Staff Favorites List

Each of these titles is personally recommended by one of our Brilliant Booksellers.  The list features both newly published and older books and draws from a wide array of writers, styles, and genres, making for a list as eclectic and unique as our Brilliant customers. Find past lists in our Staff Favorites Archive.

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Staff Pick Logo
The Music of Chance Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780140154078
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - December 1991

If you're not quite ready for Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1, start with The Music of Chance.  After squandering his newfound inheritance, Jim Nashe joins gambler Jack Pozzi to con a pair of millionaires at poker.  It's all down to chance, but the cards fall against them and they find themselves with the Sisyphean task of paying off their debt by stacking the stones of a 15th century Irish castle into a meaningless wall in the middle of a Pennsylvania meadow.  It's Auster at his best, a work that's simultaneously impossible and real, musing on the vagaries of chance and its role in shaping who we become. --Peter


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The Book of Joan Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062383273
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Harper - April 18th, 2017

This brilliantly conceived sci-fi novel is set in a near future where the last of the one-percenters exist in a space station floating above a dead earth. Having rapidly evolved after "the geocataclysm" into sexless ghosts with very elaborate skin fetishes, these ex-humans survive under the rule of a pompous, self-serving, intensely creepy leader. If that makes you a little queasy, all the more reason to read this book.

There are heroes- Christine, the artist, utterly committed to finding and speaking the truth, and her beloved Trinculo, a fearless, obscene, wisecracking genius. And surviving in caves below the scorched surface of the earth are Joan, entirely human yet godlike and the brave and beautiful Leone.  The story of how these rebel lovers overcome the evil system is deeply imagined and ultimately cathartic.  Graphic novelization seems inevitable.  Fans of LeGuin and Atwood will definitely want to check this out. --Toni


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Wanderlust: A History of Walking Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780140286014
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Penguin Books - June 2001

Rebecca Solnit is among the most prolific and gifted essayists of our day, and this collection on the pleasures and significance of bipedalism is my favorite in her remarkable catalog. She traces the footsteps of our species through history, blending science, philosophy and literature with her own observations on nature, urban spaces, feminism and engagement. This is an inspiring read that will have you lacing up your sneakers. --Sharon


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Idaho Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812994049
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - January 3rd, 2017

Nothing about this complicated family drama feels easy but the sustained intensity of its images, sometimes harrowing, sometimes blissful, kept me riveted.  The story is stitched to the awesome, menacing mountains of Idaho and a small family living close to the land.  It's an idyllic life with a piano and animals but also a perilous freedom.  The story unfolds from a single devastating incident.  As time passes, there are new characters and changing circumstances but the inscrutable mystery at the heart of this novel does not budge.  Fans of Marilyn Robinson will appreciate this thoughtful and gifted writer.  --Toni


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Do Not Become Alarmed Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780735216525
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - June 6th, 2017

Two upper middle class Angeleno families take a get-a-way cruise down the coast to Central America.   Things go very badly and six children are lost in the rain forest.  Meloy does an excellent job of maintaining the suspense throughout this carefully plotted thriller and the nuanced character development brings issues of cultural privilege into sharp focus.  All the children are so specifically and believably rendered.  This literary page turner is smart and tender in all the right places.  --Toni


Staff Pick Logo
The Last Bell Cover Image
By Johannes Urzidil, David Burnett (Translator)
$18.00
ISBN: 9781782272397
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pushkin Collection - April 25th, 2017

Pushkin Press has delivered us the first ever English publication of a collection by Urzidil. I have been enjoying Czech literature lately, and this collection is no exception. The plot lines of Urzidil's tales sound like something from Hrabal, but read a bit more like Kafka, Zweig, or Walser. Great short works focusing on moments of great change in society or the individual.  --Jack


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The Bear and the Nightingale Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781101885932
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey Books - January 10th, 2017

It's hard to believe this is a debut novel.  Arden has crafted a rich story with roots in Russian folklore, a pleasant departure from the usual retellings of Western European fairy tales.  It lacks the neatness of those happily-ever-afters in all the best ways, with both humans and magical beings painted more often in shades of grey than black or white.  I highly recommend the audio edition -- not only is Kathleen Gati's narration superb, but in a way it brings the story full circle.  After all, it makes sense that a story about tales told around the hearth at night should, in turn, be experienced aloud.  --Caitlin


Staff Pick Logo
War and Turpentine Cover Image
By Stefan Hertmans, David McKay (Translator)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781101872116
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - July 25th, 2017

Well, the Man Booker International 2017 has come and gone, with my pick for winner not making it past the longlist again. War & Turpentine is a fantastic look at family, secrecy, art,  and the lasting damage of "The Great War". Two thirds of the book are devoted to the narrator's discussion of his grandfather's life. This is primarily told of their time together, but also assumptions based on the grandfather's diaries left behind. There are memories from childhood that don't seem to quite make sense, sudden anger, deep depression, a love of art with more depth than his childhood mind could conceive of. The middle third is told straight from the grandfather's diaries. His childhood memories of his parents, their struggles and history, through his time serving in the first World War. There are moments of crushing beauty in these diaries, moments in the war that are dominated not by death and filth, but the simple beauty of the Flemish countryside. Taking a cue from Sebald, there are pictures included within the text to illustrate the  great works of art that are mentioned, or give a view of the landscape and architecture that our characters are amidst. These just add another layer to this stunning narrative.  --Jack


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Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143128090
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - March 28th, 2017

Not just for wine lovers, this is an intoxicating journey into a world of the senses. The author embeds herself with an elite group of New York sommeliers to learn their trade secrets. Her goal is to pass a blind tasting exam. A tech writer, Bosker gets into the science of taste and smell, peppering her visits of restaurants, labs and wineries with research and hard data to answer some thorny questions. What is the relationship between price and quality? Why is a wine described as tasting of grapefruit? It's all here, and more, and will make an excellent companion for your summer wine tour. Participatory journalism at its finest.  --Sharon


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Thrawn Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9780345511270
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey Books - April 11th, 2017

Timothy Zahn, the master of early Star Wars literature, is back! With the re-canonization of the universe by Disney, there was a fear that fan favorite character Grand Admiral Thrawn would fade into obscurity. Thankfully he has returned, re-imagined and better than ever. Every good villain thinks that their mission is one of setting right to the wrongs of others and this book is no different. "There are things in the universe that are simply and purely evil. A warrior does not seek to understand them, or to compromise with them. He seeks to only obliterate them."   --Jodie


Staff Pick Logo
The Summer Dragon Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780756413125
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Daw Books - May 2nd, 2017

Fantasy artist Todd Lockwood tries his hand at writing fiction, and what does he choose to focus on? Dragons, of course! What appears to be the first in a trilogy, The Summer Dragon places us in an amazing world where dragons are breed for the ever growing war machine and one such creature that may shift the entirety of the coming conflicts. Lockwood pens a wonderful tale full of well imagined characters and massive, violent, yet unique reptilian beasts of  fantasy. The Summer Dragon is sure to fill your need for adventure.  --Jodie


Staff Pick Logo
A Collapse of Horses Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781566894135
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Coffee House Press - February 9th, 2016

This collection of short horror contains the kind of stories that creep under your skin, infect your bloodstream, then settle cold in your bones.  Evenson is a major talent in modern literary horror, and the works in A Collapse of Horses offer an unexpected sucker punch.  There's a lot of the best kind of "wait...WHAT!?!?!" in here.  This is the kind of writing that pulls you off balance, a willing victim of vertigo, and leaves you spinning while weirdly ravenous for more.  --Christopher


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Six Wakes Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780316389686
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - January 31st, 2017

If Murder on the Orient Express had taken place on a space ship crewed by clones with criminal history, it might look something like Six Wakes.  The murder mystery element alone is compelling: six potentially unreliable narrators have no memory of which of them might have killed their past clone incarnations.  Throw in the complex politics and ethics of what makes someone human, plus the inevitable issues of surviving in space, and there's much more to this story than just finding the murderer.  --Caitlin


Staff Pick Logo
Entropy in Bloom: Stories Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781597808958
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Night Shade Books - April 18th, 2017

Entropy in Bloom hit me like a sock full of nickels.  Jeremy Robert Johnson's most recent collection of explosive, fearless stories contains the most horrific of body horror, hard sci-fi, mythic horror, cosmic horror, weird horror, and I don't think I left anything out but if you can think of another kind of horror (besides bland, formulaic horror) you'll probably find it in here.  I sacrificed sleep to blast through these stories, and it takes something massive to make me forego sleep (because that's where I'm a Viking).  This collection is massive.  --Christopher


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The Slow Regard of Silent Things Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780756411329
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Daw Books - November 17th, 2015

This companion story to Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle reads like a love letter to language. Though it's not strictly essential to read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear first, it deepens your understanding of both to do so, and helps explain the significance of language in the world of the story. Names here have power, and words can reshape what we understand and think we know. Rothfuss takes this idea beyond the confines of the narrative into the writing of the story itself; there's a playful sense that every word in this story is exactly the right one for the job. A quick and delightful read.  --Caitlin


Staff Pick Logo
In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781593766474
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soft Skull Press - September 13th, 2016

A look at the phenomena that has arisen around Lovecraft's writings. The book begins with a short survey of his life and then continues into the empire which grew out of his fans, be it books, comics and even role playing games. This is an awesome ode to the legacy of this immensely talented writer.  --Jodie


Staff Pick Logo
Beowulf Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9781534301207
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Image Comics - January 17th, 2017

This graphic novelization of the familiar story is, frankly, gorgeous.  The art, at once dynamic and fittingly ancient-seeming, compliments this retelling well: Grendel is creepy, Grendel's creepy mom is creepier, Beowulf's ultimately tragic (um, spoiler alert?) arrogance is reflected in both the pictures and the prose.  Great for those intimately familiar with and new to this classic tale, but hold off on this one for the kids.  --Christopher


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No One Cares about Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316341172
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Hachette Books - March 21st, 2017

No One Cares About Crazy People pulls its stark and horribly accurate title from an email exchange between high-level staffers in Scott Walker's 2010 campaign for Wisconsin governor.  Ron Powers balances the history of mental illness and the care (and criminal lack thereof) of the mentally ill  in the U.S. with the tragic story of his two sons, both stricken with schizophrenia.  It's extremely well-written, heart wrenching, and, finally, critical.  --Christopher


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The Barrowfields Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780451495648
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth Press - March 7th, 2017

This dark, devastatingly beautiful debut novel updates Southern Gothic with a coming of age tale reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, William Styron, Harper Lee and Thomas Wolfe, its primary muse. Like his father, narrator Henry has a devotion to literature and classical music that marks him as a misfit in his North Carolina mountain community. In their shared story of tragedy and love, both leave and return to a home that binds and wounds. Lewis deftly transitions from family heartbreak to college ribaldry to the euphoria of falling in love, and his sentences astound with an erudite charm. Henry's description of a Chopin composition is almost otherworldly. Bonus: one of the best characters is a dog.  --Sharon


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Heroes of the Frontier Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781101974636
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 27th, 2017

Season of civic depravity got you down?  The epic dreamscape of Dave Eggers' novel Heroes of the Frontier can provide a tonic dose of catharsis.  Meet Josie, chardonnay swilling single mom and her trusty sidekicks sharp-eyed, big-hearted Paul, 8 and flame-haired barbarian Ana, 5. They've lit out for the wilds of Alaska in a rickety rented RV. On the run from the toxic lower 48, Josie's on a desperate quest for the brave and authentic. Out of the frying pan and into the fire- the stage is set for disappointment and disaster but Eggers also delivers belly laughs and essential moments of transcendence. --Toni