December 24th: 10am to 3pm
December 25th: CLOSED
December 31st: 11am to 5pm
January 1st: CLOSED
Laura's Staff Picks
I don't know what to say except: How?
How did Rachel Cusk create the world she created here in Outline? A world more interior that exterior?
The story?: A writing teacher travels to Greece to teach at a summer literary program. Then she goes home.
But it is through the people she meets, talks to, tries to teach, that the "outline" of the narrator comes slowly into the focus, an outline of the loss, grief, emotional disorientation, and a re-evaluation of her interior structures. It is funny and beautiful and brilliant!
Title: What Comes Next and How to Like It
I'm a die-hard Abigail Thomas fan—she's honest, funny, and wise. In this book, she shows us how she navigates being the mother of adult children, coping with a significant betrayal close to her family, illness, aging, and loss—all the while making us laugh, relate, and want more.
I love her short chapters, too!
Title: 101 Two-Letter Words
"IN my inbox is an invitation to go out; but going out is out. I'm staying in and getting stout."
With illustrations by the award-winning Roz Chast and the witticisms of Stephen Merritt (of the indie-brilliance musical creation: the Magnetic Fields) how could you go wrong?
Title: The Chronology of Water
I am rarely at a loss for words, but no matter how many times I read this book, I remain speechless.
I tell my writing students "This book is not for the faint of heart."
I tell them: "This bok turned everything I kow about writing on its head, shook it, spun it around, then painted it red."
I tell them: "It's hard to read; emotionally, I mean, it can be hard."
I tell them: "If you read any memoir published in the past decade, it should be this one."
I tell them: "You might hate it, but only for a minute, and only because the writing is so good, the voice so fierce, that you will hate it for its greatness, for what it has to teach you."
I tell them: "Just read the thing,"
Title: Can't and Won't
From letters of complaint, to a detailed treatise on the ups and downs of ordering fish in a restaurant, to the death of a sister, Lydia Davis' new stories completely captivated me.
She calls them "stories" but admitted in an interview (Bookworm, KCRW, 2014) that many of them "happened just like that." I am in awe of how Davis can- especially in this book- make the mundane (like watching the interpersonal dynamics of cows) completely interesting, always revealing something- sometimes an unseemly something- about the narrator- her obsessions.
Highly recommend. I'm already returning to certain stories, sending to friends, etc.
Title: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
It took me over 4 months to read this book, but only because each essay was so distinct, so good, I wanted to take my sweet time.
Anne Patchett (also the author of Bel Canto, State of Wonder and other novels) explores everything from her early divorce and her late (and happy) marriage, to her obsession with opera to an attempt to try-out for the police academy. She goes undercover as a writer into the world of RVs at Yellowstone, and pays tribute to her longtime friendship with a spry, witty, aging nun from her early school days.
Together, these essays (which span from 1996 to 2012 and were published in places like Vogue, Gourmet, Harper's, and the Wall Street Journal) track her development as a novelist and her roles as sister, daughter, friend, wife, and independent bookstore owner.
It's a funny, moving, and inspiring book- one that's earned a prime spot in my own personal collection.
Title: The Case for Falling in Love
Mari Ruti definitely makes her case. "If we truly respect the mystery of love," she writes, "we won't pledge allegiance to its permanence Rather we'll pledge allegiance to our faithful efforts to stay open to its transformative energies."
Referring to the slew of love and dating guides out there as self-hurt rather than self-help, Ruticovers, with great acuity, topics such as heartbreak, compatibility, attraction, the representation of romantic love on TV (you'll be surprised!) and the importance of embracing the messiness of love. A real guide for women and modern romantic love. A MUST READ!
Title: My So-Called Ruined Life
Title: It's Not You
This book is wonderful. Every now and then you find a book that speaks to your own story, your values, your experience, and makes you feel a little less solitary.
Echel has done the kind of research that actually applies and, more than that, HELPS- for a more positive, inspiring, and complex perspectives on life, single-hood, dating, relationships.
She brings a larger perspective to the whole "affair" that edges toward the spiritual, while never losing its pragmatic hue. She's realistic and immensely hopeful at once.
Title: Hyperbole and a half
Moving, irreverent, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, this unconventional memoir, collected from Brosh's hit website of the same name, now has a permanent home on my nightstand.
If you've ever experienced true depression, owned an unruly pet, had a near-pathological relationship with sugar, been a daughter, a sister, a child, a person, if you've ever been ALIVE, this book will, in the least, remind you, as it did me, that if you're going to make it in this crazy place you better get yourself a pretty great sense of humor.
Title: Braiding Sweetgrass
I tend to avoid books about nature and the environment the way some people avoid healthy food. But I was hired by Milkweed to proofread it, so I had no choice- I needed the money.
In hindsight, I suspect that a divine force played a part- both in the creationof this book and in the situation that forced me to read it.
At every turn I found myself in awe, in tears, entranced. Kimmeter's writing is gorgeous and accessible. She deftly "braids" her concern for her tribe- The Potawatomi, her love for her family, and her devotion to science, which she stays true to only in so far as it serves a gateway to becoming a better human, mother, and citizen of the world.
-an excellent read!
Title: The Story of a New Name (Neopolitan Quartet #2)
After My Brilliant Friend, I really didn't think Ferrante could do any better. Then I read this, book #2 in the NEopolitan series.
In an interview in The New York Times, she admits she didn't write the series as a series but as "one big book" called My Brilliant Friend. Her "one big book" then, becomes brillant-er and billiant-er as it unfolds. Enter at your own risk. You won't want to read anything else!
Title: Falling to Earth
John Steinbeck, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley... all writers who come to mind as I read this beautiful, devastating novel. The year is 1927 and the worst tornado in U.S. history has all bu wiped out a small town in Illinois. The Graves family (somewhat ironically named) is the only family to lose nothing and no one and come through a tragedy of almost biblical proportions seemingly unscathed.
In this disturbing and honest exploration of human nature, Kate Southwood has done something remarkable and ruthless by asking over and over in different ways (and through a memorable cast of characters): Is it always better to survive? And will the Graves family survive survival?
The gorgeous writing here allows poignancy and air into a dark tale about a family's love for the land, their town, each other, and the people they thought were their friends.
Title: My Brilliant Friend (Neopolitan Quartet #1)
Many weeks have passed since I finished this novel and my only wish is that I hadn't read it yet - it continues to haunt me in all the best ways.
The narrator is Elena Greco, her best friend is Lila Carullo, and the story is of their psychologically complex friendship as girls, growing up in a rough, economically divided neighborhood on the outskirts of 1950s Naples.
As children their mutual fears and unusual imaginations bind them to each other. As adolescent, they drift and diverge but always return to their friendship - both eerie and unbreakable.
While the pull of sex and the threat of violence increases (as the boys of their generation grow up alongside them), Elena and Lila, alone and together, navigate the treacherous landscape of early adulthood.
It takes compelling language and a complex storyline to keep me in a novel these days, and Ferrante has succeeded. Dark, atmospheric, and untamed, My Brilliant Friend is brilliant. May it never leave me. (The first of a trilogy.)
Title: The 6.5 Practives of Moderately Successful Poets
While reading this quirky and wonderful book on writing, I found myself reading from it to long-distance writer friends over the phone, copying pages for my creative writing students, sending excerpts over email, and recommending it to new poets (not just "moderately successful" ones) for inspiration, guidance, and comfort.
Part memoir (the author, now a poet, used to be a private investigator), part how-to, and part reassurance, this book reminded me that before being a writer and a poet, I am a PERSON.
A fun, entertaining, and ultimately helpful read!
Title: The Rules of Inheritance
I first came upon Claire Bidwell-smith through an essay online. The essay talked about courage - in life and in writing - and how, in her current life, she sourced that courage from her father's legacy as an unsung war hero. What stuck with me most after reading The Rules of Inheritance - which is really about how the writer dealt with the death of both of her parents relatively close together - is the storyline about her father, their relationship, and the things he gets (and she helps him get) resolved before his death.
Because the author never really got to know her father closely growing up (he was much older than her mother and had had a family before Claire's), when her mother died, they embarked on the friendship they were never able to have.
It's the loveliest book (gritty, too) that I've read in recent years as far as memoirs go (and I read a lot of them). I can't recommend it enough.
Title: Close to Fine
"That was what we had," says the narrator of "Good Potato Soil," the first story in this wonderful short story debut, "a warm summer night, and some moment of starlight and will." In the next scene, the narrator and his friend are chucking trash bags of dirty dishes off a barn wall.
It is this dynamic-poetic reflection and gritty object and action that I love most about this collection. Taking place largely in Wisconsin, these stories are about men, women, work, and the interior lives of some rough (some simply struggling) characters.
Having known the author since his beginnings as a writer, I can say it's wonderful to read such an exceptional first book - knowing he's also a good and generous soul just adds to the experience.
Take a chance on an unknown writer (and a small publisher!).
p.s. An extra plus: book includes an interview with Eliot in the back!
Title: Tiny Beautiful Things
Vulnerable, wise, and funny, Sugar (a.k.a. Cheryl Strayed) offers advice not as a therapist but as a woman who has seen and lived through her share of trouble and calamity.
This collection of advice collumns - published in the online literary dispatch The Rumpus - will make you want to pull yourself up (gently) by your boot straps and trudge on.
Read and be inspired by "Sugar's" responses to readers whose problems range from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Title: Madness, Rack, and Honey
I heard Mary Ruefle say in an interview that she was terrified about giving lectures, a requirement of the MFA program in which she now teaches. by exploring topics of her own choosing (and those requested by her students) ranging from Emily Dickinson to the moon to the power of secrets, Ruefle teaches herself "step by step, how to think and talk about poetry."
She explores poetry as a creative act, a vocation, an art, a lineage, a necessity as a "wandering little drift of unidentified sound."
Smart, funny, inspirational, this collection of "lectures" will teach and amuse the poet or lover of poetry in you. Don't miss the entertaining and quotable final lecture: "Lectures I Will Never Give"!
Title: Well-Read Women