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Elise's Staff Picks

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The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art Cover Image
ISBN: 9780190262013
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - September 1st, 2015

A chatty and engaging read on the topic of "neuroaesthetics" and the science behind beauty and pleasure. I recommend this book to anyone who ever wondered whether or not we evolved to appreciate and make art. Or for someone asking themselves why it is that beauty and aesthetic experiences are so central to being being human.

-- Elise

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I Remember Nightfall Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937027599
Availability: Backordered
Published: Ugly Duckling Presse - October 1st, 2017

     This is the very first comprehensive collection of poetry by Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio. Her poems are whimsical, fantastical and writhing with imagination. She is a poet with the special gift for transforming every ordinary moment into pure magic. In these poems, everything sparkles, wiggles, and is imbued with the unusual. I feel as a child would, opening a book of fairy tales on a breezy summer day, completely absorbed and enchanted by each poem. Marosa’s poems are not all whimsy; she fearlessly delves into the shadow-side of life. Darkness and strange creatures roam her pages alongside the disarming rays of daylight and twinkling fairies.

      This is a beautiful publication collecting four books of poetry, with facing pages containing the Spanish. This book of poetry is for anyone with a bent towards the fantastical, searching for a truly other-worldly summer read.



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Varamo Cover Image
By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780811217415
Availability: Not in Stock... Available to ship in 3-5 days
Published: New Directions - February 22nd, 2012

This slim novella is yet another home run by the prolific Argentine novelist Cesar Aira. Enter the world of Varamo, a somewhat abject government employee who possesses little to no remarkable qualities. That is, until one strange day comes along that is filled with other-worldly phenomena. This novella takes place over the course of a single day, and in typical Aira fashion, it is so much more than simply a great story. Aira is  a wonderfully clever novelist. He is also deeply philosophical and adept at weaving in surreal musings on life throughout his writing.

Varamo is beyond a page turner; it is perfectly plausable to finish this book in one delectable sitting. I highly recommend as a travel read.

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Água Viva Cover Image
By Clarice Lispector, Stefan Tobler (Translated by), Benjamin Moser (Preface by)
ISBN: 9780811219907
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - June 13th, 2012

Dazzling. Mesmerizing. Sentences that bend under the heft of sheer beauty and truth. You will often find this book shelved in Literature, however it is quite philosphical. Above all, I would declare it to be a meditation on the invisible force of life itself. I recommend this to anyone who is willing to lose themselves in language long enough to experiece Lispector's orientation to the world. If you've never read Lisepector before, Agua Via is the perfect place to start.

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The Door (NYRB Classics) Cover Image
By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (Translated by), Ali Smith (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590177716
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - January 27th, 2015

In early Winter of 2017 I picked up my first novel by Szabo, by late Winter of 2018 I had read everything by her that was translated into English. Szabo creates characters unlike any I have read before: complex, elusive, and somehow so recognizable. "The Door" holds some of my favorite literary characters.

This is an intriguing book about an uncanny friendship between two women. In post-war Hungary Magda (a young novelist) hires Emerence (an old-world housekeeper) to tend to Magda's newly purchased home. The friendship they form is both unlikely and signficant for both. It is also a friendship that goes deep, often one that cuts to the quick. Emerence is a force to be recokoned with, yet she loves her friend Magda in a way that is new and surprising to her. I often felt like I was learning about love and connection alongside Magda as I read.

This book examines the difficulty of intimacy and truly knowing one and other. Szabo writes with humor, treading lightly as she delves into the depth of human experience through the lens of friendship, death, religion and love.

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Two Serious Ladies: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062283122
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco - February 25th, 2014

A delightfully odd tale. Written in 1943 by modernist Jane Bowles. In "Two Serious Ladies" we enter the orbit of two women, both teetering on the edge of abjectivity. One of the women roams Staten Island on a spiritual quest, whose path involves random encounters with strange men. The other woman is on a seemingly endless vacation in Panama, languidly passing time. What is the link between these two? They each make preposterous choices that are equally motivated by boredom and curiosity. Somehow this book manages to be humourous in its telling, yet earnest in its pursuit. Bottom line: this story is well written and these women are fascinating. They consistently muster up an unusual species of bravery on their existential quest to knowing themselves. 

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My Year of Rest and Relaxation Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525522119
Availability: Not in Stock... Available to ship in 3-5 days
Published: Penguin Press - July 10th, 2018

This is the blues. This is also a rebirth -- and above all, an intelligent story about the pain and recovery of a modern convalescent, whose ills are of the psyche.

Most people would agree that true transformation comes from facing your crisis, your tragedy, your whatever-it-is head on. Moshfegh suggests a different remedy in the face of psychic pain: act like an animal and go into deep hibernation. The narrator is knee deep in the muck of her life; flashes of her painful past are on the verge of immobilizing her. What does she do? Listen to her instincts and self-medicate into oblivion. Moshfegh is a talented writer, nose diving into the very personal grit of her character’s lives. This story unravels into something darkly humorous, relatable, and transformative.

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The Answers: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250183088
Availability: Not in Stock... Available to ship in 3-5 days
Published: Picador - June 5th, 2018

Researchers and a really rich guy think they have devised a way to eliminate emotional pain, specifically the pain of loving another. Mary is an abject protagonist. She is searching for an escape from illness and the mundanity of her days. The particular way in which she finds herself smack dab in the middle of these strange experiments makes this book a genuine page turner ... good luck putting it down!

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The Peregrine Cover Image
By J. A. Baker, Robert Macfarlane (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590171332
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - December 31st, 2004

My kind of nature writing. Baker has made a study of not only a magnificient hawk, but of language. Written over the course of three seasons in a single year, these journal entries lend themselves to being read at random and savoured.

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Baby, I Don't Care Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940696720
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wave Books - September 4th, 2018

Minnis's poems read like scenes taken from a screen writer's notebook. Written with the psychological narrative structure reminiscent of a classic Hollywood cinema, these hypnotic poems tell the tale of a femme-fatale protagonist from beginning to end. At first, she seems to be the woman of your richest fantasies. Slowly, she reveals herself to be the mistress of your nightmares. What can't Daddy, champagne, a fit of rage, or diamonds solve in the life? Twisting and tugging at the shimmer of the material world, our sweet histrionic squeezes from life every last bit of dignity and pleasure. This book is dark and catchy, sardonic and witty, laced with a sharp sense of humor. One of my favorite books of poetry in 2018.

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Milkman: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450000
Availability: Not in Stock... Available to ship in 3-5 days
Published: Graywolf Press - December 4th, 2018

Given the chance, Milkman will become your world. Classify it as an unconventional historical novel about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. A tightly woven community is tenuously held together by oblique conflict and social codes. This novel is centered around "Middle Sister" who is not alone in lacking a proper name: only referents are used. I am still amazed at how much Anna Burns was able to eloquently pull off: there is the lack of names,and then the extreme intimacy, the heavy weight vocabulary, the frenetic pacing, and everything else. Engrossing, difficult and so so wonderful.

image created by sara mcnally | constellation & co | seattle, wa
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