Cooper's Staff Favorites

Cooper joined our team in June of 2021. He likes science fiction, and history.

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I Will Die in a Foreign Land By Kalani Pickhart Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781953387080
Published: Two Dollar Radio - October 19th, 2021

Pickhart's debut novel is an incredibly intimate account of Ukraine and her troubles. Following a few charaters during and after the Maiden Revolution and the subsequent War in the Donbas, Pickhart has created an emotionally breathtaking and insightful story that closely mirrors reality. I was particularly taken when father says to mother, regarding their young children's desire to partake in a the protests where many have been injured or killed--"It is their future." There are many instances of bravery, dogged duty, and a fierce desire to enact lasting change. A worthy testament to the tenacity of Ukraine's people. 

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This Is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone Cover Image
ISBN: 9781534430990
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: S&S/Saga Press - March 17th, 2020

A collaborative effort between the two authors, "This is How You Lose the Time War" is a love story told in letters across countless years, during a conflict spanning all of time and space. The letters compose a vast majority of the pages, with the rest being short and intensely poetic chapters that tie the pair together across disparate locales. El-Mohtar and Gladstone succeed in infusing the in-between chapters with interesting concepts and lore, but that is not the focus of the story. They do not linger on the science-fiction, which grants an air of mystery and elevation to phrases like "crystal citadel" and "secret engines of war," and even mundane nouns like "London." Overall, a very unique book and one that reads more like a longform poem than a novel.

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Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism By Amanda Montell Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062993151
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Harper - June 15th, 2021

Amanda Montell weaves facts, theory, and personal experience into this deep dive into cultism in all its forms. She not only tackles conventional cults like Heaven's Gate, but also "cultish" experiences that occur in some group activities. Like her previous book "Wordslut," language and how it is used is a heavy focus. I appreciated the personal intersections with cultism that Montell shares; many people stuck in these situations lead (or led) normal and fulfilling lives.

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Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century By Kim Fu Cover Image
By Kim Fu
ISBN: 9781951142995
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Tin House Books - February 1st, 2022

"These unbroken stretches of consciousness, days sometimes blurring into one another, seems just a feature of modern life, not worth complaining about," an insomniac remarks to herself.
Kim Fu's Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is a collection of short stories that captures the modern sense of malaise that is now more pronounced, more intense, as a result of recent events. The stories themselves––twelve in total––are largely fantastical tellings, yet never do these fantasies rear themselves up for steady examination. They dwell in the background; they supplement fiercely human tales. In one story, a woman becomes transfixed with miniature time machines sold at a mall kiosk. In another, a tragedy leads to a group of children coming into possession of a haunted doll. Even with these blatant insertions of the impossible, the stories are true to life; the inner-life of the woman at the mall mirrors our own struggles with mortality; the children's grappling with a harmless haunting echoes the dissolution of later childhood. In these ways, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century deals with hefty subjects through quick, hard-hitting stories. Kim Fu masterfully navigates modern day struggle, and packages elation and toil in equal abundance throughout her collection.

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Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Series #1) By Jeff VanderMeer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374104092
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: FSG Originals - February 4th, 2014

Science Fiction is what occupies my headspace during slow days, and of all the science fiction I've read in recent times, Jeff VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy--Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance--has been the best. The story takes place in a near future where an unknowable environmental catastrophy has occured along some unnamed stretch of coastline. A four person team is sent in to investigate, and mystery and horror ensues. The best part of these books is the way VanderMeer uses diction to delay horror. The "Southern Reach lore"--backgroud information--is fed to the reader at only a slightly faster pace than it is fed to the protagonists. Because of this, towards the third and final act, there are many "Oh Crap!" moments. Additionally, the way VanderMeer describes the almost alien landscape is breathtaking, and because of it I have been inspired--though not yet driven--to visit the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida (VanderMeer based his series on this location).

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The Road: Pulitzer Prize Winner (Vintage International) By Cormac McCarthy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307387899
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - March 28th, 2007

The Road is a hellish tale of a father and son travelling through a fire-ravaged, post apocalyptic America. At one point, the father muses about the world that he still remembers--the world that his son has never seen:

"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

Not only is this sentiment just about the most beautiful thing I've ever read, it rings true today. I think about old growth forests thousands of years old, that first grew when humanity was in its infancy. Cormac McCarthy captures the sadness of knowing the point of no return was crossed long ago, and ruin is now all that remains.

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Salvage the Bones: A Novel By Jesmyn Ward Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608196265
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Bloomsbury USA - April 24th, 2012

The love that is present in Jesmyn Ward’s novel Salvage the Bones is forceful, selfish, and necessitates unwanted sacrifice. The novel follows a dysfunctional family living in the town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, who must contend with each other, their failing financial situation, as well as the massive hurricane bearing down upon them. While elements of pseudo-magic realism are present, the book is a human tale first and foremost. The protagonist, Esch, remarks of the hurricane that:

“Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.”

Just as the Mississipi coast is roiled by the coming of the hurricane, so too are the children in the novel stormbound. They are bourne too and fro by the motions of the world and must accept whatever is thrown at them, be it good or evil, because they have nothing else, no luxury of choice or company. This feeling of desperation Ward permeates throughout her novel. There is both terror and beauty in the destruction that she writes of. Salvage the Bones is nothing if not compelling. 

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The Year of Magical Thinking: National Book Award Winner (Vintage International) By Joan Didion Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400078431
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - February 13th, 2007

In the closing moments of 2003, Joan Didion’s husband John Gregory Dunne died in his home in Manhattan. Almost 3 years after the event, her daughter, too, passed away. The Year of Magical Thinking is an attempt to reconcille these moments of absolute tragedy. Joan Didion writes in her usual style here; the book reads succiently, sparsely, and with an ambivalence that borders on the terrible. There is real truth here in these pages. As Didion states:

“We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. as we were. as we are no longer. as we will one day not be at all.” 

She is right in this respect; when those close to us die, we are irrevocably changed. We fight on two fronts: not only do we struggle against the terror of the loss, we also must struggle to conduct ourselves in the absence of the deceased. These struggles with mortality must intensify as they reach the source; us. I recommend this book to anyone who is in a good place to stomach the horror of familial death. It made me appreciate everyday things I didn't before.

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Nightwood By Djuna Barnes, Jeanette Winterson (Preface by), T. S. Eliot (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Djuna Barnes, Jeanette Winterson (Preface by), T. S. Eliot (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780811216715
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: New Directions - September 26th, 2006

"..though those two are buried at the opposite ends of the earth, one dog will find them both."

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) By James S. A. Corey Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316129084
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Orbit - June 15th, 2011

Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America By Eric Jay Dolin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393331578
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 17th, 2008

The Tide: The Science and Stories Behind the Greatest Force on Earth By Hugh Aldersey-Williams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393354805
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 31st, 2017

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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right By Jane Mayer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307947901
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Anchor - January 24th, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780812988406
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Random House - January 12th, 2016