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
  |  Ivy
  |  Jackson
  |  Jeff
  |  Lawrence
  |  Linda
  |  Michael
  |  Nancy
  |  Paul
  |  Peter
  |  Scott
  |  Stacey
  |  Tân
  |  Vanessa

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    sort list by title | author

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Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1
Jeff VanderMeer
The first part of a near-future trilogy which initially devastated me both conceptually and narratively, and then went off in a direction I wish it hadn't. But now that I've finished the second book, Authority, all that happened in the first book has taken on greater resonance, complexity, and strangeness. This is an important work.
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Piano Stories
Felisberto Hernández
Reading Felisberto Hernández's Piano Stories is like rolling a beautiful glass marble around in your mouth and forgetting your fear of choking. One of the strangest things I have ever read. It is wonderful. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books
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The Flamethrowers
A Novel
Rachel Kushner
Kushner's writing is authoritative and vivid, as exciting to read as the worlds she writes about. I could not put this down; it was intoxicating reading about a young woman making her way in worlds in which women don't usually get to exist, even in fiction. A cinematic, unstoppable, alienated and kick-fueled adventure.
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Walter Benjamin
A Critical Life
Howard Eiland, Michael W. Jennings
Walter Benjamin is one of the twentieth century's most important intellectuals, and also one of its most elusive. His writings--mosaics incorporating philosophy, literary criticism, Marxist analysis, and a syncretistic theology--defy simple categorization. And his mobile, often improvised existence has proven irresistible to mythologizers.
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Hyperbole and a Half
Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Allie Brosh
READ ALL THE THINGS!!!!! —Recommended by Anah, City Lights Books. This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative— like maybe someone who isn't me wrote it...
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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
20th Anniversary Edition
Sherman Alexie
This is a great start to the Alexie oeuvre: a collection of interconnected stories of native American life on and around a reservation near Spokane. Humorous, surreal imagery; poetic storytelling. You can't go wrong with any Sherman Alexie! —Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
A Novel
Ayana Mathis
The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for
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Going Clear
Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Lawrence Wright
Lawrence Wright provides an extremely detailed and page-turning history of Scientology: including a full biography of the extraordinarily ambitious and controversial L. Ron Hubbard and the religion he founded, pieced together from hundreds of interviews with former Scientologists, brought all the way to the present.
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Pierre Reverdy
Pierre Reverdy, Mary Ann Caws
This is a well organized book of translations of French cubist poet, Pierre Reverdy. Just out from the NYRB Poets series, this collection has some of the usual suspects of Reverdy translation such as Kenneth Rexroth (now back in print here mind you) and Ron Padgett, but also some exciting translations by John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara...
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The Devil in Silver
A Novel
Victor LaValle
How long do you think you would not be mentally ill if you were locked up in a mental hospital with a monster and no release date? A nightmare with friends, and thanks to the way Victor LaValle pokes holes in the racism of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, it tickles. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books
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I'm Your Man
The Life of Leonard Cohen
Sylvie Simmons
Beautifly written, impossible to put down, and an absolute must for any Cohen fan! Or, for that matter, for any fan of the worlds of travel, religion and poetry, as well as the inner workings of the music industry. Cohen was such an interesting man...
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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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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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A Hologram for the King
A Novel
Dave Eggers
A sharp, clear, wide-eyed account of a businessman's troubles renders the destructive impact of global capitalism on everyman/woman. Also, the novel offers a "how to definitely not" self-care for a large, angry cyst if found on one's own neck...

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