Brett's Staff Picks

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Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316167253
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company - January 5th, 2007

Funnily enough, I actually stumbled upon this book while pulling returns from our Religion section. And while I find I generally tend to agree with sentiments I encounter from Buddhism, I hardly consider myself a devout practicioner. But this book is neither a religious text nor a proselytization: Ricard was a PhD in Molecular Biology at the Louis Pasteur institute before dedicating his life to Tibetan Buddhism, and his book is centered around examining the 'phenomena' of happiness through an evidential, objective, and - dare I say it - scientific method. The result is a book which is at once an exceptional distillation of Buddhist tradition, a comprehensive examination and integration of modern neurological science, and an effective, instantly applicable field manual for how to live a happier life today. This is the only time I can say without any irony that reading this book will make you happier.

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Cover Image
By Shirley Jackson, Jonathan Lethem (Introduction by), Thomas Ott (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780143039976
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Classics - October 31st, 2006

While she's finally starting to see a reemergence into the mainstream thanks to Netflix's series "The Haunting of Hill House," the fact that Shirley Jackson is still primarily known as a minor voice is one of the great failures of 20th century American Literature. At the risk of understating it, there is no modern horror genre without Shirley Jackson. And yet her focuses always lie so far beyond simple thrills and jump-scares: "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" is one of those obvious classics that reads like extant fable, and which is by turns melancholic, intriguing, sweet, funny, and yes, horrifying. This novel is almost entirely without flaw and remains entrancingly rereadable.


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Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735220171
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - February 5th, 2019

I'll confess it feels like a bit of a cop out to include an active Bestseller on my Staff Picks. But this book is all about deceiving appearance and breaking form. And it really is that good. Marlon James has to be one of the most capable Maximalists (the term itself doesn't even feel right - maybe ambitionist?!) working in contemporary fiction today. And as if his Man-Booker-Winning "Brief History of Seven Killings" hadn't been labrynthine enough, he has now "[risked] his literary credentials to write" a fantasy trilogy that he has described as "Game of Thrones set in Africa." True to form, James is being disingenuous here: this book is so much more than an Africanized recycling of the vogue. This story covers enormous ground but never feels burdened; manages to incorporate myriad genres (I've counted fantasy, horror, detective novel, and buddy cop film so far - and this is just the first of a trilogy!); and depicts a realized world populated with characters who genuinely grow on each page. On top of all of this as well is an incredibly rich and versatile prose style, one that capably "throws" itself to and from the hallucinatorily poetic, the pot-boiled, the natively tongued, and more, always in service to the effect and mood of the story. This is one of the coolest action movies I've ever read, and that's including Hamlet.

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Good Morning, Midnight Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393303940
Availability: Usually Arrives to Store in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - December 17th, 1999

Though this book may seem limited by its time - 'another story about a single person living in 1920s France?' - I assure you there is far more behind its eyes than first glance suggests. To me, Good Morning, Midnight is one of the most capable, affecting, and enduring works of Modernist fiction ever published. Hypnotizing, ethereal, furious, despondent, grim and shrouded - I've rarely ever felt as side-to-side with a character as I do while reading Rhys' narrator. And I've certainly never left a book having felt violated alongside the narrator, with and within them as they try to make (or avoid making) sense of the snarling fragments of their memory. Bonus points if you can finish this one while listening to Gloomy Sunday.