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1. Why Literature Can Save Us

Our title is, of course, a problem. "Why Literature Can Save Us." And of course the problem is one of definition: what those words mean. What is literature and what constitutes salvation? So I'll begin with a brief surface definition of the terms, since we probably all have our own and various ideas about what [...]

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2. Dear Professor Fitger

Saint Paul, August 2014 Dear Professor Fitger, I've been asked to say a few words about you for Powells.com. Having dreamed you up with a ball-point pen in a composition notebook (drafting on the right-hand page, and making edits and corrections on the left [see figure 1]), I should be well equipped to describe you, [...]

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3. Powell’s Q&A: Richard Kadrey

Describe your latest book. The Getaway God is the sixth book in the Sandman Slim series. In it, the very unholy nephilim, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya — the insatiable, destructive old gods. But their imminent invasion is just [...]

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4. Empathic Curiosity

Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed fundamentally, it was 18th century Europe, and Britain in particular. During this period, a cognitive revolution took place, powered by an extraordinary new technology: the printing press. Gutenberg's contraption was a curiosity [...]

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5. Fitz and the Fool

After 10 long years, Robin Hobb revisits two of her most beloved characters, Fitz and the Fool, with Fool's Assassin. If the ending of Fool's Fate made you want to fling the book across the room, you'll be happy to hear that Fitz and the Fool do meet up again. The opening of Fool's Assassin [...]

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6. The Trauma of Everyday Life

Mark Epstein masterfully examines the intersection between psychotherapy and Buddhism, and his new book focuses on a fascinating subject within that convergence: trauma. Using even the Buddha's own personal traumas, Epstein pens an exploration that is wise, insightful, and surprisingly uplifting. Books mentioned in this post Portland Noir (Akashic Noir) Kevin Sampsell Used Trade Paper [...]

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7. Of Metal and Wishes

This unusual and hauntingly powerful love story is set in a slaughterhouse factory housing a ghost who grants wishes. The factory hires a cheap labor force and it turns into an exploding workplace. This moving novel weaves violence, tenderness, and forgiveness into one alluring story. Books mentioned in this post Of Metal and Wishes Sarah [...]

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8. The Magician’s Land

The Magician's Land brings Grossman's trilogy to a triumphant conclusion. Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the land he once ruled. He sets out on new adventures with Plum, a young magician. Meanwhile, Janet and Eliot fight to save Fillory from destruction. Books mentioned in this post The Magician's Land Lev Grossman Sale [...]

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9. In the Kingdom of Ice

Truly a great adventure story, Sides's thrilling tale of the 1879 polar expedition of the USS Jeannette left me slack-jawed and wide-eyed. Vividly experience the grim, harrowing journey into a frozen world and discover the fate of the heroic crew determined to survive. Impossible to put down, this book has award winner written all over [...]

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10. Thrones and Bones: Frostborn

Drawing on Norse legends is the first of a series involving Karn, a farm boy who would rather play board games, and Thianna, a half-frost giantess. They join together to battle trolls, walking dead, and a fire-breathing dragon. This is a wonderful summer read filled with humor and adventure. Books mentioned in this post Frostborn [...]

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11. Excavation

In this searingly honest memoir of growing up during the '80s and '90s in Southern California, Ortiz brilliantly narrates her five-year relationship with a teacher 15 years her senior. This is a work of startling incandescence and raw beauty. Books mentioned in this post Excavation: A Memoir Wendy C. Ortiz Sale Trade Paper $10.50

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12. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki may be a simple story, but it carries an emotional heft that feels like a throwback to one of Murakami's classic early novels, like Norwegian Wood. His ephemeral and effortless prose flows like a perfectly choreographed dream and will leave you as satisfied as a long afternoon nap. Books mentioned in this [...]

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13. Amsterdam

Many Americans have a specific idea of the city of Amsterdam: they think of its front-and-center red light district or legal drugs or, for those less interested in vice, the Anne Frank House. But Russell Shorto's interests go deeper — in Amsterdam he traces the history of the place and its liberalism, from the inception [...]

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14. The Good Lord Bird

Through the tremendous voice of Little Onion, a slave boy mistaken for a girl, James McBride takes America's battle against slavery, including the infamous raid on Harpers Ferry, and weaves a story that is exhilarating, profound, and darkly funny. Books mentioned in this post Portland Noir (Akashic Noir) Kevin Sampsell Used Trade Paper $8.50 Pacific [...]

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15. Sweet Thunder

This charming story from Ivan Doig reintroduces the personable Morrie Morgan — now newly married and finding himself in charge of a rundown mansion and as a novice newspaper editor in 1920s Butte, Montana. Readers will find much to love in this look back at a fascinating time in American history. Books mentioned in this [...]

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16. The Powell’s Playlist: Water Music by Peter Mendelsund

We "see" when we read, and we "see" when we listen. There are many ways in which music can create the cross-sensory experience of this seeing... through sonic imitation, through poetic evocation, through dynamic mapping, through programmatic association, through the literal use of physical materials... 1. "La Mer" by Claude Debussy The big kahuna of [...]

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17. Shimmer of Something

Possibly poems, possibly really (really) short stories, possibly mini essays, Brian Doyle's "box poems" — smallish bits of writing with perfectly aligned edges and not one word short or long — are so perfectly exact, they seem utterly intriguing even before you start to read. (How, exactly, did he do that?) Doyle is a man [...]

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18. Children Act

Ian McEwan's The Children Act tackles a very touchy subject these days: religious freedom and all the ethical, moral, legal, and criminal ramifications therein. Fiona, a High Court judge, must rule in a case involving a Jehovah's Witness family, in which the almost 18-year-old son is on the very brink of death unless given an immediate [...]

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19. Tangle Stitches for Quilters and Fabric Artists

This is a great book for the quilter looking to bring something new to their craft. Zentangle is a style of doodling taken to an art form, and its practitioners are passionate about their repetitive pattern drawing. Tangle Stitches combines this art with quilting, a perfect fit as the doodles are very similar to common [...]

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20. Farming with Native Beneficial Insects

Looking to increase your organic harvest? This is one of the most exciting farming books I've seen! It's not just bugs (although there are plenty); it's also cover crops, grassed waterways, and brush piles. Farming with Native Beneficial Insects has a wealth of information on introducing and restoring biodiversity for the backyard farmer as well [...]

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21. Fourth of July Creek

An enjoyable summer read — deeply textured story, characters that bear out their frail existence, and great writing. Books mentioned in this post Fourth of July Creek Smith Henderson Used Hardcover $18.50

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22. Ruby

Bond weaves a web of madness and ghosts in this scary and very disturbing read. I feel like the book needs a warning label: explicit and devastating scenes! Yet the story and Bond's writing are so astonishingly volcanic. One of the best books I have read this year. Books mentioned in this post Ruby Cynthia [...]

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23. The Powell’s Playlist: Graham Joyce

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is set on the English coast in the hot summer of 1976, so the music in this playlist is pretty much all from the '70s. The songs follow David's journey of innocence to experience, and on the way he solves a terrifying personal mystery. 1. "In the Summertime" [...]

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24. Lila

With Lila, Marilynne Robinson revisits her beloved town of Gilead, just as she did with Home. This time around, her focus is on Lila Ames, who in both previous novels has been a sort of paragon of calm and dignity. In Lila we learn about her childhood and young adulthood, which could not be further from [...]

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25. The People in the Trees

The People in the Trees has done a thorough job of rattling me to the core, and several months after reading it, I still can't stop thinking about it. The book has so many things I love: an unreliable narrator, explosive endings, secrets, unlikable characters, a scientific bent, cultural clashes, an arrogant hero, and ordinary [...]

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