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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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Planet of the Bugs
Evolution and the Rise of Insects
Scott Richard Shaw
How our six-legged friends have come to dominate the planet. —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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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 Story of Alice
Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is all but steeped in the milieu and culture of Victorian England, so much so that reading this one feels less that Dodgson created Alice than that the age did, and that Dodgson was serendipitously poised to transcribe it— and not forgetting the young Alice Liddell without whom... —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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Un Lun Dun
China Miéville
One of the most inventive books for younger readers I've ever read, cramming a trilogy's worth into a single volume. An exhilarating adventure set in the London under London and just bursting with steampunk-esque craziness. (For ages 8 and up) —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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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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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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White City, Black City
Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa
Sharon Rotbard
A compelling case study of cultural hegemony: the colonizer versus the colonized. Important. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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Why Torture Doesn't Work
The Neuroscience of Interrogation
Shane O'Mara
We may all know in our hearts the truth of this titular statement, but political expediency will forever force the trump card, trampling over and demolishing any remnants of what we may personally consider humane, simply because of a word: terrorist. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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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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