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Viewing Blog: PowellsBooks.BLOG, Most Recent at Top
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1. Selfies, Memoir, and the World Beyond the Self

When I was a teenager in Colorado during the late '90s, I liked to climb 14ers — 14,000-foot mountains. I'd often hike with friends, and at the top we'd take a photograph of ourselves standing on the summit. We'd set the camera on a rock and use the timer function, or, if another hiker happened [...]

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2. A Little Life

In an alternate universe, A Little Life would be the love-child of Hanya Yanagihara and Donna Tartt, and this is a beautiful thing. The story setup is reminiscent of The Secret History, but the language and themes are all Yanagihara. Spanning five decades, this is a hefty novel at 700 pages, but one that you [...]

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3. The Book That Refused to Write Itself

I first heard of Fritz Haber in 1998, when I caught a snippet of a TV documentary about 20th-century scientists. The camera zoomed in on an image of a bald man in a military uniform, a pair of pince nez clamped to the bridge of his nose. He looked like a stereotypical German nationalist circa [...]

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4. Women

Caldwell is fearless in this tiny memoir; her second after Legs Get Led Astray. After spending her life in relationships with men, she suddenly finds herself, unbelievably, in love with a woman; a woman who already has a partner. Caldwell illustrates all the ugly pain, fear, anger, and aching loneliness of embarking on a relationship [...]

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5. All My Puny Sorrows

Sisters: this relationship is so very complicated — so fraught with missteps. Elf and Yoli are opposites, and while their bond is strong, it's not quite strong enough to keep Elf from continuously contemplating suicide. Yoli has tried everything to maintain the thin grasp she has on her sister. Somewhere along the way, Yoli realizes there is [...]

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6. Required Reading: Books That Inspire Travel

Ahead of a trip, many of us gravitate toward books that depict the history and culture of our travel destination. But it can work the other way around, too. Sometimes a book provides such a powerful sense of place that we find ourselves longing to visit the area we read about. Some of us even [...]

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7. The American Plate

I love when a title accurately pinpoints what a book is about. The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites is one such title. Written by the lead historian at the History Channel, author Libby H. O'Connell has given us a very readable excursion through time focusing on the American foodway, with some foods [...]

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8. Refinery29

In a perfect world, I would leave my house every day in an elegant outfit with a gorgeous topknot and lipstick that doesn't immediately bleed onto my coffee mug. Back in the real world of work and motherhood, my hair gets messy, my lipstick is sacrificed to the coffee god, and I lack the time [...]

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9. Pilgrim’s Wilderness

Tom Kizzia's Pilgrim's Wilderness is a riveting blend of true crime and environmental studies set in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in remote Alaska. In 2002 a bearded stranger and his wife and fourteen children arrived in McCarthy, Alaska, to claim in a deserted mining camp deep in the wilderness, and proceeded to blaze roads [...]

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10. The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba

Julia Cooke's fascinating The Other Side of Paradise is a sobering read, but it is also deeply sympathetic and remarkably apolitical. Cooke offers detailed portraits of everyday lives, as well as of her own experiences living in Havana, and allows the reader to develop his own opinions of the Castro brothers' regimes and American–Cuban relations. [...]

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11. Paying Guests

Part erotic thriller, part psychological study, part murder mystery, The Paying Guests is an intricate tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Frances and her mother live in a large estate in a small English village, but after having lost all the male members of their family in the war, they are [...]

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12. Dept. of Speculation

What started out as a really sweet family study turned into a pretty painful read. Offill has been there ("there" being the depths of marital disaster) — that's clear — and has captured this slice of domestic drama with something that I can only describe as an aching tenderness. Small and slight vignettes are layered [...]

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13. All the Birds Singing

Carefully spooling out its story, both forwards and backwards, All the Birds, Singing tells the tale of Jake Whyte, a woman on the run who finds herself on an Australian sheep farm. Jake's past is slowly inching into the light of discovery, while her present is haunted by something that is systematically killing her sheep. [...]

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14. Forever Girl

Alexander McCall-Smith delivers a sweet story here, but it is not without some angst. Clover has loved James all of her life, but she feels him drifting away from her as they both leave their home in the Cayman Islands for boarding school in England. At the same time, Clover's parents seem to be drifting [...]

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15. Adam

I really liked this book. The characters are complex and the gender/sexuality confusion is extremely interesting. Not for the squeamish, there is a lot of explicit sex here, but it is important to the story, and Schrag is quite matter-of-fact about it. Adam seems like a real teenage boy to me: willing to do whatever it [...]

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16. Everything I Never Told You

After you read this book, if you're a parent, be prepared to call your children and apologize for everything you've ever done. When death rips apart the Lee family, it becomes quite clear that Marilyn and James have not been the parents they imagined themselves to be. Lydia, Nathan, and Hannah have been molded, bent, [...]

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17. Buried Giant

A sometimes quiet, sometimes tense quest novel, The Buried Giant weaves the pastoral with the magical. An elderly couple start a journey to visit the son they haven't seen in years. Anticipating an easy trip, they soon become entangled with a warrior, a knight, and a sleeping dragon, not to mention pixies and slightly sinister [...]

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18. Spool of Blue Thread

Tyler's story of three generations of the Whitshank family has all the typical hallmarks for which she is so well known. There is family drama and dysfunction and sorrow aplenty, but Tyler also has an amazing way of exposing family in all its ugly and beautiful glory. These characters love each other, except when they don't, [...]

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19. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

My advice on this book: do not read any reviews, blurbs, synopses, or even the back cover (or front, for that matter)! Just read the book! It's one of those rare books that you need to approach blind; just dive in and experience it. The less you know, the better. You will fall under its [...]

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20. Untamed State

An Untamed State is the kind of book that just slices into you — forcing you to feel all its emotions. Gay digs deep and tells a story so searing, so awful, and so beautiful, it's hard to even describe. Set in modern day Haiti and America, this harrowing tale of a woman held captive for [...]

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21. The Power of One

This book had a huge impact on me. I read it when I was in middle school and was completely hypnotized by the descriptions of South Africa and the people who lived there. A couple of years later, in high school, I decided to become an exchange student and when one of the options of [...]

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22. Into Thin Air

A deadly storm striking tragedy on unsuspecting climbers isn't subject matter I would typically expect to inspire adventure. Yet Jon Krakauer's riveting account of a disastrous 1999 ascent of Mt. Everest did just that. At its heart, this outstanding book thrillingly recounts an ill-fated and deadly climb. But the remarkable reportage also captures the striking [...]

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23. The Sun Also Rises

I read this book during my senior year of college to take a break from my business reading requirements. It inspired me to buy a plane ticket to Spain as a graduation present to myself. I went and ran with the bulls in Pamplona and felt like I was living out a story. I will [...]

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24. Total Chaos

While living in Spain, I happened to pick up Total Chaos and was immediately transported to the crime-ridden backstreets of Marseilles, so much so that I convinced a couple friends that we had to visit. A short while later, there we were, following Detective Fabio Montale's footsteps through the labyrinthine Arab quarter, getting blitzed on [...]

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25. A Thief of Time

Though fiction, Hillerman's books are woven with notes of true Navajo history. In this book, sacred ground is ravaged. A noted anthropologist vanishes. Two corpses are discovered, and Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee unearth an astonishing truth. This was the first book of many of Hillerman's I read. They apparently seeped into [...]

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