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 Angel of History
A Novel
Rabih Alameddine
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS.
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Selected Works
Justin Chin, Jennifer Joseph
A Bay Area legend who knew how to excite readers, make them laugh, leave them devastated. Then, make them fall in love (with him), say "Heck yeah!" & clap their hands until it hurt—it still hurts. A beautiful soul taken too soon. —Recommended by Jared
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Karl Marx
Greatness and Illusion
Gareth Stedman Jones
As much a portrait of his time as a biography of the man, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion returns the author of Das Kapital to his nineteenth-century world, before twentieth-century inventions transformed him into Communism's patriarch and fierce lawgiver. Gareth Stedman Jones depicts an era dominated by extraordinary challenges and...
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Power Ballads
Garrett Caples
A power ballad was a hair metal band's voyage into the softer side of rock, compromising to the integrity of the genre, but genuine and trailblazing. So too is Caples' Power Ballads. His poems and prose pieces are bizarre and hilarious, in which Dylan and Bowie sit alongside the French surrealists, with the occasional turn into heartfelt...
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The Devil's Chessboard
Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government
David Talbot
An explosive, headline-making portrait of Allen Dulles, the man who transformed the CIA into the most powerful—and secretive—colossus in Washington, from the founder of Salon.com and author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers.
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We Eat Our Own
A Novel
Kea Wilson
An ambitious debut novel by an original young writer, We Eat Our Own blurs the lines between life and art with the story of a film director's unthinkable experiment in the Amazon. When a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate...
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The Revolutionaries Try Again
A Novel
Mauro Javier Cardenas
Extravagant, absurd, and self-aware, The Revolutionaries Try Again plays out against the lost decade of Ecuador's austerity and the stymied idealism of three childhood friends—an expat, a bureaucrat, and a playwright—who are as sure about the evils of dictatorship as they are unsure of everything else, including each other.
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Power Ballads
Garrett Caples
A power ballad was a hair metal band's voyage into the softer side of rock, compromising to the integrity of the genre, but genuine and trailblazing. So too is Caples' Power Ballads. His poems and prose pieces are bizarre and hilarious, in which Dylan and Bowie sit alongside the French surrealists, with the occasional turn into heartfelt...
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Of Being Dispersed
Simone White
I keep thinking if I keep this book close to me then Simone White will befriend me and share her brilliant thoughts as she moves through the world, but until then I'll just keep reading this stellar collection. —Recommended by Cassie, City Lights Books
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Welcome to Painterland
Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association
The Rat Bastard Protective Association was an inflammatory, close-knit community of artists who lived and worked in a building they dubbed Painterland in the Fillmore neighborhood of midcentury San Francisco. The artists who counted themselves among the Rat Bastards—which included Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, Michael McClure.
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The Visiting Privilege
New and Collected Stories
Joy Williams
The legendary writer's first collection in more than ten years—and, finally, the definitive one. A literary event of the highest order. Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing.
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Known and Strange Things
Essays
Teju Cole
A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today's most powerful and original voices.
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Jane
A Murder
Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson has a lot of fans on staff at City Lights, and I'm the latest member to join the club. Nelson compellingly portrays the murder of her aunt using a mix of memoir, theory, and poetics. Suggest reading "The Red Parts" (a nonfiction account by Nelson) first. —Recommended by Stacey, City Lights, Publishers
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The Underground Railroad
A Novel
Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk...

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