Sarah B.'s Picks (page 1)
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Sarah is an avid reader and English major from the Midwest, where she worked in another indie bookstore before coming to Changing Hands. Sarah reads mostly Fiction, which she believes answers life's BIG QUESTIONS better than anything in the Self Help or Spirituality section (that's the point of good art, right?). She also reads Political books (current obsession: how the internet is affecting our culture), History, Music, Nature and Classics -- with the occasional literary mystery thrown in for fun. She thinks everyone should read Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang, and anything by Matt Taibbi.
Indie rock star Anna Brundage had her 15 minutes of fame, and then slid back into the shadows of regular life. Now she has a second chance--in Stacy D’Erasmo’s brilliant new novel we meet Anna at the beginning of her European comeback tour. This powerful book is about life on tour--train rides, drinking, casual encounters with fans--and D’Erasmo knows what she’s talking about from her research touring Europe with Scissor Sisters. But Wonderland is also about what is at the heart of our need to create--Anna’s music, her father’s sculpture and the author’s prose all reflect and inform each other, and create a deep sense of longing and beauty within the reader. This book is for the artist in each of us!
On March 15, 1990, members of the Church Universal and Triumphant went down into their underground shelters to wait for the Soviet nuclear strike their prophet had predicted. The next morning they emerged to a world unchanged. In Peter Rock's new novel he explores issues of spirituality and faith through the story of a girl who grew up in this group. Like his first novel, My Abandonment, Rock has created characters who stay with you long after you put the book down, and has skillfully raised questions that you will debate with friends and family. The Shelter Cycle is a literary answer to our society's obsession with end-of-the-world scenarios, and I hope you will have a chance to experience its genius.
To say Detroit is in trouble is an understatement, and there are many writers who have flocked there like anthropologists to the Amazon to study its startling poverty, violence and decay. Don’t read their books — this is the book you need to read. Charlie LeDuff is a native of Detroit, and in this amazing book he turns his unblinking eye on his hometown. He also turns his journalists gaze on himself; the book is intensely personal, as LeDuff tells stories of his own family’s rise and fall that mirror that of the Motor City. Detroit: An American Autopsy will make you cry, laugh and shake your head in disbelief and anger. This is not an easy book to read, but it is one you should read — and you will never forget. Oh, and one more thing — God bless and keep the people of Detroit, Michigan.
You’ve probably heard some crazy things about Scientology. Well, the truth is even crazier. Pulitzer prize winning author Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower) has written an amazing expose of what is basically a legalized cult in America. Wright takes pains to be very even-handed, acknowledging that it is only human to search for something to believe in. Wright’s painstaking research into the history and practices of Scientology uncovers a world that is not pretty, but you won’t want to put Going Clear down!
You may remember Jeff Sharlet from his last book, The Family, an expose about a shady religious group that wields tremendous influence in Washington, D.C. In his latest, Sharlet takes on a similar topic — faith in America. Sweet Heaven When I Die is a collection of essays based on Sharlet's experiences exploring faith and culture around the country, and he writes with surprising earnestness about groups ranging from born-again Christian teens to a New Age New York ex-lawyer. With each group Sharlet exposes the faults and strengths of its beliefs, without demeaning the individuals involved, making for an interesting, moving read.
This collection of short stories is amazing — it is hard to believe it is Watkin's first! The surreal landscapes of her Nevada childhood populate each stunning story, and with this book Watkins cements herself as a truly western writer, managing to claim that designation without delving into the cliches of manifest destiny or the played-out "wild west" routine. But it’s not all descriptions of western topography — Battleborn begins with a semi-autobiographical story in which the author reveals that her father was Charles Manson's right-hand man! Watkins has turned her dramatic history into a brilliant and beautiful work of fiction.
The morning after my brother's wedding, I had the best sandwich of my life. I immediately asked who was catering the brunch, and found out it was the Williamsburg restaurant Saltie. Since then, I have made Saltie a must-visit on any trip to New York, and now my sister-in-law works there! I am so excited to finally get to try and make Saltie's original sandwiches, pastries, homemade foccacia and egg bowls at home. This cookbook is worth its weight in gold (or maybe truffles)!
In what is technically a novel, Laurent Binet tells the story of the two Czechoslovakian parachutists (one Czech, one Slovak) who pulled off the most daring assassination of World War II. These two brave men were able to take down one of the most powerful men in Hitler's regime, Reinhard Heydrich. The title, "HHhH" comes from a German phrase of the time which translates to "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich." At the same time, Binet explores the idea of writing historical fiction, and agonizes about how to honor these two brave souls by telling their story accurately. Amazing!
I never thought I could learn so much from a True Crime book! In People Who Eat Darkness Richard Lloyd Parry tells the story of Lucie Blackman, a young British woman who disappeared while working in one of Tokyo's hostess clubs, and the frantic search to find her. Parry also tells us the story of the man responsible for her disappearance, and at the same time illuminates many aspects of Japanese culture that had a hand in this crime. Very entertaining, interesting and well written!
What is it about the Southwest that attracts so many seekers? Hari Kunzru's haunting new novel Gods Without Men is a response to the mysterious pull of the desert. We meet spiritual seekers, from a rock star to a financial guru to a cult, all of whom are drawn to a rock formation somewhere in the desert. The formation may have mystical power, a connection to aliens, or be responsible for the strange disappearances of several children - Kunzru lets you decide what is out there...
Brilliant cultural critic Geoff Dyer explores the world of film and his own life through Andrei Tarkovsky's phenomenal film Stalker in this one of a kind book. I highly recommend watching the film and reading the book - it was one of the most extremely enjoyable intellectual exercises I've had lately. If you don't see the film, the book still holds its own - reading Dyer is always interesting, challenging and educational!
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and this may be especially true when it comes to North Korea. Adam Johnson (who grew up in Tempe) has managed to capture the absurdity and horror of life in this closed repressive society in his new novel, The Orphan Master's Son. Johnson uses the extraordinary life of orphan and nobody Jun Do to explore the psychological and spiritual effects of a society ruled by the whim of an individual. This amazing novel seems especially prescient given the Dear Leader's recent demise!
Without Joe Hill there would be no Woodie Guthrie, Utah Phillips or Bob Dylan. Without Joe Hill, the Wobblies of the IWW would not have had the widespread influence they enjoyed in the early 20th century. Joe Hill is an American hero, unjustly executed by the state of Utah, and one we should never forget - especially now as unions come under attack as never before. When you punch out after 8 hours, or take two days off on the weekend, think of Joe Hill and that famous song: "...I never died said he."
You know that rare friend you have who is never boring? The one always sharing some new information, making you laugh, pointing out coincidences and strange people? Reading Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan is like hanging out with that person. In fact, I wish Sullivan was my friend and I could call him up for a coffee right now! Whether he's writing about Axel Rose, the near death of his brother, ancient cave art in Tennessee, meeting Bunny Wailer, or having a TV show filmed in his house, Sullivan is extremely witty, insightful and entertaining. It's lucky to meet a great friend, and you will feel lucky to have found Pulphead! —Sarah B.
This book is simply amazing! The story behind one of America's most beloved books comes to life in this annotated version, with notes by Leonard S. Marcus. Find out how Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer met, how they came up with Milo and the tollbooth, and how their lives were changed by The Phantom Tollbooth's publication. For everyone who loves intelligent
childrens books, and who wants to ride along with Milo again! —Sarah B.
When Julia Scheeres started to do research for a novel she wanted to write about a religious cult, she knew the Jonestown Massacre would provide relevant material. But as she looked into the recently released FBI and CIA files on Jim Jones and his church, The People's Temple, she realized that this was the story she needed to tell. A Thousand Lives is an amazing book not just because of Scheeres impeccable research, but because she tells the story from the perspective of individual Temple members. She shows us how a diverse group of 918 people fell under Jones’ spell—moving with him to Guyana, dying for him— and how only a lucky few survived. —Sarah B.
One sign of a brilliant author is one who writes credibly on many different subjects. Russell Banks has written novels about John Brown, alcoholism, a school bus accident, African politics and Rastafarians—and all were extremely well-written and entertaining. Banks’ new book Lost Memory of Skin tackles the difficult subject of how we treat sexual offenders. As always, Banks delivers a nuanced, thoughtful and intelligent commentary on our society. “The Kid” is a young, skinny sex offender forced to live in limbo under a bridge with other offenders in Florida (this scenario actually comes straight from the headlines). Here he meets “The Professor,” a giant genius interested in studying him. The story of these two misfits is heart-rending and beautiful, and forces readers to reflect on our own definitions of humanity and compassion. I strongly recommend this book! —Sarah B.
Slater used to ride the rails, until he took a power line to the head. Slater lived in Arizona until his girlfriend left him and his neighbor tried to kill him. Slater doesn't know his car is packed full of $100 dollar bills. Slater has just returned to Northern Michigan. Slater has started sleeping with his best friend's girl. Slater has tried huffing glue for the first time. Slater has no idea what has followed him from the desert. Once you start traveling with Slater, you will not be able to put Wire to Wire down. Scott Sparling has crafted a thrilling, dark, literary adventure that won't quit! —Sarah B.
This may be the first time you’ve heard of Suzanne Rivecca, but it will not be the last. Take note of the Lorrie Moore quote on the front cover, and the Jim Shepard quote on the back—two masters of the short story are blurbing her first book! In Death is Not an Option, Rivecca demonstrates a deep understanding of human beings when facing major turning points in their lives. In one story, a woman confronting a stalker is forced to examine her own dishonest past. In another, a first-year teacher struggles with confronting parents she suspects of child abuse, only to have the most unlikely resolution when she visits their home. In each story you will experience moments of sharp recognition; I was especially moved by her depiction of adolescent girls at camp (did I really act like that?!). I urge you to check out these stories by a rising literary talent! —Sarah B.
This story is almost too crazy to believe! In the wake of Katrina, a lampshade made of human skin is discovered in New Orleans. Author Mark Jacobson comes into possession of this horrifying object, and starts investigating its origins. Through the mystery of the lampshade, he tells a story of the Holocaust, New Orleans, Katrina, and Israel. For readers who loved The Orchid Thief and Devil in the White City, and for fans of Jon Krakauer, comes an amazing work of nonfiction not to be missed! —Sarah B.
Ferdinand von Schirach's fiction debut will amaze and astonish you. In Crime, this German defense lawyer presents eleven compulsively readable short stories, each based on a case he was actually involved in. Von Schirach deftly conveys the psychology, desperation and randomness of criminals and their crimes—describing horrific intimate details while creating portraits of the criminals that maintain their humanity. As a bonus, Crime offers the opportunity to learn about the German justice system, how it differs from our own, and how it has been shaped by German history. —Sarah B.
Milo Burke is a loser. He is terrible at his job (asking rich donors for money to fund an arts college), unsure about his parenting skills, and probably losing his wife. But when an old friend, now worth millions, turns up in Milo’s office, things start looking up... or do they? The Ask is a wild, hilarious, depressing, insane but ultimately uplifting novel. Reminiscent of A Confederacy of Dunces, Milo Burke will become the antihero for a new generation—alternately making you laugh or cringe. Sam Lipsyte is a comedic genius, but his fiction is literary to the core—and I have always thought it is harder to write a good funny novel than a good tragic novel. Give The Ask a try, and see what you think! —Sarah B.
Dean Kuiper's first book, Burning Rainbow Farm, brilliantly examined and exposed our nation’s ridiculous drug laws. Now he explores the radical environmental movement through the story of Rod Coronado, an activist who became notorious for taking on the fur industry. Rod’s story is one of courage and idealism, but it is not black and white. Kuipers is able to convey the ambivalence and struggles of someone who sees the earth being rapidly destroyed around him, and wants to do something about it. But Rod’s story reveals something deeply disturbing, as well: the U.S. government has changed the definition of “terrorist” to include people who destroy property in the name of a cause. What kind of nation are we living in when someone who burns an SUV or releases some minks is considered as threatening to our country as a suicide bomber? I take comfort in the fact that Dean Kuipers is out there writing, and continuing to expose issues like these. —Sarah B.
As an English major, I think every history book should be this well-written. As someone who believes that history is written by the victors, I think Galeano has made an extremely important contribution to human history -- one that represents the oppressed and marginalized. But most importantly, as a human being I wish that everyone would read this book and really think about the sometimes beautiful and sometimes horrifying world we live in. —Sarah B.
What creeps you out? This laugh-out-loud gift book points out things from the oddball to the everyday that will make you giggle with recognition. Making the list are hairless cats, "grandma candy," really long hair and lifelike baby dolls. Once you start reading, you can't look away! -Sarah B.