Week Manifesto

When it comes to books, “necessary” might actually be one of the most dangerous words. It suggests that some books should—nay, deserve!—to fade into obscurity, while others should be lauded by all. Every year for Banned Books Week, schools, libraries, and bookstores huddle around a similar list of (admittedly great) English-language titles—BELOVED, CATCH-22, CATCHER IN THE RYE, etc. After all, they were saved from hellfire! But what about books beyond the standard list?

Gargoyles: A Novel (Vintage International) Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781400077557
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Vintage - October 17th, 2006

Thomas Bernhard may be the only author on this list to have banned himself. In a legendary act of spite that he referred to as “posthumous literary emigration,” Bernhard directed in his last will and testament that his novels and plays could not be published or staged in his native Austria for the duration of his copyright over them. Which seems a little counterproductive as a punishment, as his literature is often an exacting condemnation of precisely what he detested about his fatherland—wouldn’t he want Austrians to read it? But anyway, thankfully he did not disbar the rest of the world from publishing it, and this is a right you should definitely exercise. I recommend you start with the grotesque, spectacular GARGOYLES.


Kiss of the Spider Woman (Vintage International) Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780679724490
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - April 3rd, 1991

As politics in Argentina were going from bad to worse—that is, from a fascistic government under the military officer Juan Perón to an outright military junta that murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens—Manuel Puig decided to publish a brazenly sexual novel about two Argentine men locked away in a military prison, one of whom was an insurgent fighter, and the other of whom was a homosexual. If ever there were a book destined to be banned. But it is also an astonishing novel that was far, far ahead of its time—for starters, it anticipated the sampling and cultural recycling that has been popularized by Internet culture, and it also pioneered an understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity that has only just recently become widespread and popular. Plus, it’s just an incredibly entertaining, moving, and beautifully-written book.


Petals of Blood (Penguin African Writers Series #1) Cover Image
By Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Moses Isegawa (Introduction by), Chinua Achebe (Series edited by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143039174
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Penguin Classics - February 22nd, 2005

This is an author who has done many different things to get himself banned. The troubles started in 1976 with his novel PETALS OF BLOOD, which deals with the aftermath of the Kenyan independence movement. This book was incendiary because it delved into the incredibly controversial and frightening Mau Mau Uprising (a thing many in Kenyan politics would like to forget).

His next work, a play titled I WILL MARRY WHEN I WANT, was controversial for its themes, but even more because Ngũgĩ chose to write it in the indigenous language Gikuyu, which the Kenyan government has sought to suppress. Since then, as he has continued to write important, politically-charged works, he has been imprisoned and harassed in his native Kenya, forcing him to live much of his life in exile. His magnum opus, and an extraordinary read, is the 800-page WIZARD OF THE CROW, a remarkable modern fable about African power politics that also is a deep examination of storytelling and folktales.

Scott Esposito is the co-author of THE END OF OULIPO? His book THE SURRENDER will be published next spring. In August, he interviewed Ben Moser about Clarice Lispector for The Paris Review Daily, and other recent publications include the San Francisco Chronicle, the Literary Hub, Words Without Borders, and the Times Literary Supplement. He's a Contributing editor to BOMB magazine.



Lori Feathers picks...


The Stalin Epigram Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781416598657
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 1st, 2010

We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay,
More than ten steps away you can’t hear what we say.

These first two lines of Osip Mandelstam’s STALIN EPIGRAM (reproduced with the permission of translator Dmitri Smirnov) distill the emotional alienation inflicted by censorship. The poet and essayist Mandelstam lived for years in debilitating fear, not knowing whether he and his wife Nadezhda would be executed because of his writings. Stalin enjoyed playing psychological games with Mandelstam, once arresting and sentencing him to death only to later reduce his sentence to exile to Russia’s interior.

Mandelstam wrote STALIN EPIGRAM in 1933 but was not arrested for it until five years later. He died soon after in a Soviet prison camp at the age of forty-seven. The artist’s years of creativity and anguish are captured in Robert Littell’s absorbing historical novel, THE STALIN EPIGRAM, and in Nadezhda Mandelstam’s memoirs, HOPE AGAINST HOPE and HOPE ABANDONED.


Life and Fate Cover Image
By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler (Introduction by)
$24.95
ISBN: 9781590172018
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: NYRB Classics - May 16th, 2006

Rightly compared to WAR AND PEACE for the grandeur of its scale and ambition, LIFE AND FATE portrays the life of ordinary Soviet citizens and soldiers during World War II. Grossman not only provides a vivid, historical account of the hardships endured by Hitler’s invasion but through the novel’s flesh-and-blood characters, he exposes the terrors wrought by Soviet totalitarianism, questioning whether fascism would be any worse than Stalin’s dictatorship.

Although he finished the novel years earlier, Grossman waited until 1960 to submit the manuscript of LIFE AND FATE for publication under the mistaken belief that Khrushchev’s “thaw” signaled what would be a likely openness to his novel. In February 1961, the KGB came to his home and confiscated what they believed to be the only copies of the novel, and according to Robert Chandler in his introduction to the novel (New York Review of Books edition), this is the only time that Soviet authorities “arrested” a book rather than its author (other than the temporary confiscation of Bulgakov’s A DOG’S HEART).

Grossman died in 1964 and it was not until ten years later that his friend was able to smuggle out of the Soviet Union one of the two secret copies of this remarkable novel.


The Family Mashber Cover Image
By Der Nister, Leonard Wolf (Translated by), David Malouf (Introduction by)
$22.95
ISBN: 9781590172797
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: NYRB Classics - May 20th, 2008

Der Nister, which means “the hidden one,” was the pen name of Ukrainian author Pinhas Kahanovitch. His THE FAMILY MASHBER is a detail-rich, dramatic novel about a prosperous Jewish family living in 1870s Ukraine. Along with its colorful depiction of Yiddish society in Eastern Europe and the robust commercial ties that existed between Jewish merchants/bankers and the local Polish nobility, the book’s focus is the family crisis that develops when one of the Mashber brothers breaks with the community’s religious traditions.

Der Nister was among a group of Yiddish writers that was arrested by Soviet authorities in 1949, and he died soon after in a Soviet prison hospital. The first two volumes of THE FAMILY MASHBER are contained in the New York Review of Books edition; the third, completed but not published prior to Der Nister’s death, has never been found.

Lori Feathers is a freelance book critic. Her recent reviews can be found at Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, Three Percent, Rain Taxi, and on Twitter @LoriFeathers.



Sophie Hughes picks...


Lysistrata Cover Image
By Aristophanes, Douglass Parker (Translated by), Judith Fletcher (Afterword by)
$5.95
ISBN: 9780451531247
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Signet - April 7th, 2009

LYSISTRATA is perhaps the best known of Aristophanes’ surviving comedies, and was banned in 1967 in Greece because of its anti-war message. If you don’t know anything about the plot, you won’t spot the implicit irony in the mere single accusation that it is anti-war. By modern standards, it is also incredibly lewd and explicit. Our titular heroine’s name, Lysistrata, translates as “she who disbands armies.” She does so by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands, forcing them to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata’s sex-strike speeches, and the MONTY PYTHON-esque double entendres are simply unmissable:

CLEONICÉ: And why do you summon us, dear Lysistrata? What is it all about?
LYSISTRATA: About a big affair.
CLEONICÉ: And is it thick too?


Mein Kampf Cover Image
By Konrad Heiden (Introduction by), Ralph Manheim (Translated by), Adolpf Hitler
$24.99
ISBN: 9780395925034
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Mariner Books - September 15th, 1998

Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto, was unsurprisingly banned in most European countries and in several others around the world. In early 2014, digital sales soared, and arguments for whether Mein Kampf should still be read or not abounded. Of course, one must decide for oneself. Oddly, there is also a nice piece of bookshop trivia about MEIN KAMPF: during WWII, at the start of the Blitz, co-founder of London’s Foyles bookshop, William Foyles, filled sandbags with old books to protect the shop from damage and covered the roof with copies of Mein Kampf to ward off bombers.


Ulysses (Oxford World's Classics) Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780199535675
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - September 1st, 2011

James Joyce’s novel ULYSSES was temporarily banned in UK, Australia and U.S.A for its sexual content. There’s really nothing I can add to Adam Thirwell’s incisive, joyous essay/review, “It’s Still A Scandal!,” which I read earlier this year in The New York Review of Books. For me, as a literary translator, ULYSSES is a bible. Do I understand it all? Of course not! But Joyce is my unfailing saviour when I’m stuck for a voice…

Sophie Hughes is a literary translator and editor living in Mexico City. Her translations and reviews have appeared in Asymptote, Dazed and Confused, Words Without Borders, The White Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. Her translation of Iván Repila’s internationally acclaimed novel THE BOY WHO STOLE ATTILA’S HORSE is published this fall by Pushkin Press.



Antonio Ruiz-Camacho picks...


Kiss of the Spider Woman (Vintage International) Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780679724490
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - April 3rd, 1991

It almost feels silly to include on this list a novel that has been, we assume, so widely read—and then there's the 1985 movie adaptation, directed by Hector Babenco, and the Broadway adaptation, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1993 and ran for more than 900 performances. But have people actually read it? I'm sure I'm not the only one who watched the movie first and then read the book, as I'm convinced somebody else has already said this: nothing prepares you for this book. KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, which depicts the relationship between two inmates inside a prison cell during the Argentine dictatorship, is not only a devastating portrait of the abuse of power and machismo in Latin America, but a master class in the novel form in and on itself. Puig, who lived in exile for most of his life, reveled in the use of raw, unmarked dialogue and alternating points of view, and in turning seemingly vain pop culture references—B movies, soap operas—into profound and hysterical, twitching and heartbreaking classic pieces of storytelling.


Dirty Havana Trilogy: A Novel in Stories Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780060006891
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Ecco - February 5th, 2002

In October of 1998, the prestigious Barcelona-based house Anagrama published Matanzas-born Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's first book, DIRTY HAVANA TRILOGY, to instant critical and commercial success. Three months later, Bohemia, the Cuban magazine where he had worked as a journalist for twenty-six years, fired him without further explanation. Censorship of his works—unsentimental, seismic, in-your-freaking-face depictions of life, poverty, hunger and sex in Cuba under the Castro regime, that reject definition—ensued.

While some of his books have been translated to English and even published here in the past, they are still somewhat hard to find in the U.S. Banned in the island for years, Gutiérrez is now being published, and recognized, in his homeland. With a new book published by Anagrama last week—FABIÁN Y EL CAOS—and our newly restored buddy-ness with Cuba, make sure to watch out for the writings of soul-searing, flesh-slapping Gutiérrez. He might as well become the next Karl Ove Knausgaard.


Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent into Darkness Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780143125532
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2014

With eighty-eight journalists killed since 2000, Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters. "They are threatened and murdered by organized crime or corrupt officials with impunity," explains Reporters Without Borders. "The resulting climate of fear leads to self-censorship and undermines freedom of information."

Alfredo Corchado, a Nieman, Woodrow Wilson, and Rockefeller fellow and the Mexico bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News, knows one thing or two about the willingness of Mexico's dark forces to silence journalists. One night in 2007, Corchado, who had long been reporting on government corruption, murders in Juárez, and Mexican ruthless drug cartels, received a tip that he could be the next target of the Zetas, a violent paramilitary group—and that he had twenty-four hours to find out if the threat was true.

MIDNIGHT IN MEXICO is not only the moving and gripping journey of a reporter to understand and expose the truths of the newfound country he left as a kid. It is also a must-read for those on this side of the border willing to understand the hidden war next door we are, admittedly or not, part of—one that keeps getting more convoluted, and more tragic, by the minute.

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho is the author of the critically-acclaimed story collection BAREFOOT DOGS. A former John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University and a Dobie Paisano fellow in fiction, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Texas Monthly, Salon, Etiqueta Negra, and elsewhere. He lives in Austin, where he's at work on a novel.



Join us for our 5th Annual Banned Book Celebration on Saturday, October 3, 2015


A Pulitzer Prize Winner, a Neuroscientist, and a Nobel Prize Winner Walk into a Bookstore

This fall, we are proud to have a calendar full of amazing authors. Three of our biggest events will be hosted at Christ Church Cathedral downtown and the soon-to-open Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH).

Intellectual Cats

Sure, cats rule the internet with their adorable videos, but they've also conquered the pages of literary fiction!

The Guest Cat Cover Image
By Takashi Hiraide, Eric Selland (Translated by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9780811221504
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: New Directions - January 28th, 2014

Last year, New Directions quietly published THE GUEST CAT by Takashi Hiraide and it became an unexpected breakout hit. The story concerns a quiet couple in Tokyo who's lives are changed by the arrival of a stray cat.


Fancy Cover Image
$14.00
ISBN: 9781940400075
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Ellipsis - February 3rd, 2015

FANCY is a delight! Ostensibly a list of instructions to tend a housecat while the owner is away, FANCY surprises with digression after digression about the nature of life and, of course, cats.


Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong Cover Image
By Caroline Casey (Editor), Chris Fischbach (Editor), Sarah Schultz (Editor)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781566894111
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Coffee House Press - September 15th, 2015

Our friends at Coffee House Press created this collection of literary essays abougt the importance of cats and cat videos in the social order. Thoughtful, funny, and endlessly interesting, you'll love this book as much as your kitty loves a new ball of yarn.


A Cat, A Man, and Two Women Cover Image
By Junichiro Tanizaki, Paul McCarthy (Translated by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9780811224499
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: New Directions - August 27th, 2015

#BrazosBest Picks for September

In September: on the (im)possibility of becoming a good man in a dying world; Mexican dentistry and the art of storytelling; the rise of America’s first female deputy; surviving rape and finding one’s self on the Pacific Crest; a love letter to the inimitable Joan Didion.

Staff Pick Badge
Scrapper Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781616955212
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - September 15th, 2015

Set during the apocalypse of our present, in a slowly decaying Detroit, Matt Bell’s latest novel is a vertiginous plummet into the darkest heart of man. A “scrapper” who makes his living selling off the remnants of America piece by piece stumbles upon a kidnapped child in an abandoned house, starting him on a disturbing quest for justice and redemption. Yet, what he uncovers will unearth secrets from his own inescapable past, ultimately culminating in a reckoning at the intersection of who we are and who we choose to be. Complex, troubling, and written in lyrical prose that belies its harrowing narrative, you will not easily forget SCRAPPER.

Keaton


Staff Pick Badge
The Story of My Teeth Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781566894098
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - September 15th, 2015

Lovely, exuberant, and unlike anything you’ve read before, THE STORY OF MY TEETH is the story of Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez Sanchez, the self-proclaimed “greatest auctioneer in the world.” Sanchez is a model of self-invention, a worthy successor to Quixote or, at the very least, Sancho Panza. With wondrous prose, Luiselli explores the relationships we have to the objects in our lives, as well as the context of their worth. Bursting with imagination, playfulness, and good-natured invention, THE STORY OF MY TEETH is a letter to stories and the profound act of telling them.

Mark


Staff Pick Badge
Girl in the Woods: A Memoir Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780062291066
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: William Morrow - September 8th, 2015

You are allowed to give yourself permission. For Debby Parker, that meant leaving Colorado College after the institution shamed her and saved her rapist. Rather than retreat to her hometown in Massachusetts, Parker hiked the Pacific Crest Trail—all 2,650 miles, from Mexico to Canada—and became Aspen Matis. With her memoir GIRL IN THE WOODS, Matis illustrates these mantras: trust yourself and only rapists cause rape.

Annalia


Staff Pick Badge
Girl Waits with Gun (A Kopp Sisters Novel #1) Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780544409910
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - September 1st, 2015

Constance Kopp and her sisters like their secluded farm life: Constance keeps the house, Norma keeps her pigeons, and teenage Fleurette keeps them entertained with her theatrics. When an obnoxious tycoon runs their buggy down with his car, Constance tries to get him to pay damages—and unwittingly unleashes a campaign of deadly intimidation upon their tidy life. This crackling page-turner is ripped from the headlines of 1916, based on true events, with a phenomenally larger than life heroine. GIRL WAITS WITH GUN is a zinging detective story, a late-bloomer's coming-of-age tale, and a painfully heartfelt story of family, all in one easily-devoured package.

Liz


Staff Pick Badge
The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9781250010025
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: St. Martin's Press - August 25th, 2015

As a Didion devotee, I was in love with this book from its conception. When the advanced copy came, though, I hesitated. Would THE LAST LOVE SONG, the first and only Joan Didion biography, prove to be a death knoll? Would it be like some other celebrity biographies, where so much has been invented by the author that it’s hard to call it non-fiction? On the contrary, Daughtry always remembers his place: a biographer of a living person. He aims to illuminate Didion through her work, not the other way around. Delicate but thorough, THE LAST LOVE SONG is a love letter in its own right.

Annalia


Pages