The Hard Crow: Essays 2000-2020 by Rachel Kushner

A collection of essays revealing the Booker shortlisted author of The Mars Room as a new millennial heir apparent to Joan Didion.

Kushner writes about culture as an active participant, like the best of the New Journalists of the 60’s and early 70’s. The subjects here are wide-ranging: motorcycle racing, art, a Palestinian refugee camp, literary criticism, Italian underground cinema and working as a waitress in San Francisco. All are infused with a sense of living hard with eyes very wide open, that never turn away. In an age of first person writing that is mostly vulnerable and earnest, these essays serve as an absolute tonic and wild joy to read.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5963677

Victoria Sees It by Carrie Jenkins

A literary tour de force about an academic woman's disintegration and incipient madness.

A note on marketing: I found the author blurb on the cover, from someone whose work I greatly admire, to be off-putting at best: "A brilliant thriller." Also, on the back jacket, the statement that this is "A queer psychological thriller." I get it - the publisher is afraid of the curse of a book being positioned as Literary Fiction and only selling 2,000 copies but these acts of desperation betray a lack of confidence in readers and the book itself, which is brilliant. A thrilling read does not a thriller make, and I find marketing schemes nothing but an off-putting disservice.

Adult Fiction Paperback pr5986507

Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott

More “Windex for the soul” that speaks to the better angels in all of us.

While she continues to explore themes of faith, creativity, alcoholism, community and the most pressing topics of the day, Lamott includes a focus on the “third third” of one’s life, including her own marriage at age 66. Some of Lamott’s work over the last decade has been a little too scattered: this volume shows more poise, with fewer digressions into things like how her new jeans fit. This book feels very appropriate for our current zeitgeist: haven’t we all suffered “stunned minds, broken hearts” over this last year? This is the next best thing to being able to meet and talk things over with an old friend, in person.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5987369

Being Ram Dass by Ram Dass

Begun in 2010 and finished after his death in 2019 by friend and colleague Rameshwar Das, this is a beautifully written book about almost nine decades of spiritual seeking and growth.

From his time spent researching psychedelics at Harvard with Timothy Leary (when he was known as Richard Alpert) through his authorship of the seminal spiritual bestseller Be Here Now, decades on the lecture circuit and teaching, to his work with hospice, prison and homeless communities, and travels in India, Ram Dass lived a large and influential life with a profound influence on Western culture. This shared journey is a gift.

While I usually include a fiction title with my staff picks, the beautiful forward by Anne Lamott for this book made me feel these two made a perfect pairing. Be. Here. Now.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr5938298

Outlawed by Anna North

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Cowboys in a revisionist female-centric Western.

The setting and storyline are both familiar and deliciously divergent, as a midwife’s daughter in a transformed 19th century America is forced to flee her community for reproductive transgressions and joins a band of female and nonbinary outlaws.

While my experience of reading generally doesn’t include imagining a screen treatment, I couldn’t help but think of this as a film, with Tilda Swinton as the gang leader, and protagonist Ada’s part the hottest casting call of the year. The most fun I’ve had reading a Western since Tom Spanbauer’s Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon, back in the early 90s.

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5915717

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

The only fault with this brilliant collection of master essayist Didion is its brevity.

As I read, I kept hoping in vain that some sort of literary alchemy would add chapters before it would end. Such is the magic of the keen lens with which she looks at the world, combined with her unparalleled clarity of telling what she sees. These uncollected pieces include essays on Martha Stewart, Gamblers’ Anonymous, Robert Mapplethorpe and a visit to San Simeon.

It’s rare to find an essayist’s work that stands up after four decades, especially short works of journalism. Didion’s towers.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover 9780593318485

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