Matt's Staff Favorites

 

I read widely. While I rarely read straight through a work of nonfiction, I search ceaselessly through many so that I can get at the heart of things, but I also love the unlikely details. Works of fiction, on the other hand, are books that I start and finish. I don't read quickly, so I don't continue any books that lose their appeal, if only for a few pages.

 

 

 

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Intimacies: A Novel By Katie Kitamura Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780399576171
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Riverhead Books - July 19th, 2022

Our narrator is an ex-pat interpreter for the International Court in The Hague. Her keenness as an interpreter is at the heart of this novel as we are privy to how she perceives the many details––intimacies––of the world she encounters. At the same time, frequent ambiguities crop up which leads to several uncomfortable situations for her. Something about the exactness of the language in this novel is uncanny. The category that this book fits in my head includes sensibility, sensitivity, first person, often female, sometimes European, highly aware, troubled, intuitive, somewhat quirky, and in transition. In the tradition of Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy, or with a bit of a stretch, Hermann Hesse or Milan Kundera, this novel had me hooked from the beginning.


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Bewilderment: A Novel By Richard Powers Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781324036142
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 1st, 2022

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The Nickel Boys: A Novel By Colson Whitehead Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780345804341
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - June 30th, 2020

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Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress By Christopher Ryan Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781451659115
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster - August 11th, 2020

Have you ever wondered about the idea of progress, about whether life is better today than it was a generation ago, or fifty generations ago, or five hundred generations ago? Christopher Ryan explores these themes in depth. Civilized to Death challenges the Narrative of Perpetual Progress (NPP) in its many iterations. The civilized define themselves over and against the non-civilized, even giving the word "civilized" entirely positive denotative and connotative powers. "It would be hard to overstate how much the dual demonization of the natural world and of human nature have shaped the modern sensibility. Politics, economics, foreign policy, criminal justice, our beliefs about the nobility of work, questions of how and whom we love, how we choose to give birth and opt to die--virtually everything we think and do rests on the conviction that the untamed and uncivilized are dangerous, merciless, evil and 'other.'" Ryan also gives examples of how civilization's cheerleaders ignore its many detriments: "the greatest bait-and-switch that ever was...as it convinces us to destroy the free things we need so an overpriced inferior copy can be sold to us later--often financed with the money we've earned hastening the destruction of the free version." Exploring pro-civilization thinkers such as Hobbes, Malthus, and Dawkins, Ryan carefully debunks some of their major claims. Especially given the devastation to the world's ecologies and the accelerating damaging effects of climate change, questioning the Narrative of Perpetual Progress that civilization preaches is highly necessary. With a blend of anthropology, psychology, history, and storytelling, this book gives us an engaging and evocative read.


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Around the World in 80 Trees By Jonathan Drori Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781786276063
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Laurence King Publishing - August 11th, 2020

Did you know that the world's heaviest known organism is a stand of Quaking Aspen that has been sending up new trunks for 80,000 years? Or that the wood of choice for rifle stocks in the nineteenth century US spawned the phrase "shouldering walnut" for military service? Or that goats enjoy climbing and eating from Argan trees in Morocco? Or that the cashew tree's cousin is poison ivy? Drawing from his connection to London's Kew Gardens and experience as a producer of science documentaries, and teaming with illustrator Lucille Clerc, Drori brings us a lovely book in which we can savor a page or two at a time about the wonder of some of the world's many fascinating trees. Moving through eleven regions of the world, these brief portraits capture all sorts of historical, botanical, cultural and quirky notes. And, if you read my favorite novel of the year, Richard Powers's The Overstory, this book makes an excellent companion.


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The Nix By Nathan Hill Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9781101970348
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - May 2nd, 2017

Rarely have I read a book which immersed me so convincingly in so many different people's lives. Part of the convincing-ness has to do with the details--often unlikely--which paint each scene. It begins with a seemingly-random attack on a political candidate and continues with an uninspired college professor who distracts himself by playing an immersive video game. The novel examines the tenuous connection between these two events. From there, the story opens up widely into an inter-generational saga that delves into particular periods of recent American history. I loved this book and I was sad to say goodbye when I finished the last page.


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Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We
$18.99
ISBN: 9780316277815
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Little, Brown Spark - October 4th, 2016

Infectious Madness is an exploration of an emerging area of medical inquiry: the connections between pathogens and mental illness. We've known that some cases of schizophrenia are connected to toxoplasma gondii, which is why pregnant women are told to not scoop cat litter. We're starting to learn of some connections between strep throat and ADHD and OCD. And we've been exploring the connections between what happens in our intestines (where more neurons reside than in our heads) and what happens in our brains. With several relevant detours to explore elements of science culture such as paradigm shifts and metaphors, this book is rich with fascinating information.


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The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) By Viet Thanh Nguyen Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780802124944
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Grove Press - April 12th, 2016

Our narrator is aid to a South Vietnamese general in the spring of 1975. U.S. troops are evacuating, and South Vietnamese troops and civilians are scrambling to figure out what to do next. However, our narrator is also a spy for communist Vietnam. But this spy is "a man of two minds," able to sympathize with both his boss and his real superiors. The world we see through his eyes is both tragic and comic. The writing is rich with unusual descriptions ("prickly rolls of barbed wire sagged with middle-aged disappointment") of the sights and sounds and smells of end-of-war Saigon and post-war Los Angeles.


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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel By Anthony Marra Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780770436421
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Hogarth - February 4th, 2014

Amazing on several levels. I particularly enjoyed the Run Lola Run moments.. --Matt


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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel By Ben Fountain Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780060885618
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Ecco - November 27th, 2012

The finest sort of satire, with both biting humor and uncynical sweetness, often on the same page. -Matt


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All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel By Anthony Doerr Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781501173219
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Scribner - April 4th, 2017


 


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Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories By Kurt Vonnegut Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780385333504
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - September 8th, 1998

Nice twists and turns here. Inventive stories. Sometimes funny, usually provocative. --Matt


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Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity By Andrew Solomon Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780743236720
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Scribner - October 1st, 2013

Solomon goes deep. In Far from the Tree he pursues understanding of how we conceptualize and perceive differences--particularly those labeled disabilities--between us. Then he gives us ten examples complete with fascinating stories of individuals who suffer and/or celebrate illness/identity. As with Noonday Demon, the prodigious research Solomon has done is supplemented sweetly by his own life; the bookmarks on these ten case studies are Solomon's own experience as a son and as a father. No reader will leave this book without having learned a ton.


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Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons By Frederick Buechner Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780061146619
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: HarperOne - March 13th, 2007

This is a collection of sermons given by this powerful writer over a lifetime of incisive reflection and powerful feeling. Great for people within a religious tradition and also great for those who are not. His memoirs beginning with The Sacred Journey and continuing with Now & Then (the first book I purchased at Annie Bloom's...20 years ago!)and Telling Secrets were life-giving to me as I struggled with my inherited faith. --Matt


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A Short History of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780767908184
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Crown - September 14th, 2004

A speedy romp from the big bang until yesterday. With his usual story-telling charm, and as the learner and teacher he is, Bryson teaches us much about natural history. --Matt


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A General Theory of Love By Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780375709227
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Vintage - January 9th, 2001

A nicely written and accessible introduction to a bit of brain physiology as well as recognition of the power of our limbic brains both inside us and between us. --Matt


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The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World By Michael Pollan Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780375760396
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - May 28th, 2002

What a great exploration of history and natural history and folklore and biology and philosophy, all thru four plants: apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato. --Matt


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All-American Poem (Apr Honickman 1st Book Prize) By Matthew Dickman, Tony Hoagland (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Matthew Dickman, Tony Hoagland (Introduction by)
$14.00
ISBN: 9780977639540
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: American Poetry Review - September 1st, 2008

We are lucky to live in the same town as Matthew Dickman. Talented poet and reader. Funny and insightful and sometimes tangenting strangely. I loved most of these poems. --Matt


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City of Thieves: A Novel By David Benioff Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780452295292
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Penguin Books - March 31st, 2009

I loved the combination of sweetness and grimness and humor. A fast-moving story with great characters. --Matt


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The Brothers K By David James Duncan Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780553378498
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - June 1st, 1996

I read The River Why at a perfect point in my life. So, I was primed for this next novel of Duncan's. A great epic quality to these diverse and wonderful characters. And very funny too. --Matt


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Saving Daylight By Jim Harrison Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781556592676
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Copper Canyon Press - September 1st, 2007

Such evocative poetry. --Matt


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Iceland (American Literature) By Jim Krusoe, James Krusoe Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781564783141
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Dalkey Archive Press - June 1st, 2002

Among my favorite "quirky" books. --Matt


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My Story as Told by Water: Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections, Bird-watchings, Fish-stalkings, Visions , Songs and Prayers Refracting Light, From Living Rivers, in the Age of the Ind By David James Duncan Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781578050833
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Counterpoint - August 1st, 2002

These essays/memoir/story range widely, but fit beautifully together. --Matt


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A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel By John Irving Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780062204097
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Mariner Books Classics - April 3rd, 2012

Though I read this book years ago, it's one I think about on occasion as one of my all-time favorites. --Matt


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The Things They Carried By Tim O'Brien Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780618706419
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Mariner Books Classics - October 13th, 2009

What a fantastic writer, and what a fantastic book. There are enuf mediocre books about American's experience in Vietnam, this is not one of those. Such insight and depth and "beauty" of writing. This is well worth the time. --Matt


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The God of Small Things: A Novel By Arundhati Roy Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780812979657
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - December 16th, 2008

I wish she would write more fiction, because this was beautiful and heart-breaking and strange, in such a finely-crafted way that I had to start it four times before I got into it... --Matt


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The Highest Tide: A Novel By Jim Lynch Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781582346298
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 1st, 2006

I'm a sucker for coming-of-age novels and this is one of my favorite. Wonder at the natural world, marine biology, Rachel Carson, family and friend drama, media, a cult and more. Miles is one of my favorite literary characters. --Matt


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Speak: (National Book Award Finalist) By Laurie Halse Anderson Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780312674397
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Square Fish - May 10th, 2011

This is a standard-bearer for quality teen fiction. This 10th anniversary edition attests to that. The voice true and distinct. An excellent read for teens and adults alike. --Matt


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I And Thou By Martin Buber Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780684717258
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Free Press - February 1st, 1971

This has been a steady companion to me for several years. Poetic, mystical, some deep stuff in here. --Matt


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Feed By M. T. Anderson Cover Image
$11.99
ISBN: 9780763662622
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Candlewick - July 17th, 2012

Set in a bizarre future with similarities to our own time, Feed forces us to ask good questions about how we live. And it has one of my favorite opening sentences. "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." --Matt


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Ordinary Wolves By Seth Kantner Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781571311214
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Milkweed Editions - November 3rd, 2015

Set in the north of Alaska during a time of familial change for the narrator and a time of cultural change for the people who live in the nearest village, there's plenty to explore here. --Matt


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What Narcissism Means to Me: Poems By Tony Hoagland Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781555973865
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Graywolf Press - November 1st, 2003

These are clever poems, but not too clever. They are just right. Try "America" on page 7. --Matt


Citizen Vince: An Edgar Award Winner By Jess Walter Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780061577659
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Harper Perennial - June 17th, 2008

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Natural Grace: The Charm, Wonder, and Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants By William Dietrich, Brenda Cunningham (Illustrator) Cover Image
$26.93
ISBN: 9780295982939
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: University of Washington Press - January 1st, 2003

Each chapter gives a small window into the elements of the natural world that we live with here in the Northwest. Informative and fun to read. --Matt


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Magic for Beginners: Stories By Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (Illustrator)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812986518
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - July 1st, 2014

Some of these are the weirdest stories I've read so far. But they sure worked their magic on me. --Matt


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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason By Alfie Kohn Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780743487481
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Atria Books - March 28th, 2006

Kohn has written much regarding education, it's nice to see his take on parenting. I've had lots of good discussions with parents based on Kohn's provocative ideas. --Matt