603 N. Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78703 512-472-5050 Open 9AM - 11PM The largest independent bookstore in Texas!
What to Read in 2015
Julie: “I started this book Friday night and was sorry I’d made any other plans for the weekend. It’s about a family whose daughter goes missing in the Colorado Rockies, just before she’s about to begin college. The story itself is gripping, the characters well developed and walking around my head as we speak, but what really sends this book over the top is Johnston’s command of language. Every sentence is vital. It feels as if every next word may be the one that finds this missing girl. I’m absolutely rapt. He has a terrific talent for communicating the ticks of each moment, the way a ponytail swings, the way a porch in the mountains smells in the middle of the night. I find myself sucking in my breath and reading sentences over again for their rhythm, their lift, their startling beauty. I’m a fool for this book.”
We're big fans of comedian Patton Oswalt and are super stoked for this new book, in which Oswalt discusses late '90s addiction to classic cinema. His friends and comrades in comedy gave this one high blurbs: Ricky Gervais: “Patton Oswalt is one of the most brilliant comedy minds of a generation. This book confirms it.”Amy Schumer: "I loved this book. It feels like a great one sided conversation from your funniest friend. It made me feel less alone in the precious hours I read it. But now it's gone and I have nothing."Joss Whedon: “Silver Screen Fiend is both a love letter to artistic obsession and string of caution tape around it. Patton describes the ecstatic demands of the arts (in this case, Stand-up and Film) with insight, fond pity, and unfailing humor. This is a book for anyone who strives to be great, or is bored in an airport.”
Sarah Bagby, our friend at awesome indie Watermark Books, Wichita, Kansas: “Christopher Scotton’s novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, is riveting. set against the backdrop of a fading mining town in the south covers three generations of mine owners, their laborers, and a close community on the verge of change. I recommend this book to anyone who needs a smart book about fathers and sons, sexual identity and communities, land rights or preservation, appreciation of the sky and forces of nature, learning how to fish, or the difficulty journey of healing from loss. Reads like suspense, evokes emotion like tragedy, and in the end, is thoroughly satisfying. Perfect for book clubs, airplanes, or on a night you don’t want any sleep.”
Julie: “I had so much fun reading this novel. I love reading about the lives of writers and O’Nan does a terrific job fictionalizing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final days. His vision of 1930s Hollywood, where Fitzgerald is neighbors with Humphrey Bogart and eats lunch in the same cafeteria as Spencer Tracy, is addictive reading. The dancing! The premieres! The stars! It’s a Hollywood of a long gone era, glitzy and gilded, pure joy to experience on the page. This novel gives us a writer hanging between past and present, struggling to stay afloat, writing to save himself. O’Nan’s pacing and dialogue are dynamite. Those of us who remember that made-for-cable movie starring Jeremy Irons as Fitzgerald and Neve Campbell as his final secretary, Frances, will be absolutely delighted by this story.”
Katie P.: “The First Bad Man, like all of July’s work, is a story of deepest, truest human desire, and how it gets fulfilled. In this case those desires are Cheryl Glickman’s; a middle-aged obsessive-compulsive woman whose life follows a thousand invisible rules. The First Bad Man is a daring book. It takes readers through shocking eroticism, dark humor, and tender portrayals of people who, in the hands of another author, would be repellent. But here is where July is most masterful: when she shines a light into dark places, to show us parts of ourselves we didn’t even know we were hiding.”
Joe: “Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Jo Walton tackles the idea of consent and volition in her latest novel, The Just City. When the goddess Athene selects scholars from all across time to create a real life example of Plato’s Republic, questions about the place and role of women in that world, what constitutes consent in sexual relationships, and the very nature and notion of slavery arise. Even though it is only the beginning of 2015, I already consider this a strong contender for book of the year.”
Ben Fountain: “See How Small is superb. In prose that’s as fine as any being written today, Scott Blackwood plumbs the depths of a story that is alternately haunting, terrifying, and achingly tragic. Blackwood illuminates the human condition even as he breaks our hearts.”
Julie: “Austin author Amanda Eyre Ward takes on the timely and relevant subjects of immigration and American privilege in her new novel, The Same Sky. Shifting by chapter between the story of Alice, an Austin woman struggling to adopt a child with her husband, and Carla, a twelve year old girl making the trip from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Texas, Ward highlights the significant disparity between perspectives north and south of the border. Carla’s chapters offer much-needed insight into the herculean, life-threatening odyssey from South America to the United States that people embark upon every day to chase those elements of life – food, safety, shelter, work, education – that many of us take as birthright here in the States. Alice’s story is rooted in real Austin landmarks (she and her husband own a barbecue joint similar to Franklin’s) which assert, particularly for local readers, the truth of the many economic layers (and presumptions) that make up our community, from shoppers at Whole Foods to people working the fryers at Chik-Fil-A. The Same Sky is a book that works to understand our community; not just our neighborhoods in Austin, but America as a whole. It’s important reading for anyone who has an opinion on immigration.”
Katie P.: "Reading Leora Tanenbaum’s I Am Not a Slut is like watching a documentary – it’s complex, extensively researched, sometimes hard to get through, and important for precisely the reasons that make it so. I Am Not a Slut is the result of Tanenbaum’s decade-long investigation of young women and how they come of age in an increasingly hyper-connected world. This book is a follow-up to Slut!: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, the author’s late-90s exposé on the same topic, just before the advent of the Internet as a ubiquitous, inescapable force. What this book offers that its predecessor didn’t is an extensive look at how the Internet has exploded the boundaries of judgment and pressures placed on teens and pre-teens. With brisk, intelligent, feeling prose, Tanenbaum presents a dire situation and tells us that one place to start solving it is in the words we use, even among friends. I Am Not a Slut is, in several desperately needed ways, a game-changer."
Raul: “Fischer’s book is an eyeopening and disturbing true story that will intrigue you and totally suck you in. When Kim Jong-Il decides that film production will bring him acclaim world wide, he kidnaps both a famous South Korean director and actress to create these films. Both Shin Sang-0k and Choi Eun-Hee are unwilling participants, but after five years of incarceration, they decide to cooperate and begin to achieve some success – which brings them praise from the Great Leader and also provides the opportunity for them to escape North Korea. At the same time wildly entertaining and absolutely horrifying, with cultural details from this secretive country that are shocking, Fischer’s book highlights the rise of cinema as a true art form in North Korea and the parallel rise of Kim Jong-Il’s Juche regime. Unforgettable.”
Ben: “This is the type of book where you’re excited enough to bring it up to friends, but find yourself at a loss of words when it comes to explaining exactly what it is you read about. A superhero and his pseudo-girlfriend/childhood friend, drinking, at a Wizard of Oz amusement park? In the future? Maybe? It’s the perfect type of book for those unfamiliar with story collections or simply bored with their typical reading material and ready to cross borders. Get In Trouble fits in well alongside your tomes of Karen Russell or George Saunders. It is a difficult book to shake once it has you caught between its covers. This collection is so varied that different readers will walk away with their own favorites. This is the brilliance of Link and Get In Trouble. There is no single note or instrument in this composition, but a symphony of variation to be enjoyed, explored, and read over and over again. I would not miss out on this one.”
Raul: “Not many first novels illustrate such a familiarity with the soul and substance of a living community as Marauders does for southern Louisiana. Evocative and brilliantly paced, the dreamers and schemers here are everyday joes woven into a diverse landscape embracing culture and society – sure to be in the queue for all the major book awards in 2015.”
Raul: “Nikolaidou’s novel is a beautiful and tragic work that embraces the violence and corruption inherent in Greek society and creates vibrant characters that survive and thrive despite their circumstances. When an American reporter is murdered in the turbulent time after WWII, Manolis Gris is picked up by the police and tortured until he confesses to the crime; he spends the next twelve years in prison for it. In our time, a high school senior is charged by his unconventional teacher to research the Gris affair and make a presentation to his class. The way Nikolaidou presents the tale reminds one of Garcia Marquez – her words embrace the individual and society as a whole and we get a better picture not only of historical events, but events related to contemporary Greek society. Magisterial and all encompassing, her writing will make you laugh, cry and stir with a deep sense of discomfort at the experience of injustice that is illustrated in this wonderful novel.”
Joe: “Coming on like an unofficial sequel to the 1956 film The Bad Seed, Andrew Pyper’s newest novel is an intriguing combination of ghost story and orphic descent into hell. I devoured this book in a day, I couldn’t put it down. This is the perfect book for a rainy day, the beach, or if you’re stuck on a plane.”
Katie P.: “Ari is the profane, generous, poetic, desperate, loving, terrified best friend we all hope for. Sleep-deprived and thrumming with the electricity of new motherhood, she stumbles upon pockets of community and support in places expected and unexpected that cut through her small-town isolation and the clutch of post-partum depression. Elisa Albert wields humor like a blade in relaying Ari’s thoughts, and is a master of conveying the gorgeous struggle of birth and all that comes after.”
Roxane Gay: "That we are as strong as we are frail is the most profound of many truths rising out of Mac McClelland’s astonishing Irritable Hearts. In her unforgettable memoir, McClelland begins to unravel her experience with PTSD while falling in love, traversing the globe and trying to understand both how the mind breaks and what it takes to heal in a world where all too often, we are constantly faced with how terribly vulnerable we are."
Everyone: “Holy sh*t a memoir from the founder of Sonic Youth?!?! BE STILL OUR HEARTS. We’ve been waiting years to read something after Patti Smith’s Just Kids.”
Julia Sinn, bookseller at the fabulous, must-visit indie, Bookshop Santa Cruz: “I’m picturing Reif Larsen’s mind like an enchanting, labyrinthine attic stuffed with relics and trinkets and maps from another dimension. The scope of Larsen’s imagination and creativity is absorbing; I Am Radar digs its claws in deep from the first pages and holds tight through a dreamlike Norwegian puppeteer headquarters and experimental theater in war-torn Congo. Larsen’s story-telling hovers just this side of magical—delightfully inventive yet excruciatingly true to life. I Am Radar is a fantastical modern epic that retells history (of love, of war, of theater) as if through the lens of a kaleidoscope.” (Larsen is the author of the big bestseller, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, which is being turned into a movie.)
Julie: New from the bestselling author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go! It's Ishiguro's first novel in nearly a decade! Remember when Franzen pulled that decade trick with Freedom and they put him on the cover of Time? Donna Tartt did the same ten year dance between The Little Friend and The Goldfinch and - voila - Pulitzer! Here is everything we know about this book from Knopf, a publisher that does not fool around: "The Buried Giant begins as a couple set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen in years. Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in nearly a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge, and war."
Keaton, from venerable Houston indie Brazos Bookstore: “Despite the little we know about Ernst Haffner, it’s clear to me from reading Blood Brothers that he was a brave and compassionate man, as well as a talented author. His novel is a stark, realist masterpiece of 1930s Berlin streetlife that also contains nightmarish elements of German Expressionism and features bureaucracies as strange and labyrinthine as anything Kafka ever conceived. Yet, what always comes through the most is Haffner’s supreme empathy for these lost boys, his desire to point out their plight. Blood Brothers is literature of social importance. It is a clarion call on par with The Jungle – art meant to enact change for the greater good. Perhaps, in its time, it was too successful at this aim. Otherwise, why would the Nazis go to the trouble to burn it?”
Jim: “Rarely does a collection of stories, and coruscatingly well crafted ones like Barefoot Dogs, weave an intricate balance of struggle, familial affliction with a diversity deserving of accolades. Ruiz-Camacho’s debut is laudable in scope and the breadth of emotion of the character’s lives altered by a family-tree rooted in atrocity is literally breathtaking. He will undoubtedly be on the radar for years to come, and we need to be sure to celebrate the appearance of an author as creatively endowed as Antonio.”
Raul: “Larson is one of the best narrative historians and this book brings the tragedy of the sinking of the liner Lusitania home in compelling ways. He keeps a tally of who is who in this drama and fills the pages with important details, from Captain Turner, the flawed and quietly brave commander of the doomed ship, to Captain Schweiger, the U boat commander who killed so many. There is also an insight into the common passengers and the variety of lives that were being led – from families to individual people – before the destruction of the ship. Larson includes detail illustrating why the British Admiralty was so keen on blaming Captain Turner for the sinking – it turns out that they had their own secrets to keep. Contrary to popular belief, the sinking of the Lusitania did not draw America into the conflict in Europe – that would take another two years and an invertebrate telegram sent to the Mexican embassy. This is a detailed and informative read that is unforgettable.”
Julie: “Essbaum sucked me into the story of Anna, an unhappy American woman living in Switzerland. A wife and mother without her own car, bank account or job, Anna’s desperation (and readers can discuss to what extent that desperation is self-defined and self-prescribed) manifests itself in extramarital affairs and conversations with her Jungian psychoanalyst. Essbaum shifts back and forth between these conversations, trysts and Anna’s daily experience and memory at a brilliant pace. We are constantly quilting an understanding of Anna by what she reveals of herself, both intentionally and unintentionally, in the doctor’s office and in her own mind and life. She is a sympathetic, selfish, complex, infuriating, fascinating character who had me mulling female sexuality, self-determination and self-destruction. Book clubs should read this book alongside Anna Karenina. I wanted to talk about it as soon as I turned the last page.”
Ben: “Per Petterson is well-known to us as the best-selling author of Out Stealing Horses, which also won the Internation IMPAC Dublin Literary award, has been translated into forty-nine languages, and was named Best Book of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review. This is a startlingly beautiful collection of ten stories that portray childhood with the complexity and sensitivity that it deserves.On the outskirts of Oslo in the early sixties, we read through the life of Arvid Jansen, a bed wetter, and son of a shoe factory worker and Danish cleaner. In the shadow of THE WAR and the looming threat of nuclear conflict, we follow Arvid through the struggles of daily life. Petterson’s stories build upon one another, mounting Arvid’s experiences as the softness we first encounter in Arvid hardens. They have a gentle, captivating power, like the familiar scent of a parents’ room. Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes softly carries us through young Arvid’s life and understanding, patching together the scenes that make up a childhood.”
Joe: "I've known Aaron and Stacy Franklin for going on 15 years now, dating from our time amongst Austin's punk rock community. I've also been lucky enough to go to one of the many cook-outs the Franklin's held at their house where Aaron slowly perfected his cooking techniques. I say this not to drop names or anything but to share with you just how happy I am with the successes the Franklins have achieved and how stoked I am that Aaron's got this brand new book coming out, one that has moved to the top of my reading list. We're a community here in Austin and we love our DIY and this book manages to bring the ideals of punk rock to the smokers of BBQ. Nothing makes this kid happier."
Raul: “As a master horror writer Barker has illuminated the nightmares that haunt the darker reaches of the psyche and now he returns for the first time in years to that genre with a story that includes two iconic characters from his blackest stories: the detective Harry D’Amour and the demon Pinhead. While no stranger to the world of magic and demons, D’Amour has to confront a power unlike any he has experienced, and when a close friend is taken to Hell, he has no choice but to gather his colleagues, all with their own special skills, and follow the demon trail into the Pit. Pinhead is the epitome of pain – the beautiful suffering that makes him a Priest of Hell; pride and ambition suffuses his being making him a unique creature, one who is ready to bring about a great change, for there is a war brewing in Hell, a conflict thousands of years in the making, that will overthrow everything one knows of the Infernal Regions.”
A little something for the Palahniuk fans - twenty-one stories, including previously unpublished material, plus a novella. Will they all read like Guts??? We can only hope that what awaits in this book are stories so bizarre, go grotesque, so quintessentially Palahniuk, that we'll faint upon reading them.