I love Ross Gay's writing so much. The prose pieces in The Book of Delights are delightful, but they're also complicated, profound, funny, sad, and so much more. A lot like life. Poet Ross Gay avoids saccharine, Hallmark-style sentimentality and finds the gritty, wonderful depths of delight, gratitude, and joy. Ross Gay's books are my answer to most unanswerable questions.
“I couldn’t put this book down” is a phrase used so often, we barely blink at it. But to be caught in the pages of a book and never want to leave really is a rare and powerful magic. The House in the Cerulean Sea bestowed that level of enchantment on me. This endearing and entertaining story has everything I want in a comforting fantasy read: whimsy, a cast of misfit characters, a smidge of mystery, a dash of romance, and a whole lot of heart.
Local author! Local press! Bao Phi's poems are frank and affecting. I admire the tenderness with which he writes about the joys and challenges of being a man and raising a daughter—especially in America, especially as a Vietnamese American. If you want to read more poetry, this book is an excellent place to start.
Le Guin is one of the greatest American writers of the last century and this is one of her many masterpieces. Like all of her best work, it takes some “what if?” questions—especially about gender and culture—to their logical endpoints, while also simply telling a very good story. I don’t have enough space here to explain how much I love this book.
Gifty is a brilliant neuroscientist who was raised evangelical, studying reward-seeking behavior in mice. As she cares for her mother who struggles with depression, she confronts issues of race, grief, addiction, mental illness, immigration, religion, and faith, all through the lens of her own experiences and her Ghanaian-American family in Alabama. Completely different from Gyasi’s debut Homegoing, but just as stunning and epic in its depth and the array of subjects it so eloquently tackles.
Reading each chapter in Ford’s sparkling debut, with its shifting points of view, is like sifting through a box of old, faded photos. In her story of four generations of Cherokee women, we see how home, both the place and the people within, forges bonds strong enough to withstand all manner of struggle and disappointment. There is little romanticism here, but the book at its core is a real love story.
Benson and Mike are in a complicated, possibly-failing relationship when Mike’s mother Mitsuko arrives for a visit from Tokyo, and a day later he leaves to say goodbye to his dying and estranged father in Osaka. After meeting for the first time, Benson and Mitsuko are stuck living together in a small apartment in Houston. Through the alternating perspectives of Benson and Mike, Washington lovingly explores the changing and sometimes challenging relationships between partners, parents and their adult children, and friends. The cities of Houston and Osaka are so present they are almost characters, and I loved the descriptions of food and cooking throughout. This book has stayed with me in the best way.
This beautiful novel is a story within a story, looping back on itself through time. These stories are protected by those who are willing to give their lives for them, and many have. Zachary is searching for these stories and the door to their sanctuary without even knowing it. His door is waiting for him, and with the help of two strangers, he becomes part of a world he knows nothing about. Yet it has been speaking to him his whole life.
The Name of the Wind is one of my top-five favorite fantasy novels. After our protagonist Kvothe suffers a violent tragedy in childhood he commits his life to finding the perpetrators, mythical beings the rest of the world does not believe exist. Along the way his many adventures and challenges distinguish him as the greatest wizard the world has ever known, he himself becoming the stuff of legend. It is the first of a fun and fantastic series, make sure to grab book two (The Wise Man's Fear) as well!
I'll be honest, I initially found this book a bit off-putting. Eleanor, this story's recluse heroine, is quite socially idiosyncratic. But as you stick with Eleanor's blunders and maladaptive tendencies, clues about why Eleanor seems to be such an unusual human begin to fit together. The result is a deeply funny ode to emerging from the depths of loneliness and opening one's heart.
Barnhill masterfully expands from her typical work in this eclectic collection of eerie stories. Ranging from the tale of a widow's love affair with a Sasquatch to the life of a girl destined to be a revolutionary pirate; these stories are some of the most imaginative I've read. An extraordinary mix of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction and folk-inspired stories, this book would be a versatile gift.
Joe Hill has written everything from novels to comic books, but he really hit the nail on the head with this collection of short stories. Ranging from supernatural to horror, each story is exquisitely crafted to be wholly different from the last. Some are shocking, some sad, and some sent shivers down my spine. This collection would be perfect for that person on your list who doesn’t mind getting a little spooked.
Do you have an uncle/cousin/friend who you simply CANNOT shop for because they like movies but no one watches DVDs in 2019? This is the book for you! Find out the answers to questions you never knew you had in a set of illustrated essays for the ages. This book would be rated R for language and H for hilarious. “We do great with the ‘don’t normally read books’ crowd.” -Shea Serrano
Sigrid Nunez, winner of the National Book Award (2018 ‘The Friend), is the perfect author to bring to life the small period of time during which Leonard and Virginia Woolf lived with the encroaching danger of Nazi Germany and hosted a marmoset named Mitz—first as a sickly guest, then as a constant companion to Leonard. I’m always curious about the private lives of famous authors and Leonard and Virginia Woolf are such an iconic writing couple. In the early 1900’s they were the ring leaders of the ‘Bloomsbury Group’ of writers and artists. They created their own publishing company: Hogarth Press and mentored young whippersnappers such as T.S. Eliot. This book, culled from diaries, biographies and autobiographies gives us a snapshot of a truly likable couple who maintain rigorous writing/editing schedules but make room for the niceties of Sussex, England circa 1930. This is the minutiae of the worst pet in the world (Mitz) and her fierce attachment to Leonard. Virginia’s acerbic asides are hilarious, weirdly intimate and endearing.
I got this book as a gift a few years ago and couldn't put it down till I finished it. This is a compelling and inspiring account of a woman making a path in STEM, and Hope Jahren's story of perseverance and passion masterfully mixes memoir and science. In fact, her clear, clever explanations of biology just might have made me contemplate changing my career and becoming a botanist.
It's like Handmaid's Tale; except this time, women have all the power. A modern science fiction that is so perceptive and relevant, it is hard to distinguish from reality. It starts with an innocent playground fight, then escalates to a national emergency due to all the cases of injured men. Some of these altercations are involuntary; yet, once some women discover they have the power, they seek vengeance.
This book sat on top of my “to read” pile for three years before I finally picked it up. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. Yang’s duet with her father is a lyrical, yet unvarnished recounting of their family’s journey from Laos to the United States and their ensuing years in the Twin Cities. Both beautiful and thought-provoking, The Song Poet is an essential read for all Minnesotans.
Whether you’re well-acquainted with the world of Earthsea or are visiting for the first time, the 50th anniversary omnibus edition of Le Guin’s classic fantasy series is a must-own. Immerse yourself in a realm where magic springs from truth, names hold great power, and dragons are capable of far more than breathing fire. Handsome new illustrations, personally selected by the author, will further engage your imagination along the way.
A host of characters makes for a most colorful tale of life in hard-times Greenstone, MN. Virgil Wander, proprietor of the failing Empress Theater, takes the ride of a life in his old Pontiac as he plunges over a cliff into the frigid lake below.
Barely surviving, Virgil finds a new path in life—a rebirth, if you will. Because of the friends he never knew he had, the “soft old heads-down” version of Virgil is on extended leave, discovering new roads. Come along for the ride! Amen.
In a story for the literature lover you know, William Tyce gifts us with a glossary of his young life. From ABSENCE to JELLYBEANS, each entry is a puzzle piece introducing and developing key figures in his story: a gambling uncle, a
balloon-chasing best friend, and a missing father. Follow Will as he grows up and embarks on a journey downriver to find his father. The tale woven throughout is built through clear-eyed prose and the startling and earnest insights of its protagonist.
Through it all, William learns of the power language has to shape and define the world around him.
Dear Tina, Dear Kristian...their letters share all that seems important when “the time ahead and the time behind is more or less in balance.” Theirs are thoughts of plans never fulfilled. And yet, we readers are comforted in the elegance of their
penned correspondence. (Aren’t we all in need of someone we care for?) The museum is open every day. As curator of the museum, Kristian invites Tina to “please come!” Join in on this memorable romance between two strangers, one from East Anglia, the other from Denmark. There is an enormity in the might-have-been!
On the icebound planet Gethen, where the inhabitants have no fixed gender, two countries are poised on the brink of war. Can an ambassador and an exile withstand polar dangers and save the world? This swift-reading but multifaceted sci-fi classic layers in a deep, unflinching examination of gender, politics and violence while remaining a solid page-turner with intrigue, unexpected friendship, and survival against all odds.
This book has stayed with me for years. Walls impeccably recounts the story of growing up with her unique, nomadic family. Jeanette’s mother was an artist who encouraged the four Walls children to be independent, so she could focus on painting. Her father was an exceptionally brilliant man who taught them about physics, philosophy and geology, but became reckless and abusive when drinking. Thus, the Walls family would run away from their problems, always hoping to build a better life in their self-designed Glass Castle. At its core, this is a heartbreaking story of family and resilience.