Staff Picks 2018: Chantale P

December 20, 2018

Staff Picks 2018: Chantale P

This brisk season, all I want is stories - rich, sharp, enigmatic stories. I want stories that are totally unpredictable in their waves and turns. Stories that keep me turning the pages in hope of catching up to the author's intelligence and wit. I want wisdom that rings honest. Voices that speak true on longing and rejecting. I want drama without convention. I want these worlds to say something about our own in startling ways. 

All the books below do this in their own particular ways.

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Seasonal Associate

Heike Geissler

How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment...

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As the saying goes, one person's utopia is another person's apocalypse. In these looming dooming days, there have been numerous books coming in store about the near-end of times and how inhabitants cope (or don't). Seasonal Associate tracks the temporary employment of a writer/translator at one of Amazon's warehouses, replete with the patronizing humiliation's that come along. Heike Geissler starts the book in first person, and quickly informs the reader she is switching to second-person. You are then put in her work-boot shoes, walking the Amazon warehouse floors, and feeling the bite of distrust, misogyny, and condescension. 

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The Emissary

Yoko Tawada

Japan, after suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, cuts itself off from the world. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk:...

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In The Emissary, by the luminously inscrutable Yoko Tawada, we find a post-Fukushima Japan where children are born weak and the elderly grow strong. In a world that could read so bleak and wrenching, the book is lighthearted and joyous.

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How Long 'til Black Future Month?

N. K. Jemisin

Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first collection of short fiction.N. K. Jemisin...

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Same goes for N.K. Jemisin's first exhilarating collection of short fiction, How Long 'Til Black Future Month?. Especially agile in pushing speculative sci-fi and fantasy boundaries, Jemisin also plays with tropes and fantastical myths to enter into unknown narrative zones of desire. 

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Anna Burns

Winner of the Man Booker Prize“Everything about this novel rings true. . . . Original, funny, disarmingly oblique and unique.”—The Guardian  In an unnamed city,...

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Anna Burns' Milkman goes back in time to The Troubles in 1970s North Belfast where paramilitary forces were the norm and violence wasn't blinked at. Written in challenging prose, the novel is told with the stops and starts and deviation in thought. It's a read that will reward the deep attention it requires.

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Dirty Plotte

Julie Doucet

An enduring collection of revolutionary comics from a genre-transforming and critically acclaimed cartoonist Julie Doucet arrived in comics in the 1990s as a fully...

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I'm always pleased when stories of womanhood don't fall within the historically traditional ideas of what womanhood is and how it is experienced. With joy and relief, I've read a number of books did just that with aplomb, including Julie Doucet's inimitable Dirty Plotte comics. Compiled by Drawn & Quarterly in this super deluxe edition, the complete comics, interviews , essays, and photographs show off Doucet's extra special coolness, attitude, and wits. 

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Maggie Terry

Sarah Schulman

"Maggie Terry is the most beautiful, most bitter, most sweet, and all around best detective novel I've read in years. Precise, insightful, heartbreaking, and...

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As a novelist, playwright, scholar, screenwriter, and historian, Sarah Schulman is jaw-droppingly accomplished and one of my all-time literary crushes. The thing is, she knows precisely how to imbed her socially-driven research into rich, penetrating stories. Maggie Terry is a detective novel that is bittersweet to the max - deep sorrow under a brimming sunset. 

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Jason Lutes

Twenty years in the making, this sweeping masterpiece charts Berlin through the rise of Nazism During the past two decades, Jason Lutes has quietly...

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This large, door-stopper of a book was a true delight. Twenty years in the making, this is a graphic novel in all senses of the word - in scope, in ambition, in form.  Following journalists and artists, communists and fascists, the hopeful and the resigned, Berlin is a poly-vocal look at the titular city undergoing rapid, severe, recognizable change during the Weimar era.

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Girl Town

Carolyn Nowak

Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist Carolyn Nowak (Lumberjanes) finds powerful truths in fantasy worlds. Her solo debut collection celebrates the ascent of a rising star in...

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With oomph, confidence, and clear-eyed perceptive attention, this collection of graphic short stories held me in tight from story to story. Speculative like Jillian Tamaki, wacky like Michael Deforge, and quiet like Adrian Tomine, Carolyn Nowak's work was a revelation. 

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Things I Don't Want to Know

Deborah Levy

A luminescent treatise on writing, love, and loss, a witty response to George Orwell's influential essay "Why I Write" Things I Don't Want to...

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The Cost of Living

Deborah Levy

Longlisted for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in NonfictionFrom the twice-Booker-shortlisted author comes a witty and audacious examination of writing and womanhood"Life falls...

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Deborah Levy's two living biographies swooped me away far from the present. It's rare that a book makes me forget about the world around me when I'm reading, even when reading a book I adore, but Levy's work is so immersive that I didn't know what hit me. She hit me, and now I'm swooning. 

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Chlorine Gardens

Keiler Roberts

Dealing with pregnancy, child-rearing, art-making, mental illness, and an MS diagnosis, the parts ofChlorine Gardens’ sum sound heavy, but Keiler Roberts’ gift is the...

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Following up her comic collections Powdered Milk and Sunburning, Roberts continues to touch on themes of motherhood, the absurdity of children, and life as an artist with poignant vigor in this new collection. Only now, she goes deeper and darker into the turns life can take without losing her refreshing droll spirit. 

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Autobiography of Death

Kim Hyesoon

The title section of Kim Hyesoon’s powerful new book,Autobiography of Death, consists of forty-nine poems, each poem representing a single day during which the...

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Here is a collection of poems that charts the limbo space where a spirit lingers between death and reincarnation - a poem for each of the 49 days. Hailed as Korea’s most important living poet, Hyesoon chronicles Korea’s contemporary violent history with intimate strange precision.  

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Dionne Brand

A smart, sensual and witty novel about what happens when love and intellect are set on a collision course. This compact tour de force...

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Dionne Brand’s work and scope make me swoon - she is wise, cool, funny, and sexy. In my personal canon, she is big in bold with her poetry, stories, novels, essays, and documentary filmsTheory narrates the story of an ambitious grad student to wants to write a revolutionary thesis, only to be made completely impressionable by their intimate relationships.

And here are some books I'm looking forward to reading over the holidays and into the new year. If you need me, I'll be under my blanket covers trying to embark on some kind winter reading hibernation. 

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Lindsay Nixon

Lindsay Nixon’s nîtisânak honours blood and chosen kin with equal care. A groundbreaking memoir spanning nations, prairie punk scenes, and queer love stories, it is woven...

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Tiger Flu

Larissa Lai

In this visionary novel by Larissa Lai -- her first in sixteen years -- a community of parthenogenic women, sent into exile by patriarchal...

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Revenge of the Translator

Brice Matthieussent

The work of a masterful novelist and translator collide in this visionary and hilarious debut from acclaimed French writer Brice Matthieussent.Revenge of the Translator...

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Evening in Paradise

Lucia Berlin

"Berlin probably deserved a Pulitzer Prize." --Dwight Garner,The New York TimesNEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEWEDITORS' CHOICE.Named a Fall Read byBuzzfeed, ELLE, TIME, Nylon, The...

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Your Duck Is My Duck

Deborah Eisenberg

A much-anticipated collection of brilliantly observant short stories from one of the great American masters of the form.At times raucously hilarious, at times charming...

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The Overstory

Richard Powers

An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits...

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Kids These Days

Malcolm Harris

"The first major accounting of the millennial generation written by someone who belongs to it." -- Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker"The best, most comprehensive...

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