Meet Caitlin

Caitlin Marsh is our director of digital marketing and events, which means she's more likely to be found at a computer than a bookshelf on most days.  She's the one behind our email newsletter, website content, and even some of our graphic design, so she stays pretty busy.  She's also the selector for all of our Brilliant Books Monthly Audio subscribers.  Learn more about how she chooses audiobooks!


 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I took a roundabout way to working at a bookstore, though from the sound of things, the roundabout way is the most common route!  I had actually planned to work in public health—specifically, at the CDC—but as I was wrapping up my master's degree, I realized that the frustration I felt with the pace of academia wasn't going to go away.  So I took all the skills my degree had given me, and started looking for different ways to apply them.  Maybe it's a surprising segue, but the ability to understand and talk to groups of people works as well in marketing as it does in healthcare, so after a few years of this and that, I found myself here at Brilliant Books!

 

What's the quirkiest job you’ve ever had?

Well, now that you know my degree's in public health, you'd expect me to have something pretty different, right?  Well, I do, but it's not because of my background.  I used to be a kids' party magician.  Nothing terribly flashy, but I was pretty good at card tricks.  My finest moment was making a chosen card appear in a classmate's wallet in college, though, to be perfectly honest, I'm still not sure how I pulled that one off.

 

What are the top five most interesting things about you?

How about the five least interesting things about me?  I know six digits of pi—seven, if you count the decimal point.  I like to embroider by hand, but I lost count of the number of different stitches I know.  I'm a mezzo soprano in most choirs (or an alto, if necessary).  I'm an ordained minister and officiate weddings.  And...um...I've never been on a roller coaster.  There.  That's five.

 

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about being a bookseller?

It's really tough!  I say this as not-quite-a-bookseller, so I feel like I can spill this insider information.  Book people tend to be introverts, and it takes a lot of energy to be able to walk up to strangers all day and strike up conversations, especially when the other person in question is likely also an introverted book person.  Of course, it's a bit easier when those conversations are about books, but it still takes some effort to get people out of their shells.  I'm always in awe of how good at it my coworkers are!

 

You’re browsing a bookstore.  What’s the first section you gravitate toward?

Sci-fi and fantasy!  I've always loved these genres and the way that these imaginary worlds can hold a mirror up to our own in smart and subtle ways.  That being said, I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, plagues (that's my public health background showing there), circus arts, overly complex heists, unreliable narrators, dry humor, and high fantasy featuring anthropomorphized animals—because why not?

 

If someone asked for a book recommendation, but you can only ask one question to see what they like, what would you ask?

I've only recently gotten the chance to do much book recommending, now that I've started choosing books for all our audio subscribers, but I think the best question to ask would be "Why do you love your favorite books?"  I don't necessarily need to know what they are, but I definitely need to know what really struck home with the reader and why they hold onto these particular stories.  Ideally, I'd ask more than one question, but if I really was limited to just the one, that would be it.

 

(Some of) Caitlin's Staff Picks:

Staff Pick Badge
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution By R. F. Kuang Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063021426
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Voyager - August 23rd, 2022

"This was hands down my favorite book of 2022.  Not only does it hit all the right notes for some of my favorite kinds of fantasy--alternate history, a complex and nuanced magic system, characters who are equally complex and whose actions drive the story--but it also really made me think, which is what the best stories in any genre do.  It's a book about colonialism and oppression and power systems and prejudice, some real, some fictional, but all holding a mirror up to the world we really live in and asking hard questions.  Definitely a book to read, discuss, and consider."  —Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
One Potato By Tyler McMahon Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9781684427833
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Keylight Books - April 26th, 2022

There is a surprising amount going on for a book that is, ostensibly, about potatoes.  There's casual (and not-so-casual) racism, genetic diversity, corporate greed, questions of food insecurity and food policy and how they're intertwined.  All of these potato-based topics are couched (pun very much intended) in terms of an engaging thriller as we follow the somewhat hapless Eddie Morales, a processed food scientist.  He is sent unceremoniously into an unstable country to assure the locals that the genetically modified potato his company is trialing there has nothing to do with the recent appearance of genetic abnormalities in several children.  While this is true, Eddie unearths a good deal more than he bargained for in the process of proving this.

- Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
Noor By Nnedi Okorafor Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780756418304
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: DAW - July 26th, 2022

This short novel packs a serious punch.  Growing up, AO relied on cybernetic augmentations to offset the disabilities resulting from severe birth defects.  A car accident later in life forced her to incorporate even more dramatic assistive technologies in order to live life on her own terms, but her implants and prosthetics make her a target for those who believe she is less than human because of them.  Half furious cyberpunk escape story, half dreamy musing the line between technologies that help and those that hurt, this is an un-put-down-able read that lingers long after the final pages.

- Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
The Light Pirate: GMA Book Club Selection By Lily Brooks-Dalton Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9781538708279
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Grand Central Publishing - December 6th, 2022

"Described as Where the Crawdads Sing meets Station ElevenThe Light Pirate is the story of Wanda, a girl named for the hurricane that tore her family apart even before she was part of it.  We watch her grow, struggling to find a place in a world that is changing rapidly but that is, to Wanda at least, still exquisitely beautiful and awe-inspiring.  It's an apocalypse story in which the world doesn't so much end as resolve, like the final chord of a song, into something new.  A beautiful, wistful, hopeful book."  —Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
Motherthing By Ainslie Hogarth Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780593467022
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - September 27th, 2022

"This book was a train wreck in the best possible way.  You absolutely can't look away no matter how bizarre, grotesque, or horrifying it gets.  I could say it's a commentary on generational trauma (both societal and familial), but it's also several love stories gone very, very wrong with a dash of mental instability and perhaps a parasitic ghost thrown in for good measure."  —Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
Red X: A Novel By David Demchuk Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780771025013
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Strange Light - August 31st, 2021

Red X teeters back and forth between the real and the fantastical, blending discussions of the role of queerness in horror with the supernatural disappearances of gay men in Toronto.  It's a blend of memoir and fiction that makes the imaginary horror seem simultaneously both more vivid and paler in comparison to reality.  I highly recommend the audio version, as author David Demchuk reads the memoir portions himself.  — Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
Revelator: A novel By Daryl Gregory Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780525657385
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - August 31st, 2021

I love weird, atmospheric horror, and this one delivers from the start.  Set in the backwoods of Appalachia, the historic setting has all the tropes you'd expect--moonshiners, clannish families, remote mountain valleys, hard-knock lives--but there are also secrets you don't see coming.  It's part monster mystery, part cult story, part family drama, and all twisty, engrossing, fascinating horror.  — Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
The Past Is Red By Catherynne M. Valente Cover Image
$20.99
ISBN: 9781250301130
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tordotcom - July 20th, 2021

This is the most hopeful post-apocalyptic story I've ever read.  The world is flooded and Tetley Abednego has spent her life on the great floating heap of trash called Garbagetown that's all that is left of the world that was.  Most of her fellow citizens of Garbagetown any are bitter and searching for something better, even at the cost of what they've managed to create for themselves at present.  Tetley, on the other hand, maintains a clear-eyed understanding of the world as it is, but still manages to find in it such beauty and hope that her narrative remains doggedly uplifting despite hardship after hardship.  A brief, sweet little novel about finding the best in everything.  — Caitlin


Staff Pick Badge
Reality and Other Stories By John Lanchester Cover Image
$26.95
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780393540918
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 9th, 2021

Little bites of speculative fiction are such a treat, and this batch from John Lanchester mixes some interesting ideas.  In one story, an unimaginative academic finds himself the victim of a digital vampire.  In another, reality show contestants spend their days calculating every move and gesture for an audience that may not actually exist.  It's a good blend of typical horror and digital disconnect--there's often a faint sense of satire to the stories, which makes them that much more unnerving, as if there's a punch line that never quite comes.  A quick read and a good one.

 


Staff Pick Badge
The Echo Wife By Sarah Gailey Cover Image
$24.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781250174666
Published: Tor Books - February 16th, 2021

This is probably the most introspective and thought provoking thriller I've ever come across.  On the surface, it's a book about Evelyn Caldwell, genius scientist who's perfected human cloning, and her husband, Nathan, who's used her methods to create a clone of Evelyn--with a few tweaks to make her his ideal woman.  There's plenty of secrecy, tension, and high stakes, but there are also questions I hadn't been expecting to consider in a thriller: is there a difference between a human and a person?  What truly defines us, and can that every really be recreated?  The audiobook, narrated by Xe Sands, sets the mood for this kind of thought experiment with understated, almost distant narration that's perfect for the clinical persona that Evelyn has constructed for herself.

 


Staff Pick Badge
Hench: A Novel By Natalie Zina Walschots Cover Image
$27.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780062978578
Published: William Morrow - September 22nd, 2020

In a world where super heroes and super villains are commonplace, there are some very interesting opportunities for employment.  For example: henching, or signing on to handle basic (and usually boring) tasks for your local villain--think data entry.  But when Anna's employer is brought down by the hero Supercollider and she's badly hurt in the process, she starts to wonder what the difference is between the good guys and the bad guys.  If you've ever watched a superhero movie and wondered who's going to pay for all the damage after the baddies are beaten, this is a book you will enjoy.  Anna's dry humor and astute understanding of human nature makes her a delightful narrator--and Alex McKenna, who performs the audiobook, does a superb job of bringing her to life.

 


Axiom's End: A Novel (Noumena #1) By Lindsay Ellis Cover Image
$27.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781250256737
Published: St. Martin's Press - July 21st, 2020

An interesting look at first contact, humanity, and communication.  Great as an audiobook!  —Caitlin

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities #1) By N. K. Jemisin Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316509848
Availability: Backordered
Published: Orbit - March 24th, 2020

Brash, fast-talking, quintessential New York meets cosmic interdimensional sci-fi.  I loved the audio performance on this one as well.  It was the soundtrack as I was unpacking boxes in the middle of moving house, and I would often find myself sitting beside a forgotten box just listening to the story unfold.  —Caitlin

 

 


Goodnight Beautiful: A Novel By Aimee Molloy Cover Image
$27.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780062881922
Published: Harper - October 13th, 2020

To be honest, this isn't my all time favorite thriller, or even really the best thriller I read this year, but it did have, hands down, the greatest twist I've read since Gone Girl, and I can't believe they pulled it off even in the audiobook.  —Caitlin

 

 


Mexican Gothic By Silvia Moreno-Garcia Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9780525620785
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Del Rey - June 30th, 2020

A truly exquisite gothic novel.  Deeply weird, dark, unsettling, and the transplantation of a very traditional foggy English manor into 1950s Mexico makes the setting somehow even more ominous.  What's scarier than a haunted house?  A house you had to make haunted before you could move in... —Caitlin

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians: A Novel (The Shadow Histories #1) By H. G. Parry Cover Image
$30.00
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780316459082
Published: Redhook - June 23rd, 2020

My favorite book this year!  I enjoyed Parry's The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, but I absolutely adored this one.  It reads like a rather more accessible Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, and the masterful parallels with actual history had me reviewing my knowledge of the French Revolution...and then digging for more!  —Caitlin

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
The Language of Flowers: A Novel By Vanessa Diffenbaugh Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780345525550
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Ballantine Books - April 3rd, 2012

An older book, but a good one.  Lately, as I work in the gardens and flowerbeds at my new house, I've found myself reminiscing about this book more and more.  It's a sweet and sometimes sad story about a foster child who's grown up but can't leave her life before entirely behind.  She uses the language of flowers that her foster mother taught her to try and express the emotions for which she—and, it turns out, many others—have no words.  Despite the modern setting, there are slightly gothic tones to the story, reminiscent of Diane Setterfield.  And yes, if you're wondering, this one's available as an audiobook, too.  —Caitlin M.

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
The Guest List: A Reese's Book Club Pick By Lucy Foley Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780062868930
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: William Morrow - June 2nd, 2020

An interesting twist on a locked-room whodunnit, with the audiobook performed by a full cast!  The wedding of the decade, between an outdoorsy reality TV star and the creator of a popular digital lifestyle magazine, is set to take place on a remote Irish island.  The story flits back and forth between "now," with the reception in full swing, and the days leading up to the wedding as the wedding party and guests arrive.  It seems everyone's got a motive for some kind of foul play, but as the story unfolds, the reader's left wondering...are any of them killers?  And if so...who is the victim?  —Caitlin M.

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
Sin Eater: A Novel By Megan Campisi Cover Image
$27.00
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781982124106
Published: Atria Books - April 7th, 2020

This was a weird one, but enjoyable nonetheless.  It's not so much an alternate history as an alternate world with a very similar history.  A king strongly reminiscent of Henry VIII, his daughters queens one after the other, and a scandal that could undo everything...but the only person who can unravel the whole thing is a lowly Sin Eater.  This young woman is made a pariah by her role—consuming funeral foods meant to symbolize the deceased's sins during life so that they might enter the afterlife cleansed.  Her status makes her all but invisible, and thus she sees much of the goings on of court life.  But as the mystery deepens, will anyone listen to her warnings?  —Caitlin M.

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
Full Throttle: Stories By Joe Hill Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062200679
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: William Morrow - October 1st, 2019

It's one thing to spin an entire novel's worth full of horror, but to capture it in just a few short pages is another art altogether.  Joe Hill is a master.  These stories range from conventionally creepy to unexpectedly unnerving.  Several, like "You Are Released," I had encountered before, but they're no less haunting the second time around.  —Caitlin

 

 


Staff Pick Badge
This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident By Adam Forrest Kay Cover Image
$28.00
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780316426725
Published: Little, Brown Spark - December 3rd, 2019

I read a lot, and there are plenty of books that I like, but this is one of the relatively few that I absolutely love, and I 100% recommend the audiobook read by Adam Kay himself.  This book is hard to listen to, but also un-put-downable.  It ricochets from cringe-worthy embarrassment to tender sentimental moments to terror to triumph with whiplash-inducing speed, which is about as close as a reader can come to understanding what it's like to work in healthcare.  Though the stakes are high and drama abounds, it's also one of the most deeply human books I've read, and one in which what isn't said resonates just as loudly as what is.  —Caitlin