Josh's Staff Picks

Josh's Staff Picks

By Underground Books
The Book That Can Read Your Mind

The Book That Can Read Your Mind

Marianna Coppo

$17.99 $16.73

This adorable picture book experientially demonstrates what looks like mind reading, but is actually a simple math magic illusion! As a kid who loved stuff like stage magic and chess, this delighted me.

A Bold Return to Giving a Damn: One Farm, Six Generations, and the Future of Food

A Bold Return to Giving a Damn: One Farm, Six Generations, and the Future of Food

Will Harris

$29.00 $26.97

If I could ask you to read one book about our food system this year, this would be it! Will Harris is a fourth generation Georgia farmer who owns White Oak pastures, a large cattle ranch in southwest Georgia. Harris -- a lovably profane curmudgeon and delightfully down to earth radical -- tells the incredible story of transforming the massive industrial cattle farm he inherited into a vibrant, diverse, organic, and regenerative family farm. Harris is a brilliant storyteller and even though I am well read on the topic, I learned so much from this book!

Olivetti

Olivetti

Allie Millington

$17.99 $16.73

Olivetti is an antique typewriter with a quick wit and a heart of gold. His family is going through a hard time, but can the secrets only he knows help unlock a hopeful future? Twelve year old Ernest is determined to find out. This charming, big-hearted debut novel from Atlanta author Allie Millington is a moving tale of family, friendship, acceptance, and resilience in the face of hardship.

Hell Put to Shame: The 1921 Murder Farm Massacre and the Horror of America's Second Slavery

Hell Put to Shame: The 1921 Murder Farm Massacre and the Horror of America's Second Slavery

Earl Swift

$32.50 $30.23

The chilling mass murder of eleven black farmhands in rural Georgia in 1921 (“The Murder Farm Massacre”) made major national news, exposing the South’s widespread use of the peonage system, or legal debt slavery, and its accompanying cruelties. Mostly forgotten today, the story of the crime and its media and legal aftermath is nothing short of cinematic, with a heroic undercover NAACP agent, a white supremacist governor striving for redemption, federal investigators struggling against local prejudice, and an enigmatic black field hand standing up as the courageous lone witness, despite the grim implications for his own future. Hell Put To Shame sheds light on a vitally important and little understood corner of American history, with important lessons for understanding the ongoing racial strife that continues to haunt our society today.

Tress of the Emerald Sea: A Cosmere Novel

Tress of the Emerald Sea: A Cosmere Novel

Brandon Sanderson

$29.99 $27.89

This unputdownable 21st century take on The Princess Bride was five out of five stars for me. Tress and her unlikely band of misfit pirates are as lovable as they come. If you’re looking for your new favorite cozy fantasy adventure, this is the one!!

Demon Copperhead: A Pulitzer Prize Winner

Demon Copperhead: A Pulitzer Prize Winner

Barbara Kingsolver

$32.50 $30.23

My favorite book of 2023! Kingsolver’s Appalachian retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield is nothing short of an epic masterpiece. Even as it grapples with heavy emotional themes and complex social problems, the plot races by and I could not put it down. Demon Copperhead moved me like very few novels ever have. Don’t be afraid to let this story devastate you in the very best way. 5/5 Stars!

North Woods

North Woods

Daniel Mason

$28.00 $26.04

North Woods is a phenomenal novel that I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. Daniel Mason’s tells the story of a single plot of land in western Massachusetts over the span of centuries, through the eyes of its many varied inhabitants, and the ways that their choices reverberate — one might say haunt even — throughout the ages. Equal parts Richard Powers and Edgar Allan Poe, Daniel Mason delivers a unique and compelling storytelling experience.

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World

John Vaillant

$32.50 $30.23

Fire Weather is a gripping masterpiece of climate change journalism. On its face, it tells the haunting story of the burning of Fort McMurray in British Columbia in 2016, and the frantic evacuation of 80,000 people from the region’s largest tar oil boom city. The deeply personal stories he unearths about the fire are terrifying, but Vaillant artfully connects these specific tales of woe and hubris to the larger story of our world’s tragic climate somnambulism. His deep dive into the new scientific understanding of the emerging generation of wildfires in the increasingly hotter and dryer climate of North America is deeply disturbing, and he doesn’t shy away from the grim implications it has for the coming century.

The Creative ACT: A Way of Being

The Creative ACT: A Way of Being

Rick Rubin

$32.00 $29.76

Legendary music producer Rick Rubin has written a book on creativity that will take its place among the best of its kind. This is like bottle inspiration for leading a creative life! Rubin's advice on creativity is inspired by eastern/Buddhist tinged philosophy and his long career mentoring some of the modern era's most influential musical artists. An exceptional book, highly recommend!

Chain Gang All Stars

Chain Gang All Stars

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

$27.00 $25.11

What 1984 did for big government… what Brave New World did for social engineering… what Handmaid’s Tale did for patriarchy… Chain Gang All Stars does for the prison industrial complex and our contemporary obsession with spectacle and violence. Chain Gang’s dystopian vision is haunting and eerily plausible, really just an artful exaggeration of existing impulses. Adjeh-Brenyah’s debut novel is astonishing and important.

West Heart Kill

West Heart Kill

Dann McDorman

$28.00 $26.04

This playful meta-mystery offers an indulgently whimsical take on the genre’s classic “locked room murder” trope. As the reader, you can help solve the murders in this 1970s noir, set in an upscale rural New York hunting club. It’s fun, it’s smart, and it made me want to read more classic mystery genre fiction!

Starter Villain

Starter Villain

John Scalzi

$28.99 $26.96

Starter Villain is what you might have gotten if Austin Powers had been written by Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. These aren’t your daddy’s Bond villains — sure, there are isolated volcanic lairs, billionaires with giant death rays, and the like. But there are also unionized dolphin security teams, hyper intelligent spy cats, and hilariously quick witted hench-people! If a breezy, absolutely bonkers supervillain crime comedy is the escape novel you’ve been looking for, then do I have the book for you!

The Lost Library

The Lost Library

Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

$17.99 $16.73

This adorable middle grades mystery is an ode small town libraries and the power of books (with the help of a couple ghosts) to bring people together and find their place in the world.

Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World

Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World

Henry Grabar

$30.00 $27.90

I would not have thought that a book about the history and future of parking could be genuinely entertaining and thought provoking, but this one is! An important read for anyone interested in the future of city life or small town historic downtowns. Decisions urban planners and city leaders are making today about where and how cars should be parked in our walkable neighborhoods are going to have a huge impact on a variety of quality of life issues in the coming century. Read this book and then give a copy to your local decision makers!

The Ferryman

The Ferryman

Justin Cronin

$30.00 $27.90

The Island utopia of Prospera provides its residents with long, fulfilling lives -- until the health monitors in their arms fall below 10% and they must take a "retirement" trip off the island on the ferry. Ferryman Proctor Bennett is shaken from his happy somnambulism by a covert resistance movement among the Support Staff (Prospera's servant class) and layers of secrets and lies unravel as we barrel toward a shockingly twisty surprise ending.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

Tim Marshall

$18.99 $17.66

An excellent introduction to the complex ways that geography influences national and regional identities. Whether it is the food we eat, the daily ways we do business and conduct trade, or the geopolitical fears we are indoctrinated with, geography and place have an outsized, if little acknowledged role, in who we are. Prisoners of Geography made me think about these things in ways I hadn't considered before.

Poverty, by America

Poverty, by America

Matthew Desmond

$28.00 $26.04

Yeah, yeah we all know how income inequality has skyrocketed in recent decades, but do you want to get fired up about it? Matthew Desmond targets the usual suspects in this damning manifesto, but he also asks complicated, nuanced questions about how all of us are complicit in the status quo. An important read for everyone interested in creating a more sane and equitable society. I seriously wish I had a 100 copies of this book to give to everyone I know!

Hummingbird Salamander

Hummingbird Salamander

Jeff VanderMeer

$18.00 $16.74

Is this postmodern eco-noir mystery, with its dark, twisty, dystopian currents a book that everyone will love? No. But fans of Vandermeer's other work will find plenty to love, as he lets his unique imagination unravel the mystery of an enigmatic eco-terror plot that is either meant to save the world... or destroy it!

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder

David Grann

$30.00 $27.90

Few authors are able to write nonfiction history that reads like a page turning adventure novel, but David Grann is one of them. The gripping story of The Wager’s shipwreck and the survivors’ divergent tales of the events that followed kept me on the edge of my seat as I devoured this book. Martin Scorsese has already acquired the film rights.

The Deluge

The Deluge

Stephen Markley

$32.50 $30.23

This madly ambitious, sprawling, epic work of near future climate fiction packs a serious punch. Yes, it is 900+ pages, and yes it is a little demanding. The emotional depth of the multiple character storylines provides balance for the heavy political themes in a way that really pays off. If you enjoyed The Overstory by Richard Powers, The Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, or Stephen King’s The Stand then this will knock you out!

Animals Strike Curious Poses

Animals Strike Curious Poses

Elena Passarello

$19.95 $18.55

The 16 essays in this collection each feature some animal of historical significance, but they sprawl brilliantly across topics as diverse as science, myth, pop culture, poetry, and humor. Slyly subversive, Passarello skewers our modern conceptions of who we are in relation to the natural world by revealing the absurd, careless violence of our historical relations with animals.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia

David Graeber

$27.00 $25.11

The Dawn of Everything blew my mind, and fans of Graeber will find much to appreciate here. One of his major themes is that the European Enlightenment was a collection of ideas stolen from (or very influenced by) various indigenous people. Here he explores how early 18th century pirates fostered radical new social forms (“pirate utopias”) in partnership with local Madagascar cultures, and how tales of these places were influential back in Europe.

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

R. F. Kuang

$27.99 $26.03

This book absolutely consumed me. On the surface, Babel is an alternate historical fantasy about a magical school in Oxford in the nineteenth century. But as Babel’s layers of complexity unfold, the story confronts us with powerful questions about the nature of colonialism, capitalism, institutional power, comfort & compromise, and our own complicity with injustice. The effect is deeply profound, moving, and unsettling in the very best way.

The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

Gabor Maté

$30.00 $27.90

An absolutely epic synthesis of an emerging consensus on mind/body research and it’s implications for public health. Mate is already a well respected doctor specializing in addiction treatment (see his bestseller In The Realm of a Hungry Ghosts). The impacts of trauma (both major and minor), especially during childhood, cannot be overstated, and we are only beginning to become a “trauma literate” society. A must read title for a better world.

Inciting Joy: Essays

Inciting Joy: Essays

Ross Gay

$27.00 $25.11

I consider Ross Gay’s Inciting Joy to be a true masterpiece. Gay repeatedly took my breath away with his quiet emotional power, which dazzles in these essays in a wild, satisfying dance between the personal and political. There were at least a dozen occasions where I wanted to stand up and applaud, or weep, or cheer out loud, or reach out and hug my loved ones. Spend some time hanging out with Ross Gay in these essays, you’ll be glad you did!