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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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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M Train
Patti Smith
Reading this book provided a meditative type of joy, and also reassured me that there is nothing wrong with my coffee habit. —Recommended by Stacey, City Lights Publishers
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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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Moonstone
The Boy Who Never Was
Sjón
You will fall under the Icelandic trance of this queer volcanic hymn. —Recommended by Ryan
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A Manual for Cleaning Women
Selected Stories
Lucia Berlin
Detox centers, laundromats, and triage units are not expected terrain for short stories, but these are the scenarios you find yourself in while reading Lucia Berlin. Her writing is absurdly real and tragically hilarious, often plucked from her own tumultuous life. —Recommended by Cassie, City Lights Books and also by Peter, City Lights Books
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The Little Edges
Fred Moten
The Little Edges is a collection of poems that extends poet Fred Moten's experiments in what he calls "shaped prose"—a way of arranging prose in rhythmic blocks, or sometimes shards, in the interest of audio-visual patterning. Shaped prose is a form that works the "little edges" of lyric and discourse, and radiates out into the space between them.
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Christodora
A Novel
Tim Murphy
In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan's East Village, the Christodora. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and the attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s...
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Big Science
Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex
Michael Hiltzik
The epic story of how science went "big" and the forgotten genius who started it all—“entertaining, thoroughly researched…partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of Ernest Lawrence's great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb” (The Wall Street Journal).
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After the Parade
A Novel
Lori Ostlund
This generous debut by local author Lori Ostlund is a strange delight. —Recommended by Cassie, City Lights Books From Flannery O'Connor and Rona Jaffe Award winner Lori Ostlund, a deeply moving and beautiful debut novel about a man who leaves his longtime partner in New Mexico for a new life in San Francisco...
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Dragonfish
A Novel
Vu Tran
"Vu Tran's Dragonfish is that rare hybrid marvel―a literary thriller, a narrative of migration and loss that upends the conventions of any form." ―Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names

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