Jalen can never decide what to read, so he just reads everything. Although he studied music in college, he has a special interest in science, math, and philosophy, and doesn't see those fields as strictly independent from art. He also enjoys critical literature on gender, sexuality, and love, topics that confuse and fascinate him. When he's not reading, he's hunting for portals to parallel universes where dogs can talk, chocolate is a food group, and everyone uses their turn signal.
Call Me by Your Name Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312426781
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - January 22nd, 2008

After the third part of this steamy love story, I set it down and resolved not to pick it up again because I didn't want to end. It didn't work; Elio and Oliver fascinated me, and I had to know what came next, even though I knew it would hurt. I'm glad I pressed on. Every sentence is a small love song that builds on the others in counterpoint.

Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way Cover Image
ISBN: 9781570623950
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Shambhala Publications - October 20th, 1998

Saga Book One Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632150783
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Image Comics - November 25th, 2014

A species of aristocratic TV-headed warmongers. A spaceship that is also a magical tree. A sex-themed dreadnought hiding hideous crimes. A cyclops pulp fiction writer with a secret message. His ex-wife, a warm-hearted drug dealer (who is also a magical tree). At the heart of this wacky, action-packed sci-fi series are new parents Ilana and Marko, enemy soldiers from warring species, desperately trying to raise their illegally-conceived child at the fringe of intergalactic society. Like the novels of D. Oswald Heist, this gloriously campy comic book masks a heartfelt story about the hypocrisy of war. You will regret missing this one.

The Elements of Style Cover Image
ISBN: 9780205309023
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pearson - August 2nd, 1999

The term "grammar Nazi" should cause concern for a number of reasons. For one, no one should willingly compare themselves to a Nazi. For another, Nazism (or any abolutism) just does not work well in grammar, as Strunk and White exemplify. They key to good grammar is not to adhere to unrelenting rules, but to learn the proper usage of grammatical elements. What is the USE of an oxford comma, as compared to the lack of one? Or the USE of a semi-colon, as compared to a colon or a comma? Or the USE of a fragmented sentence? I made a game out of finding sentences where Strunk and White simultaneously describe and demonstrate the elements, like master painters illustrating the proportions of the body. This book is linguistic alchemy. Go make some gold.

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The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World Cover Image
ISBN: 9781620971970
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Press - April 25th, 2017

I am so sick of the analog v. digital debate. It makes about as much sense as the Star Trek/Star Wars rivalry; they're both awesome for different reasons! Damon Krukowski (of Galaxie 500 and Damon and Naomi) shows us the different USES of each format, and explains why digital took the world by storm in the late twentieth century. This stuff is relevant for all musicians everywhere, including listeners. If you haven't had enough by the end of the book, check out Damon's podcast "Ways of Hearing", where you can hear the audio as he explains the differences.

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Who Fears Death Cover Image
ISBN: 9780756407285
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Daw Books - February 4th, 2014

This fantastic world out of the mind of a Nigerian-American author brings a whole new perspective to the fantasy canon. The characters are troubled and complicated, and the drama burned hot until page the last. I was impressed by Ms. Okorafor's tactful use of controversial issues, such as rape and female circumcision, to develop her narrative. Also, this book has been optioned by HBO for a new TV series. It could be the next Game of Thrones!

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Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Cover Image
ISBN: 9781585429202
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tarcherperigee - April 26th, 2012

This book made me a better musician. Yes, you read that right. Yes, this is a book about drawing. What does drawing have to do with music? Beats me, but after completing the exercises within, I found I could execute piano pieces with greater accuracy and expression than I've ever been able to achieve. Perhaps the disambiguation of line and composition made it possible for me to conceive abstract elements as a whole--an invaluable skill in every walk of life. Ms. Edwards makes good on her promise to change how the aspiring artist sees the world.

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Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374227760
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - December 6th, 2016

Thanks to philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith, the octopus has become my favorite genetic relative. Octopuses are the problem child of the animal kingdom: they try to blend into the background; they recoil from social interaction; they pick fights with other octos for little or no reason; and yet they show signs of profound intelligence. When Godfrey-Smith encountered a rare community of octopuses off Australia's eastern coast, he knew he'd found something special: a chance to observe octopus behavior in a unique ecosystem. His study raises questions about the very fundamentals of life as we understand it. What is "intelligence"? How do nervous systems coordinate activity? And moreover, what can our most distant animal cousin teach us about our own souls?

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Walkaway Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765392763
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Books - April 25th, 2017

"You got the world you hoped for or the world you feared--your hope or your fear made it so."
What does a purely millennial vision of the future look like? Mr. Doctorow comes close--with his info-era lingo, open approach to sex and intimacy, and 3d-printable communes--although I hesitate to agree with those who laud this book as a manifesto. This book presents one possible future, and a hyperbolic one at that, designed more to make us think about the plausibility of extremes than to actually plan out the twenty-first century. This is a book about hope--hope that we can learn to cooperate to build a sustainable world, hope that we can shake off our mistrust and social anxiety, and even hope that we can defeat death. We have to dream it before we can achieve it.

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The Book of Joan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062383273
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - April 18th, 2017

If you keep up with politics, you might find yourself asking “Well, how bad could it get?” Here is your answer, the worst possible extrapolation of current affairs. After war and eco-terrorism destroyed Earth, only the wealthy escaped to the claustrophobic space station CIEL--but it’s hard to say whether they got a better deal then those who merely perished. Their hellish micro-world is part Orwell, part MTV’s Aeon Flux; a concoction of political satire, surreal violence, and body horror. Ms. Yuknavitch designed this story to make you queasy, complimenting tough imagery with tough questions about war, art, environmentalism, love, sex, gender, and humanity. Would Earth be better off without humans? The darkness is a contrasting backdrop for beautifully written passages on nature and love, distributed like diamonds in a sewer. Caveat lector: ALL the trigger warnings!

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American Gods Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062572233
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow & Company - March 28th, 2017

What's the difference between story and reality? As Mr. Ibis points out, history is a poor facsimile of the past, "a charcoal-sketched simplicity for the children, or the easily bored." Gaiman's gods are not the literal gods that rule the universe, but the figurative ones that we depict in stories and worship with our actions. As new gods like Internet and Media gain popularity, old gods like Odin, Easter, and Anansi starve of worship. The ensuing battle may be fictional, but the battles between ideologies, cultures, and beliefs are not. What do you believe?

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062464316
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - February 21st, 2017

When we assume that death and taxes are certain, we're really just taking Mr. Franklin's word for it. There's never been an alternative, so most of us avoid the conversation altogether. But not Mr. Harari, who poses a startling question: in this new era of extended lifespans, unlimited food, advanced medicine, and instant information, is there any reason humanity should not strive for immortality and omniscience? The sky is too modest a limit for 21st century homo sapiens. It's time to dream bigger.

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Lincoln in the Bardo Cover Image
By George Saunders, George Saunders (Read by), Nick Offerman (Read by)
ISBN: 9780553397574
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Audio Publishing Group - February 14th, 2017

I listened to this magical book on audio using the Libro.fm app (which I highly recommend for all you binge readers on the go) and it had me spellbound. The very first chapter caught me off guard in more ways than one, foreshadowing the bizarre and touching adventure to follow. The narration toggles between two storytelling modes: a chorus of regretful ghosts interpolated with quotations from both real and fictional sources. This way, Saunders paints a multifaceted yet singular landscape of American identity, a conversation between the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the North and the South, the black and the white. This ambitious technique required 166 actors for the audiobook production (including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Don Cheadle, and the list just goes on!)

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Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity Cover Image
By Carlo Rovelli, Simon Carnell (Translator), Erica Segre (Translator)
ISBN: 9780735213920
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - January 24th, 2017

Talk about a camel through a needle! If you read Mr. Rovelli's first publication, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (emphasis on brief; the entire book is only 97 pages long), then you are already familiar with Rovelli's talent for condensing complex scientific ideas into compact, comprehensible chapters. While his second book is more book-sized, it is still a microscopic tardigrade in the canon of physics. Yet in these few hundred pages, he explains the knowns and unknowns of some of the most mind-bending concepts in science, including granularity, relativity, quantum fields, and gravity. Warning: readers may lie awake at night questioning the very existence of matter, as I did after reading chapter 4!

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Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love Cover Image
ISBN: 9780865478794
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 11th, 2016

Emily Witt's investigation of sex and sexuality broke boundaries I didn't know I had. This book poses a question submerged in every American's conscience: do we really have a choice in our romantic destinies? With humor, insight, and wit (no pun intended), Ms. Witt interrogates the most intimate details of our lives, providing examples of non-normative romantic lifestyles that many of us never considered options. Needless to say, very NSFW content (I should know because I work here!)

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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061351327
Availability: Not Available In-Store - Usually Ships from Warehouse in 1-5 Days
Published: It Books - December 21st, 2010

When I first noticed this book in our science section, I was certain it had been shelved incorrectly. What was a graphic novel doing next to Sagan and Hawking? I was delightfully surprised to open it and discover a masterful collage of scientific research, passionate romance, and gorgeous artwork. Ms. Redniss has defied convention to bring us this brilliantly crafted work about the scientists Curie and how they changed the world forever.

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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061339202
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - July 1st, 2008

Whether you are an artist, athlete, video gamer, or businessperson, you are probably familiar with the euphoric state of complete mental engagement with a task. In his groundbreaking psychological work, Mr. Csikszentmihalyi (don't worry--his name is probably the most intimidating word in the book!) breaks down this experience he calls "flow" in clear, approachable language. Readers will learn not just the psychological concepts behind flow, but also how to achieve flow in their own work. If you are looking for a scientific approach to engagement, fulfillment, and happiness, then this is the book for you!

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679775430
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - September 1st, 1998

Never get too comfortable in Murakami's universe. Toru Okada lives a mundane, introverted life. He enjoys making spaghetti, listening to opera, and ironing shirts. When Toru receives a mysterious phone call from an anonymous woman, he discovers a maze of psychic chaos hidden in the quotidian details of his life. The beauty of the story comes from the dissonance between the humdrum vignettes of Toru's life and the bizarre experiences that he has. This is a perfect book for readers who have ever lost their direction in life.

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