Recent Reviews

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo Cover Image
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Your Guide to the National Parks, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to All 59 National Parks Cover Image
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Ghosts of Greenglass House Cover Image
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The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) Cover Image
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Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter Cover Image
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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Cover Image
Holiday Gift Recommendations from the Staff of the Raven

Lily: I recommend A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo with Jill Tiwss. This is the most adorable book! It's short and simple enough to keep younger kids engaged, with valuable lessons about love, acceptance and encouragement for all. With sweet, colorful illustrations and a rabbit with a polka-dotted bowtie, this book is charming and important. Have a hoppy holiday season with Marlon and Wesley!

Sarah: I recommend Your Guide to the National Parks by Michael Joseph Oswald. Do you need a gift for your travel-inclined family or friends?  This guide to the national parks is incredible. It's my go-to book for park information. Each National Park is given generous coverage that rates hikes, views, "must-see" attractions and other activities. In my experience so far, the book is dead-accurate in its information and it offers honest, realistic advice about what one can accomplish during a park visit. I'm going to have to get another one soon as my copy is dog-eared and falling apart.  I love this book!

Mary: The second in an adventurous middle grade series by Kate Milford, Ghosts of Greenglass House features thirteen-year-old Milo and the mysterious inn which his adoptive parents own and operate.  During Milo’s winter break from school, guests new and old join forces in a quest to find a lost treasure.  Meanwhile, Milo tries to connect with his own identity and Chinese heritage and strengthen friendships along the way.  With thievery, art, and secrets to spare, Ghosts of Greenglass House is a magical sequel that is sure to please.  This book would be a great gift for middle readers who enjoy adventurous stories with lots twists and turns! 

Katie: The Name of the Wind was my bedtime book for many months. A fantastic, magical tale told in short chapters, this book is an addicting read. Patrick Rothfuss is a masterful storyteller, weaving together the rhythms of plot and voice as seamlessly as a song. This 10th anniversary addition is a satisfying volume, complete with a new afterward from the author and material detailing Kvothe's world, including explanations of the map, calendar, currencies, and languages deployed in the book. I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, but also to readers who have never ventured into the genre - there's enough literary merit here to draw in just about anyone!

Kelly: Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter: If beavers won't save the world, they'll come pretty darn close. Read Eager, by environmental journalist and graduate of the Yale Forestry School, Ben Goldfarb to find out how. He traces the battles waged against these most enduring of the World's mammals and the beneficial changes they're already making in a recent human-assisted comeback, even combating climate change. If you don't already, you'll appreciate Lawrence's resident populations along the Kaw River and in the Wakarusa Wetlands even more after reading this charmer. 

Morgan: You might think that you know all you need to know about Frederick Douglass--he did, after all, document his own life in a series of famous autobiographies that you might have even read--so what can a new biography on Douglass offer? Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is the most in-depth exploration of Douglass's life through access to some of the most exclusive, private Douglass archives in existence, particularly notable for its illumination of Douglass's final years. David W. Blight, a foremost scholar on American oratory, fleshes out a portrait of a man both inspirational and flawed, paying particular attention to new historical findings and Douglass's own journals. Blight's biography presents the most accurate, complex narrative of Douglass, one that both espouses Douglass's great genius but complicates our understanding of his politics through the challenges he faced in his own tumultuous personal life. Equally perfect for the history buff and those looking to learn something completely new, Blight's book is more historical narrative that your typical history book, making it one of the only nonfiction books out this year that I couldn't put down.

The Witch Elm: A Novel Cover Image
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American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Poets) Cover Image
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Friday Black Cover Image
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Disoriental Cover Image
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Radioapocrypha (OSU JOURNAL AWARD POETRY) Cover Image
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There There: A novel Cover Image
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Heavy: An American Memoir Cover Image
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Convenience Store Woman Cover Image
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Calypso Cover Image
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The Great Believers Cover Image
Danny Caine's Top Ten of 2018

10. The Witch Elm, Tana French

Tana French’s standalone mystery is a simmering meditation on privilege and nostalgia, weighing what happens when everyone else’s memory of the past is much darker than yours.

 

9. American Sonnets for my Past & Future Assassin, Terrence Hayes

Terrence Hayes’s amazing sequence of 72 sonnets makes an old form do new tricks.

 

8. Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

These brash short stories grab hold and don’t let go; they’re angry and darkly hilarious meditations on race, privilege, and consumer culture perfect for fans of George Saunders’s old stuff.

 

7. Disoriental by Negar Djavadi

A compelling queer coming-of-age story set in a Paris fertility clinic that also happens to tell the contemporary history of Iran. Djavadi’s epic is a winning marriage of the personal and the political.

 

6. Radioapocrypha, BK Fischer

With humor, pathos, and satirical critique, BK Fischer uses poetry to tell the story of what would’ve happened if Jesus’s first appearance was in a 1980s Maryland subdivision; it’s John Hughes meets New Testament.

 

5. There There, Tommy Orange

Orange’s sweeping novel kaleidoscopically narrates the urban Indian experience through more than a dozen compelling and memorable viewpoints.

 

4. Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Heavy is unlike any memoir I’ve read; Laymon’s story of difficult childhood, body issues, gambling addiction, and complicated love should be required reading.

 

3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

This unsettling and hilarious novel about a woman who’s only self-actualized when working her entry-level convenience store job is a perfect parable for consumerist times.

 

2. Calypso by David Sedaris

Sedaris’s usual hilarity is here undercut by darkness as he explores his own aging, his parents’ mortality, and the suicide of his sister. The resulting mixture of uproarious humor and quiet meditation makes this Sedaris’s best book.

 

1. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This sweeping novel filled with unforgettable characters fills a need: nobody has told the story of the AIDS crisis in Chicago in this depth. But even aside from this, Makkai’s skill as a storyteller and care for her characters make this tender novel a stunner. 

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Less (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize): A Novel Cover Image
Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer is a hoot of a book. It's hero, Arthur Less, is a second-rate novelist, who sets up the book tour of his life. With a Candide-like trust of the fates, Less navigates many potentially disastrous mishaps with hardly a scratch. I am stingy with laughter while reading, but with this one, I couldn't help myself. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Not of This Fold (A Linda Wallheim Mystery #4) Cover Image
Not of This Fold by Mette Ivie Harris

Following up on her debut novel in the  Linda Wallheim mystery series, Mette Ivie Harris's new novel, Not of This Fold, again ventures into the world of Mormon women fighting for power and a voice. Wallheim is pulled by her friend and fellow doubter, Gwen Ferris, into the investigation of a murder of a Latina mother whose death threatens to reveal corruption at the very highest levels of church leadership. Harris also deftly handles the side plot of Wallheim's son Samuel's struggles as an openly gay man on his first mission. Her intimate understanding of Mormonism and carefully drawn, complex characters will draw readers into a world and a faith tradition in transition, mirroring the struggles of the larger culture. Review by Kely Barth.

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Lake Success: A Novel Cover Image
Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

As with Gary Shteyngart’s other novels, Lake Success features protagonists you love to hate. Hedge-fund manager and antique watch collector, Barry throws his credit cards in a trashcan and leaves wife Seema and autistic son for a roadtrip on a Greyhound bus in hopes of finding his high school sweetheart, Layla, and his true self. Equally caught up in self-loathing, Seema has an affair with a friend’s husband and chastises herself for her neglect of her son. Though they live as part of the nation’s economic 1 percent, their meager yet earnest attempts to connect are embarrassingly universal. That the primary action takes place in the last few months of Trump’s bid for the Presidency seems just about perfect. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Wolf in the Snow Cover Image
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

This bright and whimsically illustrated Caldecott medal winner Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell has no words, but a child will love “telling” and “retelling” the story of two little lost ones, a wolf pup and a little girl, who help each other reunite with pack and family in a blizzard. Recommended by Kelly Barth

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Fanny Says Cover Image
Fanny Says by Nicole Brown

Fanny Says by Nicole Brown is a poetic love story to a Southern grandmother--not the one you're thinking, but one in a white caddie who smokes, drinks, and calls her grandchildren "little f**kers" as a term of endearment. But love--this grandmother and this granddaughter knew it. These poems will sting and soothe. Soak them up like a julip.

Recommended by Kelly Barth

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Rosetown Cover Image
Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant

What it lacks in the present-day angst so present in many novels for young people, Rosetown makes up for with its zen-like narrative. It isn't as if the protagonist, Flora Smallwood, doesn't understand the troubles of the real world of the 1970s—the Vietnam War and her parents' separation—but it's the plucky way she weaves through life in the face of them. And the reliability of her small-town support system of the local bookstore, an adopted stray cat, and her new friend Yuri will reassure modern readers that there is goodness to be found just around the corner. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Unsheltered: A Novel Cover Image
Unsheltered: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

Set in the same dilapidated house, Kingsolver’s alternating narratives represent an ambitious and deeply satisfying contemplation of how various characters meet this most basic need for a physical and spiritual dwelling. Though their lives are separated by more than a century, each person faces a difficult choice: Shelter in the security of old ideas or move into the unknown with new scientific understanding as their guide. By embracing their blossoming friendship forged by Darwin’s myth-shattering understanding of evolution, neighbors Thatcher Greenwood and Mary Treat, face the destruction of relationships, livelihoods, and small-town reputations. Present-day characters, Willa, Zeke, and Tig Knox grapple with their own proper response to a suicide, a crumbling inheritance, economic uncertainty, and a future of unraveling climate norms and all the challenges these represent for grandson, Dusty. Unsheltered is a timely, necessary, and soulfully reassuring book. Review by Kelly Barth.

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Hey, Marfa: Poems Cover Image
Hey, Marfa by Jeffrey Yang

I thought I knew all I needed to know about Marfa from Amazon's short-lived, made-for-Internet-TV version of Chris Kraus's "I Love Dick." It's where poets go to play cowboy, right? Wrong. Jeffrey Yang's visionary "Hey, Marfa" works in the documentary poetic tradition of Lorine Neidecker and Robert Smithson, offering up lessons on language, landscape, and the intersecting lines of power in the American desert. With patience and skill, Yang teaches the reader to look as closely at the page as he has looked at the land. The result is a book at once sparse and bursting with life, sketched with the crosshatched lines of history and the Now. A must read for anyone interested in contemporary poetry! Review by Katie Foster.