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.
Brilliant Books Members receive a 20% discount on all current Staff Favorites books — Learn More
As with Johnstone's debut novel, Mirrorland, The Blackhouse blends psychology with psychological fiction to thrilling effect. Maggie MacKay grew up with an attention-seeking mother who used her daughter to augment her own reputation for dabbling in the supernatural, including dragging her out to an island in the Outer Hebrides when five-year-old Maggie starts claiming to be the reincarnated spirit of a murdered man named Andrew MacNeil. Of course, Maggie herself doesn't remember any of this, so, seeking answers after her mother's death, she returns to the island of Kilmeray. The book is wonderfully atmospheric, almost gothic with its insular, isolated island community and close ties to Norse and Celtic mythology. The line between fantasy and reality blurs frequently throughout the story, sometimes due to mental illness, sometimes, perhaps, due to something more supernatural. But when you already know you can't always trust your mind, how can you bring yourself to believe the impossible might be true?
As a known dog lover, I was immediately drawn in by the title of this book. An epic tale told through the eyes of our main character, Griz, as he journeys across a post apocalyptic world in search for his beloved dog. Surprisingly hopeful, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World explores the deep connections formed through family, friendship, love, and loyalty. This book drew me in from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
A cult-like group of MFA students called the Bunnies and the outcast who is offered a perilous glimpse into their world. Awad creates a thrilling and strange journey through loneliness, connection, and the force of imagination. Bunny is at times humorous and others disturbing, and is ultimately deeply compelling.
If I had to minimize Olga Ravn's achievement, I would say that The Employees is Blade Runner by way of Office Space, with the poetic sensibilities of Jeff Vandermeer or Gene Wolfe. Ultimately though, it is too slippery for that. A strange, delightful, disturbing little book that refuses categorization. Stellar example of sci-fi done weird.
This book has been on my TBR pile since it came out in 2020, and I can’t believe I didn’t pick it up sooner! Thoroughly uncategorizable, these stories move between science fiction, surrealism, and something else altogether — in a voice that is brutal, hilarious, and dauntless. The stories dwell in the corners, cracks, and in-between spaces of (often crumbling) societies. These are stories of rage, self-creation, the politics of bodies, and the sharp edges of personhood.
As an artist, I love learning about other creatives' influences, processes, and drives, especially when they are as widely influential as Nick Cave. Everything he says and does is delivered and created with intense intention and reflection, is occasionally sermonic, and always enlightening. Throughout the interviews, Cave moves between discussing his relationship with god, grief, loss, chaos and calm, and love; all of which have a symbiotic and cyclical relationship with his art and the metaphysical and absurd nature of creativity.
Being someone that enjoys foraging, time spent outside, cooking and in a similar stage of adult life, I thoroughly enjoyed Iliana Regan’s latest memoir, Fieldwork. Her writing is thoughtful, and engaging as she examines family history and paths that led her and her wife to their home and inn in the Upper Peninsula’s Hiawatha National forest. Her stories of her childhood lead to her current love of nature and foraging, but also examine generational trauma while honoring the family history that helps inform who we are. Her passion for the forest she lives in and the beautiful things she can create from it are inspiring.
Y'all, I love this book. The story of young Esperanza Cordero that explores identity, growing up, and how some homes never leave us even when we may leave them. I was first introduced to this book back in 2013, and this excerpt from the vignette "Four Trees," has stuck with me for the last ten years, "When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees... Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be." When I randomly found it on the shelves here, I just had to snatch it back up. I don't have much else to say besides "read it!"
In Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo captures exactly what it feels like to come to terms with your sexuality and the inner turmoil it can cause. Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu lives in 1950's San Francisco's Chinatown, at the height of the Red Scare. When she meets Kathleen Miller and the two venture to the Telegraph Club, known for it's drag performances, they are enveloped into the queer scene of the city. Lily is forced to grapple not only with her identity and feelings for Kathleen, but with the danger that her involvement in the Telegraph Club poses for her and her family.
Leech is a trifecta: A weird body-horror mystery. A bleak, Nordic Noir Medical Thriller. A wonderful work of Gothic Scifi. The fact that it blends all of these elements together so well is a great achievement, but the even greater achievement is the world-building that allows these elements to coexist. Throw in a cast of grotesque Gormenghastian characters, and you've got yourself a very cool book.
I loved this brilliant new collection from George Saunders.
World-famous violinist Shizuka Satomi has made a deal with the devil: to train seven violin prodigies and convince them to sign away their souls so Shizuka can obtain immortality. After delivering six souls, Shizuka is faced with her seventh: self-trained transgender runaway Katrina Nguyen. As Shizuka takes Katrina under her wing, she starts to become attached to her newest pupil, which makes convincing Katrina to sign away her soul all the more difficult. This funky yet heart-wrenching book will be enjoyed by fans of T. J. Klune. Also, there are donuts and interstellar refugees!
I've never read a horror story quite like this one. It's got ghosts, sure, but the specter that looms largest is the monolithic idea of Motherhood, with all its attendant societal baggage. Abby Lamb, who grew up with a sometimes absent, sometimes abusive mother is determined to put it all behind her and create the picture-perfect family with her beloved husband Ralph, from wholesome home cooked meals to adorable, bouncing babies. Their plans are derailed, however, when Ralph's mother, Laura, spirals into deepening depression, requiring them to move in with her. Laura uses Ralph as an emotional crutch while pushing Abby as far out of the picture as possible. It's almost a relief for Abby when Laura takes her own life, but soon Abby and Ralph find themselves as haunted as ever. Still, Abby is determined to do whatever it takes to bring her dreams of perfect motherhood to fruition, even if it means getting her hands dirty.
A teenage detective, a country house murder mystery, and college applications. Teen sleuth Stevie Bell and her friends take a field trip to London and find themselves unraveling the truth behind an ax murder from the 1990s. Spooky, humorous, and compelling, I loved this book! Stevie and her friends are a delight and the mystery kept the pages turning, with some laughs along the way.
Philip Carey, a clubfooted orphan, who is raised by his Vicar uncle and unassuming aunt lives his life on the pages of W. Somerset Maugham's masterpiece. The setting is early 20th century Europe, mainly Paris and London, and the plot is the first half of his life. He attempts to make his dreams come true in both work and love and meets with failure on both accounts, but life must go on. This is a truly twisted love story.
This book is not happy. A sad opulence, a grey, cold late winter, the unfortunate reality of the failure of a movement, killing your employer, never filling the insatiable hole of sex and love within you, and the necessity of confronting the disturbing. Trigger Warning: includes physical and sexual assault, murder, and suicide.
This stunning queer alternative history reimagines the overthrow of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and the rise to power of China's first Ming emperor. This book follows the generals, the politicians, the princes and their betrayers, the up-and-coming rebel leaders: the ambitious players engaged in the ruthless pursuit of power. I loved every second (and can’t WAIT for the sequel).
Seth Godin is universally accessible, even to the layman. His approach is ever more relevant with today's focus on creating an experiential environment over selling a product: earning the consumer's trust though authentic actions and philosophy rather than simple slogans. He presents principles with clear insight and observation, with his trademark examples making this a book that can genuinely make you better at connecting with people.
Initially drawn in by the striking title, I found myself absolutely enraptured by this collection. Full of yearning, Chen masterfully explores the intersections between family, race, love, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The prose is accessible, yet still fresh, with Chen's variety of form. Both humorous and heartfelt, this collection was an absolute delight.
An important reframing of our understanding of American history. Using language that more accurately describes the lived reality. Establishing that there are no slaves but instead enslaved people, while the romantic Southern Plantation gives way to the more accurate forced labor camp. This is being banned in states that do not want people to know the reality of history.