Staff Picks 2019: Mara

December 17, 2019

Staff Picks 2019: Mara
I...I couldn't do it. I couldn't shorten my stack any further.

It's been a whole year! Well, technically five months for me, but I've been busy. While in the purgatory of University I can't say I read much that wasn't required of me, so I was champing at the bit at the taste of sweet reading freedom. Saddle up.

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Graphic Novels!
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Leaving Richard's Valley

Michael Deforge

When a group of outcasts have to leave the valley, how will they survive the toxicity of the big city? Richard is a benevolent...

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It was dumb luck that I ended up hosting July's Graphic Novel Book Club featuring Leaving Richard's Valley and I couldn't be happier - it was love at first sight! Deforge has recently returned to the Valley on Instagram for a month-long holiday story: Happy New Year, Caroline Frog and it's everything I didn't know I wanted.

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Clyde Fans

Seth

A masterful work by a legendary cartoonist about the decline of small bussiness and the subsequent erosion of familial relations and one's sanity. Twenty...

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Twenty years in the making, the finished work is a staggering achievement in grace, subtlety, and melancholy. A deeply introspective story of two brothers at the end of an era, it mourns the loss of that which they never had.

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Cult of the Ibis

Daria Tessler

This exquisite and mostly-silent graphic novel takes place in a fantasy cityscape loosely inspired by German expressionist film. Cult of the Ibis tells the story of...

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A bank heist gone wrong sets the scene as our hero - the getaway driver - stumbles into a world of consequences and the unsettlingly supernatural. Though her incredible luck lands her out of the frying pan, she leaps into the fire, to my utter delight.

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Bradley of Him

Connor Willumsen

A somewhat familiar method actor prepares for a role as long-runner under the heat and bright lights of a near future Las Vegas. The...

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Thoroughly absurd and dishearteningly real, Bradley of Him introduces us to the glamorous and bleak bizzaroland of Hollywood, Vegas, and award shows.

Shout out to mini kuš! which has been such an indispensable resource in the discovering of amazing artists. Lote Vilma Vītiņa's Worms, Clouds, Everything is a favorite. I revisit this small friend every now and then so they can remind me to be happy.

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Fiction!
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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Olga Tokarczuk

"Extraordinary. Tokarczuk's novel is funny, vivid, dangerous, and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior. My sincere admiration for her brilliant...

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Murder deer slow burn crime drama with lots of people watching. Look, all I want is to sit at Mrs Duszejko's kitchen table drinking black tea and looking at star charts. Is that too much to ask? She's probably my single favorite character in any book ever. I love her.

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Oprah.com, Huffington Post, The A.V....

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This was a difficult read for me, but a necessary one. Ocean Vuong bridges the space between his families, countries, and identities as I never could. Written with Vuong's lovely sense of poetry and wordplay, it is heartbreaking in the most beautiful way.

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Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

Megan Gail Coles

February in Newfoundland is the longest month of the year. Another blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off downtown St. John’s, while inside...

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Megan Gail Coles' portrayals are as relentless as they are specific. Each character is brimming with detail and peculiarity, while the mundane is described as such to create a reality I can't help but believe in, for better or worse.

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Bunny

Mona Awad

"One of the most pristine, delightful attacks on popular girls since Clueless. Made me cackle and nod in terrified recognition." --Lena Dunham"Every time I...

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Absolutely the dark-weird-fun novel my Buffy the Vampire Slayer-loving heart desired--required. If I had time for fan art, I'd be compelled to spend a night drawing rabbits, and sweets, and antlers, and axes.

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Severance

Ling Ma

Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize, A PEN/Hemingway and NYPL Young Lions Finalist,ANew York TimesNotable Book of 2018,An Indie Next SelectionA Best Book of...

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A zombie apocalypse like I've never seen before, Severance is banal and grim in a way that makes its calamity all too easy to imagine. This is likely how it would go down. All the while, Ling Ma effortlessly layers the end of the world with the coming of age of her protagonist amid the cultural complexities of her immigrant family and her home in the US, on top of an unfulfilling office job. Amazing.

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Valerie

Sara Stridsberg

A fever dream of a novel—strangely funny, entirely unconventional—Valerie conjures the life, mind, and art of American firebrand Valerie SolanasIn April 1988, Valerie Solanas—the writer,...

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Valerie, or: The Faculty of Dreams is a difficult book to pin down. Part biographical, part fiction, part dreamscape, Sara Stridsberg roams the perplexing and tragic life and death of Valerie Solanas all the while remaining rooted in the history of the United States of the '60s through '80s. I've never read of sand and salt in such a way as I could feel and smell it.

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Heck yeah I listened to audiobooks for the first time this year! I take the bus now.
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The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes...

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The Witches Are Coming

Lindy West

In this wickedly funny cultural critique, the author of the critically acclaimed memoir and Hulu series Shrill exposes misogyny in the #MeToo era. THIS...

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Featuring a stunning and devastating performance by JD Jackson, this book was a poignant listen that I highly recommend. Colson Whitehead's follow up to The Underground Railroad remains heavy, well researched, and expertly written, but stays staunchly grounded in reality.

Find the audiobook at Libro.fm here!

Lindy West is a new discovery for me - I'll have to binge Shrill and get back to you, sorry.
I'm not alone in being a woman who naturally became a total shut-in post 2016 and #MeToo. I had cut myself off from the rabbit hole that was the news and social media until I could bring myself to slowly return to the world of the screaming. The Witches are Coming provided me with some much needed closure. West articulates much of what I and countless others felt at a time when words failed us - thank you.

Find the audiobook at Libro.fm here.

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Non-Fiction/Art!
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Against Death

Elee Kraljii Gardiner

Against Death is an anthology of creative non-fiction exploring the psychological shifts that occur when we prematurely or unexpectedly confront death. Against Death is a...

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Against Death collects thirty-five essays addressing the experience of being or having been proximate to death, and does so without judgement. This book takes an exceedingly isolating experience and creates a much needed community from it. I had no idea how much I needed this.

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Duty Free Art

Hito Steyerl

What is the function of art in the era of digital globalization?How can one think of art institutions in an age defined by planetary...

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A new and most importantly current take on the world of images today; its role in society, politics, and militarism among other things. Hito Steyerl's collected writings - some of which had been previously published in e-flux - have addressed topics of surveillance and technology with an immediacy that is bracing. To read about art is so often to look back that this book comes as a welcome jolt of energy. We don't have the time to wait until we can look back on today.
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Cookbooks!
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Wildness

Jeremy Charles

A stunning celebration of the bounty of the Atlantic coast, and a dazzling debut monograph from Canada's star chefThe first cookbook from acclaimed chef...

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Wildness delves into the old and returns with such creativity and depth that I couldn't help but be inspired. Exploring the extent of Newfoundland and Labrador's unique terroir, Jeremy Charles unleashes a cuisine both alien and utterly delectable.

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Montréal l'hiver

Susan Semenak, Cindy Boyce

Des premiers gels de novembre aux dernières bordées de neige à l’aube du printemps, alors que la ville semble s’assoupir et que les soirées...

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I brought Montréal l'hiver (en français!) home and made two recipes from it the first week (the panettone French toast with Nutella, p.185, and the chocolate pear cake, p. 233 FYI). That never happens. Filled with coziness and warmth, the book showcases the city at its frigid best.

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At last - Poetry!
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The Scorpion Season

Tara McGowan-Ross

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Tara McGowan-Ross' second collection of poetry is an intimate portrayal of one woman's life today. We follow as she moves inward and away from the circumstances of her daily misfortune, and emerge in a space between real and false, past and future, pain and pleasure, (self-)medicated and sober in ways wholly relatable.

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The Russian Version

Elena Fanailova

The Russian Version is a collection of poems that spans Russia's post-Soviet era. Acclaimed journalist and poet, Elena Fanailova tells stories about the various...

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Elena Fanailova's meditations on post-Soviet Russia are an essential collection of works created ahead of their time. Defying the boundaries of poetry of the day, Fanailova rebelled against the popular confessional style and themes of love, writing instead of the the socio-political state of her county, of war; and opting for erratic, at times dissonant forms.
The inclusion of the poems in their original Russian alongside the English translations are a gift to anyone with an interest in language. To be able to explore the sounds and cadence in both is an absolute treat.

Tamara Elali

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Tamara Elali

Events Assistant | Bookseller