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The Woman in the Dunes
Kobo Abe
If you've seen the 1964 Teshigahara film you've already experienced Abe's brilliance (he wrote the screenplay as well). If you haven't, read this first. The haunting story of a vacationing entomologist trapped in a sand-pit with an enigmatic woman...
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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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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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The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
First published in 1978, this collection of nineteen of Ballard's best short stories is as timely and informed as ever. His tales of the human psyche and its relationship to nature and technology, as viewed through a strong microscope, were eerily...
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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 Female Brain
Louann Brizendine, MD
Men and women. What are we even doing on the same planet? Everything you've suspected is true. Though our bodies function a little bit differently, the real gulf between the sexes is in the place where we really exist: the brain. Neurophysiological....
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School of Fear
Gitty Daneshvari
Madeleine, Theo, Lulu and Garrison—each frightfully afraid of something (ghosts, moths, etc.)—are sent to the even more frightening School of Fear, where they will have to learn to cope with their phobias... or else! (For ages 8-12) —Recommended by Jeff
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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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Rubicon
The Last Years of the Roman Republic
Tom Holland
As America takes its first tentative steps towards becoming a militaristic imperial power, the parallels to the Roman Empire become difficult to avoid. For anyone wishing to see how this scenario played out 2,000 years ago, I cannot recommend this book...
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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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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 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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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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Liesl & Po
Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver's second book for younger readers, The Spindlers, absolutely blew me away, forcing me to reread this, her first. An adventure, a story of friendships, but also a meditation on coming to terms with loss, on letting go of and remembering...

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