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Greenlight Staff Picks are 15% off!
All of the booksellers on the Greenlight Bookstore staff read widely, and each periodically recommends books they've especially enjoyed. You can peruse and purchase current staff picks from the list below, or from our in-store Staff Picks display any time. Discounts are factored into the prices in this list.
In this decades-spanning novel of a brilliant, haunted, mixed-race family of musicians and scientists, Richard Powers stretches what a novel can do until it almost breaks, or breaks the reader in a way that leaves you changed. All the horrors and hopes of race relations in America in the 20th century are here, and all of the beauties and enormities of theoretical physics, and all the heartbreaking transcendence of music. Trying to talk coherently about this book for me is like trying to write about a loved one who has died; it's too big to do right, but too important not to do. In my personal canon, this book is one of the pillars of my top five.
A poetic jazz fantasia in prose, N's ongoing correspondence with the enigmatic Angel of Dust turns the epistolary novel on its ear--then turns the ear inside out. Through musical shifts within the ever-evolving Mystic Horn Society, we're treated to a musicological, linguistic, and philosophical examination of the purpose of art as an ongoing dialogue between invisible entities. An ongoing epic for the spirit tongues of the ages.
Lives intertwine - an elderly writer forms a relationship with her younger neighbor, an aspiring filmmaker and single mother, who is struggling to make it in New York. There is a great juxtaposition of these two women's (slightly messy and addled) lives - one at her swansong, and the other potentially at the beginning of her career. They form an odd but genuine (and co-dependent) friendship. Gritty, sexy, sad, very "New York", literary, unique and strong. I am so glad I read this book (in practically one sitting!).
With this new collection, Mr. Everett provides a warm tapestry of happenings set in the West. As with his last story collection, he paints the human condition with a gentle brush, always reflective and controlled, never pat. He writes characters of color neutrally. It is something I religiously strive for in my writing. His characters are everyday people thrust into situations that require more of themselves than they ever thought possible.
Žižek uses everything at his disposal (movies, books, history, anecdotes, folk tales, old jokes, etc.) to guide the reader through the somewhat dense ideas and writings of a central figure in the history of psychoanalysis. Reading this book is like watching a particularly dry and intellectual stand-up comedy set. It's like having an enriching conversation.
From an excavated footnote in Alice B. Toklas’ Cook Book, Monique Truong has coined a character so full in both body and spirit it is hard to imagine he was ever a mere emaciated presence. Bihn, a closeted gay man and Vietnamese exile in 1930s France, is the cook in Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ rue de Fleurus household, such goes the story vis-à-vis plot. And yet, haunted by past desires and the voice of his reproachful and belittling father, Bihn finds himself adrift, and a story of race, sexuality and origin is carefully unearthed. This book started out as a fine read and then absolutely blew me away.
Miéville is known for his wildly inventive fantasies, but this is an almost completely realist police procedural, and it's my favorite. The one otherworldly quirk is the setting: two cities, intertwined but separated, so that neighbors can't acknowledge each other's presence, and "breach" of the city lines is a major crime. I think about this book all the time in New York, as I observe the car-city & the pedestrian-city, the hipster-city & the ethnic-city, the child-city & the adult-city. The plot is masterful in itself, but the novel will stay with you for its images of the ways we learn to "unsee" the people and things around us, and the question of why.
If you have ever sat in a quiet place and read a picture book with a child, you may have experienced a certain beautiful sense that this has happened, and will happen, over and over again. This is a book about that: about time and timelessness, about the cycles of life on earth as we grow into and through them. It is also a very practical manual for small people who want to know "what comes next?" Charlotte Zolotow's quiet narrative tone and Garth William's wonderfully specific yet universal images of Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, summer vacation, and Halloween make this one of the most perfect read-aloud books for any age.
Europa Editions brought this "lost classic" back into print a couple of years ago as part of their World Noir series. Despite its spy-story trappings (Israeli spy in London in the 1960s develops obsession with a young English woman, tradecraft ensues), it's really a love story that unfolds over the course of decades and evokes all the great literary questions of love, fate, and the consequences of deceit. Graham Greene loved it. I loved it, too. So many people have loved it. You will love it.
San Francisco, 1968-1977. The International Hotel on the corner of Kearney and Jackson is the epicenter of not only this book but also what's known as the Yellow Power movement. But this umbrella term, as Yamashita illustrates over the 10 novellas (one for each year) that make up I Hotel, doesn't do justice to the complexities, similarities, and differences with which each ethnic group and each individual deals. A political powderkeg of a novel, at turns explosive and poignant, and altogether a triumphant effort.
Jimmy can't figure out how to draw hands. A problem that wouldn't be so serious if he wasn't trying to write his next comic book masterpiece, Mini-Man. A great read for young, frustrated--and talented!--artists and weirdos. Fun fact: Jules Feiffer, the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth, drew from his childhood for inspiration.
This book has been on my favorites shelf since I was 14! The story of Ruby McQueen teaming up with her mother to reunite an elderly member of their book group with her long lost love is now very familiar but hooks me every time I open it. This book has it all, love-striking and love-spurning, friendship, family, adventure, and an excellent road trip; I'm getting excited to re-read it again just writing this! Read this book and then we can talk about how Travis Becker is the absolute worst.
Angela Carter is the master of retelling and re-twisting classic stories, and in this book she gives you an entirely new Gothic fairy tale that is strange and awesome. Perfect for rainy days or sunny days when you want to be in a rainy mood.
An ageing single lady decides to shirks spinster-ism and becomes a witch instead. Also, Warner writes like the disembodied spirits of Jane Bowles and Virginia Woolf colliding in a seance. What more could you ask for? A real gem.
On the surface, Kenzaburo Oe seems minutely focused on the joys and horrors of birth, both literal and metaphorical (come on, parents, you know you have all been there!), but on the subtext he is at once experimenting with the novel form itself and probing into the deepest and darkest hours of human consciousness. For Oe, it is not that he has lost all faith on his generation or religion itself, but rather, he has constructed his own religion through the formulation of his self-effacing belief system: the power of connecting to another life form regardless of any communication barrier or emotional distance.
It takes a full, present tense retelling of Limonov's life to unspool his character, but Carrère is only pushing the knot down the thread, tantalizing us with the unspoken promise that if we can comprehend this repulsive, strangely noble paradox of a man we might grasp something profound about Russia and the web of recent history. But things are more complicated than they seem, and Eduard thrashes away from our sympathy at every turn.
Another installment of Annie's Greatest Unreliable Narrators. Also another installment of Books Featuring Extended Scenes in Laundromats. Who knew that was the secret to great literature? Margaret works in market research. Her friend Clara is perpetually pregnant. Her roommate Ainsley decides she wants a baby - but no husband. (Men spoil families.) Margaret's got Peter, who is nice enough. So why is Margaret suddenly unable to eat meat? And then eggs... and then anything. Atwood called this a protofeminist book. I call it a necessary read for anyone who has ever felt their borders blurring into another, who has wondered what it is we gain and what we lose in our relationships.
This is pretty typical but it needs to be said: the book is so much better than the movie. A Single Man portrays a day in the life of a man trying to cope in the aftermath of his partner's death. It's a meditation on loss, sure, but also on life and hope: even as the novel's protagonist, George, mourns his boyfriend, he engages with the world around him. The results are gorgeous.
A boy runs away from his boarding school and meets an alcoholic dachshund named Mary. Chaos ensues. If John Waters wrote a book about animals it would only be half as twisted as On the Run with Mary.
The most economical crime novel I know & no doubt one of the best. It's set mostly in the Boston underworld of the 60s & features sundry mid-level gangster lowlifes, mucho desperation, etc. The dialogue is slick & exact. Maybe afterward you'll check out the highly regarded 1973 film by Peter Yates, starring Robert Mitchum as Eddie "Fingers" Coyle. (I'm a read-the-book-first nerd.) Possible trivia: Odd connections between this book and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown? Machine gun dealing, deals with the ATF, double-crosses, a character named JACKIE BROWN? What?
In a sleepy Norwegian town nearby, 11-yo. girls Siss and Unn meet at school and quickly form an intense bond. Then, just before a snowstorm that blankets the ice palace, Unn vanishes. The mystery of her disappearance becomes a backdrop for a deeper question: What is happening to Siss? Even Siss herself can’t say, as her memories of Unn, her social roles at school, and her sense of her own identity grow slippery and mercurial. This book is heartbreaking, but it isn’t sad; Vesaas evokes the vibrant, confusing connections between kindred spirits with a sharp beauty that lights up a seemingly dark story.
It's been ten years since hip hop visionary J Dilla passed away. Legend has it that Dilla finalized his landmark album Donuts on his death bed. Regardless of whether that's true, the mythology adds to the album's mystique, pondered even further when the hip hop community learned of his passing at age 32. This slim volume on J Dilla reflects the beauty of life in the sadness of death, and the enduring spirit that he managed to mix into his last batch of music.
Fellow Melville House author Derek Raymond says that this book "Serves as a tap on the shoulder — a necessary reminder that what is dead is not buried, and what is buried is, unfortunately, not dead." On the evening of October 17, 1961 twenty-thousand Algerians marched in Paris in defiance of and in protest against a curfew imposed by Maurice Papon, chief of the Paris Metropolitan Police. The protesters were met with ferocious and uninhibited violence. Eleven-thousand were arrested; more than one thousand injured; as many as three hundred were killed, many of them thrown into the Seine, from which their bodies were later recovered. Didier Daeninckx introduces us to a fictional observer of the riot, Roger Thiraud, a middle-aged history teacher in a public school, only steps from his home and his waiting, pregnant wife.
This book breaks down the disparity between the have and the have-nots with humor because that is the only humane way to tackle the subject matter without ripping the book in half. When reading this book I couldn't help but think to myself, have we honestly forgotten how to treat each other? When you are born into the world, it belongs to you - at least that is what I still believe, but that mantra has taking a beating.
Some people talk about writers' writers; well, Sergio Pitol is a reader's reader. Pitol is like a sponge - absorbing books, architecture, art, and travel - soaking up an ocean of experience where and no drop goes to waste. And his sponginess is infectious too - before I could bring myself to finish the first installment of his memoir trilogy, I was compelled to read Conrad, Bulgakov, Chekhov and more. Though originally from Mexico, Pitol spent much of his life abroad in Europe as a diplomat and translator (two sides of the same coin I like to think). When asked how it feels to be an ex-pat, Pitol gives the best possible answer: "Language is my homeland."
A perennial favorite and one of the sources of our name, Fitzgerald's masterpiece is always a staff pick at Greenlight Bookstore.