Ravenna

Latest Staff Picks

I like to start each new year with an old favorite and this year I reread In Cold Blood. Truman Capote may be lauded as the father of true crime, but In Cold Blood reads more like a what-not-to-do-when-writing-a-true-crime-book book. It's better read as a character study of the complicated individual that was Truman Capote and the choices that drew him into an intimate connection with a murderer. Capote was a complicated man and In Cold Blood only complicates him further.

If you've ever thought "huh, I've been meaning to read this..." then here's the universe giving you an extra nudge!

Picked by Halley

This deceptively small volume contains three works of slippery, shapeshifting metafiction, full of provocative ideas and disarming style. Serre dramatizes her meditations on the aesthetics of fiction with a chilly surreality and queasy erotic energy. For readers who enjoy being unsettled, this strange little book is well worth picking up.

Picked by Theo

The Dearly Beloved is the story of a friendship between two couples over many years. The men are both pastors. One of the wives is a nonbeliever and the other is the daughter of a minister. I love a book with characters that I can care about and want to follow. The Dearly Beloved is exactly that book. There are plenty of discussions about faith and doubt, but this novel is really about friendship and marriage and allowing others to be their true selves. I am a nonbeliever myself, but I do believe in the power of kindness and this book reaffirms that belief.

Picked by Mark B.

Christmas was not a big deal when I was growing up. I was raised by hippies and back-to-the-land folk who either ignored Christmas entirely or honored the Winter Solstice with a bonfire in the snow. But this book holds a special place in my heart. Living off the grid in the British Columbia wilderness in an A-frame my mom and her friends built, somehow we had a battery-operated cassette player, and somehow we had a cassette tape of Dylan Thomas reading this tale. I continue to be enchanted by the details of Thomas’s childhood in Wales, his keen observations of the adults around him, and the delightful humor and tenderness with which he holds those times. For me Christmas is not complete without a reading of this book, either by the author himself, or just me and my mom alternating lines. Give it a try.

Picked by Dana

At the end of the year, we tend to reflect on life, and sometimes vow to make positive changes in our behavior. When it comes to our hopes and dreams, it often feel like we are fighting a losing battle, but how much of that is simply perception? Alain de Botton and the School of Life has produced a lovely volume of essays, advising readers on the art of living a fulfilled life, with the emphasis on emotional intelligence. This book can be dipped into at your leisure, and provides the reader with the tools to thrive in this modern day chaos that we call society.

Picked by Mark B.

To Survive On This Shore is a book that has impacted a number of people in my life very deeply, a book full of wisdom and humanity. It shares from the experiences of older transgender adults across the United States, told in their own words and with vivid full-page portraits that draw you into each person's narrative.

Picked by Nata

Open up to the first poem in this collection, "to the fig tree on 9th & christian". With just the right mix of details-- smells, textures, sounds-- Ross Gay places you there beneath the fig tree with him, stuffing his pockets with ripening fruit from a neighbor's tree, reaching to pick the choicest fruits for passers-by. This book over-brims with beautifully glimpsed reflections on community life: neighbors sharing with neighbors, old friends sharing a meal together, the poet's experiences as a queer black man in relation to his city and his past. Read these poems and feel them create a warm, sacred space within you.

Picked by Nata

I was surprised to learn so much from this book-- about the life of Araminta Ross, who would later be known as Harriet Tubman; about the history of the Underground Railroad and its conductors; and about the many ways that Black folks have always resisted slavery and inequity. Nathan Hale's deeply expressive illustrations draw the reader into the odyssey of Tubman's life and offer an informative, age-appropriate look at the institution of slavery here in the United States.

Picked by Nata

Finally, a book about menopause that doesn't fill me with rage. Instead I am soothed by Darcey Steinke's focus on naming the visceral reality of menopause minus the pathological viewpoint. I'm inspired by her dedication to researching what she finds herself curious about, by how she follows her whims. Menopause has been denigrated as a "deficiency disease," by (primarily) male doctors who have pressed hormone pills into our sweaty palms, promising they're the ticket to youth, good health (damn the statistics on increased breast cancer, etc.), and being loved. This book offers a vision of traversing "the change" unmedicated: as an adventure, a leap of faith, a transformation to explore.

Picked by Dana