WORD recommends these books this September
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Fiction We Love:


Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood (ebook available)
Atwood's new collection of short stories demonstrates, once again, her keen eye for portraying humanity in all of its messy, mortal, relational glory. The characters in these nine stories find themselves grappling with the existential crisis of growing old: re-evaluating their lives through the lens of personal and social history while simultaneously continuing to live within the context of ostensible decline. Atwood's sharp wit and brilliant prose shine in this gem of a book. (Kim)

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (ebook available)
There are a handful of characters that feel as real to me as a beating heart -- Salinger's Franny Glass, Adams' Arthur Dent, Wharton's Lily Bart, for example. These personalities have engraved themselves in my own outlook on life. It's a rare occurrence that this happens. It requires a special talent and David Mitchell has it in spades. His Holly Sykes ranks among those I listed. She is warm, smart, tough, and complicated. The supporting cast is just as complex, which is a delight. I can't recommend this book enough to everyone. It has so much going on that there's something to enchant every reader. The first really special book of the fall. Maybe the best book of the year. (Katelyn)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (ebook available)
A grisly murder shocks Detroit. A teenage girl struggles with love, school politics, and a reticent best friend. A beleaguered police officer and single mom tries to cope with the teenager and the murder. A failed journalist starts poking into the underground art scene, hoping to become an Internet sensation. These threads spiral and merge to form the plot of the scariest book I've read in ages. Read it in the daytime, far far away from any sculptures. (And for those of you who are fans of her previous book The Shining Girls: this one is even better.) (Jenn)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (ebook available)
I've read my share of post-apocalyptic fiction, but rarely has it had a heart like this. In a world decimated by a deadly flu, a ragged troupe of musicians and actors travels the Midwest, bringing art to those who've survived. Their story alternates with scenes from the world as it used to be: full of cell phones and celebrities, office jobs and air travel. Mandel ties together the linked stories of a child actress, grown up into a brave new world; an actor, his wives, and his son; and a photographer turned EMT who watches the world collapse from a glassy tower. Genre-hopping, full of mysteries and small pleasures, Station Eleven has the eerie beauty of a starless night -- and can induce just as many shivers. (Molly)



Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer (ebook available)
Even though all three of the Southern Reach books came out within the year, it was still too long of a wait for this final volume. VanderMeer wraps up the trilogy with a strange, unsettling, "WHAT THE HELL"-producing trek through Area X. It's almost impossible to talk specifics if you haven't read the other two (and, in fact, if you have -- for fear of spoilers) but I can say that this was a more satisfying conclusion than I imagined possible. Creatures come out of the deep, characters are lost and found and lost again, and you may never look at the night sky -- or a lighthouse -- the same way. (Jenn)

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino
This book really moved me. Natsuo Kirino's The Goddess Chronicle is a darkly beautiful feminist take on the ancient Japanese creation myth of Izanaki and Izanami. Two sisters have been destined since birth to become priestesses. One represents the realm of light while the other serves darkness and the underworld. Kirino insightfully explores the relationship between gods and humanity, between men and women, and ultimately how these interactions affect life and death through the journey and fate of sisters Kamikuu and Namima. (Nancy)

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (ebook available)
City of Stairs is a solid novel that takes place in a rich and fantastic world with dead gods and miracles, several hundred years of history woven into the story, and a dash of political intrigue. It has just the right pacing, exactly what I look for in expository storytelling: the details do not bog the story down in any way but explore the endless layers and wonder behind the world. Recommended for anyone looking for a fully realized epic fantasy tale done and complete in one book. The characters have amazing constitution and the relationships between them are just as convincing, if not more so. It’s a little early, but City of Stairs might be my favorite book of 2014. (Jasper)

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa (ebook available)
This book is a fugue state on prose, a plume of smoke roiling through a shaft of light, a lucid dream. The plot is as boring and inconsequential as all of our lives -- a bed in which to wake up, an apartment in which to live, a window to look out, an office in which to work, a small table in the back of a café for a lonely glass of wine. But the writing is just as biting as it is beautiful, racked with bitterness and the dull pain of the unending negotiation between the urge to live and the fear of death, the brevity of life and its concurrent tedium. Written over a lifetime, this book should be read in real time, or at least over the course of the seasons. There was no Book of Disquiet in Pessoa's lifetime. The narrative was arranged after the writer's death, so the translator/editor is an important factor to consider as each edition is essentially a different book. The Penguin Classics edition, translated by Richard Zenith, is the most comprehensive, and the most thoroughly annotated rendition available in English. (Jaye)

Nonfiction We Love:


On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss (ebook availalable) (available September 30th)
Here is Eula Biss's rigorous examination of immunization and the forces -- popular opinion, classism, capitalism (everyone's favorite bedfellows) -- that convolute our understanding of it. Yes, okay, On Immunity covers some heavy material, but don't be alarmed or put off: it's Biss that does the lifting here. Our role as readers is simply to read and contemplate what's been hiding behind the mountain she's moving. We also get to revel in the way she nimbly navigates it all, incorporating personal experience, literature, mythology, and the politics of the body. It's a miracle the way Biss takes all of this information in, takes it all on, and then, never flinching beneath the heft, writes it out, aloft with might, intellect, and grace. (Chad)

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (ebook available)

To be honest, death terrifies me. I'm not going to lie and say Doughty's book helped me overcome my fear, but it did help. Interesting, thought-provoking, and disturbing, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is about Doughty's own experiences working in a crematorium and the death industry as a whole. I especially enjoyed the historical bits, and the behind the scenes look is morbidly fascinating. While her philosophy on death is different than mine, I enjoyed her writing and personality. A warning, though: the material can sometimes be hard to swallow. I found myself crying on the PATH train while reading it. (Alyssa)

What If? by Randall Munroe (ebook available)
Randall Munroe is possibly one of the coolest nerds out there. He used to work with robots at NASA, and now he writes and draws the wildly popular xkcd, "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." (If you're unfamiliar, my favorite arc is called "Choices." Just Google it.) He also has spent the last couple years answering absolutely ridiculous questions submitted by readers (What if everyone who took the SAT guessed on every multiple-choice question? From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?) with actual science and research. This book has taken the Q&A from the website, but more than half of the content is never-before-seen, book-only stuff. It's science done fun, like that time in middle school when the substitute let everyone drop Mentos into soda. (Arielle)

City of Lies by Ramita Navai (ebook available)
Where to begin? This book is truly extraordinary. City of Lies is British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai’s captivating exposé of life in Iran’s capital and largest city, Tehran. Between religious extremism, political unrest, massive income discrepancy, citywide corruption, and conflicting ideas of the West, progress, and morality, the one thing that touches everyone is the main drag: the sycamore-lined, city-spanning Vali Asr street. Through the stories of eight composite Tehranis, Navai exposes the intricate layers of everyday existence in Tehran, a city where lies are rhythmically breathed in and out as a matter of survival. Navai reaches into a world of deceit and extracts heartbreaking truths and beauty. It’s unforgettable. (Kelly)


Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee (ebook available)
This is one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time. It is humble and hopeful and heart-filled (and sometimes hard to read). How can you become a good man when your earliest male role model caused you such pain? This memoir is sweaty and tender, deep like the ocean but also beautiful on the surface like its waves. McBee challenges us to be present with him, his words, and to be present in our own lives. He asks, "Do we all have two people inside us?" And more than likely, we do. Also, it's never too early to put on your calendar: McBee will be reading at WORD on November 13th. (Emily)

The Imaginary World of... by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's newest interactive book is here to help you imagine an entirely new world. Whether you're writing a novel, creating a piece of art, or trying to improve reality, this book wants to inspire you. With detailed plans and prompts -- from describing the weather to planning a parade, creating artifacts to designing a constitution -- Smith's new book has thought of everything. Use it to inspire an old work, prompt a new one, or occupy yourself on a rainy day; there's something in here for everyone. (Emma)

Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry (ebook available)
Wendell Berry ranks among our most consistently outspoken voices against greed, waste, and abuse in our society. His outrage derives from what he perceives as shortsightedness, a failure of conscience, and a lack of empathy towards each other and the communities in which we live. Essential reading for anyone who feels exploitation or abandonment in and from our current corporate culture. (Zach)

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios (ebook available)
What I love about this book is that it gets into the nitty gritty of both science and comics history because, let's face it, some comic book writers don't know diddly about physics, chemistry, or the effects of radiation
(gamma or otherwise) on the human body . While comics exist to amaze and entertain, I’m sure there are a few of us who dare to understand our favorite superheroes (and supervillains) and how they would realistically live in our world. (Jasper)

Books for Teens, Tweens, and Littles:


Made for You by Melissa Marr (ebook available)
Melissa Marr's newest book is spectacularly skin-crawly. One of the multiple points of view we get to see is the obsessive psychopath who's murdering the main character's friends to prove his love. Another POV is the main character herself, who finds that after a near-death experience, she suddenly has visions of people's future deaths (distant and also not so distant). It's a tale of suspicion and angst and murder and fear and basically I wouldn't suggest reading it at night. But man, do I suggest reading it. (Arielle)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (ebook available)
In one night almost-teenager Cameron Post loses her parents and kisses a girl for the first time. Danforth's book follows Cameron after this life-changing night as she figures out how to move on and grow up. Set in the early '90s, Cameron Post is a wonderful book about loss, friendship, and learning how to be yourself despite everyone wanting to change you. (Emma)



Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke (ebook available)
Julia's new home by the sea is too quiet, so she posts a sign beckoning lost creatures, big and small, to come stay. Soon she has a house full of goblins, fairies, mermaids, and more; now if only she could make them behave. Hatke's first picture book is a delightful mix of comic, domestic, and fantastic. With lovely, detailed watercolor illustrations, mythical creatures, and a turtle with a house on its back, he's given us a picture book to marvel over, one to read again and again. (Emma)

Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell (ebook available)
Octopus is trying very hard to make his buddy comfortable before bedtime, but he can't seem to get anything right. Kids will laugh and laugh as Octopus attempts to give his buddy an egg salad bath and brush his teeth with paint brushes. Thank You,Octopus combines manners and friendship into one hilarious read. (Arielle, Emma, and Jenn)

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