Hello dear readers! It may not feel much like it but the holidays are almost upon us. This year, it’s important to #shoplocal and support independent bookstores like Strand and McNally Jackson. They’ve lost most of their revenue to Amazon with closures due to COVID and reduced foot traffic causing them to lose business.
As book lovers, we believe the best present to give to anyone is a book. There’s something for everyone, even non-readers (cookbooks, coloring books, puzzle books). Or, if you’re a non-reader yourself looking for something to get your reader friend, you’ve come to the right place.
As we do every year, we put together a handy guide of our favorite new releases and under-appreciated books from years past. Our goal in making this list was to avoid best sellers and gather some hidden gems that your gift recipient is almost sure not to already have. We tried to hit a wide range so that there’s something for everyone.
We’ll be adding to this list over the next week so check back! If you have any specific types of books you’re looking for or people you’re looking to shop for that you don’t see represented in this list, let us know in the comments! Also, check out our 2017 gift list, 2018 list, and 2019 list for even more ideas.
François Vigneault’s TITAN is a slim volume, a quick but impactful read. Far in the future, humans have genetically engineered a race of super-strong, super-big people called Titans. When MNGR João da Silva arrives on the planet Titan, things are already tenuous. The relationship between Titans and “Terrans,” what they call humans from Earth, is hostile – one Titan snaps that she’d “rather scrub dreg out the line with my tongue” than work directly with a Terran. The planet is a powder keg, about to explode. That’s when Phoebe, a fiery red-haired Titan, arrives, pulling João deeper into a conflict he can’t escape.
Titan’s art is simple but effective. It’s monochromatic, completely done in white, pink, grey and black. There’s minimal line work, but every line is put to good use- the wrinkles lining MNGR da Silva’s face, the cartoonish bubbles indicating tipsiness when the MNGR and Phoebe share a bottle of alcohol. The art balances well between sci-fi realism and classic, simple comic book art. Continue reading
You limp the way a stream
will soothe a single rock
and along the bottom
remembers this path
as darkness and dry leaves
though you don’t look down
–you hear it’s raining :the hush
not right now but at night
these cinders float to the surface
keep one foot swollen, the other
has so little and for a long time now
the listening in secret.
I watched Rosemary’s Baby again last night, and I have to say, I don’t see what the big deal is.
I mean, the premise is bad. Sure. If my husband allowed the literal devil to rape me just so he could do something beyond TV ads, I’d be pissed. I’m not trying to sound anti-feminist here. Mia Farrow should have spooned him drugged-up pudding until he choked on it and died.
The whole spawn of Satan thing, though. There are worse things.
Here’s the way I see it. Continue reading
The alarm went off and we found that the world
hadn’t ended, that all the ramblings of the church elders
weren’t true. My husband sighed and rolled out of bed
found there were only dirty clothes left for him to wear
sighed again, dressed, went to work.
I could hear birds chirping in the yard
a squirrel on the roof, cars
passing on the road out front.
I held onto my dreams of apocalypse
for a few moments longer, savoring visions
of the angels, the devastation
that could still be waiting just outside the door.
when I was pregnant, all of my dreams
were about snakes. as much as I tried
to dream only about baby kittens, baby puppies
human babies, my nights would be filled
with twisting pythons gathered in knots
inside me, their slick skin undulating
in the dark, pushing and bumping as if
trying to find a way out.
friends without children would ask me
what it was like to be pregnant and I’d
have to lie. I was so worried that
imagining the baby inside me was a coiled serpent
in my stomach
meant that I was already a bad mother
meant something was wrong with my baby.
“It’s like being a butterfly house, ” I’d say instead.
“I’m all full of fluttering butterflies.” I’d put his or her hand
on my straining stomach as I spoke, whispering
“Can you feel them move? Can you feel it?
Isn’t it wonderful?”
We wait for the bombs to feel us out
pass the potatoes, say grace over the odd angels
that have watched over us for years
through the stained-glass windows of old churches
through the eyes of Orthodox iconography. This is a moment of peace
that will never come again.
Through the windows, the strength of distant concussions
fold trees in half, take grain silos and snap power lines.
We turn up the gas, clear the dinner table
I put a knife in your hand, just in case.
The sky grows as dark as if seen through closed eyes
windows shake and fly apart. Hands
over their eyes, I stretch out next to the children
tell them it’s just the sound of His voice, there’s nothing
to be afraid of, it’ll all work out in the end.
the soldiers didn’t seem to care
that the hotel we were staying in
was haunted. they didn’t seem even a little interested
when we told them chairs were moving all by themselves
that we could hear voices whispering in the bathroom pipes
that the clocks had all stopped exactly at midnight.
the people in the streets outside
didn’t seem to care either, seemed more concerned with
pushing back against the soldiers, standing ground
in front of their own crumbling, possibly haunted hovels
seemed more annoyed than anything when we
said we needed to find another place to stay.
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), and The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press).
Review by Tess Tabak
Peng Shepherd’s Book of M is a tour de force, a grim-yet-hopeful speculative fiction novel with many parallels for the current coronavirus pandemic. The characters in the book grapple with their own mysterious pandemic: a wave of people throughout the globe suddenly begin losing their shadows, and no one understands why. With the loss of a shadow inevitably comes total memory loss.
The book covers vast material in its 485 pages – the book takes place over the course of about two years – but it centers on a relatively small cast of characters. The central figures include a couple, Max and Ory, who have been living in hiding together at a resort since the start of the pandemic. There is also an amnesiac, who suffered complete retrograde amnesia shortly before the pandemic struck, and who may be key to finding a cure.
More than just losing their memory, something far stranger happens to the victims of the Forgetting. They become imbued with magical powers. If they forget something, whatever they imagine in its place becomes reality. A wife who forgets her husband may cause him to disappear, for example. Shepherd deliberately keeps the scope of the supernatural powers vague throughout the course of the book. While there is some amount of internal logic, the “rules” of the magic is not the focus here. Rather we’re intimately following the aftermath for our characters, the pain and emotional anguish of watching their loved ones forget who they are, or knowing that you’re being stripped of everything that makes you who you are. Continue reading
The teeth were too big for Maggie. The wax gums slipped along her molars and stabbed her flesh until she couldn’t bear it and took them out.
“Why’d you go and do that?” Brother Daniel asked. “No one’ll know what you’re s’posed to be.”
“They hurt.” she said, dropping the little rubber fangs into her pillow case candy sack. Her mouth relaxed. She was glad to get the things out. Other than the pain, the foamy spit that stuck inside the rubber fangs moved in and out with each breath and made her feel like the rabid dog that had been on tv last night. But altogether, Dan was right. Without the fangs, her basilisk costume fell into a well of scaly obscurity. Even with the teeth in, she’d had to explain to both Missus Dodson and dim little Craig Elner from next door that she was absolutely not a dragon to go along with her brother’s knight getup.
“I guess it doesn’t matter anyhow. We ought to head back soon.” Daniel fidgeted with his wrist watch. It had been a present for his birthday earlier that month and he had not stopped setting alarms and timing mundane activities – eating cereal, practicing times tables, using the bathroom. Maggie hated it, for it was a traitor and blared out the exact second their nightly hour of television was over. Mother sometimes forgot her rule about the tv and, on those occasions, Maggie could catch another episode of Dateline.
Dan’s watch, on the other hand, never forgot the hour tv rule. Continue reading