Recent Reviews

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Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen Cover Image
Greek to Me

Mary Norris's Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen is an extended love letter to ancient Greece and its language. Like the best of the genre, this pithy memoir takes readers from the idiosyncratically personal–her teenage identification with goddesses–to the universal–the linguistic and psychological debt we all owe to the ancients. You'll take a time-traveling tour of a founding civilization without ever leaving your armchair. Recommended by Kelly

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The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years Cover Image
Wall of Birds

The Wall of Birds is a beautiful celebration of all the world's bird families and their evolution across the continents. Filled with gorgeous illustrations and thought-provoking essays, this would be a great gift for a novice or long-time bird lover. Recommended by Kelly

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Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country Cover Image
Deep Creek

It's quite a feat to make a reader cringe in sympathy and laugh uproariously in the same chapter, which is just what Pam Houston does in her new memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country. Best known for her 90's break-out short-story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, Houston tells her own story this time--of a rotten childhood, ill-fated romances, publishing rises and falls--and of the Creede, Colorado, ranch and its creatures she could barely afford but that has saved her sanity and her soul time and again. This love affair turns out in the best of all possible ways. Recommended by Kelly

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The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes Cover Image
The Traveling Feast

The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes by writer Rick Bass borrows its title from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, also a food memoir, but that's where the similarities end. In each chapter, Bass travels to a writer friend and recounts a meal, sometimes simple, sometimes sumptuous and catches himself and readers up on their lives. Though many are Western writers, such as Doug Peacock and Barry Lopez, he travels afield, even as far as David Sedaris's door. It's a culinary and literary treat! Recommended by Kelly

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Binstead's Safari Cover Image
Binstead's Safari

Binstead's Safari is a wild ride. I was reminded of in part of Jean Renoir's film, 'The Rules of the Game,' along with a dash of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 'Tropical Malady' (which, if you haven't seen, you should). An American couple, marriage on the rocks, finds themselves in Africa, woefully unprepared in a number of ways for what they encounter there - whirlwind love, endless landscape, transformation, and wildness. Stick around for the twist at the end - I devoured the last twenty pages the way a lion might eat a kill. Recommended by Katie

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Deaf Republic: Poems Cover Image
Deaf Republic

Ilya Kaminsky’s poetry collection Deaf Republic is a deeply affecting parable-in-verse. In an unnamed village in an unnamed country, invading soldiers kill a deaf boy. As an act of resistance, the entire town enacts deafness. The story charts two puppeteers and their theater’s owner as they navigate resistance, love, and tragedy under occupation. Kaminsky’s sharp poetry is by turns ribald, tender, and elegiac. Deaf Republic calls to mind some of the best Russian political writers, from Bulgakov to Tolstoy, from Dostoyevsky to Anthony Marra. This is a poetry collection with the emotional heft of a novel, and it’s unforgettable. Recommended by Danny

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Speak Cover Image
Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson invites readers not to speak but to shout in her new poetry memoir, a long awaited follow-up to her bestselling YA novel, Speak, which centers around a survivor of sexual assault. In Shout, Anderson shares memories from her young adulthood — when she herself was raped — and how she found the strength to keep going. Between autobiographical poems lie fierce rants about rape culture and censorship, as well as love letters and encouragement to survivors of sexual assault. Shout is a fist raised to the sky, arriving on the heels of #MeToo, and urging readers to never be silenced. A must-read. Recommended by Mary

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Lot: Stories Cover Image
Lot

Bryan Washington’s Lot is an ambitious debut collection from an exciting young writer. Each story occurs in Houston, and half of them follow teenage Nicolás as he navigates the violence of street and family life while discovering his own sexuality. One story details the hilarious and poignant escapades of two friends discovering a strange bayou creature they call a chupacabra. Another short elegiacally traces the dissolution of a pickup basketball crew. The collection as a whole paints a lively portrait of a city defining itself in the face of disasters: hurricanes, gentrification, drugs, AIDS, the desire to leave, the inability to do so. Recommended by Danny

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Women Talking Cover Image
Woman Talking

For years, the women of the Mennonite settlement, Molotschna, had been violated at night by demons punishing them for their sins. After discovering that they had actually been drugged and raped by men from their own colony, the women decide to meet in secret to discuss plans for the future while the men are away in the city for trial. Based on true events, Women Talking features a colorful cast of women contemplating their own basic rights. Told in the longing, elegant voice of the male minutes-taker (the women are illiterate), this novel is a fierce decree against patriarchal violence — a triumph. I was deeply moved. Recommended by Mary

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All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer Cover Image
All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine

When Minnesota native Karen Babine’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she finds herself drawn to cooking — even as her mother’s appetite is rarely present on account of chemotherapy.  Babine’s journey through food, heritage, and home is illustrated in her lovely new collection, All the Wild Hungers, which chronicles her family’s continued gathering during the time of her mother’s illness.  An obsession with cast iron, sibling shenanigans, and lots of love fill this book to the brim. Each sentence warms the soul like a hearty bowl of soup. Paying tribute to her Minnesotan roots, Babine honors her mother beautifully.

Review by:
Mary Wahlmeier