Jenn, bookseller, Jersey City
Most recent staff pick: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (ebook available)
Do you like magic? Do you like science fiction? HOW ABOUT BOTH? Anders' debut novel takes place at their intersection, with a high-stakes plot and some really engaging characters. The story follows our protagonists, Patricia and Laurence, each with special talents and each with lonely, frustrating, kind of horrible childhoods. After parting ways in middle school, they reunite as grown-ups working in two very different worlds. I don't want to say too much about the plot specifics -- a big part of the joy of reading this book is watching it get progressively more off-the-rails and wondering, how is Anders going to pull it off? But pull it off she does, and now. 

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The Walls Around Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616203726
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - March 24th, 2015

Told in alternating POV and timelines both, The Walls Around Us is a haunting novel -- I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since reading it months ago. Nova Ren Suma plays with memory, truth, and reality, and delivers a hefty punch with her plot. And speaking of plot, it's a thoroughly engaging story packed with ballerinas, bullying, juvenile delinquency, friendship, and the power of books. Thought-provoking, and dark and twisty in all the ways I love best. (Jenn)

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Yes, Chef: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385342612
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - May 21st, 2013

I am not a foodie, not even a little bit. My favorite foods are mac’n’cheese and sushi, whether they come from a grocery store or an upscale bistro. I dislike food shopping, and while I will prep with a will, my precision is basically non-existent. (I have never “cubed” anything in my entire life.) But Samuelsson makes me want to take a knife class and learn the mysteries of mise en place. Whether he’s reminiscing about his grandmother’s roast chicken, sharing dolma on a train, picking herbs in a Swiss resort’s kitchen garden, or wandering the markets of Ethiopia, Samuelsson makes you feel the importance of food. Through his eyes, you can see it give flavor, texture, and savor to life’s many moments, be they mundane or pivotal. I may not ever learn to properly cube anything, but after reading Yes, Chef I will spend more time thinking about the food I eat. (Jenn)

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Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385538732
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - April 21st, 2015

There are no easy ways to talk about rape, or its troubled relationship with the justice system. InMissoula, Krakauer takes on these complicated topics by zeroing in on one city and a few specific cases. His research is exhaustive, and follows the victims and accused from the incidents through the court process (or lack thereof). What emerges is a picture of the numerous ways that our society and our judicial system are failing victims of sexual assault. This is not an easy book to read nor is it comprehensive (for example, intersectionality and race are not addressed), but it’s an important addition to the literature on rape culture, trauma, and the way the United States does and doesn't deal. (Jenn)

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Night at the Fiestas: Stories Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780393242980
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 23rd, 2015

Quade's short stories are some of the finest I've read this year. I have a soft spot for stories connected by geography and each story in this collection takes place in New Mexico. She digs into her characters and her setting unflinchingly; there are raw edges, arid vistas, and dry spells aplenty. But there's also a beautiful sense of family and connection, and an appreciation for the beauty that can be found in tough places. I'm still thinking about some of these stories weeks later, and I've reread a few -- and as a reader there's not much more you can ask for from an author. (Jenn)

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The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780670026067
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking Books - October 21st, 2014

If you're looking for a reason to reread the classics, Nafisi has got you covered. The author ofReading Lolita in Tehran is now an American citizen, and contemplates three pivotal American books in her new book. By way of Huckleberry FinnBabbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, she examines our current political life, what it means to be a U.S. citizen, and her hopes and fears for modern-day readers. (Jenn)

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Here Comes Santa Cat Cover Image
By Deborah Underwood, Claudia Rueda (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780803741003
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - October 21st, 2014

The feline formerly known as Easter Cat is back! And this time, he's worried about which of Santa's lists he's on. Cat's expressions are hilarious, and the straightforward conversational style makes this an incredibly fun read-aloud. This one will last you through the holidays and then some. (Jenn)

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Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal Cover Image
By Marvel Comics (Text by)
ISBN: 9780785190219
Availability: In stock at Brooklyn or Jersey City -- click for more details
Published: Marvel - October 28th, 2014

Jersey City finally has its own resident superhero! Teenager Kamala Khan was having a hard enough time balancing her strict parents' expectations with the realities of high school; then, she suddenly discovered her strange morphing powers. Now she's a superhero, with a nemesis and everything, and her problems are much bigger than making it home by curfew. This is in the top three of my favorite graphic novels of the past year, hands down. (Jenn)

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A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566893688
Availability: Special Order: Please email for availability
Published: Coffee House Press - September 9th, 2014

McBride is telling a theoretically simple story; A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing follows the growth of a young woman whose family life has centered around her ill older brother. In her hands it becomes not only a beautiful example of the flexibility of prose, but a story with layer upon layer of emotional depth and complexity. The writing itself is fragmented and circuitous, so much so that the sentences themselves aren’t really sentences. The fragments are as sharp and jagged as the narrator’s struggles with family, with abuse, with religion, with identity, with finding personal freedom. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is a difficult read but an essential one. 

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Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062289575
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Greenwillow Books - September 23rd, 2014

I didn't know I wanted a feminist fairytale poetry collection, and then I read Poisoned Apples. This is the book I wish my 13-year-old self had had; the book that belongs on your shelf next toOphelia SpeaksGo Ask AliceWintergirls. Using a framework of fable and metaphor, Heppermann looks long and hard at body issues, eating disorders, abuse, and consumerism. Some of them are funny, most of them are heartbreaking, and all of them are wonderful. (Jenn)

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Tigerman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385352413
Availability: Special Order: Please email for availability
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - July 29th, 2014

I could not possibly have been more excited for Tigerman, Nick Harkaway's third book. Expectations: met and then some. This is about family, environmental apocalypse, government bureaucracy, international intrigue, and oh yeah, REAL LIFE SUPER HEROES and how far you’d go for someone you love. It’s a real shift from The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker; Harkaway’s humor is in full force, but in many ways this is a far more realistic — and therefore more terrifying — story. And here’s where I run out of words and start to ramble and babble and so I will just say: buy it. Buy it now. (Jenn)

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What We See When We Read Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804171632
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - August 5th, 2014

If you are a reader (which you are, because you are reading this right now, HI THERE) then you must must must pick up What We See When We Read. Mendelsund is a much-lauded art director and cover designer (for good reason; have you seen the Kafka redesigns?), and he brings the knowledge and experience that inform his work to every page of this discussion on how we turn words into pictures. The fonts vary in size and positioning, images integrate themselves throughout, and each page is a work of art designed to make you stop and think. Can you picture Anna Karenina clearly? How much does it matter if you can’t? How good is your sense-memory of smell? How important are adjectives? And what is the point of describing a river, anyway? This is the Reading About Reading book I didn’t know I wanted, and will now chase everyone around with. (Jenn)

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Friendship: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780374158613
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - July 1st, 2014

This book made me laugh and (while I am not much of a crier) made me sad -- which are the two things everyone always wants to hear about a book, right? Gould approaches the titular topic with wit and insight; I was snorting over g-chats and snarking with the main characters, and then shaking my head and yelling at them as they made some of the terrible decisions we are so prone to in our 20s. If you've ever fallen in love with -- and then out of love with -- a friend, you have to pick this one up. (Jenn)

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Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062309969
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - March 11th, 2014

I never thought I’d be able to crown an all-time favorite, but I just finished this book and I think it was fate. Erdrich writes movingly about family, nature, and the importance of words, but most of all she is looking for answers to the question, “Books. Why?” And this is the question I’ve been trying to answer, both professionally and personally, since I learned to read. Everyone who reads should read this. (Jenn)

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Red or Dead: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781612194387
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Melville House - May 22nd, 2015

This is one of the strangest novels I've ever read, and -- despite my absolute ignorance about the state of British football -- definitely one of the most interesting. Peace has created something weird and wonderful out of the life of legendary Liverpool Football Club coach Bill Shankly. Red or Dead is a hypnotic reading experience, a spot-on portrayal of what it's like to be part of a dedicated community, and a convincing portrayal of a fascinating man. If you're looking for: a behind-the-scenes look at the English Premier League; a companion to your World Cup cheering; a doorstop of a book to tackle over the summer; or a stunning example of a master stylist at work, this book is for you. (Jenn)

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The Girl in the Road Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804138840
Availability: Special Order: Please email for availability
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - May 20th, 2014

This is an incredibly strong debut. Byrne fully imagines not only a future version of India and Africa, but also some really satisfyingly weird new technology -- and she juggles two intensely moving storylines. If you’re looking for a new voice in sci-fi, you must read this. The Girl in the Road gives us a murder mystery, a fascinating and occasionally disturbing vision of the future, and two complex new heroines to root for. (Jenn)

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780385537056
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Doubleday - May 6th, 2014

I have never played a game of poker in my life, nor am I likely to (I have zero poker-face abilities) -- but that couldn't matter less. Colson Whitehead is one of those writers who can do literally anything. If he decided to read the phone book out loud, I would go to that event. If he wrote about garbage, I would read it. And this tour of the poker world is hilarious, insightful, and absolutely gripping. It's a great vacation read, a great subway read, a great weekend read; listen, I'm telling you, it's a great read. Bonus points if you pair it with beef jerky. (Jenn)