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The Woman in the Dunes
A Novel
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, while the villagers mock his predicament, stands on its own...
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The Watchers
A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I
Stephen Alford
We think we have evolved—we haven't. The politics of any age are the politics of all ages. Whether 5000, 2500, 1000, 500 or 50 years ago, the reasoning and methods are the same. They win, we lose. Parallels abound with both the Cold War and Post-9/11 Weltenschauung. —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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We Believe the Children
A Moral Panic in the 1980s
Richard Beck
If you lived through this, as I did, you know where this is going. If you didn't, you will not believe what we, as a country, will choose to believe, if told to do so. Both surreal and infuriating, in equal doses. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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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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A, B, C: Three Short Novels
The Jewels of Aptor; The Ballad of Beta-2; They Fly at Ciron
Samuel R. Delany
Please read this even if for no other reason than to experience the mystery and charm of Delany's 1965 novel The Ballad of Beta-2, which I only recently discovered. This is classic 60s-era SciFi at its scintillating best. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Profiteers
Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World
Sally Denton
The co-author of one of the best books ever written on Las Vegas—and its meaning for America— sets her critical eye on the behemoth that is Bechtel. For students of 20th century realpolitik, an excellent companion to David Talbot's The Devil's Chessboard.​ —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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Bicycle Design
An Illustrated History
Tony Hadland, Hans-Erhard Lessing
An absolutely gorgeous and informative illustrated history of the most timeless of machines. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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Rubicon
The Last Years of the Roman Republic
Tom Holland
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, both for the history it tells and for how effortlessly one can find parallels to our own times. The power struggles in the Senate, the divide between rich and poor, the constitutional crises—all are portrayed with the immediacy of today's news. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Infinite Tides
Christian Kiefer
An impressive debut novel from a NorCal poet and songwriter, full of achingly beautiful passages on loss and regret, yet leavened with self-aware humor and with wonderment at the banality of contemporary suburbia. Oh yes, there's also the comet on a collision course with Earth. Just read the first few pages and decide for yourself.
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The Gunman
A Novel
Jean-Patrick Manchette
Forget whatever you've read about the film. This is the darkest of dark noirs, in the tradition of Jim Thompson, and the last novel Manchette would publish before his early death. Every word Manchette wrote is worth your time, much as those of one of his predecessors in French minimalism, Georges Bernanos, is. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights
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The Prone Gunman
City Lights Noir
Jean-Patrick Manchette
This is the darkest of dark noirs, in the tradition of Jim Thompson, and the last novel Manchette would publish before his early death. Every word Manchette wrote is worth your time, much as those of one of his predecessors in French minimalism, Georges Bernanos, is. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The City & The City
China Miéville
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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