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Jesse's Favorite Books

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The Dinner Cover Image
By Herman Koch, Sam Garrett (Translator)
ISBN: 9780770437855
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Hogarth - February 12th, 2013

Two couples sit down to dinner for a little chat.  This is a talk that
has been a long time coming, chiefly because of the alleged involvement
of their respective children in a heinous act of unmitigated evil: think
William Landay's Defending Jacob.  And now the time has come to figure
out what they are going do.  Beginning with the relatively polite
apertif, the successive courses chaperon in a rapid unraveling of any
sense of cordiality, and by the novel's shocking conclusion, people who
have children, or have had parents, will be asking themselves, how far
are we willing to go to protect our kids?  Tired of your book club
talking about anything and everything except for the damn book you spent
all that time reading?  Problem solved!

The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother's Milk Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312429966
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador USA - January 31st, 2012

Hands down, the best deal in the store are the Melrose books, the first
four, in a single volume, for the price of one.  And that includes all
the infidelity, alcohol, cocaine, sexual abuse, heroin injections,
betrayal, lust, parental death, rape and good old-fashioned English
snobbery you can possibly take.  But wait!  Also included are some of
the finest sentences and the funniest, most intelligent dialogue, imbued
with St. Aubyn's effortless philosophical gravitas, which rings out
pitch perfect when he's remembering his tyrannized childhood or
reminiscing about his deranged French drug dealer's eight year stint as
an unhatched egg.  It's a perfectly executed masterpiece, as if David
Foster Wallace had written Pride and Prejudice.

Hot Pink Cover Image
ISBN: 9781936365210
Availability: Special Order
Published: McSweeney's - March 6th, 2012

After reading Levin’s mammoth 1000+ page debut novel The Instructions, a manic and masterful chronicle of four days in the life of a brilliant and violent thirteen year-old boy, I was curious whether he could reign in that ebullient loquacity. It turns out he can. Like his earlier book, this one will probably have people drawing comparisons to David Foster Wallace for its smarty-pants erudition and wit and too, the near clinical detachment of some of the narrators. But the best of these stories, to me at least, feel like some of Kafka’s best short stories: creepy, obsessive, and yes, hilarious.

Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty Cover Image
ISBN: 9781936365715
Availability: Special Order
Published: McSweeney's - January 17th, 2012

The great Diane Williams is back with a collection of micro-stories packed with wit and whimsy that range anywhere from just a few sentences to a few pages. Fans of Lydia Davis’ fiction will appreciate Williams’ taut specificity and knack for the odd or unnerving image. Geez, there I go again, waxing all garrulous at you when you could have finished a ding-dang story already.
But wait! Buy NOW and get the GREATEST COVER ART OF ALL TIME ABSOLUTELY FREE! * *Just pay separate shipping!

Monstress: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062059567
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - January 31st, 2012

Tenorio’s debut story collection follows the Filipino-American immigrant experience in stories that explore love and betrayal in its myriad manifestations all the while keeping a black humored eye trained on things both poignant and absurd. In “Save the I-Hotel” Fortunado reflects on the 43 years he’s lived next door to his friend Vincente. In “Felix Starro” a charlatan doctor who uses fake blood and chicken livers to dupe his patients teaches his grandson the family business. The Brilliant titular piece follows Filipino horror filmmaker Checkers Rosario and his star and lover, Reva Gogo, as they undertake their final collaboration together. Taken together these stories have just the right amount of quirky detail, emotional gravitas and keen wit to keep the pages turning.

The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812992793
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - January 10th, 2012

Where in the hell did Adam Johnsoncome from and how come I haven't read his other books? This is the question that muscled its way out of my reptilian gray matter on those rare instances when I broke from reading to eat or pee, and only then, because in the act of taking in this amazing evocation of North Korean life, I for one, couldn't take myself out of the story for even a moment of cool, detached assessment of literary technique or merit - I simply plunged headlong into this bildungsroman, cum sea adventure, cum prison narrative, cum romance, with daring escapes, farcical, bombastic interludes in the voice of the DRNK, all set in a heavy researched, historically accurate, real life dystopia. Brilliantly told, and featuring Dickensian characters, Korean mythos, and of course, everyone's favorite lift-wearing, pompadoured, madman-in-chief. Outrageously good fun.

Smut: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250003164
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - January 3rd, 2012

If Alan Bennett were an American, he would undoubtedly be considered a national treasure. Of course, then he wouldn't be writing the quintessentially British stories you see before you... so, never mind. Regardless, he is a treasure in his own right, and if you've never read him, here is an opportunity to enrich your reading life. These stories begin innocently enough, as a kind of comedy of manners, but then BANG carnal longing rears its monstrous visage. Just the expression you get when people ask what you're reading is worth the price of admission.

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061430800
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - October 5th, 2010

What could be more fun than reading an old holocaust document disguised as the whiny scribblings of a hormonally haywire thirteen year-old girl cooped up in a closet sized cloister, waiting, and waiting, for years actually, with only the same seven other people for company, waiting, to be rescued from the deranged and murderous Germans? Well, how about a book about that book? Prose is a wizard and when you go back to The Diary of A Young Girl (and you definitely will) you will be stunned.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories Cover Image
By Kelly Link (Editor), Gavin J. Grant (Editor)
ISBN: 9780763648435
Availability: Special Order
Published: Candlewick - October 11th, 2011

Strap on your boots and corsets! Get those automatons wound up
tight and your gas lamps alight and your brass goggles polished and
ready! Your airships await!
Finally, we can all rest easy now that there’s an anthology of
steampunk for young people. Whaaa? Never heard of steampunk?
You can’t be—oh, I see you are quite serious. Well, it’s nothing to be
embarrassed about. Lots of my closest friends live under rocks . . .
and in caves . . .
So, basically it’s a sub-genre of sci-fi that features Victorian tropes
and technologies that never really existed! Heroes are often
clockwork tinkers and ride around in a dirigible. Anyway, a lot of your
favorite YA authors (Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow,
Holly Black, M.T. Anderson, et. al) put the hum in this humdinger.

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455502776
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Twelve - September 2011

Every time I crack the cover of this prodigious tome I inevitably
at some point, either under my breath or barking it aloud (to the
consternation of my fellow MUNI passengers) utter the phrase
goddamn Hitchens and then close the book on my finger and
shake my head, marveling once again at the stupendous breadth of
knowledge and erudition contained herein. I read somewhere that
Hitchens’ conversation at cocktail parties is a kind of volcanic piece
of performance art, which is how I picture the great man in my head.
Whether you agree with him or not (and I find I usually do) his ideas
are always carefully considered, vigorously delivered and beautifully
digressive. Throat cancer is taking down one of our finest national
treasures but like everything else he’s faced in his fascinating life,
he’s handling that too, head-on and with aplomb.

Wonderstruck Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545027892
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Press - September 13th, 2011

The talent behind 2007’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is back
with another novel told in words and pictures. This time we are
presented with a pair of deaf protagonists living fifty years apart. A
desperately unhappy young girl’s story, told in Selznick’s signature
pencil illustrations, opens in 1927, just as Hollywood is making the
transition to “talkies”, incorporating, sound into film for the first time,
and inadvertently excluding deaf people like herself, from the entire
viewing experience. Fifty years later, Robby has lost his mother
and his hearing in two successive disasters. In his despair he has
stumbled on a few clues to his father’s identity. As both children
find themselves fleeing to New York and arriving at the Museum of
Natural History, their two stories begin to converge in amazing and
unexpected ways. Reminiscent of E.L. Konigsburg’s The Mixed-Up
Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
, Selznick is back in top form.

Boxer, Beetle: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608196807
Availability: Special Order
Published: Bloomsbury USA - September 20th, 2011

If you’re one of those folks who likes a heroic protagonist,
sympathetic characters or intelligent and thoughtful personalities—
if you are one of those readers who savors the quiet moments of
rumination and the carefully wrought understated turn-of-phrase, then
slap this back down on the pile and keep on movin’ cause this smutty
little masterpiece is not for you!
If on the other hand you can appreciate a colorful cast of cretins,
morons, pretentious popinjays, vacuous conversationalists, Nazi
sympathizers, drunks, bullies, extortionists, and a host of other
lowlifes, miscreants and ne’er-do-wells, then slow down a tick and
have gander at Beauman’s excellent debut. Despite the noxious
characters the prose sparkles with intelligence & rollicks along to
fairly jaw-dropping conclusion. Big Fun!!

The Family Fang: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061579035
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - August 9th, 2011

I’m not sure exactly why I like this quirky little hooha as much
as I do. It’s just a really fun book filled with flawed but good-
intentioned characters, like Buster, the sometime successful
novelist, now returning to his childhood home to nurse a potato
gun injury, and his sister, Annie, the Oscar nominated actress,
who also happens to be returning home after a series of bad
decisions leaves her under intense public scrutiny. Then there
is avant-garde filmmakers Caleb and Camille Fang, parents to
Annie and Buster (A and B) whose mysterious disappearance
after their children return home triggers not only a search for
their whereabouts, but some intense ruminations on their
bizarre childhoods. If you like Joe Meno’s stories, or Wes
Anderson’s movies or Daniel Clowes’ comics, pick this one up.

Freedom: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312576462
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - September 27th, 2011

Every bit as compelling as The Corrections, Freedom is vintage
Franzen: the super-smart crackling dialogue, the epic exploration
of how the world works by way of intense scrutiny of the familial
microcosm—you remember, that way he has of evoking the most
painfully awkward but startlingly familiar ways in which families
are truly ugly, and horrible, and sad, and hilarious and just so,
inescapably, tragically, necessary?—yeah, all that is still here, only. . .
there’s more here, too. Remember when James Wood called Franzen
a Hysterical Realist and implored him to “tell us how people feel”,
and you remember that NYT’s piece about the disappearance of sex
from the contemporary American male novelist’s oeuvre, well, I think
our friend was listening and, well, take that, you critics & cynics!!

The Instructions Cover Image
ISBN: 9781936365166
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: McSweeney's - July 12th, 2011

I have to say, that one of the most impressive feats for a
novel of this size, besides the engaging characters, the odd
juxtaposition of philosophical inquiry and Marx Bros. slapstick,
and the fully believable ten-year old megalomaniacal Talmudic
scholar/fighter/lover/messiah (maybe) narrator, is simply
the singular vision of the author. Think Infinite Jest, if the
story never moved away from Enfield Tennis Academy and
the whole of that 1000 pages were packed into 4 days, or if
Bolaño’s 2666 focused exclusively on those scholars of Benno
Von Archimboldi, or if DeLillo had expanded End Zone to the
size of Underworld, with Roth and Bellow presiding. Funny,
smart, rollicking, violent, sad, perplexing . . . but ultimately the
most victorious debut novel I’ve read in years. Maybe ever.

Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles #1) Cover Image
By Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062024688
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer + Bray - August 30th, 2011

Prue McKeel’s brother has just been abducted, on her watch,
and by, of all things, a murder of crows. This seems as
strange and unbelievable to her as it does to you or I, but as
she watches her brother carried through the sky towards the
Impassable Wilderness, a magical realm just north of Portland
Oregon, a place no one has ever been to and returned to tell
the tale
, she knows she is in serious trouble. Refusing to return
home empty handed she sets off on her bicycle to find him
and along the way reluctantly allows a schoolmate, Curtis, to
tagalong. When the two are almost immediately separated,
a dual narrative unfurls conjuring the work of C.S. Lewis and
Philip Pullman. Paired with gorgeous art, this is the first in a
series that has all the hallmarks of a modern classic.

The Professor: A Sentimental Education Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061670923
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - January 4th, 2011

Stanford English professor Terry Castle has written a number of
academic texts and edited several anthologies but this is her first
foray into writing for a broad popular audience. This is a remarkable
collection of essays that blend her undeniable erudition on a wide
range of subjects with personal anecdotes from her own life and her
family’s history. The long titular piece at the end is actually where I
started and thought I might end, but I was hooked immediately; the
harrowing tale of her seduction and subsequent obsession with one of
her professors is gripping from the first page and Castle’s evocation
of place is nonpareil. Whether she’s riffing on largely forgotten sax
legend Art Pepper or hilariously conjuring her tumultuous friendship
with Susan Sontag, she demonstrates effortless aplomb. Sort of Anne
Fadimanesque but with an edgier, naughtier kind of joie de vivre.

The Imperfectionists: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385343671
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - January 4th, 2011

Rachman’s debut novel follows the lives of the employees
at an international English speaking newspaper in Rome.
Each chapter takes a different character as its focus but the
secondary characters introduced along the periphery each get
their own treatment in subsequent chapters. Spliced between
these character treatments are excerpts from the paper itself,
a somewhat complicated structure that might be too clever for
its own good in the hands of a less talented writer. Rachman
proves more than up to the task as each chapter could easily
stand on its own as an accomplished short story yet the
concluding sum reveals a writer of great skill and vision. It’s an
audacious debut that feels like the work of a veteran writer.

House of Leaves: The Remastered Full-Color Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375703768
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - March 7th, 2000

Hmm . . . where to begin describing this labyrinthine meditation
on, well, so many disparate subjects: art and solitude, grief
and loneliness, Derrida, architecture, Fellini, addiction, Rilke,
echolocation, sex, tattoos, schizophrenia, familial bonds,
adultery, the modern novel (by way of Gaddis, Wallace,
Pynchon, Borges, and Nabokov—somehow swirled into a
Lovecraftian crock-pot of genuine horror) agora/claustro/nycto
phobias, codes, ciphers, epistles, spelunking. Gee, I guess
that covers a few of the high points. It’s also beautifully put
together—have a flip-through—see, it’s gorgeous. Oh, and
disregard that facetious dedication . . . this is, in fact, for you.
P.S. Look out for M.Z.D.’s new 27 volume novel, coming soon!

End Zone Cover Image
ISBN: 9780140085686
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - January 7th, 1986

Let me just begin by stating that I have zero interest in American football. None. Nil. Zilch. I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and I don't think I've ever sat through the entire thing. I don't know the rules, the players, strategies, histories: I cannot tell you which colleges have important football teams and I don't know which mascots go with which pro teams.

So why the hell would I read a novel about football? Two words friends: Don LeLillo. This novel served as the inspiration for David Foster Wallace's Eschaton game in Infinite Jest and there are a number of cool connections between the two books. Written in 1972, DeLillo was way ahead of his time here; it's like Dr. Strangelove meets Friday Night Lights. It makes me want to catch a game...

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Cover Image
By E.L. Konigsburg, E.L. Konigsburg (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781416949756
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - September 25th, 2007

First published in 1967, the now beloved classic follows intrepid
runaways Claudia and Jamie to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
where they’ve surreptitiously installed themselves unbeknownst to
museum staff or their parents. Soon they realize their early ambitions
to learn every single thing about the multitudinous and stunningly
expansive exhibits just might be a little overly ambitious. Instead they
focus on unraveling the origins of a breathtakingly beautiful statue
of an angel from the Italian Renaissance. Along the way they learn
much about art, friendship, loyalty and themselves. Fans of Brian
Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret will want to read this in
anticipation of his new epic Wonderstruck, which tips a deliberate hat.

The Book of Terns Cover Image
ISBN: 9780615424392
Availability: Special Order
Published: Ternaournd Press - January 2011

Ha ha! No terning back now my friend! Penguin
Books (such a silly looking bird) stopped publishing
The Book of Terns some years ago but Ternaround
Press has terned things . . . wait, too obvious right, I
can do better, has terned out a, wait, has terned up
the heat on the, no that’s just stupid . . . how about,
much to the consternation of it’s detractors, The
Book Of Terns has reterned! Think I’m a moron do
you? Spend five minutes with this book and you’ll be
doodling and muttering to yourself in no time.

The Unsinkable Walker Bean Cover Image
By Aaron Renier, Aaron Renier (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781596434530
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: First Second - August 17th, 2010

Ahoy mateys! Join Walker Bean as he sheds his nerdy, sad-sack persona and becomes the kind of swashbuckling adventurer of which myths are made! Plus you'll meet a feisty redheaded girl with a sword in each hand, a best pal named Shiv (AKA Powder Monkey), an evil pearl skull, a teapot automaton, a darkly mysterious doctor who gorges on raw fish, and two giant lobster-women merwitches - the likes of which would send Blackbeard himself cowering to the hold, quaking and atremble with fear. Beautiful art and a rollicking story will have all hands giving two thumbs up.

Axe Cop Volume 1 Cover Image
By Malachai Nicolle, Various (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781595826817
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dark Horse Books - January 4th, 2011

The first volume of the web-comic sensation is finally available in print. Malachai (age 5) writes the stories and his brother Ethan (age 29) illustrates them. The hilarious and super-awesome result is Axe Cop, perhaps the greatest superhero the world has ever known. After finding the perfect fireman's axe, Axe Cop holds tryouts for his new crime fighting team: there's Flute Cop (who carries a flute), Dinosaur Soldier (self-explanatory), Sockarang (with his boomerang sock arms), Uni-baby (part baby, part unicorn, of course), and my personal favorite, Wexler (a winged pet T-Rex with machine gun arms), et al. Zombies and witches and aliens and bad guys just don't stand a chance. Also included is the brilliant "Ask Axe Cop" columns, where fans get answers to some of our most pressing questions, like: "Have you ever fought in a go-kart?" and "What would you do about the bad guys who stole the sun?" The surreal logic of Axe Cop will have you wishing you had the coolest older brother in the world with the power to bring your dreams to vivid, brilliant life.