Staff Recommendations

A listing of staff proclivities, recommended by both past and present bookstore and publishing employees. Check back for new recommendations each month as we bring you the best of what we're reading or have read. Browse by title, author or staff member!



  Andy
  |  Caitlyn
  |  Cassie
  |  Chris
  |  Don
  |  Elaine
  |  Erin
  |  Garrett
  |  Greg
  |  Ivy
  |  Jared
  |  Lawrence
  |  Linda
  |  Michael
  |  Nancy
  |  Paul
  |  Peter
  |  Ryan
  |  Scott
  |  Stacey
  |  Tân
  |  Vanessa

   
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    sort list by title | author


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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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Drugged
The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs
Richard J. Miller
"Morphine," writes Richard J. Miller, "is the most significant chemical substance mankind has ever encountered." So ancient that remains of poppies have been found in Neolithic tombs, it is the most effective drug ever discovered for treating pain. "Whatever advances are made in medicine," Miller adds, "nothing could really be more...
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San Francisco
A Map of Perceptions
Andrea Ponsi
San Francisco is a city designed for artists and wanderers. From North Beach, to Chinatown, to the cold, rough surf of Ocean Beach, to Marin, both visitors and lifelong residents have endless opportunities to explore new neighborhoods, buildings, environments, and cultures just by getting in the car, hopping on a cable car, or by simply...
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Here
Richard McGuire
A beautiful exploration of a single place through time, from void to form to void again. Go ahead, open to a page, any page... —Recommended by Vanessa, City Lights Books Also recommended by Paul, City Lights Books
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Area X
The Southern Reach Trilogy
Jeff VanderMeer
A near-future trilogy, here handsomely packaged in one volume, which has been my single most unexpected "find" of the year. The first book, Annihilation, found me intrigued, yet cautious. Imagine the unspeakable horror of John Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing. Authority, the second volume, was an absolute revelation...
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Widow Basquiat
A Love Story
Jennifer Clement
A vivid portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat in 80s New York City. Graffiti, drugs, music, and the relationship between him and his muse Suzanne Mallouk. This is a sad, moving, and poetic read about this fascinating artist.—Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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An Unnecessary Woman
A Novel
Rabih Alameddine
One of the Middle East's most celebrated voices, Rabih Alameddine follows his international bestseller, The Hakawati, with an enchanting story of a book-loving, obsessive, seventy-two-year-old "unnecessary" woman. Aaliya Saleh lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced...
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Dear White People
A Guide to Inter-Racial Harmony in "Post-Racial" America
Justin Simien
In the satirical tradition of the New York Times bestseller Stuff White People Like comes this witty companion book to the "incredibly entertaining" (Indiewire) film of the same name, which “heralds a fresh and funny new voice” (Variety). Right out of college, Justin Simien wrote a screenplay about the nuanced experiences of four black students.
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Cool Gray City of Love
49 Views of San Francisco
Gary Kamiya
Cool Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin...
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Citizen
An American Lyric
Claudia Rankine
So groundbreaking is Rankine's work that it's almost impossible to describe; suffice it to say that this is a poem that reads like an essay (or the other way around) — a piece of writing that invents a new form for itself, incorporating pictures, slogans, social commentary...
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The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin
The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher
Kim Bancroft
Northern California's book publishers are idiosyncratic, uncompromising, funky, forward-thinking, often brilliant, but largely unheralded beyond the state’s borders. Here’s the perfect book to shift that paradigm. Malcolm Margolin’s story of creating and sustaining Heyday Books, a vital Berkeley-based press celebrating its 40th anniversary...
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The Feel Trio
Fred Moten
Fred Moten is the real deal of contemporary poetry. And this book, The Feel Trio, is one of his best numbers to date. Reprinting at least one of his hard-to-find chapbooks, this book is made up of three sections of poems that flail the margins of the pedestrian and the philosophically sublime. A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award in poetry
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The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Quite the masterwork. A poignant delight with a sense of humor that sears to the bone. —Recommended by Scott, City Lights Books
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Bad Feminist
Essays
Roxane Gay
I compulsively read Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist whenever I could get a spare moment. My commute (my life!) was vastly improved as it felt like my coolest, smartest, pop-culture literate, and humane friend was sharing the ride, offering the low down on--and a considered critique of--the too numerous troublesome aspects of American life and culture.

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