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Annihilation
Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1
Jeff VanderMeer
The first part of a near-future trilogy that initially devastated me both conceptually and narratively, and then went off in a direction I was hoping it wouldn't. But now that I've finished the second book, Authority, all that happened in the first book has taken on greater resonance, complexity, and strangeness. This is an important work.
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The Scar Boys
A Novel
Len Vlahos
A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world...even if you carry scars inside and out. In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay--help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses...
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Command and Control
Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
Eric Schlosser
The entirety of our nuclear policy folly, crystallized in and illuminated by the little-known Damascus near-tragedy. There is, for me, great sadness here... —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas
David Almond
David Almond strikes again with yet another crazily-inventive, oddly off-kilter, and utterly and bafflingly English fable about how we all really do fit in... somewhere. A must-read. (For ages 9-12) —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Infinite Tides
Christian Kiefer
An impressive debut novel from NorCal poet, songwriter and recording artist Kiefer, full of achingly beautiful passages on loss and regret, yet leavened with self-aware humor and with wonderment at the banality of contemporary suburbia.
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Promising Young Women
Suzanne Scanlon
Suzanne Scanlon has captured, in text, a place none of us would ever want to be... You're young, you're a woman, and you've lost touch with any sense of identity. You're at the mercy of whom? Probably men. Lovers maybe imagined, maybe real... interlopers. Male psychiatrists, male therapists, If you're in a psychiatric ward does your eloquence...
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My Name Is Mina
David Almond
The prequel to the author's award-winning Skellig, which I haven't read and which one doesn't need to read to appreciate this little masterpiece. Almond basically takes us into the mind of a special child, an innocent, not yet corrupted by society's...
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Embassytown
China Mieville
A planet at the farthest reaches of human colonisation. A planet needed by humanity for its irreproducible biotechnology. An exo-terran species whose goodwill is needed in trade negotiations, but whose language is so difficult to mimic that human...
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The Poisoner's Handbook
Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Deborah Blum
Fascinating and entertaining, tinged with both humor and horror, this account of the early years of forensic medicine in New York City is near unputdownable. We follow the city's Medical Examiner and head toxicologist as they develop the techniques for...
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The Lexicographer's Dilemma
The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park
Jack Lynch
Who decides which words are defined in which ways in dictionaries? Are these decisions made without bias or prejudice? Are there ulterior motives involved? Who decides the rules of grammar--and thus what is considered "proper"--and why do we need...
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The Maze Runner
James Dashner
Thomas wakes up, with no memory, surrounded by other boys his age, in a place they call the Glade. All they know is that the stone door set in the insurmountable stone wall opens every morning and closes every evening. Outside lies a maze against which...
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The Battle of the Sun
Jeanette Winterson
This inventive and darkly surreal book is a perfect gateway to the His Dark Materials trilogy. Soaked in the stench of 1600 London, full of conundrums big and small, and swarming with dragons and alchemy, there are indescribable things in here that you...
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Scat
Carl Hiaasen
This is the third of Hiaasen's eco-themed books for middle-grade readers. There's a mystery to be solved, there are laughs (and a few scares), but most importantly there is a respect for nature and for each other, and of course the bad guys are...
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The City & The City
China Mieville
A wonderfully labyrinthine novel. Ostensibly a murder mystery cum police procedural, Mieville has much more on his mind here -- how does a class of people define itself and coexist with another class of people with whom it may, on the surface, have...

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