Biography, Memoir, & Belles-Lettres

Books in this online selection represent only a sliver of what we offer in the store. If you've got a particular book in mind and want to check on its availability, call us at 415-362-8193.



   
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100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write
On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater
Sarah Ruhl
"Don't send your characters to reform school!" pleads Sarah Ruhl in one of her essays. With titles as varied as "On lice," "On sleeping in theaters," and "Motherhood and stools (the furniture kind)," these essays are artful meditations on life in the arts and joyous jumbles of observations on everything in between.
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Men Explain Things To Me
Rebecca Solnit
In her comic, scathing essay, "Men Explain Things to Me," Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don't, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works.
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Letters to Memory
Karen Tei Yamashita
An excursion through the Japanese internment using archival materials from the Yamashita family as well as a series of epistolary conversations with composite characters representing a range of academic specialties. —Recommended by Paul
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Chester B. Himes
A Biography
Lawrence P. Jackson
Finally the definitive biography of the brilliant and often undervalued writer. Expansive, unflinching and deeply revelatory. —Recommended by Michael
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Arbitrary Stupid Goal
Tamara Shopsin
A philosophical (and illustrated) NYC voyage to the art of everyday ecstasy; Shopsin's refrigerator of wisdom contains pounds of plastic grapes, menus 35 years long, and crossword puzzle correspondences. —Recommended by Ryan
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You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
A Memoir
Sherman Alexie
The sad and mirthful memoir by talented fiction writer and poet about the death of his mother is filled with stories and heartfelt poetry about growing up on and off an Indian reservation. If you've ever lost a loved one, it will bring tears to your eyes. —Recommended by Don
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Sallies, Romps, Portraits and Send Offs
Selected Prose 2000-2018
A delightful and cantankerous collection of essays and criticism about good poets and bad poets, homicidal musicians, obsessive music collecting and the eerie delights of San Francisco fog. A perfect introduction to the local bard's tender and curmudgeonly oeuvre. —Recommended by Michael, City Lights Bookstore
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Becoming Ms. Burton
From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
Susan Burton
One woman's remarkable odyssey from tragedy to prison to recovery—and recognition as a leading figure in the national justice reform movement —Recommended by Elaine
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Too Much and Not the Mood
Essays
Durga Chew-Bose
A debut collection of essays that feels at once like a long cool drink and a finely calibrated prism. Chew-Bose is one to keep an eye on.—Recommended by Vanessa
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Book of Mutter
Kate Zambreno
Composed over thirteen years, Kate Zambreno's Book of Mutter is a tender and disquieting meditation on the ability of writing, photography, and memory to embrace shadows while in the throes -- and dead calm -- of grief. —Recommended by Cassie
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Lost Profiles
Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism
Philippe Soupault
A literary retrospective of a crucial period in modernism—the transition from Dada to Surrealism––via portraits and encounters with its literary lions, including Joyce, Proust, Reverdy, Apollinaire, Crevel and more by the co-founder of the Paris surrealist group.
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Love, H
The Letters of Helene Dorn and Hettie Jones
Hettie Jones
"It works, we're in business, yeah Babe!" So begins this remarkable selection from a forty-year correspondence between two artists who survived their time as wives in the Beat bohemia of the 1960s and went on to successful artistic careers of their own.
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Birth of a Dream Weaver
A Writer's Awakening
Ngugi Wa'Thiong'O
Birth of a Dream Weaver charts the very beginnings of a writer's creative output. In this wonderful memoir, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o recounts the four years he spent in Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda—threshold years where he found his voice as a playwright, journalist, and novelist, just as Uganda, Kenya, Congo, and other countries.
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Calamities
Renee Gladman
In what I'd call 'metafictional literary essays', Renee Gladman references parts of her life and writing, with distance, as if she is an observable thing that we can spectate with wondrous glee. I 'nerd out' over the sentences she's meticulously crafted. It is clever, honest, entertainingly mundane, and so good.

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