Bookseller’s Choice
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1
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.”
2
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.
Lanark - by Alasdair Gray
There are so-called “contemporary
classics,” and then there are books that
seem as though they fell from the sky,
irrespective of time or place. Reading
Lanark for the first time, during a rainy
winter in Glasgow, it was like scales had
fallen from my eyes. I’m so happy for
its re-issue.
3
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
screaming.
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.
An Untouched House - by Willem Frederik
Hermans, David Colmer (Translated by)
What a book! There is so much happening on the page and
in your head as you read this … short “tale”? “fable”?
“bat-shit crazy horror show depiction of war’s deading
effects on everyone. There are no heroes.
Even better: Archipelago Press has a new Hermans
translation on the way, A Guardian Angel Recalls.
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.
4
What is Landscape - by John R. Stilgoe
This is such an enlightening book. There is a
language to every human experience, and thus a
word for those things you are experiencing when
viewing the world around you. John Stilgoe reminds
us to slow down long enough to find the right
words.
Gallery of Clouds - by
Rachel Eisendrath
It’s as if NYRB had a
meeting to tailor-make a
book just for me! An ode to
prose whose purpose is not
the plot! *fanning myself*
This is an exquisite piece of
writing, but not at all
delicate. Eisendrath has
been around the block, and
will knock yours off if
you’re not careful.
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.
5
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.
Absentees - by Daniel Heller-Roazen
Missing by choice. Absented by law. Departed by
death. Daniel Heller-Roazen dives into the cultural
and legal histories of “missing persons,” and I found
the depths astonishingly relevant to the close at
hand.
The meticulous, deliberate style made this a joy to
read.
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!
The Art Lover’s Guide to Japanese Museums -
by Sophie Richard
I don’t have a lot of patience for “armchair travel,”
but this book … oh, life is lived in the exceptions!
6
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
Dumas
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.
7
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
Bennett
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.
8
The Spook Who Sat By the Door - by Sam
Greenlee
Sam Greenlee’s masterpiece satire of Black oppression
in the United States and dead-cold serious analysis of
militancy stands up over forty years after it was first
written. No B.S., and no suffering of fools.
We Are the Land -
by Damon B. Akins,
Jr. Bauer, William J.
This is a massively
important contribution to
our understanding of
California history and the
present of its first peoples.
I suspect this book will
become a classic in the
field.
Waiting for the Sibyl - by William
Kentridge
I very audibly gasped (probably cursed a
‘Holy _____!”) upon opening this for the
first time.
Words will defy you to describe it, as it is a
work of visual art unto itself. Though a click
of the book will take you to a description.
9
Second Place - by Rachel Cusk
More plot than we’re accustomed to in a Rachel Cusk
novel, but we won’t hold that against her. (Kidding!)
Psychologically expansive, while also narratively
explosive. Second Place is a great introduction to her
oeuvre, as well as a intimate expansion of it.
Against Purity - by Alexis Shotwell
This is a provocative and wise use of theory to
help amend our thinking about the past -- such
that it might change our sense of what’s
possible in the future.
One of East Bay Booksellers singular and
surprisingly consistent bestsellers .
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.
The Quick & the Dead - by Joy Williams
There is no one writing like Joy Williams today.
Heralded as a master of the short story, I actually think
her novels are where she is at her most freakily wild &
no holds barred. The Quick & the Dead is a contemporary
classic, and will prepare you for one of the great novels
later this year -- her NEW novel, Harrow, which you will
definitely hear me crowing about repeatedly.
10
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.
A Little Devil in
America - by Hanif
Abdurraquib
I knew this would be good
… but I was not prepared
for just how stunning it
wuld be. Lyrical and
insightful, rich with
research and in memory,
with joy and pain often
twinned . . . as though in a
dance. Just fabulous.
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!
11
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.
The World Turned Upside Down - by
Christopher Hill
Christopher Hill’s book is a classic “what could’ve
been” history of the seventeenth century -- wherein the
possibility of communal property, a different vision of
democracy and the protestant ethic was repelled and
repressed. Alas!
12
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.
Badges without
Borders - by Stuart
Schrader
A pivotal work
demonstrating the
international implications
of the militarization of
police in the U.S. Casting a
new light on American
empire, Badges Without
Borders shows, for the first
time, that the very same
people charged with
global counterinsurgency
also militarized American
policing at home.
America On Fire - by Elizabeth
Hinton
This is an indispensable contribution to our
much-needed reevaluation of police power
in the U.S. (and beyond). What the media and
official narrative have denigrated as “riots,”
Hinton reads as rebellions, and she digs deep
into the cycle of police injustices keep the
violence circulating.
13
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!
Last Loosening - by Walter Serner
Written by the cofounder and infant terrible of Dada,
and revised after he’d become disgusted with his
own movement (we’ve all been there, right??), Last
Loosening is a sort of moral guide for the amoral . . .
and it’s bewilderingly wonderful.
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.
14
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 Ruins Lesson - by
Susan Stewart
I’m utterly fascinated by
the stuff that remains … the
ruins that outlive their
intentions. How have ruins
become so valued in
Western culture and so
central to our art and
literature? Stewart’s book
may not be the final word -
- for who knows what will
remain of even these -- but
we are the better for it.
Underland - by Robert MacFarlane
Was I too subtle with the theme of this set of
books?
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.
15
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 Craft of Poetry - by Lucy Newlyn
This is such a fantastic idea for an intro to poetics and its
sometimes intimidating terminology. That Newlyn pulls
it off with such audacious, delightful flare -- the
modelling of each term with her own verse -- is really
something else.
The Glass Constellation - by Arthur Sze
Such a delightful paradox, this book. It feels
like a brick, but the verse feels as though it is
falling between your fingers. It’s light to the
touch, but its emotional registers are
profound.