Latest Staff Picks

Part adventure story, part paean to the ocean, and all Norwegian: Shark Drunk is the Sven and Ole joke you've never heard, with a bit more science, and maybe not a little funny.

Picked by Alex

What is empathy, exactly? Is it the cure for all our social ills? Is it a skill to be acquired or something inherent in us all? Cris Beam addresses all this and more in her brilliant investigation into, and interrogation of, empathy. She approaches the topic with skepticism and curiosity, beginning with the more cynical use of empathy to describe how data mining allows companies to make us feel they empathize with us as they offer us things they think we want. She goes on to visit a courthouse experimenting with justice based on restitution vs. retribution here in the U.S., looks closely at the scientific research on mirror neurons, and interviews students in South Africa about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And she shares stories from her personal life that relate beautifully to the material. I learned a lot from this book, but it also touched me deeply. Take a chance.

Picked by Dana

I love this fascinating, totally mind-blowing book on the science and culture of pregnancy. Like A Mother's blend of essay, memoir, and reportage shows Seattle writer Angela Garbes' chops as a journalist as she interrogates cultural myths and picks apart the massive systemic issues that arise from treating pregnancy like an illness instead of "a superhuman power." Chapters range from placentas (my pick for #1 most underrated organ), breastmilk, miscarriages, and how to best care for pregnant addicts, to the violent, racist history of gynecology. Garbes' tone of curious wonder and emotional connection to her material will resonate with any reader - you don't need to have a uterus to get swept up in her enthusiasm.

Picked by Christina

When We Were Orphans is great for any fan of history, of literary fiction, of mystery, or for anyone with a curious mind. Perhaps my favorite novel.

Picked by James

Tales From the Inner City is short story collection by the beloved artist Shaun Tan, where crocodiles live on the 87th floor, men turn into frogs, and snails fall in love. His world is our world slightly altered by small detail. Through Tan's unique imagination and breathtaking art, he investigates our deeply relational coexistence with animals. They occupy our imagination in fantastic and ordinary ways (just like his stories). I haven't been able to shake the otherworldly fugue I encountered in Tales from the Inner City and I think everyone will enjoy dipping their toes in Tan's stories.

Picked by Halley

To say this book is wonderful and amazing is an understatement. Read by Michelle, this book has been impactful and thought provoking and I truly wish for everyone to experience it. The audio has resonated with me in a surprising way. To hear her voice describe her life, the choices she's made, and the paths she's chosen has caused me to look inward as well as outward.

Picked by Patti H.

The stories in Friday Black are volatile, unpredictable concoctions. While reading them, I imagined author Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah as a mad scientist, mixing beakers with wild abandon: some societal critique here, a little gallows humor there, a dose of dystopian sci-fi just for kicks. The resulting stories feel just as likely to combust as they do to end. Adjei-Brenyah is among the most exciting new voices in fiction I've encountered all year, the heir apparent to Vonnegut and Saunders's tradition of dark, socially incisive postmodernism.

Picked by Theo

A moving story about life and death and what lives on. The Poet's Dog is Teddy, an Irish Wolfhound, and he is the thread that connects the past and the present. Through him, the love of his former owner, Sylvan, who gave him words, and taught him to save others, lives on. A slim and meditative book about love and caring for others during times of hardship.

Picked by Mark B.

I often wish that there was more real science fiction in the young adult category. I was super excited to read Mars One and was amazed at the depth and thought put into this amazing story. A private company foots the bill to send the first humans to Mars. The impact on society and the world is profound. It was fascinating to experience first hand what life would be like if you were going to leave earth forever, live in space for months, and ultimately populate another planet. I raced through this and loved every minute!

Picked by Patti H.