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!

  |  Caitlyn
  |  Cassie
  |  Chris
  |  Don
  |  Elaine
  |  Emmitt
  |  Garrett
  |  Jackson
  |  Jeff
  |  Lawrence
  |  Layla
  |  Linda
  |  Michael
  |  Nancy
  |  Paul
  |  Peter
  |  Scott
  |  Stacey
  |  Tân
  |  Vanessa

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    sort list by author | publication date

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Bad Feminist
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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Barbarian Days
A Surfing Life
William Finnegan
A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art.
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The Barbarian Nurseries
Héctor Tobar
A riveting tale of class, race, and social mores in contemporary Southern California. Araceli, the Mexican maid of the Torres-Thompson family, leads us on a Los Angeles odyssey that reveals the topography of a culture through Tobar's nuanced portrayal...
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The Barbary Coast
An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld
Herbert Asbury
You're standing right in it! The Barbary Coast. 150 years ago this area was a den of such vice and iniquity that it would've made even the Marquis de Sade blush. Find out why... —Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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The Beats
A Graphic History
Paul Buhle, Harvey Pekar
I've read a lot of Beat books in my time here at City Lights, but none are quite as fun as this graphic history. The perfect collection for those who think they've heard all the stories about Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, et al. The Beats also provides...
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The Beautiful Struggle
A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
Ta-Nehisi Coates
An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us. Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and...
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Beauty Salon
Mario Bellatin
Biting social allegory from one of Mexico's most exciting young authors: edgy, lyrical and cynically hopeful.
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Becoming Richard Pryor
Scott Saul
A major biography—intimate, gripping, revelatory—of an artist who revolutionized American comedy. Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family's brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later...
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The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath
A harrowing portrait of depression, fearlessly illustrated by one of the most talented and incredible minds in modern literature. If you have an interest in understanding mental illness and its effects on creativity, let this be your cornerstone. Utterly devastating, but in the most beautiful way possible. It's one of my all-time favorites.
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The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
First published in 1978, this collection of nineteen of Ballard's best short stories is as timely and informed as ever. His tales of the human psyche and its relationship to nature and technology, as viewed through a strong microscope, were eerily...
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Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is a tremendous gift to the world. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books Also recommended by Scott & Paul, City Lights Books
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Bicycle Diaries
David Byrne
David Byrne's travel diaries illuminate the amazing power that dislocating oneself from their homebase has on the senses. His work sends him to cities in the US and around the world, and the visits are anything but passive.
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Big Sur
Jack Kerouac
An interesting biography of what happens when fame and age taint the dream of being "on the road" in the life of this aspiring poet. The book details Kerouac's descent into alcoholism and hope for salvation. I think this is one of his greatest...
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Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine
In the wake of Sassy and as an alternative to the more staid reporting of Ms., Bitch was launched in the mid-nineties as a Xerox-and-staple zine covering the landscape of popular culture from a feminist perspective. Both unabashed in its love for the...

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