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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Counternarratives
Stories and Novellas
John Keene
If I were on a deserted island and had to pick one book to read over and over again, I. would. take. this. one. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books Also recommended by Andy, City Lights Books
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The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest
Barbara Guest, Hadley Haden Guest
If you're looking for poetry by an avant-garde, modernist woman, you need go further than New York School legend Barbara Guest. From her 1960 debut The Location of Things to her 2005 finale The Red Gaze, this landmark collection places her in the select company of forebears like HD, Mina Loy, and Marianne Moore. —Recommended by Garrett, City Lights
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The Attempt
A Novel
Magdaléna Platzová
This novel was destined for any lover of history, modern philosophy, and radical politics. Like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but without the lightness. —Recommended by Ivy, City Lights Books
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Barbarian Days
A Surfing Life
William Finnegan
Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life.
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Water and the California Dream
Historic Choices for Shaping the Future
David Carle
The history of water is the history of the world. Carle has provided us with a fantastic framework for understanding California's past, present, and future, and makes a strong case for how we can transition away from exploitation and scarcity, and towards sustainability. —Recommended by Ivy, City Lights Books
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An American Genocide
The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873
Benjamin Madley
Between 1846 and 1873, California's Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Benjamin Madley is the first historian to uncover the full extent of the slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, the taxpayer dollars that supported the violence, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, and why the killings ended.
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The Sympathizer
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Cracks the veneer. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books Also recommended by Peter, Andy & Paul, City Lights Books A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.
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The Sunken Cathedral
A Novel
Kate Walbert
Prose that refracts, that conjures the twisting paths of memories, that engulfs and soothes. Sad, lovely, and difficult to put down.—Recommended by Vanessa, City Lights Books Also recommended by Paul, City Lights Books
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One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide
Christian Kiefer
Christian Kiefer rebounds from his sophomore effort and projects himself not only into the stratosphere, but into that rarefied stratum inhabited by the Curtis Whites, Rudy Wurlitzers and Peter Handkes of this world. I am so impressed I'm speechless... —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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In the Country
Stories
Mia Alvar
In these nine globe-trotting tales, Mia Alvar gives voice to the women and men of the Philippines and its diaspora. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar's stories explore the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined.
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A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation
John Corbett
Improvisation rattles some listeners. Maybe they're even suspicious of it. John Coltrane's saxophonic flights of fancy, Jimi Hendrix's feedback drenched guitar solos, Ravi Shankar’s sitar extrapolations—all these sounds seem like so much noodling or jamming, indulgent self-expression. "Just" improvising, as is sometimes said.
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The Sellout
A Novel
Paul Beatty
—Recommended by Tân & Paul & Michael, City Lights Books
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Music for Mussolini
Nick Johnson
Excellent debut from San Francisco-via-Baltimore poet Nick Johnson, which is stuctured in musical movements in order to deconstruct and reconstruct his world—both fictional and real, political and apolitical. Like getting to know someone. —Recommended by Chris, City Lights Publishers
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The Ballad of Black Tom
Victor LaValle
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there. Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written...

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