Bookseller’s Choice
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About Brad’s Choices
“Poetry is probably my deepest love, even if I do gadabout
more with the likes of fiction and history. I don’t just mean
the Poetry section, even though I do take great joy
caretaking it. What I mean is, no matter what I read, I tend
to be most interested in how a writer is using language --
what they do with words and the spaces between them.
There is sometimes more poetry shacked up in the
paragraphs of prose than at its home in verse.
For me, more important than most stories are the worlds -
- the legions of consciousnesses and identities, unruly
most of the time -- created in the telling of those stories.
One result of this is that I tend to err on the side of reading
slowest the books I value the most.”
The Peregrine, by J. A. Baker
I’ve been referring to this as the Moby-Dick of
“bird books” for a while. Shorter, of course, but
so is a bird’s life compared to a whale’s ...but no
less ambitious or profound. Rich beyond its page
count. Join the cult following!
In Memory of
Memory, By Maria
Stepanova, Sasha
Dugdale (Translator)
Truly mesmerizing piece
of writing. The mining of
memories, of yours and of
others, those imagined,
idealized or invoked, turns
excavation into an art-
form. Stepanova’s novel
has claimed its place as
one of the great examples.
The Living Mountain, by Nan
Under-known for far too long, Nan is finally
starting to get credit for some of the most
innovative nature writing of the past
century. Her focus here is her home, the
Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland.
Strikingly, she eschews the male obsession
with the heights / the ascent, and focuses her
eye, body, and prose on the plateaus.
Pond - by Claire-Louise Bennett
My friends were inundated with texts from me raving
about and quoting this book. One of the most kick-down-
the-door debuts in recent memory. Get lost in Bennett's
narrator's headspace, and you may not wish to be found.
One of those quiet sorts of books that are actually
Time is the Thing a Body Moves
Through - by T Fleishmann
Line for line, one of the best written books in
the store. I found myself stopping for long
moments between sentences, or even clauses,
both to marvel and to tease out what was
happening on the page. A book about art, love,
and community: about living.
I Hope We Choose Love - by Kai Cheng Thom
What a book. My co-worker, Adelaide, has been
enthusiastically talking about this one for a while. Upon
reading, I had to join the chorus.
The questions that inform Thom’s book are a challenge -
- a challenge prompted by hope; hope motivated by love -
- that we might do better to ourselves and to our
Seiobo There Below - by László Krasznahorkai,
Ottilie Mulzet (Translated by)
Mysterious...mesmerizing...magical. László
Krasznahorkai is, for me, “lit-bro” me all you want, the
greatest living novelist. High praise, eh? How about this?
This is his masterpiece. I’ve read this multiple times since
it’s release, and will keep reading for years to come.
Inward Morning - by Henry Bugbee
Confession: despite my love of lyrical wilderness
existentialism, of which Bugbee’s work is
considered an underground classic, I’m decidedly
not the outdoor type . . . and would be the first to be
fed to the bears if the shit hit the fan.
Island Zombie - by
Roni Horn
Another nature-focused
assemblage of journals,
Brad? Seriously! Roni Horn
is a visual artist with a
serious ear for language.
Her pieces here about
weather, in particular, are
truly stunning. One of the
early joys of the year was
dipping into and out of this.
Dictée - by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
I steer pretty decisively toward writing that
defies form and genre. If ever there was an
example of this, it is Dictée, which is as
defiantly original today as it was when it was
first written before Cha’s murder in 1982.
Bertolt - by Jacques Goldstyn, Claudia Zoe
Bedrick (Translator)
This book continues to give me joy. Each time we sell out
- which is often - and it returns, I re-read it, and I’m in
love with it all over again. As I’ve said at the store,
“Think The Giving Tree, without the masochism.” Hold
on, don’t get mad! I just mean, because here the tree
isn’t being celebrated for being consumed, but for a
living something with which we might also share.
Dialogues - by Paul Valéry
“Truth is before us, and we no longer understand
anything at all.”
Yes, these covers leave a lot to be desired, & the books
cost too much. There’s no getting around that. But . . .
oh my. Oh my! Do spend time with with the Dialogues,
whether by thievery or expensive purchase. Your
soul, or whatever remains thereof, will thank you.
Suite for Barbara Loden, Exposition, & The White
Dress - by Nathalie Léger
Léger’s trilogy of essay-novels are among the most
exhilaratingly creative pieces of writing I’ve read in years.
Again, very genre-defiant, as you’ve come to expect, but
exceedingly welcome to all readers. Just a pure, if
somewhat heady joy!
Sharks, Death, Surfers - by Melissa McCarthy
One of the great “this is why you shop at good indie
bookstore” books you’re likely to find, because
where and how else would you know about this
bizarre convergence of cultural & natural history?
No-No Boy - by John Okada
First published in 1957, No-No Boy was virtually
ignored by a public eager to put World War II and
the Japanese internment behind them. Too often
we forget -- too often we silence.
It’s our responsibility us that Okada’s classic
should suffer neither.
Echo Tree - by Henry
I’m beside myself with joy
that our friends at Coffee
House Press are re-
releasing this masterpiece
story collection. Would
that 2021 be the year of
Henry Dumas, perhaps we
might have learned
something from 2020
after all.
Counternarratives - by John Keene
If I could put Keene’s collection of short
stories and novellas into every one of these
catalogs, I probably would.
Counternarratives is one of the true works of
21st-century genius.
Border & Rule, by Harsha Walia
To my eyes & politics, this is one of the most significant
books of the year. Walia’s ability to take outrages that
have a tendency to compound and debilitate, and to
articulately synthesize them is remarkable in itself. She
demonstrates that the the world’s migrant/refugee crises
are inevitable outcomes of conquest, capitalist
globalization, and climate change generating mass
dispossession worldwide.
Black Nature - Camille Dungy (editor)
I know it’s not a competition, but if I had to decide
what is the best anthology in the store . . . it very
well may be this one. It’s stunning in its scope --
some 400 years of African American nature writing.
Superlatives stacked cannot do it justice. An
indispensable book, period … end of story.
The Delectable Negro - by Vincent Woodard
This is one of the most exciting books I just happened to
stumble upon this. Posthumously published, Woodard’s
thesis is jaw-droppingly original and compelling,
exploring the linkages (metaphorical and real) between
homoeroticism, cannibalism, and cultures of
consumption in the context of American literature and US
slave culture. A truly stunning piece of scholarship.
Being Property Once Myself - by Joshua
Joshua Bennett is a renowned poet AND a helluva
literary-critical scholar. Here, he examines the
intersection of the non-human and human, man and
animal, and the role blackness has played / been
denied in the relationship.
Japan Supernatural - by Melanie Eastburn
This gorgeous book takes you on a journey through
the myriad array of yokai culture and yurei (ghosts).
works date from the 1700s to 2019 and include
detailed ukiyo-e woodblock prints, miniature netsuke
(toggles), metres-long scrolls & contemporary
photographs, paintings and installations.
The Art & Science of
Foodpairing - by
Peter Coucquyt,
Bernard Lahousse,
Johan Langenbick
This book blew my mind:
10,000 flavor matches laid
out in taste wheels and
color keys. When cooks go
to one ingredient, they
will find 10 food pairings
and a color wheel
revealing the taste results.
Arctic Heroes - By Ragnar Axelsson
One of the most arresting nature
photography books I’ve spent time with. My
very own Alaskan husky, aptly named Diesel,
agrees! This book stops people in their
For a video tour of the book see here:
High As the Waters Rise - by Anja Kampmann,
Anna Posten (translator)
It’s pretty well-established in these parts that I’m really
not that into plot. Give me language that aspires to
something beyond even a story -- but to a moment in
time, to a depth of emotion, etc. Kampmann’s debut novel
is about love, meaning it circulates through and around it
by way of language. I loved it.
The Book of Unconformities - by Hugh
Faced with profound grief, Hugh Raffles
reached out for … not solace, or maybe even
understanding, but ballast by thinking about
the solidity and endurance and possibly plain
old indifference of rocks.
An Inventory of Losses - by Judith Schlansky,
Jackie Smith (Translated by)
Much of living seems like an accumulation of losses.
That’s depressing, in a way. But there is something to the
accounting. There is, if nothing, but the grasping, if for
but a moment, the time it takes to do so. Anyway … Judith
Schlansky’s latest work, an exquisite grasping of what
refuses it, is phenomenal.
Floating Coast - by Bathsheba Demuth
This is the perfect sort of nonfiction for the reader who,
like me, believes topics are not stable, steady-state
objects. History has happened, but what has happened is
not static, and is in fact always still happening.
Bathsheba Demuth’s account of the history of the
Bering Strait, for example, is a stunning example of this.
Not at all a topic I thought I was interested in … but
sometimes it’s a joy to be wrong.
The Classical Music Lover’s Companion to
Orchestral Music - by Robert Philip
I’m a classical music dilettante, but definitely find I
respond best when I have some cues about what to
listen for. This book has been a treasure trove for
listening. Now in paperback.
Music From Elsewhere
- by Doug Skinner
Here you'll find tunes
hummed, strummed, and
sung by spirits, sprites,
and fairies,
extraterrestrial elevator
music, dreamed ditties,
marches for occult
ceremonies, secret
musical codes and
languages, music made by
animals, and more!
Liner Notes for the Revolution - by By
Daphne A. Brooks
This is one of the books I’m most excited
this spring! Daphne Brooks’ book kicks
down the door and demands long overdue
recognition and celebration of Black women
musicians as radical intellectuals..
Be sure to indulge in the 9-hour Spotify
playlist, too!
The History of the World in Seven Cheap Things -
by Raj Patel
Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, & lives … it’s
hard to argue we’ve not managed to cheapen them all, and
in the process have sold the world short.
Maybe let’s re-think this, yes?
Paths to Prison - by Isabelle Kirkham-
Lewitt (Editor)
The horrific reality of prison extends beyond
the immediate walls. It is informed by a logic
and constructed by way of a complex cultural
architecture. This is a fantastic entryway to re-
thinking the reaches of prison.
We Do This ‘Til We Free Us - by Mariame Kaba
What if social transformation and liberation isn't about
waiting for someone else to come along and save us?
What if ordinary people have the power to collectively
free ourselves? In this timely collection of essays and
interviews, Mariame Kaba reflects on the deep work of
abolition and transformative political struggle.
American Lucifers - by Jeremy Zallen
As a rule, capitalist “progress” occurs at the expense of
those whose labor makes it possible. An awareness of
this progress’ history (and these lives left behind, many
of them nearly forgotten) helps me as I reflect on where
it’s taking us. American Lucifers examines that the
history of artificial light and its profoundly dark
Fulfillment - by Alec MacGillis
Potentially a game changer in terms of the human
and economic scope of its reporting. Without a
doubt the most compelling journalistic accounting
/ reckoning I’ve encountered of Amazon’s effect(s)
on American labor and inequality.
Afropessimism - by
Frank B. Wilderson
What a book! A mix of
biography and
philosophy, it is surely the
most accessible
articulation of
Wilderson’s provocative
theorizing of
afropessmism - i.e.,
whereby the Black slavery
is an ontological
condition. Challenging in
the best way.
How to Read Donald Duck - by Ariel
Dorfman, Armand Mattelart
A devastating indictment of a media giant, a
document of twentieth-century political
upheaval, and a reminder of the dark
undercurrent of pop culture. First published
in 1971, How to Read Donald Duck is a great
example of how deeply-set the logic of
imperialist capitalism is.
Picatrix - Dan Attrell (Translator), David
Porreca (Translator)
A manual for constructing talismans, mixing magical
compounds, summoning planetary spirits, and
determining astrological conditions -- all from a
original text compiled in Arabic from over two hundred
sources in the latter half of the tenth century?
Translated first into Castilian & then Latin? Count me in!
Notes Made While Falling, by Jenn
Visceral writing at its very best. Ashworth blends
memoir and cultural study into her reflection on
trauma (in this case of a childbirth gone very
poorly), and mines her experience for insight into
the creative process itself. Fascinating and
rewarding from beginning to end.
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death's
Duel - John Donne
I spent a significant portion of my Christmas Day reading
John Donne’s sermons & devotional material about
sickness & death to my sleeping dog … because that’s how
I celebrate.
I may not share Donne’s piety, but I will bow down to his
prose nearly any day.
Suicidal - by Jesse Bering
Many of us know this singular impulse. Either we’ve
suffered the loss of people we love to it; or we suffer
the thought itself. Bering’s dealing is bracing and
unlike any other I’ve encountered. Darkly funny at
times, but never glib.
Timefulness - by Marcia Bjornerud
Time is long.
This amazing book reveals how knowing the
rhythms of Earth's deep past and conceiving of
time as a geologist does can give us the perspective
we need for a more sustainable future. It invites a
new way of thinking about our place in time,
showing how our everyday lives are shaped by
processes that vastly predate us, and how our
actions today will in turn have consequences that
will outlast us by generations.
The Medea Hypothesis
- by Peter Ward
Is life its own worst enemy?
In his very provocative
book, geobiologist Peter
Ward’s answer is an
unequivocal Yes! Before you
sigh, “Oh, more
misanthropy, Brad,
really?” -- he’s not just
talking about human life!
But he is talking to humans
that live, with a message
about harm reduction..
Underland - by Robert MacFarlane
Was I too subtle with the theme of this set of
I’ve long been a fan of MacFarlane’s writing,
and here it is wed in a deep, powerful way
with a reflection on how time is etched into
the earth itself. MacFarlane writes has a way
of capturing both wonder and insight, and he
is a treasure.
Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018 - by
Daniel Borzutzky
Daniel Bozutzky’s poetry is incandescent with anger at
the violence suffered by those most vulnerable. What
makes him a truly special poet, however, is how he
harnesses his disappointment with the way things have
been and are, and invites a pulsing hope for what might
yet be.
Nobody - by Alice Oswald
Read everything by Oswald, probably my
favorite living poet at the moment, but for the
sake of this I’ll focus on the latest. Fractured,
sometimes in a frustrating way, but a
frustration built by a sort of design, or perhaps
better a necessity. Read it out loud to the Pacific
Ocean, and see how it responds.
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton - by
Lucille Clifton
An indispensable collection for every poetry library.
Arguably the most important poetic visionary of the late-
20th century. Clifton was a gift to us. Our gift to her is the
recitation and the sharing. So glad all these poems are
together in one place. For a shorter collection, see How to
Carry Water.
Dub - by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Another poet whose oeuvre is expanding, radically and
organically, into something like a complex ecosystem.
Dub is the concluding volume of a poetic trilogy that
situates the lives of her ancestors, in all their joys, pains,
and passions, within the life that sustains and lives
within the ocean. Gumbs’ vision and verse are powerful.