Bookseller at Ravenna
Christina's section duties take her all over the store, as do her exploits in the name of Ravenna's social media accounts. She has read a lot of books in which people are gruesomely murdered or with dragons on the cover. You can ask her about her cats or for recommendations from some of her 13+ sections, such as history, lgbt studies, women's studies, or nature.
"I want to love myself. I want to understand my own experiences." Depressed and caught between social anxiety and loneliness, Nagabi Kata is trying to reorient herself by discovering her own desires and needs for the first time. At 28, she visits a sex worker from a lesbian escort agency for her first sexual experience. It goes totally awry, but it's one of many demonstrations of her immense bravery in this funny, moving graphic memoir. Her willingness to be vulnerable and her irrepressible sincerity make even her darkest moments brighter with hope.
The second I picked up this book, I didn't want to do a thing other than read it and snarled at all would-be interrupters like a hibernating bear. The characters--sarcastic Elliot, beautiful misandrist elf Serene, and big-hearted jock Luke--and the world of the Borderlands instantly sparked that same fierce affection that will be familiar to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Leigh Bardugo, or Sabaa Tahir. If you've ever rage-posted on Tumblr about the glaring plot holes and probable trauma experienced by your favorite YA series' child heroes, you'll LOVE Brennan's fond yet ruthless exploration of fantasy tropes and their ties to our own, all-too-real society. Also, hello: harpies! dryads! witty banter! painful first love! mermaids!
Sunja is the beloved only child of her parents, who live in a fishing village in South Korea. Koh Hansu is a ruthless gangster with strong ties to the Japanese occupation. They meet, have a short affair, and conceive a child together - changing the paths of their lives and their descendants forever. After Hansu refuses to marry her, Sunja decides to begin a new life in Japan. Historical fiction can provide valuable plurality, nuance, and depth to our perspectives of the past and present when it adds more voices to the narratives of well-known events. Lee's beautiful novel recontextualizes almost 70 years of the past century, from the brutality of WWII to Japan's 1990s economic boom, through the bittersweet ups and downs of one family. Once you pick up Pachinko (a National Book Award finalist), you'll hate to put it down - it's full of unflinching historical reckoning and tender-hearted, stoic characters that demand your attention.
Jess and Angie are best friends, so when Angie comes out and starts dating Margot, a rich girl from a different high school, Jess tries to be supportive. Jess has secretly loved Angie for a long time - and she doesn't plan on losing their relationship to the shark-infested waters of Angie's new, cliquish social circle so easily. But then a girl goes missing after a wild house party, with Jess and Angie right in the middle of it. And both of them are lying. Spooky, contemporary queer YA packed with morally complex female characters!
After finding her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs, Tanya DuBois makes a break into the night, shedding the past ten years behind her in a flash. Tanya--not her real name--has been living under a stolen identity, trying to bury a catastrophic secret that's worth her life to reveal. She's coolly competent, ingenious, and quick with a bottle of hair dye or contact lenses. But living on the run and rapidly switching identities begins to grind away at her core sense of being and morality. Not even she knows what kind of choices she'll make, or where they'll lead her. Trying to figure it out will keep you reading all night, tired eyes, beating heart and all.
So many novels that try to discuss the internet and technology culture do so in a way that feels like the author's never actually used the internet. Is it impossibly difficult to write well about the ways in which we live and have relationships through online platforms that exploit personal privacy and data for capitalist gains? I don't know. I also don't know if we're ever going to run out of books that treat the internet (you know, the global infrastructure used by billions of people for decades) and its users and communities with condescension or alarmism. But Dexter Palmer's Version Control is antithesis of those books: it braids together surveillance culture, dating apps, time travel, and an intimate, often sad portrait of a marriage together into a powerful exploration of possibility and truth. It's really funny and very sharp, and I loved every page.
Pablo Holmberg's graphic novel is delightful and surprising and strange. It feels like discovering something precious you thought you'd lost, or seeing an old friend you never expected to meet again. Within each four-panel page's self-contained world, lovers meet, friends quarrel, and a lonely rabbit-eared king paces the hills with a star in his pocket. It's the perfect world to step into if you need something quiet and magical in your life right now.
A deep dive into Japanese police hierarchy and newspaper journalism. Mikami, a highly respected detective, has unexpectedly been thrust into a position in Media Relations, where he feels torn between his old loyalty to Criminal Investigations and his duty to his current administrative position. Things at home are even worse: his teenage daughter is missing and his wife is suffering deeply. When he discovers evidence of a secret document vitally important to a 14-year old kidnapping case that still holds sway over the present, he doesn't hesitate to throw himself into the fray over his convictions - but he's way over his head. Almost airless with tension and bared-teeth interoffice-tactical assaults between members of a very unfriendly "fraternity".
This bitingly funny, stark book of feminist essays is like watching a patient, skilled boxer making a relentless assault in the ring. Moore's target is the intersection of capitalism and misogyny and its effects on women's bodies, from labor rights and healthcare to high fashion modeling. Her work is rooted in research and cultural criticism, and draws on her experiences as a journalist, disabled person, and comics anthologist. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but lately I'm craving work like Moore's, which has no interest in sugarcoating anything but confronts the complexity of oppressive systems with blunt humor and equally complex analysis. My favorite essays in Body Horror? The patent history of tampon disposal boxes (trust me!), and the 19th century railroad magnate-origins of standardized time in North America.
Angie Thomas deserves our endless thanks for this urgently relevant book. She's told a heartbreaking, nuanced story about what happens when a young Black person is killed by the police, and how deep and far the ripple effects spread. When Starr Carter sees her friend Khalil shot, she is forced to choose between staying silent and protecting her family, or speaking up and fighting for Khalil's memory. All of the difficult questions that come up in this book are carefully and thoroughly considered, with incredible love, hope, humor, and courage. If you're feeling understandably discouraged by our current nightmare political reality, pick up this book--however old you are--and let Starr and her family, friends, and community remind you of what we're fighting for, and why.
This is a sort of 'best of' collection from Kashua's decade plus of weekly columns for Israeli newspaper Haaretz: short, satirical pieces on life in Israel, usually featuring Kashua and his family. Kashua comes off as a neurotic bumbler with all the comic failures of a sitcom character--kind of like Kramer from Seinfeld. And like Kramer, some of his mishaps are his own fault, and some are due to existing in a world where someone else is writing the rules. Kashua's essays present his writerly daydreaming and hopes for his family, as well as the painful difficulties of life as an Arab living in Jerusalem, with miserable hilarity. The columns are presented in chronological order and make it easy to track the rise and fall of Kashua's optimism, which he reveals with disarming and harrowing honesty. You can dip in and read a few pages here or there or go straight through like I did, and close the book feeling enervated and ready for a drink. Recommended: Without Parents; The Court!; The Stories I Don't Dare Tell; Kashua's Complaint.
This a comprehensive survey of the history of Asian immigration to the Americas, the growth of Asian American communities, and the complex entanglement of American immigration policies and American identity. Lee's book is broad in scope but it also dives into all the detail a serious scholar is capable of when illuminating a lesser-known facet of history. It's really readable and will be very useful to anyone looking to better understand our country's long record of exclusionary, racist immigration policy, and the centrality of Asians to American history.
Rabih Alameddine is the author of An Unnecessary Woman, a staff favorite here and a 2014 National Book Award finalist. If that book was blackly funny and melancholic, this (his newest) is as angry and beautiful as a lit match. Flirtatious, ribald Satan and severe Death try to sway Jacob, a gay Yemeni-born poet who's tormented by memories, to their respective rhetorical positions over the course of one night spent in a San Francisco psychiatric clinic. Satan wants Jacob to remember every painful moment from his life, and Death thinks Jacob should forget them. As Jacob revisits his past while considering each argument's merits, the novel brings its intense focus to bear on political and social issues--the 80s AIDS crisis, tech industry-fueled gentrification, the ongoing US-armed Saudi Arabian bombings in Yemen--that are urgently relevant to the present. It's ambitious, spellbinding, and related in a lyrical style that's easy to sink into.
A Hugo- and Nebula-nominated medieval fantasy adventure set in a fantastical Middle East. Swashbuckling isn't one of my favorite words, but this is an awesome swashbuckling adventure that's also observant and smart. A lovable and unlikely trio unites to fight what they think is a slightly larger than usual demon that turns out to be just the start of their problems. Escape the holidays, read this book.
This book is from 1997, but the continuing relevance of its themes -- displacement, refugee crises, time, memory, and the ability of art to address situations affecting millions--make reading it feel painfully fresh. Every joy that Barghouti feels during his return to his home in Palestine, the first visit in 30 years, is paired with an equal measure of disorientation and loss. A tangled web of thoughts and memories sprouts with every step he takes. I re-read every sentence in this book at least twice, amazed and transported, feeling lucky to have such an affecting glimpse into a rich and complex life.
By keeping its focus tight on its four main characters and their lives in contemporary San Francisco, Private Citizens gets closer to an accurate depiction of the lives of certain subset of the Millennial generation than any other book I've read. If you're a tech worker, aspiring activist, writer, or self-identified failure, you'll wince in uncomfortable recognition. Tulathimutte takes every aspect of Bay Area culture that's ripe for think-piece coverage--personal brands; social media; the (corporate, commercial) non-profit industry--to its goriest depths. It's hilarious, bleak, ambitious, and thrilling.
NK Jemisin is known for exceptional world-building that's drawn devoted science fiction and fantasy genre readers, but anyone not reading her work is missing out on an amazing stylist and user of narrative technique. This book scared the pants off me. It beings with a lone saboteur creating a natural disaster that splits the entire continent, and Jemisin leads the reader in time through the eyes of several characters as we try to figure out what's going on. It's got huge plot twists, complex protagonists, and really fun magic. Her characters are fighting for justice (or revenge) as their world falls apart around them, and you can't help but root for them. The second title in the series, The Obelisk Gate, is out already, and I hope you'll pick it up!
Ivoe Williams is one of the most driven characters you'll ever read. As a black woman working as a journalist and newspaperwoman in the time of Jim Crow, she has to be. Her struggles, achievements, and loves come about in a pervading atmosphere of oppression that's both catastrophic and banal, and often violent. But Ivoe's story is is also about incredible strength and joy, animated by vibrant prose and a truly rewarding depth of historical detail that lifts up the work of early African-American newspapers. I didn't expect to be so surprised, challenged, and moved when I began this book, but Jam on the Vine is that kind of book.
I couldn't shut up about this book while I was reading it, and you can ask my coworkers for proof. Too much verisimilitude can harm historical fiction, but here you crave any detail that might let you shine a light around the next dark, sharp curve of the plot. Chee is an assured, masterful writer whose novel will stay with you the way a dream does.
This is a very fun and and thoughtful iteration of the "decent person trying to maintain their integrity in trying circumstances" trope. The world Addison builds is a treat too: dense and tricky court politics, airships, and conspiracies are thick on the ground. You don't need to be wary of the 'beautiful pale elves' cliche (often just a thin, tired veil for prejudice) here. The Goblin Emperor begins with disruption and carries on that way, with a really likable main character emerging out of the dust.
Zami is an achingly beautiful autobiography that explores poet, essayist, and activist Audre Lorde's childhood and early adulthood, growing up as a Black lesbian poet in New York City in the 30s and finishing before her rise to fame in the 60s. Her language is sensual and frank as she writes of the smell of pounding garlic in her mother's mortar and pestle, the sound of her sisters whispering stories to each other late at night, the taste of the apricot brandy passed among friends at a New Years' Eve party in a cold-water walk-up. Lorde's experiences in the Greenwich Village lesbian bars of the 1950s are fascinating, as is reading about how relentlessly many of the women in even those spaces try to define her by whatever part of her identity is most comfortable for them. Ultimately, the book is a tender and unflinching homage to the women who've shaped Lorde's life.
You can always trust Small Beer Press to bring you the beautiful and the strange. In The Winged Histories, four women (a solider, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite) relate their experiences of a shattering rebellion and its aftermath. Far from linear, each woman's narrative plumbs the depths of their individual and cultural memories; and surprisingly the ending - where Samatar ties off a wonderful multitude of threads - was so brilliant, such a dark surprise, it was nearly my favorite part. One of the best things about The Winged Histories (and its stunning prequel, A Stranger in Olondria) is its fierce lyricism and the depths of Samatar's worldbuilding. Every character is a believable expression not only of individual traits but of the invented historical texts, whole schools of literature, arguments between translators, oral traditions, and the fragments of bestiaries of the literature-sodden world of Olondria. Every page is worth your time.
If the thought of queer women mechanics and ship captains in space, battling at further intersections of race, poverty, disability, and gentrification doesn't get you pumped to read this book, I don't know what to tell you. This book is exciting and fun. It has the pacing and adventure of Firefly, but these fully-fleshed characters take different roads to more thrilling destinations.
This beautiful book, the story of an impoverished, naive young artist in 1930s London, totally took me by surprise. At first the mishaps of newly-married Sophia and her husband Charles are funny and awkward--everything Sophia cooks tastes like soap; they paint all of their furniture sea-green; they live in terror of Charles' forbidding relatives; and they're always hard up for money. But through a masterful technique of Comyns, Sophia's wondering attitude slowly reveals as much about her (and her unconscious attempts to deflect the emotional impact of constant disappointments) as it does those around her, who benefit from exploiting her optimism and self-doubt. Some moments of the book approach psychological horror, and the happy ones (they exist!) come as a great relief.
If you're looking for weeknight-friendly, plant-based meals with a comfort-food vibe, pick up Isa Does It!. Moskowitz has a high level of justifiable fame in the vegan community, but if you're new to her books (or to plant-based cooking) this is the one to grab. The recipes are funny, fresh, delicious, and no-nonsense (no fiddling with garnishes or expensive one-time-use ingredients here). There are beautiful, helpful photographs for almost every recipe and the funny headnotes are not to be missed. I've cooked more recipes from this book than any other in my collection in just three months. Some of my favorites are the Marbled Banana Bread, Stew with Dilly Dumplings, and the Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut-Creamed Spinach! Perfect for any cook in your life looking for inspiration and vegan neophytes alike.
The PERFECT fall read. Samatar's elegant prose will make the glittering landscapes of the world inside these pages as feverishly real to you as to the novel's haunted protagonist. This is a book for bibliophiles, for people that read closely and dream widely: love for literature and how it influences our perceptions of the world (for better or for worse) is one of many themes subtly and intriguingly addressed here. Samatar is an incredible writer and the plot of a naive young man drawn into matters over his head will speak to anyone whose travels have made them both sick with excitement and the longing to go home. If Ursula K. LeGuin or Cathrynne Valente are favorites of yours, you will love this book.
Using the bones of a classic fairy tale, Malinda Lo builds a magical, beautiful story of a young woman who wishes to change her fate. Ash experiences grief and cruel circumstances while under her stepmother's care, but the choices she makes to free herself are not without their own cost. She must decide what kind of life she wishes to lead, and in whose company. Featuring: dead mothers, dangerous fairy princes, attractive and competent king's huntresses, and romance sidelined to make way for an exploration of independence.
One of the most exciting and haunting novels I've had the privilege of reading. Who Fears Death tells the story of Onyesonwu, a girl and powerful sorceress born into a terrible legacy in near-future dystopian Africa. Onyesonwu undertakes a quest for revenge that turns into something much more complex; along the way, she must fight for acceptance, equality, friendship, and to make peace with her fate. Okorafor believably writes scenes ranging from brutal violence to exceptional tenderness with sincerity and care. This is a must-read for anyone who craves sci-fi & fantasy novels that don't flinch from exploring and illuminating realities of our own world in fantastical settings.