Kat's Picks

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Hit Parade of Tears: Stories (Verso Fiction) By Izumi Suzuki, Sam Bett (Translated by), David Boyd (Translated by), Daniel Joseph (Translated by), Helen O'Horan (Translated by) Cover Image
By Izumi Suzuki, Sam Bett (Translated by), David Boyd (Translated by), Daniel Joseph (Translated by), Helen O'Horan (Translated by)
$17.96
ISBN: 9781839768491
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Verso Fiction - April 11th, 2023

More than forty years after its original release in Japanese, counterculture icon Izumi Suzuki’s short story collection was translated into English for the first time in 2023. The biographical details of the author first attracted me to her material - Suzuki was not only an innovator of sci-fi literature, she also acted in “pink” sexploitation films, modeled erotic photography, and had a series of relationships with twentieth-century avant garde figures before her death by suicide at the age of 36. In the case of such a cultic, fetishized artist, there is always the risk that their work will wilt under the weight of their personality. In Hit Parade of Tears, Suzuki dodges this trap by suffusing her prose with the disaffected, punk elan that defined her life off the page. None of her characters feel at home in this, or other, worlds, and the stories’ sci-fi mechanics serve as a means to alienate them further, placing the reader in a disconcerting state that melds yearning, rage, and curiosity. Oh, and if you want to make a badass playlist of ‘70’s Japanese rock, don’t miss her story “Hey, It’s a Love Psychedelic!”.


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Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel By Anthony Doerr Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781982168445
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Scribner - September 27th, 2022

When I walk down the streets of Chicago or sit at home in my messy apartment, I often find myself wondering how future archaeologists will interpret the objects around me. What will they make of municipal mailboxes? My laptop? My toothbrush? My Funko Pops? Reading, too, can satisfy this urge to time travel. When we read, we are conversing with the past. When we write, we signal to the future. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr intertwines stories from different epochs, spanning from the fall of Constantinople to humanity’s flight from earth on a space station, whose characters are connected by their hunt for an Ancient Greek comedy. With enveloping style, Doerr creates lovable, warm characters, while also exploring big questions of free will, morality, and the fabric of reality itself. This book is ambitious, intricate, and vastly satisfying. I hope historians find it 2,000 years from now and conclude that we were pretty cool.


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Brutalities: A Love Story By Margo Steines Cover Image
$16.16
ISBN: 9781324050872
Availability: Not in stock. Usually arrives in 2-7 business days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 3rd, 2023

There are many narratives of addiction, sex work, and violence in literature, and they tend to fall into two categories: hand-wringing, infantilizing saviorism, or romanticized callousness. The lived experience of these things, though, is far too shimmering and complex to exist in the world of these archetypes. Steines’ confessional nonfiction is intimate and unflinchingly honest, employing a deft command of craft to deliver a nonlinear narrative that flows through feelings and revelations, unbounded by time. As I neared the final pages, I found myself racing to finish, consumed with the notion that if Steines could be okay in the end, so then, maybe, could I. What I got instead was truer and more hopeful than uncomplicated redemption. In this messy world, we are all okay and not-okay, all containers of immeasurable hurt and the potential for transcendent love, our bodies meeting places of brutality and care. This is a wrenching, frightening book that left me feeling tender and proud. Read it!!


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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel By Ocean Vuong Cover Image
$16.20
ISBN: 9780525562047
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Penguin Books - June 1st, 2021

Growing up queer is a paradoxical experience, steeped in love as much as it is in pain. In this shattering, semi-autobiographical novel, Ocean Vuong sets forth a fraught life in elegiac, glancing prose. From his drug-addicted refugee mother to his repressed teenage lover, everyone who cares for Vuong has wounded him. Still, he goes on believing that life can be, well, gorgeous. This book holds great importance for me. Whether I am in despair or swept away on joy, Vuong’s steadfast longing for the beauty of things anchors me. I love this book, and I am in love with this book.


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Tell Me I'm Worthless By Alison Rumfitt Cover Image
$16.19
ISBN: 9781250866233
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Tor Nightfire - January 17th, 2023

Oh my god, what the fuck! I’m not sure I’ve ever been more repulsed (and simultaneously mesmerized) by a book. Tell me I’m Worthless is a haunted house story in which the haunted house itself is genuinely scary and maddening, but don’t expect to find respite anywhere here. The characters’ bedrooms, their 4Chan forums, their interior lives, are all sites of terror and repulsion. This book tackles contemporary politics and uses its horror elements as fairly straightforward stand-ins for concepts like trauma and fascism, but Rumfitt’s writing is deft enough to keep the metaphors from feeling clunky. The story, too, is a pretty classic genre framework, but the characters and environments are immersive and grotesque, pulling the reader into their world, whether we want to go there or not.


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Here (Pantheon Graphic Library) By Richard McGuire Cover Image
$31.50
ISBN: 9780375406508
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Pantheon - December 9th, 2014

The chillest time travel book you will ever read, this graphic novel buffets its reader across millions of years without leaving the living room. McGuire uses the frames of his panels to represent holes in the space time continuum, allowing him to superimpose different moments that have all taken place at the same location. This premise might sound belabored, but Here makes its concept feel effortless and serene. This is a quick read, but it will sweep you out of time before you know it.


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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern By Stephen Greenblatt Cover Image
$17.06
ISBN: 9780393343403
Availability: Not in stock. Usually arrives in 2-7 business days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 4th, 2012

As a student of Latin in my younger years, I often felt a strong connection with the ancient. I could connect, through the written word, and in a way that felt almost magical, to the long-dead. Swerve gives this singular power of books a physical manifestation through the story of one errant copy of an epic poem. Unearthed after over a thousand years collecting dust in a monastery, the six-book epic De Rerum Natura shaped the modern world in ways that its first-century author could scarcely have imagined. There is fascinating history here, from a shrewd Renaissance book hunter to atomic physicists, but what makes me love it so much is the reverence it shows for the awesome power of language across epochs.


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Don't Call Us Dead: Poems By Danez Smith Cover Image
$14.40
ISBN: 9781555977856
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Graywolf Press - September 5th, 2017

I first discovered Danez Smith’s work when they were blowing the roofs off of spoken word shows in Minneapolis, the city we shared at the time. In the decade since then, they have gone on to become one of the most exciting poets working today, and I’m as captivated by their lines as ever. In their second full-length poetry collection, Smith ranges across topics of police brutality, queer love, and their own HIV-positive status. Soulful and razor-sharp, this collection challenges its reader head-on, no holding back. The last poem of this collection might be the best I’ve ever read - haunting and sublime and quietly furious. This book will rattle your bones.


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Crush (Yale Series of Younger Poets) By Richard Siken, Louise Glück (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Richard Siken, Louise Glück (Foreword by)
$16.20
ISBN: 9780300107890
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Yale University Press - April 11th, 2005

“The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.”

 

Love can have sharp corners, and the search for it is as likely to destroy as redeem us. This frightful truth is the rumbling hum under Richard Siken’s unflinching debut collection. Siken writes about queer desire in all its fearsome glory, weaving together joy, guilt, and self-realization in oscillating, hypnotic verse. This book is a punch in the gut, in the best, sexiest, and most soul-deep way.


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A History of the World in 6 Glasses By Tom Standage Cover Image
$16.20
ISBN: 9780802715524
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 16th, 2006

In my previous career as a wine merchant, I read a whole lot of textbooks on food and beverage, some of them jaunty, some unapologetically dry. This learned yet approachable book was the most fun I ever had in the business. Standage plots the course of human civilization through its love of libations, fermented and otherwise, giving as much attention to archaeology and anthropology as he does to flavor and terroir. We learn about ancient Mesopotamian agriculture through the lens of early beer brewing, Persian trade routes as they follow the flow of arrak, and the bittersweet path of globalization through the reign of Coca-Cola. Standage’s writing style is engaging and fast-paced, and he manages to cover an awful lot of ground without losing his reader on the way. Whether you are a history buff, a wine nerd, or just someone looking for an engaging non-fiction read, this book will surely satisfy your thirst.


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Mrs. Dalloway: The Virginia Woolf Library Authorized Edition By Virginia Woolf Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780156628709
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Mariner Books Classics - September 24th, 1990

Quietly queer and erotic in a very early-1900’s way, the beauty of this classic novel lies in its deep care for all of life’s moments, whether dramatic or (seemingly) mundane. As we immerse ourselves in Clarissa Dalloway’s internal dialogue, she confronts love, repression, and suicide in terms somehow both bracing and delicate. This book makes me sad, but it makes me feel held, too, and less alone. Woolf’s most famous work is not only emotionally and existentially substantial - the prose is also the most beautiful that I have read. Pablo Picasso once wrote that an artist must find the meaning in “the sky, the earth, a scrap of paper, a passing shape”; in this chronicle of Mrs. Dalloway’s June day, the reader will find transcendence in events as large as a plunge from the rooftop, or as small as a trip to the flower shop.


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Swamplandia! (Vintage Contemporaries) By Karen Russell Cover Image
$16.20
ISBN: 9780307276681
Availability: Backordered. Will not ship for 2 weeks or longer.
Published: Vintage - July 26th, 2011

This often whimsical, always unexpected book begins at an alligator wrestling tourist-trap in southern Florida, and that may be the least weird thing about it. We follow Ava, the borderline feral child of the gator park’s starring couple, as she navigates a sudden family tragedy and the void that it has left in its wake, both within her and in the family that has been her world until it is suddenly ruptured. There is some tough stuff in Russell’s debut novel, so proceed with caution, but the reward at the end of Ava’s harrowing journey through the Everglades is a guileless yet profound coming-of-age that will stir its reader deeply


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In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement By Peter Matthiessen, Martin Garbus (Afterword by) Cover Image
By Peter Matthiessen, Martin Garbus (Afterword by)
$20.70
ISBN: 9780140144567
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Penguin Books - March 1st, 1992

At 78, Leonard Peltier has been a political prisoner of the United States for nearly fifty years, despite pleas for clemency that are ongoing to this day. In Peter Matthiessen’s engaging blend of true crime and historical survey, we learn the story of the events that led to his incarceration. This book is perfect for fans of In Cold Blood or Executioner’s Song in its narrative, character-driven approach to real events. Beyond that, it gives important insight into a portion of modern political history that, at least for me, was woefully passed over in my formal education. This book was very important to me as I began to become more politically engaged in my early adulthood, and I hope that it will bring new awareness and a spirit of resistance to anyone who picks it up.


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Omnivores: A Novel By Lydia Millet Cover Image
$14.36
ISBN: 9780393635461
Availability: Backordered at least 2 weeks or possibly unavailable.
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 12th, 2018

Omnivores is the horrid, sadistic, and captivating tale of a young woman’s coming-of-age. This satire of family life takes each milestone of maturity and perverts it into its most debased form. From her lepidopterist/domestic terrorist father’s claustrophobic home, Estée escapes into the lurid arms of Los Angeles’ upper crust, but this dubious heroine, it turns out, is not one to mess with. There is fire behind this novel's darkly comic smoke: Millett has real things to say about capitalism, the nuclear family, and gender roles in contemporary American society. Perfect for fans of horror and magical realism, this extremely weird book will keep you hungry till the last bite.


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Titanium Noir: A novel By Nick Harkaway Cover Image
$25.20
ISBN: 9780593535363
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Knopf - May 16th, 2023

Like a lovechild of Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick, Titanium Noir balances a sense of expansive imagination and world-building while paying homage to hard-boiled detective tropes. The juxtaposition of these styles is fun and sometimes cheeky, but the story has real stakes, both personal and political. This book also has some of the best fight scenes I’ve read, grisly and even borderline gratuitous, but always in service of character and plot. The mystery element is satisfying, serving up twists and revelations that are consistently surprising, but never come out of the blue or feel unearned. On top of all this, Harkaway works in timely critiques of the billionaire class and the perils of income inequality that are cutting without coming off as preachy. A thrilling, violent, and clever read.


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Monstrilio By Gerardo Sámano Córdova Cover Image
$15.30
ISBN: 9781638931607
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Zando - January 30th, 2024

If you’re looking for a disturbing, gross, bloody horror that is also queer and sweet and full of warmth, well, let’s be friends because you sound cool. Also, read this book! Monstrilio is many things: a family saga, a coming-of-age story, a cautionary tale of the monsters we create when we cling to what should be let go. This is a bittersweet read that wrestles with the complexity of identity and desire, and the complicated patterns of pain that ripple out when we can no longer fit the mold created by society, family, or our own wishes to fit in, and must accept ourselves as we are, fur and all.


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Black Hole: A Graphic Novel (Pantheon Graphic Library) By Charles Burns Cover Image
$36.00
ISBN: 9780375423802
Availability: Not in stock. Usually arrives in 2-7 business days
Published: Pantheon - October 18th, 2005

As adults, it can be difficult to parse our relationships with our teenage selves. We have fraught relationships with those younger versions of us, who began to forge relationships with sex, substances, society, and self that would go on to shape the trajectories of our lives. Black Hole calls to mind a body-horror remix of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a rare story that takes teenagers seriously without adultifying them, holding space for their fuckups and blind spots without minimizing the gravity of their experience and feelings. The starkly saturated black-and-white illustration is dark, doomy, and lurid, eliciting a looming sense of dread before the story even gets cranking on the weird stuff. This is a horrifying, creepy book that doesn’t moralize about horror or creepiness. It just invites us to walk into our shadows, look around, and maybe smoke a joint with who we find there.


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I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home: A novel (Vintage Contemporaries) By Lorrie Moore Cover Image
$16.20
ISBN: 9780307740878
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Vintage - May 21st, 2024

I have heard it said that grief is unexpressed love. The difference, obvious yet tempting to ignore, is that grief is a fundamentally solitary experience. I don’t want to reveal much about the plot of Lorrie Moore’s first novel in fourteen years, which can alternately be interpreted as a supernatural road trip, a zombie romance, or a psychological horror; suffice it to say that the protagonist of each of its two loosely connected narratives is straining to escape the material reality of a heavy loss, heels dug into a state of denial that only creates more pain and complication the longer it persists. I’m making this sound super serious, and in some ways it is, but it’s also full of surreal and clever jokes, and I often found myself laughing out loud at some devious quip. And isn’t that the most mortal thing we can do? Laugh in the face of death?


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Roadside Picnic (Rediscovered Classics #16) By Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, Ursula K. Le Guin (Foreword by), Olena Bormashenko (Translated by) Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781613743416
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Chicago Review Press - May 1st, 2012

This 1972 classic is a cruel and bleak read. The story revolves around Red, a ‘stalker’ embroiled in the criminal underworld that has sprung up around the mysterious Zone, which sci-fi fans may recognize as the inspiration for Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. The Zone, and the Strugatskys’ tale of it, are disorienting and horrifying, and the characters surrounding it lose their warmth and humanity over years of exposure to its otherworldly power. In the end, Red - and we, as readers - are left begging to know what it is, deep down, that makes us human, and whether it’s even worth finding out. The answer is ambiguous, simultaneously full and empty as the mysterious canisters that Red smuggles out of The Zone for his shady buyers. This book left me in a ponderous and nihilistic mood, and I intend to savor it.


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Headshot: A Novel By Rita Bullwinkel Cover Image
$25.20
ISBN: 9780593654101
Availability: In Stock (but it is always wise to call ahead to confirm!)
Published: Viking - March 12th, 2024

As a former high school athlete, this book hit me in sublime and wistful ways. If you are a person, I think, who has ever been defined by something that then faded from your life, this book hits. The girl boxers, whose Daughters of America tournament bracket forms the fascinating structure for this sports novel, move in the ring like gods. But we as readers are allowed to see the fullness - and fragility - of their humanity, as the storytelling expands into their pasts and futures without ever getting too far from the thrill of the bout. Bullwinkel messes with time and space in an unassuming way, creating in the reader a blossoming realization: there is a whole world in each of us, in each moment of life, as real and as heavy as a mountain.