Staff Picks 2022 February

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Ulysses: An Illustrated EditionUlysses: An Illustrated Edition by James Joyce & Eduardo Arroyo. For the centenary of the biggest of big books, Other Press is releasing the first illustrated edition of Ulysses in over 85 years (actually, the second one ever) in a very limited edition, both stately and plump. With some 300 images created by the renowned Spanish figurative painter Eduardo Arroyo, and available in English for the first time with no thanks to Joyce’s infamously churlish grandson, this edition will be an absolute delight to both longtime readers and to those undergoing the novel for the first time. The images are drawings, collages, and full-page paintings which cleverly make use of themes, events, thoughts, and assorted disjecta with recurring portraits of Bloom and Dedalus, the inner organs of beasts and fowls, mrkgnaoing cats, that cuckolder Blazes Boylan, Molly, and the dirty bits too! ~ Dafydd Wood
Free Love: A NovelFree Love: A Novel by Tessa Hadley. The author has a way of getting to the truth sublimely, as if she can see straight into her subject’s very being. The setting for this novel is London in the 1960’s. It was a time of sexual and intellectual awakening. Women were beginning to feel free from their familial constraints. Phyllis, a middle aged housewife in the suburbs, suddenly comes alive to a world of possibilities she never imagined, and she walks away from the familiar into a new life. Beautiful, beguiling, precise, a jewel of a novel. ~ Becky Doherty
Joan Is Okay: A NovelJoan Is Okay: A Novel by Weike Wang. My sister and I sometimes have entire conversations in one look; that's how this book felt to me. Joan makes sense; she is funny, she is smart, she is charming, and we, the reader, get her, even if others in her life sometimes do not. I thought it was great. ~ Arabella Peterson
To Paradise: A NovelTo Paradise: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara. A gripping trio of stories that span two hundred years of America, both past and future, real and imagined. As the three queer main characters navigate their equally difficult epochs, their narratives resonate deeply and leave the reader sympathizing with their attempts to take control of their fate and freedom. Yanagihara brings the stories together in a way that exhibits the cyclical nature of human existence, especially when that existence seems irrational. The three stories took me on such a ride and leaves you wondering about our future and what sort of 'paradise' we hope to achieve - and if it could ever really be. ~ Connor Johnston
Orphans of the StormOrphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie. This intriguing novel is based on one of the most fascinating personal stories that emerged from the Titanic tragedy. Edmond and Michel Marcel Navratil were two young children caught up in the maelstrom of their parents' divorce. After French courts awarded custody to their mother, their vindictive father kidnapped the two toddlers with the intention of taking the boys to America. He knew that his frantic ex-wife would notify authorities, so he booked passage, using an assumed name, on the doomed White Star ship. The author seamlessly blends fiction with history, creating a compelling narrative that draws the reader closer and closer to icebergs both real and metaphorical. ~ Alden Graves
Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy #2)Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy #2) by Marlon James. What a joy to return to James' wholly original Afrofantasy world in Moon Witch, Spider King–which can be read as a standalone Rashomon-like perspective on Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Drawing inspiration from mythology, pre-colonial history, and the different beats of African storytelling, he yet again does what Tolkien did with Germanic mythology––only better. Mad kings, shapeshifters, love & heartbreak, stronggirl- bildungsroman, and the sangomin–monstrous mutant child assassins! ~ Dafydd Woods
Raft of Stars: A NovelThe House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell. This mystery gives nothing short of a champion's performance in Gothic storytelling. Set in the seamy streets of 19th century London, a collective of eccentric investigators try to crack the mystery of a sinister string of deaths. This is a shimmering dark caper marked by hilarious banter, creating an irresistible story of intrigue and a unique contrast between the dark and the light. Such fun! Such wit! Great style! ~ Nancy Scheemaker
The House on Vesper SandsSorrow and Bliss: A Novel by Meg Mason. An outstanding debut novel! Our protagonist, Martha, has an undisclosed mental illness that rules her life, and all her relationships are tested to their limits, but we, as the reader, are treated to her incredibly dark witty inner dialogue that makes it a joy to be on the journey with her. I was unable to put it down, and was ultimately blown away by the handling of the subject. Stunning! ~ Becky Doherty
Every Vow You Break: A NovelEvery Vow You Break: A Novel by Peter Swanson. A slow burn domestic thriller about a newlywed couple embarking on their dream honeymoon, only for a man from wife Abigail’s past to crash their getaway. Every character, even Abigail, was flawed and complicated, making it difficult to pinpoint who was the true antagonist. I felt as though I was holding my breath nearly the entire book, only for the major plot twist to knock the air out of me in one terrified gasp. The same claustrophobia Abigail felt on her honeymoon island consumed me, and yet, unlike her, I never wanted to leave. ~ Kirstin Swartz
Better Luck Next Time: A NovelBetter Luck Next Time: A Novel by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Johnson's writing is all heart; sweet, funny and sad on every page. Her new novel adds in an absolutely delicious historical fiction setting: a Reno dude ranch for soon-to-be divorcees. The tenderness and humor of this book will stay with me for a long time. ~ Rachel Person
OutlawedOutlawed by Anna North. A compelling and entertaining novel that tells the story of Ada, a 17 year old in the 1890's West who escapes her hometown before she’s sent to the gallows for being barren. Ada joins up with the infamous Hole in the Wall gang, a notorious queer feminist group of outcast women. With twists and turns, Ada and her gang seek to build a new community in a land of oppression, one where women can finally gain acceptance. ~ Kirstin Swartz
Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones. This fascinating memoir is written by the granddaughter of the founder of Children of God, a cult which became very popular and grew worldwide over several decades. Faith tells the story of what is was like to grow up in this extremely unconventional communal lifestyle where polygamy, child labor and exploitation, and horrific sexual expectations dominated every day life. If anyone did anything to contradict or disobey the rules of the cult, they were severely punished, both physically and emotionally. Humiliation and fear were key in keeping its members submissive. How Faith ultimately leaves her family and starts a new life is inspiring and heartfelt. ~ Jen Grigsby
An Abolitionist's Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the WorldAn Abolitionist's Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World by Patrisse Cullors. Both veterans and those new to the cause of abolition will find helpful, accessible information here on how we can imagine and create a better, more just and peaceful world. Read this book to know better; read this book to do better. ~ Arabella Peterson
The Aquanaut: A Graphic NovelPoor Richard's Women: Deborah Read Franklin and the Other Women Behind the Founding Father by Nancy Rubin Stuart. Prudent, practical Ben Franklin, universally hailed as an inventor, Founding Father and all-around wit, has seldom been depicted as a lovelorn, often obsessive romancer. Until now. Stuart slyly digs into Ben's amorous escapades, both as a husband and later a widower, with sophisticated women who, to his bafflement and frustration, often gave him the slip. ~ Mike Hare
A Complicated Love Story Set in SpaceA Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson. Part cozy mystery, part space opera, this cheeky tale is a fresh look at young adult science fiction. With slice of life banter, engaging world building, and a thoroughly compelling twist, this book has something to offer any fan of romance, sci-fi, or both. ~ Claire Bennet
Once More with ChutzpahOnce More with Chutzpah by Haley Neil. Tally and her twin brother, Max, visit Israel on a temple exchange trip to force Max back into the world after a car accident that killed a friend and injured him. There are many incidents where Tally notices and pushes back against racism, problematic microaggressions, or political propaganda–moments less about her own opinions and more about observing, listening, and learning from others. ~ Nadja Tiktinsky
When Life Gives You MangosWhen Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten. As if Sandra Cisneros wrote a kid's book set in small-town Jamaica. The sense of place is so deep that the protagonist's neighborhood feels like its own character, and the plot is driven not by individuals' actions but by the community as a whole. Truly excellent writing. ~ Nadja Tiktinsky
Rabbits: A NovelRabbits: A Novel by Terry Miles. As a gamer, video and board, I was quickly hooked and pulled along for the crazy journey. Rabbits is an alternate reality game happening on a global scale. Are certain events coincidences or clues to a great conspiracy? One winner will gain a whisperedabout prize, but for others it could lead to ruin or death. "Are u playing"? ~ Ben Parker
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family KeepsakeAll That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles. The words stitched on a cotton sack spoke to three generations of African American women as a testimony that they were loved. They detailed the rudimentary contents of the bag when it was given by a mother to her daughter whom she would never see again. Despite their simplicity, the words on the sack eloquently detailed the degrading institution of slavery in America. This recipient of the National Book Award is a powerful indictment of a shameful past and an uncomfortable reminder that some of the stench of racism still lingers. ~ Alden Graves
The Hidden World of the FoxThe Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand. What do we know about the fox? It is a creature that has lived alongside us for as long as we can remember, not only in our backyards, but in our myths and stories. Our long relationship has been complicated. In this wonderful book, ecologist Adele Brand brings us the truth about this beautiful mammal, dispelling many myths along the way. She paints us a full picture of this iconic edgeland dweller, its habits, relationships, and its ability to adapt successfully to our ever changing environment. I highly recommend it to anyone with a curiosity for foxes, wildlife and nature. ~ Becky Doherty