Latest Staff Picks

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Cicada Cover Image
By Shaun Tan, Shaun Tan (Illustrator)

Cicada has worked tirelessly at a cold nameless corporation for 17 years. I'm not sure if he ever made a living wage, or if his job was threatened by an unnamed internet conglomerate entity, but there is something better waiting for Cicada at the end. I can't imagine why I related to this dark and yet hopeful story, but I'll just say that Shaun Tan does it again.

Picked by Mark B.

One of my favorite novels has been reissued with a nifty new cover. Wild Life takes place in the Pacific Northwest during the early 1900's, and features Charlotte Bridger Drummond, a fearless, tough-as-nails, independent woman. When a little girl goes missing, Charlotte decides to join the search. Molly Gloss has written a beautiful tale with mythical elements, but that is firmly grounded in the reality of the logging camps and wild woods of the northwest frontier. Unforgettable.

Picked by Mark B.

In 2016, Albert Woodfox was released from prison after years of campaigning by activists, judges, politicians, and members of the Angola Three support network. Framed for the murder of a prison guard along with two other Black Panther Party members, he'd been kept in solitary confinement for over 40 years due to a system of falsified accusations, reprisals, and sabotaged appeals involving collusion at dizzying levels of government and judiciary. In these pages, his goal is not just to tell his incredible story, but to educate us about the many, many ways mass incarceration and police brutality are used as a weapon against Black communities. Radicalized in prison, Woodfox drew immense strength and determination from the principles of the Black Panther Party; in every cell block or yard, he worked to eradicate violence, materially improve conditions, practice liberation, and call for change. The very least he's owed is for us to listen.

Picked by Christina

This post-apocalyptic tale is set in a small, Anishinaabe town in winter. Without warning the phones stop working, then the TV. Fuel for the generator is limited. Food becomes a problem. Into this struggling community, an "unexpected visitor" arrives and things get complicated in historically familiar and harrowing ways. It's too late for you to read this while snowed in like I did, but if you like mysteries and you appreciate layers of meaning, this allegorical winter's tale is an excellent read. Waubgeshig Rice is originally from Wasauksing First Nation and this is his second novel.

Picked by Dana

Mac Barnett, beloved children's author, has published quite a few cherished books. But before he was a New York Times bestselling author, he was a kid. And when he was a kid, he was a spy. This (true?) story chronicles Mac's early years as an undercover spy for the Queen of England and all the dangerous cool-guy tasks he had to complete to rescue the crown jewels. Perfect for the kid with a big imagination who enjoys a good laugh. Can be read aloud or read alone by a new reader!

Picked by Halley

De Castell's Spellslinger series is an adventure to take: magic, intrigue, exile, friends, enemies, frenemies, and eyeball eating Squirrel-Cats. The series has it all. I blazed my way through the first four books of Kellen's journeys and the fifth is almost here (out in May!).

Picked by Alex

The aliens have already packed up and left as Roadside Picnic begins, but their brief and apparently pointless visit has left the earth irrevocably altered. And in writing this brief, beguiling novel of first contact, the Strugatsky brothers forever altered the terrain of science fiction; their book has gone on to inspire successive generations of artists and writers, most famously Andrei Tarkovsky and Jeff VanderMeer.

In my mind, the thing that really makes this edition essential for science fiction readers is the forward provided by another pillar of the genre, Ursula K. Le Guin. In a few short, pithy pages, Le Guin uses the numerous possible readings of Roadside Picnic--a parable of Soviet failure? a referendum on human intelligence?--to prompt a much broader meditation on the possibilities of the genre.

Picked by Theo

I love almost everything put out by Small Beer Press, and when I got a copy of Fire Logic in the mail, I read it and immediately blazed through the rest of the series. Fire Logic is the first in an epic fantasy series about a brutal civil war where every character and plot point pivots around history, philosophy, and the aftermath of violence. It's gentler, in later books, and slower than series like Erika Johansen's Tearling books or Ann Leckie's Radch series (though if you like Kalr 5 and her tea cups, you'll also love Garland and his ladle). The questions these books ask repeatedly are, what systems are working to narrow our choices? And what kind of radical thinking will allow us to see another path?

Picked by Christina

In the fall of 2017 I scanned social media obsessively as The Wine Country Fires spread. Family and friends posted updates, rescued animals, and abandoned their homes. Meanwhile sunsets in Seattle were stunning. Brian Fies and his wife lost their home in Santa Rosa, California - the next day he started drawing this story. He includes lists (things they grabbed as they ran, things they would miss), and maps (of his neighborhood). He is blunt about pain of his family's losses, but he sets them within his community's losses and the larger reality of environmental change. The book you hold in your hands is a refinement and expansion of his original drawings; he's been kind enough to include the original drawings at the back of the book. In case you're worried this book will make you sad, it will, but it will also make you laugh and feel warm inside and, oddly enough, feel hopeful. Give it a read.

Picked by Dana