Rachel's Pick: (And much love from Javier, too!)
"This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike." With those words, Victor LaValle launches into quite the fairy tale indeed--but a singularly modern one--complete with trolls of both the cave-dwelling and internet-lurking variety. Its morals, too, echo with the peculiar issues of the moment: men's rights activism, the alt-right, modern fatherhood, social media, and the technology of surveillance. As usual, Victor LaValle is able to seamlessly layer his story-telling genius with social issues to take you on an equally entertaining, thought-provoking, and harrowing journey. I've been obsessed with LaValle since the publication of 2009's Big Machine. This may be his best book yet.
Jason's Pick: (And coveted by everyone on staff)
If this is your first Chris Ware book, this is the perfect introduction to his genius. If you already own every Chris Ware book, you'll find an enormous amount of material never before collected in book form. It not only brings together all of Ware's New Yorker covers, but also includes autobiographical details, juvenilia, photographs of his sculptures (yeah, he does sculpture), and real insight into his best known works.
I still can't understand how Rizzoli was able to do this book for less than $200. The sheer size of it is astounding, 18 inches high and weighing in at almost 9 pounds. The colors, the paper choice, and the printing quality match the perfectionist that is Chris Ware. The design is like nothing seen before in an artist's monograph and even includes multiple mini-comics throughout. This is the must-have book of 2017.
Bethany's Pick: Read this book because it will enrage you and break your heart. We follow a young generation of women who have landed a dream job that not only comes with generous pay but the cachet of working with the super substance of the day: Radium. Moore manages to contain in this book a brief biography of radium, portraits of a dozen or so women, spanning two towns, and many years of court cases. This is a story of workplace negligence and worker exploitation and gross abuses of employees, where women sickened who were discarded at the end of their usefulness still fight until death for justice.
Bianca's Pick: (And much love from most of the staff, too!)
The Hunting Accident is the true story of Matt Rizzo, born on the West Side of Chicago in 1913. At 18 he found himself blinded and arrested after a botched armed robbery, placed in Statesville prison right next to infamous murderer Nathan Leopold. Told from the perspective of his son Charlie who learns his father’s story only after getting into some similar trouble as a teenager, The Hunting Accident is a moving account of a strange life; one that hooks into the mind, pulling it forward into the unbelievable truth with a stimulating mix of fact, embellishment, poetry, and confession. Blair's illustrations move fluidly between reality and day dream, often conveying not only movement and actions but visual representation of emotion.
Bonus: insight into one of the biggest murder trials in Chicago history.
Christian's Pick: (And much love from most of the staff, too!)
Karen Reyes is a ten year old growing up in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood in the late sixties. She loves monsters, good ones and bad ones, and dreams of becoming one. When her upstairs neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances, Karen declares herself a detective and begins learning about the monsters all around us- Nazis, hippies, child abusers, bullies, etc. There's darkness, but also some real beauty and happiness here, particuarly trips with her older brother Deez to the Art Institute where the joy and magic is nearly unbearable. Ferris' storytelling is exciting and emotional, but the illustration is what I cannot get enough of. Beauty on every page.
Eddy's Pick: (And much love from Jason & Javier too!)
I've met Stephen Florida. If not him exactly, then someone a whole lot like him. And the thing is, I didn't like him. At all. He's violent, spiteful, and constantly slouching into depravity. While he may not be the best guy to hang out with, he makes for a hell of a protagonist. So good, in fact, that I often found myself cheering for him. Even when he was at his absolute worst. His story of loneliness, obsession, and singular focus pulled me through each scene and shoved me to the next, and I loved every page of it.
Javier's Pick (And he was one of the Kirkus Prize judges who awarded it the Non-Fiction Prize for 2017!)
A ground-breaking history of the Gulf, illuminating the complex forces ravaging our environment. The Gulf emerges as a power in itself, in Jack E. Davis's enthralling narrative, animated by deft, vivid portraits of men and women who saw in the Gulf a source of sustenance, inspiration, and, not least, wealth. Fishermen, artists, writers, indigenous and migrant communities, adventurers and greedy businessmen leap from the page as Davis chronicles the fierce, wild, and fragile ecology of the American sea. A timeless cautionary tale, as rich and capacious as the region itself.
A compound flurry of assured prose and truly marvelous conceptualization positions this tenacious assembly of stories as something to be lauded. Each segment casually exceeds its predecessor - the sum total culminating in a deft exploration of the idiosyncrasies circling identify, fate, and circumstance. The final and most enchanting entry, "Mr. P and the Wind", is nothing short of phenomenal, and will nestle itself in your favor long after you've turned the final page. I smiled my way through it's entirety, impressed by the depth of its thoughtfulness. That's not to underplay the remainder of the work here. The aforementioned is simply a platinum piece within a narrative gold mine, to which an uncanny wit is ascribed throughout. The ingenious tonal shifts showcase a pointed balancing act between humor and solemnity from a writer who undeniably has genuine love and respect for the lives he constructs on the page. This will at times inspire awe, and will steadily leave you yearning for more.