Staff Favorites 2020

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This Is Happiness Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781635574203
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - December 3rd, 2019

This is a novel of a small village in Ireland just before electricity arrives, caught in time between history and modernity. Noe is a young man who comes to live with his grandparents in Faha, recovering from deep grief and a distinct loss of faith. Many decades later, he narrates the story of all that happened to him during one unforgettable summer. The story is told with comic charm and sublime poignancy. The plot unfolds slowly, we meet the characters casually, and yet the language compels you to continue; the writing style is exquisite. You will find yourself reading passages aloud to your loved ones, because this book must be shared. During these uneasy times, this novel is a balm for the soul. Fans of Brian Doyle will love this tale. ~ Jane


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Fresh Water for Flowers Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781609455958
Availability: Backordered
Published: Europa Editions - July 7th, 2020

A bestseller in Europe, this elegant, thoughtful novel will restore your faith in humanity. In her small French village, Violette is the cemetery keeper who soothes the mourners and keeps their secrets. Abandoned by her husband, she builds a loyal surrogate family from others who work in the cemetery. When a stranger disturbs her carefully crafted lifestyle, Violette recollects on her own tragedies that led her there. Be prepared for some tears but also some gorgeous writing. I adored this novel. ~ Jane


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Untamed Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781984801258
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: The Dial Press - March 10th, 2020

This is an exquisite memoir, written with brave prose in short, themed chapters. You will want to savor each one. Doyle takes us on her journey of a painful divorce and finding unexpected new love, while fiercely protecting her family. She is known for leaning into difficulties to find the beauty in all situations. In this book, however, she gives herself and us permission to lean into joy. And the results are amazing. ~ Jane


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Apeirogon: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781400069606
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - February 25th, 2020

McCann, who wrote the terrific novel Let the Great World Spin, has authored a brilliant and revelatory work of fiction based on two real people: Bassam, a Palestinian from Jericho, and Rami, an Israeli who lives in Jerusalem. Bringing these two men together are the deaths by sectarian violence of their daughters, ten and thirteen years old. McCann unfolds the novel in 1,000 mostly tiny “chapters,” creating a kaleidoscopic yet lyrical and beautifully focused narrative, unlike anything I have ever read. An eloquent portrayal of a friendship and a universal call for peace and understanding, this is an important book! ~ John


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Utopia Avenue: A Novel Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780812997439
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - July 14th, 2020

1967: Imagine a rock band—a woman and three men—forming in London under the guidance of a perceptive manager. They earn their chops playing seedy venues, and their fortunes rise to include successful albums and tours of Europe and America. Along the way, numerous encounters with famous musicians and artists include advice from the Stones’ Brian Jones and a remarkable evening with the painter Francis Bacon. This novel is a huge treat for anyone raised on 60s rock music, and, thanks to Mitchell’s great gifts for characterization and addictive storytelling, is more fun than I’ve had reading a novel in a long time!   ~ John


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Dearly: New Poems Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063032491
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Published: Ecco - November 10th, 2020

Best known for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood here shows her exceptional gifts as a poet. Thought-provoking, nimble, and accessible, these poems cover a marvelous variety of topics, including love (see “The Tin Woodwoman Gets a Massage,” page 12), aging (see “Blizzard,” page 7), and nature, closely observed (see “Cicadas,” page 22). Readers of her fiction will recognize work that deals with sexism and violence against women: read “Digging Up the Scythians,” page 42, which draws a deft analogy between ancient and contemporary cultures. Atwood leavens the collection with skillfully deployed humor: check out “The Aliens Arrive,” page 58. This collection amazed and delighted me. ~ John


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The Nickel Boys: A Novel Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780345804341
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - June 30th, 2020

This eloquent and spare novel about boys unjustly incarcerated and criminally mistreated in a reform school in the early 1960s (based on a real-life institution) will break your heart. The cruelty and sadism inflicted on the children, particularly the black inmates, is out of a horror tale. And yet the humanity of the young people is even more heart wrenching, as it does not earn them any reprieve. An important book when considering our country's troubled history on race and incarceration. ~ Victoria


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Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780374228484
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 4th, 2020

This is just the kind of book I love: a literate and scientific look at natural history—in this case, the world's largest owl, the little-studied Blakiston's Fish Owl of Far Eastern Russia. It also offers a thrilling dollop of armchair travel to a rugged, nearly forgotten corner of the world, filled with suspicion, ingenuity, and strong, loyal friendships made over bottles of vodka and cups of tea. Drop in as we watch an American doctoral candidate work with Russian ornithologists, and fieldworkers with little formal education (but great skills), and a hermit who hosts them as they do ground-breaking research on this fascinating owl. Their goal? To create a conservation plan for the Blakiston's future, while also protecting habitat and the wild salmon that make up most of its diet. ~ Victoria


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This Is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, A Voice That Held It Together Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780525509912
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Published: Random House - March 24th, 2020

The perfect book for the pandemic—an on-the-ground look at a community at a time of literal upheaval, the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Anchorage, AK—was released just as we shut down in March. If you missed it then, pick it up now! Radio reporter Genie Chance, a norm-breaking wife and mother who was the voice of calm in the powerful quake's aftermath, gives us a clear look at how people can come together with kindness, altruism, and grit when faced with devastating circumstances. Writer/journalist Mooallem’s book is, like all his essays, podcasts, and reporting, fascinating, quirky, moving, and deeply informative. ~ Victoria


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Hamnet Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525657606
Availability: Backordered
Published: Knopf - July 21st, 2020

The life forces that formed William Shakespeare are lost to history, giving O’Farrell, in this exquisite novel, license to imagine. Told through Shakespeare’s endearing yet peculiarly fascinating wife, the book portrays a couple who could only have been with one another. With consummate skill, O’Farrell reveals enough so that the shadow of what made him him comes somewhat in focus. Yet this skin and bones of the novel gives way to the pages describing Hamnet’s ultimate act of love for his sickly twin sister. And from that, Hamlet – his greatest play. The ending was impossible to imagine and impossible to be other than it was. ~ Dave


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Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781838605933
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Published: I. B. Tauris & Company - September 17th, 2020

Rundell, a retired American foreign service officer who spent most of his career based in Saudi Arabia, writes insightfully about the vast changes in the kingdom’s governance during the past two decades. In the process, he blasts a hole in typical western stereotypes. (Yes, female professional wrestling really is now legal.) Unlike messy democracies, absolute rulers really do get to take the long view. Rundell is cautiously optimistic about many of the very significant pivots that are being put in place while being fully aware that these big bets could all fall apart. ~ Dave


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Wild Seed (Patternist #1) Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781538751480
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - March 17th, 2020

As a fantasy/speculative fiction lover, I will never cease to be amazed by Butler's creativity. Wild Seed is beautiful, intense, thoughtful, and will stay with me for a long time. ~ Cappy


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Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374531386
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 28th, 2008

It was a good year to read those classics I haven't gotten to yet and this was one of my favorites. Didion will transport you to another time. ~ Cappy


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Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781101980972
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - June 5th, 2018

MacLean is an excellent writer and this superbly written history reads almost like a novel, perhaps because the story she uncovers seems almost too disturbing to be true. ~ Cappy


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Postcolonial Love Poem: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781644450147
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Published: Graywolf Press - March 3rd, 2020

“You cannot drink poetry,” Diaz writes. In this second collection of her poems, she celebrates and longs for the physical body of a lover as well as the body of the earth—its water in particular. These are ecological, culturally rich, incredibly human poems, binding us to our planet with raw and intricate lyricism. ~ Carrie


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King and the Dragonflies Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781338129335
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Press - February 4th, 2020

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award in literature for young people, Callender’s beautiful novel handles grief, identity, and friendship with astounding warmth and tenderness.They set the story in the Louisiana bayou, populated with complex, believable characters. I love that the book does not shy away from topics of racism, homophobia, and death, in a way that will nurture and give courage to middle grade readers. Ages 8-12 ~ Carrie


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Deaf Republic: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555978310
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - March 5th, 2019

At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this? / And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this? In an occupied territory during political unrest, villagers witness the killing of a young boy by soldiers. In the aftermath, every townsperson suddenly goes deaf. Through this parable in poems, Kaminsky asks us to consider collective silence and activism in the face of political violence. Urgent and tender, this book is a testament to why we need to keep making poetry. ~ Carrie


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Between the World and Me Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: One World - July 14th, 2015

Lyrically written as a memoir-letter from Coates to his son, this book reflects on the author’s experience as a Black man in America. He considers the significance of being in his body—the griefs, dangers, and deep hope born from struggle. Intimate, sobering, and charged with historical significance, Coates’s book is an important voice in today's conversations about anti-racism. This is a book to read and then hand to the adults and teenagers in your life. ~ Carrie


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Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who's Been There Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780525509905
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - December 29th, 2020

Schuster synthesizes all of her life experiences and shares with you what helped her to grow mentally, physically, and emotionally, and why. Her suggestions are insightful, filled with humor to inspire tackling your own difficulties, and most importantly, profoundly useful. If you need a little reassurance in your life, do yourself a huge favor—buy yourself these lilies! ~ Laura Kay


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The River: A novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780525563532
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - March 3rd, 2020

In this novel, the adventure trip of a lifetime unravels into moral and ethical dilemmas. Heller expertly shapes characters and setting to evoke sensations that put you right in the same canoe. I recommend reading this in conjunction with friends, family, colleagues, or a book group because you will definitely want to discuss all the nuances! ~ Laura Kay


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Quichotte: A Novel Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780593133002
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - May 26th, 2020

Rushdie aimed for the intersection of pastiche and satire… and nailed it! This hilariously rollicking, modern Americanized version of Don Quixote is beautifully crafted. While a delightful read for literary critics well versed in classics, Quichotte does not intimidate everyday readers. Let's take a trip to see the windmills, shall we? ~ Laura Kay


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The Night Circus Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307744432
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - July 3rd, 2012

Imaginative, mystical, and ethereal, this is a tale I simply couldn't put down. Morgenstern creates an alluring world of illusions, like a dream of a Baz Luhrman film, and provides captivating ideas that will spark your own desire to be innovative, or to run off to join the circus. ~ Laura Kay


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Call This Room a Station Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781936657452
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Moonpath Press - February 20th, 2020

This is a wonderful book. Like many other great writers and artists, John notices and makes us aware of value in the world around us that we’re otherwise likely to miss. And his craftsmanship shows in the careful connections he draws between seemingly unrelated experiences and memories. ~ David


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So, Anyway...: A Memoir Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780385348263
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown - September 29th, 2015

Having been a fan of Monty Python and the Fawlty Towers series since I was a teen, I fully expected to enjoy this autobiography. I was pleasantly surprised that Cleese spends most of the book narrating his life before Python. I learned about his childhood, his school days, his nearly becoming a lawyer, and his emergence as a comedy writer and performer at a remarkably young age. He’s generous in his praise for mentors like David Frost, his longtime writing partner Graham Chapman, and other fellow Pythons. But he wields a merciless wit against people whom he credibly judges to be selfish or clueless. I frequently laughed out loud while reading this wonderful memoir. ~ David


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The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780399589829
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - April 30th, 2019

Vanderbilt historian Jon Meacham is often recruited to offer commentary about current events. Impressed with his wisdom and eloquence, I hoped that this book would alleviate my despair about the current state of American politics. I was not disappointed. Meacham reminds us that popular prejudices, often fed by demagogic leaders, have impeded moral progress throughout our nation’s history.  But he also marshals extensive evidence of the ability of the American “soul” to recognize and repair its flaws. Meacham urges us to be politically active and to resist tribalism, respect facts, deploy reason, find a critical balance, and keep history in mind. His book helps us to do all of those things. ~ David


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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781984822598
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown - October 1st, 2019

You don’t have to be a Monty Python fan like me to enjoy this autobiography by one of its members, though it would at least prepare you for the zany humor you’ll encounter here. The title of the book is from a song that first appeared in the Pythons’ movie, Life of Brian. Idle explains how the wacky Python members began collaborating in the 1960s, and narrates the development of their hit TV series, their Holy Grail and Meaning of Life films, and the musical Spamalot. He also relates some wonderful adventures that he’s had with famous friends like George Harrison and Robin Williams. Eric Idle is a brilliant and frequently hilarious writer. ~ David


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Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062936790
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperOne - August 25th, 2020

This was one of my top reads of the year simply because of its bold authenticity. Taussig writes about her experience as a disabled woman with piercing eloquence and plenty of witty candor. Part memoir, part call-to-action, this book will speak truth to anyone who has ever been sent to the margins. It also gave me a moment to pause and reflect on how we can move towards a society that is accessible to all bodies, differences and all. ~ Megan


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Just Like That Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780544084773
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarion Books - January 5th, 2021

A heartfelt story with plenty of suspense, Just Like That was one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in a while. What charmed me was the way the author entwined both Meryl Lee and Matt’s stories together, leaving space for the grief, loss, and heartache they both endure as well as the joy and hope they find along the way. Recommended for 8th grade and up (gang violence). ~ Megan


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The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780060559717
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - August 14th, 2003

This book was so good that I tore through it in less than a day. And I'm a slow reader! In the aftermath of September 11th, 38 flights were grounded in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland. Defede tells the story of those passengers (including the chairman of Hugo Boss and members of a Beatles tribute band, among others) and the people of Gander who welcomed them. Reading this book during such a difficult year made me reflect upon how meaningful community and care for others can be, whether in the aftermath of 9/11 or during a global pandemic. Also, I learned how to correctly pronounce “Newfoundland,” so that was a small victory. ~ Megan


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This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316536820
Availability: Backordered
Published: Little, Brown Spark - August 4th, 2020

While we often think of food’s effect on our bodies, we often forgot how it affects our minds. Psychiatrist Naidoo chronicles her own journey to discover the psychological effects of food, and how changing our diets is a step in the right direction when fighting mental illness. Her research, recipes, and anecdotes make her book not only engaging and belly-growling, but you walk away with the power and knowledge of being able to nourish your body with food that will nourish your mind as well. ~ Willa


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The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781770412385
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: ECW Press - August 1st, 2015

It’s easy to get a feeling of hopelessness when considering the wildfires, the threat of extinction to our orcas, and all the man-made greenhouse gases we are putting up in the atmosphere at unprecedented rates. As someone who has a hard time believing people care enough to want to save our warming planet, I’m reminded by the stories in Boyd’s book that we are all in this together. Boyd offers ten real life examples of people making strides in the right direction to fight climate change. And I think we all could use a little good news right now. ~ Willa


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Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures Farming the Ocean to Fight Climate Change Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781101974322
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - March 27th, 2020

You’ve heard the expression “Swear like a sailor.” After reading Smith’s memoir, I made this modification: “Swear like a fisherman turned restorative ocean farmer”. Although Smith’s language is strong at times, this refreshing and honest account of a lifelong fisherman is sure to make you smile. Filled with wild, laugh-out-loud stories from his youth and beyond, with occasional somber moments, Smith’s book takes you along on his adventures. From an ecological perspective, the story is fascinating, a beacon of light in our restoration of marine ecosystems, but really this is an unconventional tale of how anyone can be a defender of what they love. ~ Willa