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 for readers of all ages 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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In his latest experimentation, Jesse Ball decides to explode the memoir. How so? By writing a kind of decentralized, non-prioritized account of his life, in which every facet is given the same attention as any other facet. A crippling arm wound is told in the same bemused tone as a description of a favorite tree. What follows is a galloping, hypnotic series of occurrences, musings, observations, theories, games, and truths. Earnest, profound, and absurd, I loved this book quite a bit.
I return to this book often. When I'm feeling stuck, especially in an interpersonal conflict, I see what Bear might have to say about it. Bergman is tender yet steadfast, candid yet careful, unapologetic yet patient; he provides a road map for navigating the world with deep compassion and care for self and others.
A Psalm For The Wild-Built is, perhaps, the kindest book I have ever read. It is a thoughtful exploration of hope, through the unlikely friendship of a tea monk and an inquisitive robot. While this book is uniquely wholesome, it does not lack in thought, and is surprisingly introspective. All about searching for one's meaning, this book is warm, funny, and delightfully profound.
Michael Finkel provides a captivating account of Stéphane Breitwieser, a master thief who carried out over two hundred heists across Europe, stealing more than three hundred objects. Breitwieser's unique motives, remarkable skills, and eventual downfall are meticulously documented, making for an fascinating investigation of his unconventional criminal career.
A true crime writer, the scene of a grisly crime, and the writer's own past come to haunt him set the stage in this fictitious novel about "true" crime. Wrapping around each other like concentric circles, Devil House maneuvers back and forth between writer Gage Chandler's current project and his past works and their legacies. The suspense between the drama of Chandler's subjects and the human toll of their crimes as well as their immortality in writing drives the novel. Mysterious and provocative, Devil House is ever twisty and a book that I couldn't put down.
From the author of the popular Chainsaw Man series, comes a stand alone project that packs a strong emotional punch. A young student filmmaker creates a movie to honor his recently deceased mother, only the twist at the end of the film is hated by the audience, except for one girl, the titular Eri. The student and the girl embark on a journey through cinema and adolescence that has remarkable things to say about perception versus reality and the ways that tragedy and comedy intertwine. One of my favorite manga one-shots of all time!
I have always been a big John Green fan, and expected to enjoy this book going in to it, and yet I was still surprised by how delightful this collection is. Through review style essays on any topic imaginable (including Dr. Pepper and Piggly Wiggly!) Green tenderly explores the human condition. This book is a perfect read for readers new to nonfiction (I especially recommend the audio book, narrated by Green himself). I laughed, I cried, I contemplated my general existence. I give the Anthropocene Reviewed 4.5/5 stars.
I don't normally go for Westerns, but this one sucked me in from the start. It's a true ensemble story, with a ragtag band of flawed protagonists that all have their secrets. It reads like a tall-tale told around a campfire, but the characters feel real and the world even more so. It swings from absurd to horrifying with startling ease; one minute our intrepid heroes are battling the oppressive lure of a forest that draws victims in to end their lives amidst its trees and the next they're disguising a stolen Western Union stagecoach with bright red barn paint. Americana meets horror on the open plains. Don't miss this one!
This was an instant love affair for me. Can't believe I haven't read Elizabeth Hand before. An aging punk photographer gets one last chance at redemption with an assignment to interview a reclusive art icon in the backwoods of Maine. What follows is a dark and gritty thriller that interrogates the slippery difference between genius and madness. Includes musings on art, philosophy, and murder.
I liked the other-worldliness of Alix Harrow's debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I think I like this one even better. It has so many of my favorite things: a gothic-style haunted house with a mind of its own, complete with curmudgeonly master living an isolated existence surrounded by scandalous rumors, a strong heroine who is doing her best even when the world is determined not to let her, and monsters--really scary monsters, only some of which are supernatural.
This translated work from Finnish author, Juhani Karila, is a bit of everything—murder mystery, fantasy, magic realism and adventure all wrapped up in a love letter to rural Finland. It reads like Northern Exposure set in Lapland, with lovable but odd characters and some Finnish mythical creatures thrown in.
The main character Elina, is cursed to return to her childhood home every year to catch a pike. If she doesn't she dies. Following her home is a detective, investigating Elina in a murder. From here a comical and weird adventure ensues. The cast of characters are eccentric, human and mythical. I love a novel that gives you a real feel for the place where it takes place. The natural setting was immersive—deep in the northern bogs, the mosquitos buzzed off the pages. I really felt like a got a feel for small village life in rural Finland. Funny and also a thoughtful look at family and what we carry with us, this was a delightful read!
I don't usually cry reading books like I do when I watch movies. But Under the Whispering Door had me shedding a few tears by the end. I've so far loved every T. J. Klune book I've read, and this book was no exception. Well-paced and felt like a Studio Ghibli movie or a warm hug.
We meet Lydia in London, on her own for the first time, and bloodthirsty. Cut off from her usual supply of blood and struggling to find her place in a new life, I loved the thoughtful portrayal of Lydia's turbulent inner and outer world, and practical problems of modern vampirism. A "literary vampire novel" for sure—Woman, Eating delves into strikingly human and well drawn concerns around identity and isolation—as well as the relationship to oneself.
The Maniac is another example of Benjamin Labatut doing whatever he pleases, and still making it work. Fact married to fiction with the precision of poetry, this book takes as its central figure John von Neumann, "the smartest human being of the 20th century," and the many lives he touched, upended, destroyed, and saved. If you liked the film Oppenheimer, or the book, American Prometheus, this is another penetrating foray into the horrifying yet brilliant minds that nearly destroyed the world.
Have you ever found yourself ridiculously frustrated by the "and they were roommates" trope assigned to the queer ladies of yesteryear? Ever wanted to scream at the TV "they were totally lovers!" during a documentary mentioning gal-pals who wrote passionate correspondences until their deaths? If so, this book may be for you. Packed with witty humor and all the lesbian drama your heart could desire, A Short History of Queer Women provides a comprehensive timeline of the many sapphic icons egregiously written out of history books. A must-read for queer and non-queer history geeks alike!
It’s really hard to characterize Daniel Mason’s latest work, North Woods, chronicling the changing inhabitants of a yellow house in New England over centuries. Historical fiction, ghost story, noir novel, nature writing—Mason beautifully weaves layer after layer, building a wide cast of characters and narratives. Puritans, apple obsessed loyalists, artists, spinsters, noir detectives, and ghosts all move the story along, tied together by the house, the natural world and the passage of time. The language was delightful, refreshing in its beauty and historical relevance, which changed as time moves on. Mason uses many elements to tell his story with illustrations, letter entries, song and art throughout the book. Fans of arching books like Overstory and sagas will appreciate this beautifully crafted book.
Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors and this Young Adult graphic novel illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks is sweet, funny, and full of autumnal delight! On the last night of the season, co-workers Deja and Josiah decide to adventure through the pumpkin patch where they work. Fall festivities, friendship, and maybe even a little romance lay ahead. Happy Halloween, indeed.
Don't Worry, Just Cook has been one of my go-to recipe books for a good while now. It's absolutely perfect for gatherings, so I knew I had to make it my staff pick just in time for fall, when we're planning so many gatherings for fall or for the holidays! This cookbook is full of comforting recipes for all types, whether you're vegetarian, pescetarian, or love to eat meat. There's even an entire section just on bread, which includes a great gluten-free recipe. Some of my favorites are the Grilled Flank Steak and Potato Salad Nicoise, Sheet Pan Chicken with Lemon and Olives, Tomato-season Shakshuka, and the "End of Summer" Rustic Fruit Tart.
If you're a fan of R. F. Kuang's Babel, Olivie Blake's Atlas Six, or M. L. Rio's If We Were Villains, you will LOVE The Secret History. This book is all over TikTok and Instagram, even though it's been out since 2004. It's the perfect dark academia thriller for these chilly fall days. The story follows six students who study Ancient Greek together at a small college in northern Vermont, who search for a way to transcend banal human experience. When a night of Bacchanalia goes horribly awry, they are forced to go beyond their morality, leading to betrayal and corruption between them.
Ocean Vuong is one of those rare authors who writes so beautifully (he is also a poet, after all) that I can't help but weep through the entire book. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous was no exception. An exploration of both the complexity of familial relationships and personal identity, there are lines within the pages that will stick with me for years to come. This book transcends the bounds of individuality (although ultimately and deeply personal), to result in something so authentically human that perhaps everyone who reads it may find something to resonate with.
A Killer By Design provides a fascinating account of Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess's role in shaping the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. Amid societal changes in the 1970s and 1980s, she assisted in hunting down notorious serial killers, all while challenging gender stereotypes within the FBI. This gripping narrative delves into the minds of criminals and the evolving landscape of criminal profiling. I've read a considerable amount of true crime, but this is unlike anything I've ever encountered.
Where to begin with other than the fact that I absolutely ADORE this book. I've never had a book chew me up and spit me out, only to put me back together piece by piece quite like this one has. Your Body is Not Your Body is an experimental and transformative love letter to the trans experience. With stories that are both gut wrenching and beautifully candid as well as its haunting drawings, this collection will leave you aching for more. I will use any excuse to recommend this book to people, and it is a must read for fans of horror and short story collections.
On an Earth covered in a dense fog that has led to the collapse of flora and fauna, a chef finds employment cooking at the restaurant of an entrepreneur and his geneticist daughter in their remote mountain colony. To begin with, she must prove her worthiness as chef where here on the mountain she discovers that they still have food and resources not available to the rest of humanity. Proving herself worthy, she then becomes entangled in a bigger, more complicated scheme involving experiments with biodiversity and what the future on this broken planet might look like in the hands of her employer and his daughter.
Somehow through all of this, this is also a book about food, wealth, late stage capitalism, desire, human largess and gluttony. Like their previous novel, How Much of These Hills is Gold, Zhang also examines the frontier mentality and the immigrant's story. Sensual descriptions of food and sexual desire permeate the pages. Zhang's writing is deep and intense, there's a lot to take apart here. I was so impressed with the thoughtfulness of this book, I highly recommend it for those that like a lot to chew on.