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As Lie is to Grin
David, the narrator of Simeon Marsalis's singular first novel, is a freshman at the University of Vermont who is struggling to define himself against the white backdrop of his school. He is also mourning the loss of his New York girlfriend, whose grandfather’s alma mater he has chosen to attend. —Recommended by Paul
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Welcome to Painterland
Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association
The Rat Bastard Protective Association was an inflammatory, close-knit community of artists who lived and worked in a building they dubbed Painterland in the Fillmore neighborhood of midcentury San Francisco. The artists who counted themselves among the Rat Bastards—which included Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, Michael McClure.
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The Angel of History
A Novel
Rabih Alameddine
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS.
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Lost City Radio
A Novel
Daniel Alarcón
Recommended by Paul, City Lights Books For ten years, Norma has been the on-air voice of consolation and hope for the Indians in the mountains and the poor from the barrios—a people broken by war's violence. As the host of Lost City Radio...
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Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky
How'd Obama do it? Read his playbook to find out. What Machiavelli's The Prince is for the oppressor, Rules for Radicals is for the oppressed. Required reading...
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The Fire Next Time
James Baldwin
If you can honestly say that a book has never changed your life, then you haven't read The Fire Next Time. Said to have helped "galvanize" the Civil Rights movement, this powerful book beautifully, honestly, and, at times, heart-breakingly confronts the issue of race and racism in this country. Required reading for anyone interested in literature
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The Possessed
Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Elif Batuman
Batuman is a natural storyteller. Her love of literature is delightfully infectious. Using the Russian greats as inspiration for research and travel, her exploits reveal a writer who is at once keenly observant, erudite, sensitive and truly hilarious.
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The Sellout
A Novel
Paul Beatty
—Recommended by Tân & Paul & Michael, City Lights Books
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The Savage Detectives
A Novel
Roberto Bolaño
The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has been called the García Marquez of his generation, but his novel The Savage Detectives is a lot closer to Y Tu Mamá También than it is to One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hilarious and sexy, meandering and...
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The Revolutionaries Try Again
A Novel
Mauro Javier Cardenas
Extravagant, absurd, and self-aware, The Revolutionaries Try Again plays out against the lost decade of Ecuador's austerity and the stymied idealism of three childhood friends—an expat, a bureaucrat, and a playwright—who are as sure about the evils of dictatorship as they are unsure of everything else, including each other.
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Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is a tremendous gift to the world. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books Also recommended by Scott & Paul, City Lights Books
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Open City
Teju Cole
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process...
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A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation
John Corbett
Improvisation rattles some listeners. Maybe they're even suspicious of it. John Coltrane's saxophonic flights of fancy, Jimi Hendrix's feedback drenched guitar solos, Ravi Shankar’s sitar extrapolations—all these sounds seem like so much noodling or jamming, indulgent self-expression. "Just" improvising, as is sometimes said.
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Miss Burma
A Novel
Charmaine Craig
A beautiful and poignant story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a powerful novel of love and war, colonialism and ethnicity, and the ties of blood.—Recommended by Paul

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