Staff Recommendations

A listing of current favorites, recommended by the bookstore staff. Check back for new recommendations each month as we bring you the best of what we're reading. Browse by title, author or staff member!



  Anah
  |  Andy
  |  Don
  |  Elaine
  |  Elaine Kahn
  |  Garrett
  |  Gent
  |  Jackson
  |  Jeff
  |  Lawrence
  |  Layla
  |  Linda
  |  Matt
  |  Michael
  |  Nancy
  |  Paul
  |  Peter
  |  Scott
  |  Stacey
  |  Tân
  |  Vanessa

   
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NW
A Novel
Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith's new book is playful, psychogeographically rich, sometimes messy, dark, and has a wicked stiletto of an ending. Most of all, its subtleties hold up under the mulling over after you've finished reading it. A smart look at the complexities...
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From the Ruins of Empire
The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia
Pankaj Mishra
A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world A little more than a century ago, independent thinkers across Asia sought to frame a distinct intellectual tradition that would inspire the continent's rise to dominance. Yet this did not come to pass, and today those...
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Escape Velocity
A Charles Portis Miscellany
Charles Portis, Jay Jennings
Escape Velocity is a long overdue book of miscellany from the Arkansas legend and author of the enormously famous True Grit, culled from his newswriting days, covering Civil Rights events as well as reviewing for top-name magazines of the period, Portis is ceaselessly witty, telling, and, above all, real to his subjects.
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The Good Lord Bird
A Novel
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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The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia
Philip Lamantia, Garrett Caples, Andrew Joron, Nancy J. Peters
Many poets have contributed to the greatness of City Lights, but few more so than North Beach's own Philip Lamantia (1927-2005). Lamantia published his earliest work in avant-garde magazines when he was 15, then at 16 went to NYC to join the war-exiled Paris surrealists. Known as the foremost American surrealist, he also...
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Brief Encounters with the Enemy
Fiction
Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
Sayrafiezadeh follows his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free (2010), with an arresting fiction debut that chronicles modern, nameless cities crumbling in the shadows of war. These eight stories offer first-person accounts of alienated men seeking significance, who view war as an opportunity for escape or adventure.
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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...
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Babayaga
A Novel
Toby Barlow
By the author of Sharp Teeth, a novel of love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris—and a cop turned into a flea. Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It's 1959 and the cold war is going strong...
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Brewster
A Novel
Mark Slouka
A powerful story about an unforgettable friendship between two teenage boys and their hopes for escape from a dead-end town. The year is 1968. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother's childhood death and stuck in the dead-end town of Brewster, New York, he...
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Where the Heart Beats
John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
Kay Larson
In this stunning biography of John Cage, Larson investigates how Buddhist concepts shaped Cage's approach to art, and the influence it had on other artists of his era (ie. Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, etc.). If you're a fan of Cage, you will...
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A Marker to Measure Drift
A Novel
Alexander Maksik
A hypnotic, spellbinding novel set in Greece and Africa, where a young Liberian woman reckons with a haunted past. On a remote island in the Aegean, Jacqueline is living alone in a cave accessible only at low tide. With nothing to protect her from the elements, and with the fabric between herself and the world around her increasingly frayed, she...
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Turbulence
Samit Basu
A wild ride. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books
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Hallucinations
Oliver Sacks
In another fascinating work, Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) unravels the mysteries of the mind in this neurological investigation of a mysterious, yet surprisingly common phenomenon. Using patient stories and personal anecdotes as his...
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Wear Your Dreams
My Life in Tattoos
Ed Hardy
This is a fascinating look into the life of a legend – his beginnings, his rise to fame in the 60's and 70's, and beyond. Written in a stream of consciousness type of format, it’s easily digestible and provides valuable insight into the world of tattooing. If you’re a tattoo fanatic, this is a must-MUST-read. —Recommended by Anah, City Lights

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