Reviews

This is for an in-depth review of a book, this is not to be confused with the staff recommendations page.

Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain (Alan Light)

Alan Light’s profile of Prince and Purple Rain’s place in the strange tapestry of the 1980s is fascinating as it is multi-faceted. LET’S GO CRAZY is not a love letter to “the purple one” as much as an examination of eccentricity and exploration of celebrity. But for readers who do want to know more about Prince, the most rewarding thing about this book is that his words are in here, too. Sure, there are also thoughts from key players like fellow former bandmates Lisa and Wendy, but Light understands that no manifesto on Purple Rain would be complete without the man himself. If you want a VIP pass to what it was like to make the record and the movie, from their synthesis to their bombastic 30 year legacy, this is your ticket.

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Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781476776729
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Atria Books - December 9th, 2014

Fram (Steve Himmer)

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Fram Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781935439981
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Ig Publishing - January 13th, 2015

Does your job hold you back? Oscar’s certainly does. Although he once dreamt of exploring the Arctic, he now works as a low-level functionary in the US government’s Bureau of Ice Prognostication, monitoring the tundra via web cam. But life contains surprises, and soon Oscar finds himself carried away on a mysterious adventure in the Arctic that’ll put into practice his lifetime of dreaming. An adventure story in the spirit of Douglas Adams, FRAM shows Steve Himmer’s mastery of the satirical and the bittersweet.


100 Sideways Miles (Andrew Smith)

Finn Easton counts time by the turn of the Earth—one second is twenty miles—and thinks about the stars his atoms came from (and their collision with the dead horse that fell a hundred sideways miles and gave him epilepsy and a scar on his back, in exchange for his mother’s life). His life is pretty settled now—until new student Julia Bishop comes to town and throws all his atoms out of whack. The ensuing romance and road trip has to be read to be believed. This new novel from Andrew Smith (of WINGER and GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE fame) crackles with Smith’s trademark chatty, vulgar smarts—no one captures teenage years in such sweaty, vivid technicolor. Andrew Smith’s teenagers are real. They swear, they sneak beers, and they make bad decisions. They worry about being “that kid,” about their friends, about wanting their parents to trust them. And, y’know what? They do okay. They have good friendships, good relationships with their parents, and end up with a pretty good sense of self. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I wish I’d had Andrew Smith’s books to read as a teenager. There's absolutely no pretension to them. 

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100 Sideways Miles Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781442444959
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - September 2nd, 2014

Half a World Away (Cynthia Kadohata)

This book follows a recent trend of literary fiction for the older middle grade audience (10-14 year olds). This is the story of Jaden, a twelve year old boy who was adopted from Romania when he was eight. When the story begins, his adoptive parents have decided to adopt a baby from Kazhakstan, and the majority of the novel's action takes place on this two-month trip to bond with and take home their new brother and son. Kadohata vividly portrays Jaden's struggles adjusting to his new life in America and a stable home. The narrative delves into his insecurities, difficulty bonding, and their contributing factors from his childhood in a Romanian orphanage. While the story has serious elements, they are presented in ways that will teach children about some of the nuances of culture, international adoption, and belonging in a family. If you ever feel like there are no books out there for your ten/eleven/twelve year old strong readers, look no further! I loved this story and it really got me thinking--a double whammy!

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Half a World Away Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781442412750
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - September 2nd, 2014

The David Foster Wallace Reader

What would David Foster Wallace’s legacy have become if depression hadn’t taken him from the literary world in 2008? It’s one of those impossible questions, of course, but leafing through THE DAVID FOSTER WALLACE READER, you get a full sense of not only the magnitude of his absence, but also the breadth of work he left behind.

 

People often paint Wallace as a forbidding brainiac—crafter of footnotes and dense sentences—but this new compendium reminds you how limber he was, skilled with different forms and tones. Here, you’ll find the exuberant comedy of THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM, the anger of BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, the sad humanity of OBLIVION. Then, of course, you’ll find the nonfiction: classic essays about state fairs and cruise ships, but also never-before-published syllabi from Wallace’s decades of teaching.

 

Finally, there’s the mind-boggling centerpiece of his career, INFINITE JEST, a novel of astonishing range and tonal complexity, of which THE DAVID FOSTER WALLACE READER presents excerpts. Have you read it already? Relive the experience with these selections. Haven’t tackled it yet? Let these snapshots of Wallace’s masterpiece act as a primer, and let this collection as a whole acquaint you—or reacquaint you—with the work of America’s most important contemporary author.

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The David Foster Wallace Reader Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780316182393
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Little, Brown and Company - November 11th, 2014

Mermaids in Paradise (Lydia Millet)

If critics only recently figured out what to do with Lydia Millet, go easy on them: it’s not like she made it easy. While some authors flog the same subject and style in book after book, Millet has made it her business to shape-shift since her 1996 debut. There’s the satirical GEORGE BUSH, DARK PRINCE OF LOVE; the atomic, DeLillo-esque sprawl of OH PURE AND RADIANT HEART; the trilogy of lonely, environmentally conscious Los Angeles novels, cresting with the magnificent MAGNIFICENCE. Hell, earlier this year, she even released her first YA novel (the terrific PILLS AND STARSHIPS).

 

All of her books are worth reading, but her new novel, MERMAIDS IN PARADISE, is the best of her career. In it, young newlyweds—emblems of American lives lived online—travel to an island resort for their honeymoon. There, they encounter the titular creatures: mermaids, far out in the ocean. It doesn’t take long for the mermaids to come under attack from bureaucratic resort officials that want to conquer the environment, turning every last natural resource into commerce. Working at this intersection of thematic seriousness and narrative lightheartedness, Millet winds up feeling mythical herself: the rare author who can issue dire warnings about American culture with a smile on her face.

Mermaids in Paradise: A Novel Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780393245622
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 3rd, 2014

You Feel So Mortal (Peggy Shinner)

Peggy Shinner’s book of essays, YOU FEEL SO MORTAL, is a brilliant and engaging examination of the relationships we have with our bodies. Filled with sharp wit and good-natured wisdom, these essays consider such myriad subjects as feet, hair, bras, posture, plastic surgery and even shoplifting. Mixing the personal with the historical, Shinner investigates autopsies, athleticism, even her ‘Jewish feet’. 

 

What makes this collection so powerful is that all of us can relate; we all have bodies which are intricately tied to our identities. Haven’t we all at some time studied our own noses and feet—and eventual crow’s feet? Haven’t we sometimes desired different noses or eyes, straighter or thicker hair? When debating the notion of good posture as a reflection to our own morals, she writes, “We have a whole vocabulary built around posture; that to slouch belies, indeed violates, a moral imperative in our culture. Slumping isn’t just ugly or bad for your health; it diminishes your entire being.” She wonders if Obama’s infamous bow to Emperor Akihito of Japan in 2009—at nearly ninety degrees—was going too far. 

 

Shinner’s essays stay with you long after reading them. By investigating the mechanics of her own anatomy, by peeling away the strata of her own physical form, she shows us ours.

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You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780226105277
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: University of Chicago Press - March 19th, 2014

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

I closed this book after reading the final page, sighed, and said to my boyfriend, “This book is what books are supposed to be.” I was reading passages out loud, evaluating how I look at the world, and always desperate for one more page, one more chapter before I go to sleep. 

 

Every summary you read of this book will be woefully incomplete, including mine, because the plot here is a subtle and complex staging area for this character and prose-driven story. This book is about Arthur Leander, a famous actor with a small town past and a string of ex-wives, who dies onstage during a performance of King Lear in Toronto. True. This book is about Jeevan, a former paparazzo/journalist and one of the first to be warned of the global pandemic Georgian Flu on the night Leander dies. Also true. This book is about the Traveling Symphony, a Shakespeare troupe that travels around the former Lake Michigan twenty years after the Georgia Flu wipes out 99.9% of humanity and sends the world into rural, lawless chaos. True again. Jumping through time and from character to character, Mandel shows the connections--some three-strand, others tenuous--between each of these stories and experiences. Just when you think she’s expanded the novel’s world, you realize that she has, in fact, doubled back and returned to center. This novel is a spirograph drawing, in which a number of arcs intersect in a central point, forming a tight, dynamic whole.

 

So what’s at the center of this novel that makes it so special? STATION ELEVEN celebrates the humanity of the technological age and finds wonder in the minutiae of everyday, First World experiences; the accessibility of news, a phone’s ability to connect people across continents, the light inside a refrigerator. It leads you to marvel at the complexity of the world around us and all the moving parts that keep it running (relatively) smoothly. What’s more, Mandel grounds these explorations in realistic depictions of human crisis reactions, and avoids stereotypes of the most extreme heroes-and-villains identities that are so common to post-apocalyptic narratives. Everyone is traumatized. Everyone. That trauma takes on different shapes, and expresses itself in memories, movements, violence, and friendship. Lyrical reverie rubs against fear, intersects with families, travels alongside loss, to inspire feelings you won’t soon shake.

 

Station Eleven: A novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Knopf - September 9th, 2014

Not My Father's Son (Alan Cumming)

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it, too—oh, great, another celebrity memoir, I remember thinking; I love the guy, I hope this isn’t another rambling, self-indulgent actor book. Alan Cumming has never yet disappointed me with his work, and I’m happy to say that his streak continues unbroken: this memoir is not only a suspenseful and deeply emotional unraveling of a family mystery, but a beautiful, gripping tale of survival in the face of shattering abuse. Cumming uses his appearance on British genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? to frame his story, as he signs on to explore the mystery of his maternal grandfather Tommy Darling, a WWII courier whose disappearance and subsequent death (in a “gun accident” in Malaysia) left his family with scores of unanswered questions. His probe into the past, however, prompts a call from his estranged father Alex Cumming—a tyrannical abuser who held Alan’s family hostage to his shifting moods, and whose psychological terrorism and explosive violence made Alan’s childhood a nightmare. Alex drops an emotional bombshell of nuclear equivalent into Alan’s world, and it’s Alan’s search for the truth of his father’s words that drives this unflinchingly honest memoir.

 

These twin mysteries give the story a shape, keeping it from veering off-course into disconnected reminiscing, while giving Cumming plenty of opportunities for illustrative scenes of his childhood or early career, when his father’s abuse was at its worst (or when his repressed memories of the worst were wreaking their subtle, awful effect on him). Every flashback or family story serves a purpose, and all of them take a brave and clear-eyed look at the elder Cumming’s abuse and Alan’s recovery from it. Cumming’s voice is just as you’d expect: funny, straightforward, and delightfully off-color at times, and it’s that sense of humor that keeps a sense of hope and lightness, even when he’s telling you about his very worst memories. Joy abounds in Cumming’s escape from his father’s reign of terror and his finding a way forward from his past. As he untangles the threads of his family mysteries, you’ll feel the same powerful catharsis Cumming does, and like the man himself, you’ll emerge lighter and freer at the end.

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Not My Father's Son: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062225061
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dey Street Books - October 7th, 2014

Horrorstor (Grady Hendrix)

This story of a haunted Ikea knockoff is designed like a catalog--which makes its initial too-normal horror even creepier. Because we all agree, enormous soulless home stores are creepy, right? Naturally, when things get supernatural, its bland and generic setting ups the horror ante, making everything seem twice as terrifyingly twisted when set against the sterile backdrop of a massive home goods showroom. The design of this book adds a wonderful visual touch to Hendrix' incredibly graphic writing style: chapters are prefaced with the catalog pages of the home goods items described (and also destroyed) in the chapter--items that grow steadily more unsettling as the book progresses. HORRORSTOR has all the horror fixtures you could want: a resilient heroine, a terrifying villain, and amazing set design and atmosphere. A perfect Halloween read! 

Horrorstor: A Novel Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781594745263
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Quirk Books - September 23rd, 2014

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