Booksellers Choice
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1
About Leigh’s Choices:
“I usually read with no end to my appetite and no
category in mind; fiction, essays, memoirs, poetry,
history… anything with writing that grabs me and
draws me in. These days, I'm listening to a lot of
audiobooks and rereading old favorites. I’ve also
been spending far more quality time with visual
arts books, at home and in the shop. In this
collection are books I’ve found affirming,
comforting and inspiring -- over my life, but
especially in the past year -- and a selection of
forthcoming books I’m excited to read in the next
six months.”
2
Joan Mitchell
SFMoMA & Yale University
Press
This gorgeous printed
cloth-over-board cover serves as the
perfect doorway into scholarly text,
literary essays by Paul Auster and
Eileen Myles among others,
gatefolds with detailed illustrations
of Joan Mitchell’s paintings, and
much more. It’s a masterful
retrospective that covers her career
from 1950s New York abstraction to
huge multipanel works,
sketchbooks, poem paintings, and
her cultural connections to music.
Just blew me away.
The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism
Kyle Chayka
If you’re decluttering, sparking joy, cleansing, dieting,
and finding yourself unsatisfied, I would recommend
this deep dive into the joys we can find in
minimalism in art, music, and architecture. Kyle
Chayka’s essays on the commodification of
minimalism are splendid! They offer context,
thoughts on the intention behind the movement, and
reveal some possible impacts of the consumer trend
for wanting less. He also has three (three!)
newsletters on entertainment, media and journalism,
and original essays in progress that never fail to
impress.
This 2018 monograph on the work of Luchita Hurtado
was the first ever published, in her 98th year on earth!
She’d been living, working and painting for nearly a
century before she got mainstream recognition. I find
her story and her art really inspiring. This collection
includes essays and interviews about and with her, and
a biographical timeline in the back.
Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn
Serpentine Galleries & Koenig Books
Bauhaus artist Anni Albers is most
well known for her masterful large
scale weavings. This monograph
features one that was commissioned for
the Hotel Camino Real in Mexico City,
not seen in public since 1989, along
with other prime examples of Albers’
work that honors and references
traditional craftways. With essays on
Bauhaus craft and Latin American art
and culture, Camino Real serves as a
wonderful introduction, or a great gift
for a fan.
Anni Albers: Camino Real
Anni Albers
3
The Copenhagen Trilogy
Tove Ditlevsen
Also available as three individual paperback
editions, this is a masterwork of memoir,
following Tove from her childhood into adult
life. She captures with striking honesty the
difficulty of living up to competing roles as
woman, writer, wife and mother -- not to
mention the struggles of mental illness and
addiction -- in mid twentieth century
Denmark. She’s described by fellow Danish
writer Dorthe Nors (another favorite) as “the
Billie Holiday of poetry, accessible, complex,
and simple all at the same time. There’s a
special mournful sweetness in the earlier
poems that belongs to the girlish. Later, her
prose turned the dreams and
disappointments of life as a woman inside
out.”
Mean
Myriam Gurba
Memoir blended with true crime blended
with poetry and politic and humor.
Myram really fucking did it here, the
form is so fluid and so groundbreaking.
“Being mean isn’t for everybody. It’s best
practiced by those who understand it as
an art form. These virtuosos live closer to
the divine. They’re queers.”
I read this trilogy as it came out originally, waiting
in intense anticipation between books! I
recommend getting all three together and staying
in for however long it takes you. As in much of
Jemisin’s work, the world-building takes you
somewhere totally different without sacrificing the
relevance of the social relationships and
development of characters within. Empathy,
magic, wonder, grief, all of humanity wrapped up
in earth-shakingly powerful storytelling.
The Cost of Living
Deborah Levy
Second in a series of three short memoirs
--this one tracks Levy’s endeavor to take
herself and her writing seriously again
after divorcing her husband at fifty.
Moving into a drafty new apartment with
her daughter, with no dedicated space to
write, she pushes herself to do the
necessary work.
The Broken Earth Trilogy
N. K. Jemisin
4
A Memory Called Empire
Arkady Martine
A gripping political thriller, wrapped
in a masterpiece of worldbuilding,
nestled inside a basket full of
commentary on the importance of
individual legacy to empire.
Imagines a future-human
colonisation of the wider universe
much like Byzantium, with Earth its
Constantinople. I can't get over how
fun this book was to read!
Milk Fed
Melissa Broder
Ah, the particular joy of finding
bodily pleasure after a long period
of self denial. Milk Fed draws it
out so well you can almost taste
it, and does it with Melissa
Broder's trademark combo of
insight, humor, discomfort and
sexiness. *chef's kiss*
This lush and well-researched imagining of
St. Hilda of Whitby is an epic adventure, a
coming-of-age, a history lesson and a bit of
a romance. And then there’s the
importance of vigilance, focus, and
patterns (manmade and natural) to Hild’s
“magic”. Hild is the King’s cousin, the
King’s seer, and a witch, depending on
who’s looking. But at the start, she’s a
grieving girl who learns out of necessity to
measure the expectations and reactions of
the powerful people around her. A truly
extraordinary novel.
Hild: A Novel
Nicola Griffith
Deliciously creepy, morally
ambiguous, scientifically interesting
(and scary), and a page turner!
Evelyn and Martine make for an
unforgettable duo in this drama that
will make you consider the “nature vs
nurture” debate in an entirely new
way.
The Echo Wife
Sarah Gailey
5
Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the
Temple
Hilma af Klint
Only the second installment in an
overwhelming seven volume complete
catalog of the works of Hilma af Klint!
Her Paintings for the Temple Series is
the most famous of her work. It
consists of almost two hundred pieces
that are colorful, abstract, biomorphic,
visual translations of her own systems
of spiritual connection.
Yayoi Kusama: Every Day I Pray For Love
Yayoi Kusama
This is an intensely personal book,
based on the exhibition at David
Zwirner New York in 2019.
Includes tons of new paintings,
sculptures, and Infinity Mirror
Rooms, but my favorite part is how
much original WRITING is here.
Poetic remembrances paired with
photographs of the artist over time
grant us access to her unique and
magnificent creative mind.
Organized into three parts (The Cosmos,
Higher Beings, and Practitioners), this small
but mighty book covers occult and mystical
subjects in art through human history. Along
with sharply reproduced illustrations on
matte pages, it includes biographical
information on artists and their philosophical
and historical contexts. Sparks curiosity and
inspiration!
The Art of the Occult: A Visual
Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic
S. Elizabeth
Truly GRAND rooms. There is nothing
like this kind of luxury decoration,
sometimes flamboyant, sometimes
understated, to make me stare longingly
at my own familiar walls and reimagine
what my space could be. None of this is
really achievable or easy to scale down
for a Bay Area apartment. It’s pure,
delicious, fantasy.
The Lives of Others: Sublime
Interiors of Extraordinary People
Simon Watson
6
Catherine Lacey is one of my absolute favorite
writers. She translates loneliness onto the page
in magical ways, and cuts up culture mercilessly.
Despite its seriousness, PEW is a joy to read, and
as usual with Lacey, prescient.
Absurd comedy, devastating sadness, and
raunchiness beyond compare are what you get
from the stories of Megg, Mogg, Owl and their
crowd, dealing with real-world problems of
addiction, depression, and witch/familiar power
dynamics in relationships. Seeds & Stems is a
collection of fragments previously only available
in zines, on promotional material, and in weird
corners of the internet. My fave so far is a
one-color spread of Megg & Werewolf Jones’ band
practice, which includes a true banger called
"Winter Trauma."
Confessions of the Fox
Jordy Rosenberg
Pew
By Catherine Lacey
Now available in paperback!
Lydia Millet's every sentence is a perfect little
razor. This novel hit me hard when I first read it,
and upon second read, settled right in to my
heart. Hilarious, visionary, and unsettling to the
max, with its priorities in all the right places.
Shortlisted for the National Book Award for
Fiction in 2020. Someday she’ll win.
A Children’s Bible
Lydia Millet
A gift of a novel! love, sex, transness,
queerness, piracy, and anti-colonialists
fighting corporate overseers and cops. Radical
energy on every page. It’s so smart, and so
sexy, and such a fun read.
Seeds and Stems
Simon Hanselmann
7
The Body is Not an Apology
Sonya Renee Taylor
This revised and expanded edition of Sonya Renee
Taylors breakthrough book on radical self-love
includes an introduction by Ijeoma Oluo. There’s also a
new companion workbook (see below). Both of these
books are essentials.
Big Girl
Meg Elison
From the PM Press Outspoken Authors Series,
one of my favorite local writers brings an
intoxicating and tense mix of rage and humor to
the ongoing cultural treatment of women’s bodies
as public commodities. Features short stories, a
novella and an illuminating interview with Meg.
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of
Fat Phobia
Sabrina Strings
This impeccably put together study gathers
articles, art, and journalism from the
enlightenment era to now, and posits that modern
fat phobia--especially as it relates to Black
women--isn’t about health, but about using the
body to validate race, class, and gender prejudice.
What We Don’t Talk About
When We Talk About Fat
Aubrey Gordon
I LOVE AUBREY GORDON! Whether it’s her twitter
feed (@yrfatfriend), her funny and affirming podcast
(Maintenance Phase - on the junk science behind fad
diets and wellness scams) or this wonderful book. Her
humor and insight are invaluable.
8
The Body Keeps the Score
Bessel van der Kolk
A breakthrough book on the connections
between body and mind in the study and
experience of post traumatic stress and
trauma more broadly. With case studies
from all ages and experiences, and an eye
on biology and psychology, van der Kolk
uses his decades of research to lay out a
critical but hopeful look at the treatment of
trauma and mental health crises in the
United States.
Undrowned
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Alexis Pauline Gumbs uses metaphor,
observation, and her poetic sensibility to
relate how marine mammals respond to
ecological and social crises with changes
we could make as society. Bringing this
mode of thought into my day-to-day has
made me more curious, open, and aware
of life around me, and I hope anyone who
picks it up can take something similar
away. It’s a beautiful meditative read.
Building a Life Worth Living
Marsha M. Linehan
Marsha Linehan used her own experience of emotional lability, suicidality
and self-harming behaviors to create Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT),
a program that not only helps many people today, but gave her life
meaning. After years of ineffective treatments and stays in hospital, she
made a promise to herself that if she could pull herself out of hell, she’d
spend the rest of her life working to help others get out as well. She was
also one of the first western practitioners to incorporate mindfulness into
therapeutic approaches. A fascinating and inspiring story.
9
Bina unfurls like a one-sided conversation --
confession, mystery. It’s complex, strange,
challenging, entertaining. This dark comedic
voice is everything to me right now.
Ghost Wall
Sarah Moss
The impact of this novelette is so much
bigger than one might expect from 130
pages. It’s short, precise, and fully
formed. Moss addresses the dangers of
obsessive cultural isolation and
nationalism, while winding a parable of
daughterhood and coming of age that is
complex, bewitching and terrifying in
moments. Ghost Wall is a book for all
times, but, it seems, especially for ours.
Hot Stew
Fiona Mozley
A stunning follow-up to Elmet, Mozley’s 2017
Booker finalist. One building in Soho stands
against the tide of gentrification -- Precious
and Tabitha are the center of this story, a
couple living in the garret apartment above
the egalitarian brothel where both have
worked. As Agatha, a comically evil
developer, tries to eject inhabitants and fully
sanitize the neighborhood, she comes up
against an almost mycorrhizal network of
characters who draw upon a deep sense of
community and belonging to fight back. I
love this book. It’s specifically London here,
but we could write a similar story about any
changing neighborhood in the Bay Area.
The Complete Patrick Melrose
Edward St. Aubyn
The Patrick Melrose cycle is some of the
finest, funniest writing I’ve ever encountered
merged with tense, ugly, deeply aristocratic
British horror. I’ve never so much enjoyed
reading about truly hateable characters as
here. St. Aubyn’s style of writing (& Patrick’s
way of speaking) are like a warm and cozy
blanket of dark humor and cynicism.
Bina: A Novel in Warnings
Anakana Schofield
Women in Abstraction
Christine Macel
Euripides’ Trojan Women: A Comic
Anne Carson, Rosanna Bruno
A collaborative project from classicist and poet
Carson with the art of Bruno -- I’ve been
growing tired of “graphic adaptations”
recently, but this one caught my eye. Human
characters are rendered as animals
(reminiscent of Maus) and the stark, textured
black and white seems a suitably solemn
illustrative style for a classic drama of wars
effects on humanity.
(New Directions, May 4)
With Teeth
Kristen Arnett
Arnett’s stories and novels (and twitter
presence) are charming, funny,
sometimes scary, always meaningfully
entertaining. Her newest is the story of
two mothers dealing with their
sometimes frighteningly difficult young
son. Moving and tender, at the same time
as it chills & thrills
(Riverhead, June 1)
Based on an exhibit at the Centre
Pompidou in Paris, this is an incredible
overview of the often overlooked roles of
women in 20th Century Abstract art,
covering painting, dance, performance,
photography, film… all kinds of media.
I’ve only seen a few interiors, but I’m
really looking forward to getting my
hands on this one.
(Thames & Hudson, May 11)
available to pre-order now!
A Room of Her Own
Robyn Lea
A sure-to-be beautiful study of the homes
and lives of a collection of creative women.
Twenty philosophers, rebels, and artists from
across the globe share the spaces they’ve
made for themselves. Images rom Robyn
Lea, an Australian photographer, author, and
director.
(Thames & Hudson, June 8)