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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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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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The Lucifer Effect
Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
Philip Zimbardo
This is one of the most revelatory and yet devastating books I have ever read. In the first half of the book Zimbardo, the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment, walks you painful moment by painful moment through the experiment, as aghast as you...
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Maldoror and Poems
Comte de Lautréamont
In forty years of reading fiction as an adult, this is the single most disturbing piece of literature I have ever come across. An influential text for the surrealists, Maldoror was published in 1869, one year before the author's death, at age 24! —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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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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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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One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide
Christian Kiefer
Christian Kiefer rebounds from his sophomore effort and projects himself not only into the stratosphere, but into that rarefied stratum inhabited by the Curtis Whites, Rudy Wurlitzers and Peter Handkes of this world. I am so impressed I'm speechless... —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 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 Road to Disunion, Volume II
Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861
Here is history in the grand manner, a powerful narrative peopled with dozens of memorable portraits, telling this important story with skill and relish. Freehling highlights all the key moments on the road to war, including the violence in Bleeding Kansas, Preston Brooks's beating of Charles Sumner in the Senate chambers, the Dred Scott Decision
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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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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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Spillover
Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
David Quammen
I suppose most of us would rather not read about the horrific diseases which could fell any of us, without warning, at any moment. I, however, would. Award-winning natural sciences author Quammen turns his scientific and lyrical prowess to the zoonoses, those viruses (mostly) which jump from wild animals to humans. Where do they come from? How...
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The Spindlers
Lauren Oliver
Decades from now Lauren Oliver will be remembered as one of the best and brightest children's authors of this generation. The Spindlers is her second novel for younger audiences and is destined, in my estimation, to become a classic, to be mentioned in the same breath as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.(for ages 8-12) —Recommended by Jeff

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