Customer Recommendations: Books for Grownups

By Phinney Books

By Phinney Books

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett

$27.99 $25.75

This work of literary fiction captures the poignant relationship between a brother and sister (Danny and Maeve) from childhood to mid-life. The story revolves around the mansion that Maeve and Danny grew up in with their father and eventually a cruel step-mother. I was deeply touched by the relationship between Danny and Maeve. Abandonment is what formed such a strong bond between the two siblings and eventually they choose different ways to address this trauma. The beautiful stories of their caregivers and the history of the mansion give even more depth to this novel. --Serena

Mink River

Brian Doyle

$18.95 $17.43

This story takes place in a small town on the Oregon coast. It is woven together by many voices – animal and human – with threads of Salish folklore, Gaelic traditions and natural history. As Brian Doyle, the author, says, "I think stories are prayers and food." I have read Mink River three times now, and each time the compelling story and the beautiful way it is told fills me up. --Laura

Tree of Smoke

Denis Johnson

$23.00 $21.16

This massive novel focuses on several characters trying to live through the War in Vietnam: a crazy CIA colonel (yes, reminiscent of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now); a Vietnamese double agent; the colonel's nephew, also a CIA operative; a missionary turned nurse; a German mercenary; two young brothers who end up in the army. It is both dark and lyrical, as is most of Denis Johnson's fiction, but it also contains a complex "thriller" plot that is, at the same time, a commentary on thrillers and on the insanity of war. --Maya

Hold Your Breath, China

Xiaolong Qiu

$28.99 $26.67

At last after 6 years I am back in SHANGHAI tagging along while Inspector Chen and Detective Yu unravel a serial murder mystery and a political intrigue about environmental pollution. Chen is not only a sleuth extraordinaire, he is a renowned published poet and scholar of Classical Chinese Poetry, and he is a ... T.S. Eliot scholar! BTW assorted Chinese foods not familiar to western tastes tantalize the reader to reach for outside references and images. --Joji

Imaginary Friend

Stephen Chbosky

$30.00 $27.60

I don't normally go in for horror, but Stephen Chbosky managed to draw me in with his thoughtful entry into the genre. It's like if Stephen King's most literary and well-read fan wrote a novel... Oh wait - that's exactly what it is! --Murray

Perdido Street Station

China Miéville

$20.00 $18.40

This Steampunk/fantasy/horror mash-up is Weird Fiction at its absolute best, and the perfect entry into the imagination of one of the genre's greats. --Murray

The City & the City

China Miéville

$17.00 $15.64

One of my favorite books, hands down. The unconventional and fantastical way in which rival city-states are combined creates a 100% unique backdrop for this police procedural. In classic Miéville style, it's a slow but steady wind-up to a gripping conclusion.

True Grit

Charles Portis

$15.95 $14.67

I'd seen the movie True Grit with Jeff Bridges but never read the book. When Charles Portis died a short while ago I thought I needed to read it. If it was anything as good as Norwood or The Dog of the South it's a book I needed to read......and I'm not disappointed. --Ann

Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance

Jonathan Fields


Kind of the perfect inspiration to get things done while in the most uncertain times most of us will ever see! --Murray

Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure [title Page Only]

Michael Chabon


One of Chabon's lesser-known books, this rollicking tale of 10th-century adventure originally had a working title of "Jews With Swords," according to Chabon, who can admittedly be a little unreliable in such things. It features a skinny pale pointy-nosed Frankish Jew named Zelikman, a hulking African Jew named Amram with a battleaxe named Mother-Defiler, a beardless stripling, a one-eyed mahout, etc., embroiled in the the scheming and battles attending on coup and counter-coup in the (actual) medieval Khanate of Khazaria, which has some traditions that seem wildly unlikely until you Google them and discover that was, in fact, how medieval Khazar governance worked. --Kellie

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush Lib/E

Eric Newby

$59.99 $55.19

Eric Newby had an amazing life. At 18, in 1938, he sailed on a four-masted barque in "the last Grain Race" between the UK and Australia, when apparently it was possible to make money sailing halfway around the world in ballast to pick up a load of grain and sail it back. With the outbreak of WWII he joined the Black Watch, was a POW in Italy, escaped and spent a winter hiding in the Apennines, returned to London after the war and worked in haute couture for 10 years, and eventually ended up as a travel writer. This book is the story of his attempt with his friend Hugh to make the first ascent of Mir Samir in Afghanistan in 1956, with little in the way of preparation other than a weekend of instruction on mountain climbing techniques in Wales. Told with classic British understatement and self-deprecation, this is filled with anecdotes such as meeting the legendary British adventurer Wilfrid Thesiger, who summed them up in short order as "a couple of pansies," and their use of a phrase book Newby reports as having useful gambits such as "A dwarf has come to ask for food" and "I have an intention to kill you." For armchair or stuck-at-home adventurers. --Kellie