Ravenna

Latest Staff Picks

I credit Barbara Pym's Excellent Women with helping to get me through the lock-down at the beginning of the pandemic. Pym has been compared to Jane Austen and Excellent Women is probably her most successful novel.

Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman's daughter, living in 1950's England. She is one of the spinsterish "excellent women," who help keep things in order at her local church. This wonderful comedy of manners is filled with quirky characters. It's funny and poignant and it may just be the novel to get you through the dark winter ahead.

Picked by Mark B.

It's not easy to do surrealism in YA, but A.S. King excels in this space. Her free floating narratives feel natural and true, despite their changing relationships to reality. Each of the five stories told in The Dig are odd, interesting, and often magical in their own right, and they slowly come together to create a fascinating full picture in a reveal that genuinely surprised me. I should also note that the book is not only magical. The characters in this book are young adults dealing with fully adult, real problems: racism, chronic illness, and family estrangement, among others. King's treatment of these topics is deft, and the five characters parse systemic issues with impressive complexity.

Picked by Alyson

Sitting down to write this staff pick, I was a little worried about revealing too much, but the synopsis is on the back and the cover illustration...well, let me just say ignore the flames and dive into this fiery novel. You will not regret it. I have recommended this book many times and I've never had a reader come back and say they didn't love it. Ultimately, it's a book about caring for the most vulnerable, even though they may not seem so vulnerable at the moment.

Picked by Mark B.

In my youth I read quite a bit of science fiction, but my interests shifted over the years and I veered away from that genre a little. Over the last few years though, I found myself craving a good sci-fi adventure with spaceships and aliens. Last fall I happened across a copy of Providence by Max Barry (author of Lexicon) and it fit the bill perfectly. I read half the book in one sitting! Interesting characters aboard a ship a mile and a half long venture into deep space to save civilization from impending doom. It's an intense ride from start to finish.

Picked by Mark B.

This brilliant collection of short stories is Mariana Enriquez's English language debut. In some ways, these stories could easily fit into the horror genre, but they would be more appropriate in a category simply labeled Unsettling. The story "The Neighbor's Courtyard" still haunts my dreams, in a good way.

Weird dark stories for weird dark times.

Picked by Mark B.

What if your worst deed caught up with you? This contemporary horror novel about four Blackfeet men who try, and fail, to escape a misdeed they committed ten years ago is full of breakneck fear, dry humor, love and redemption, and a truly thrilling basketball game. Even if you don't normally -- give this excellent book a try.

Picked by Christina

The past seven months have proven how vital it is for us to care for each other. Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha was my first real introduction to disability justice and activism, and it feels like a necessary read for the current moment (and all other moments). Care Work covers the history and dynamics of disability justice, with a constant eye toward a more compassionate future. This book does cover some sensitive topics, but the author treats the subject material with honesty and transparency.

Picked by Alyson

Cameron Awkward-Rich's second poetry collection covers a lot of ground, and does so with intensity and efficiency. As the title suggests, each poem is a compact delivery. Some feel like news briefs, as they speak to social issues of violence and racism, as well as a growing disappointment in the world. Others are glimpses into more personal and intimate moments. I recommend taking an extra moment to be still with "Meditations in an Emergency" (22), a poem that has come back to me with regularity since reading Dispatch several months ago.

Picked by Alyson

This is a powerhouse debut novel featuring some quirky outsider characters that feel so strangely familiar. When a young idealistic Northwest city girl moves deep into the Appalachians to live off the land, we get a deeply layered novel that is somehow a tenderhearted family story about class while also being absolutely hilarious. Seamlessly alternating between four different first-person perspectives, Madeline ffitch’s writing is perfectly voiced. Stay and Fight is a fantastic novel of these times.

Picked by Kalani