Josh's Staff Picks

By Underground Books

By Underground Books
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin

$28.00 $26.04

Zevin’s book The Storied Life of AJ Fikry devastated me in the best way so I was so excited for this new one. Tomorrow does not disappoint, and is a perfectly heartfelt exploration of love, creativity, art, failure, loss, grief, and complicated friendships. While the gaming industry element isn’t central in a way that would turn off the casual reader, it is bound to be a bonus for those interested in modern gaming. One of my favorite books of the year!

How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature

How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature

Marc Hamer

$17.95 $16.69

I loved this strange, powerful little book. It is kind of about mole catching but really about the author’s perspectives on nature and the world after a life spent living and working outdoors. But this isn’t your everyday nature writing, Marc Hammer has a unique view on the world and a talent for sharing it.

Remarkably Bright Creatures

Remarkably Bright Creatures

Shelby Van Pelt

$27.99 $26.03

This delightfully offbeat novel strikes just the right balance between weird and funny on the one hand and tender and big hearted on the other. Marcellus is a clever giant Pacific Octopus with a slightly misanthropic bent who lives in a public aquarium. Tova is the aquarium’s recently widowed janitor who’s stuck in a rut and still mourns the unsolved loss of her son. Tova and Marcellus become best friends and mysteries get solved. What’s not to love?

Nightcrawling

Nightcrawling

Leila Mottley

$28.00 $26.04

This astonishingly intense debut novel from Leila Mottley (who wrote the book when she was SEVENTEEN!) follows the story of Kiara, an Oakland teenager whose difficult life circumstances land her in a nightmare of abuse and scandal at the hands of a group of corrupt Oakland police officers. Inspired by a real case, Mottley puts her brilliant, dazzling poetic skills to work (she was the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate) telling a story as powerful and tender as it is disturbing.

The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway

Amor Towles

$30.00 $27.00

I LOVED A Gentleman in Moscow and have been so excited to read The Lincoln Highway. IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Towles is such a master storyteller, it’s impossible to not find yourself rooting for every character. It’s such a different book than his previous work. Lincoln Highway is a fun, fast-paced adventure tale with a lovable cast of characters who exemplify Towles’ signature wit and charm. Highly recommend!

Groundskeeping

Groundskeeping

Lee Cole

$28.00 $26.04

Every character in this book felt so much like someone I’ve known. I have lived most of my life in southern college towns, where professors and liberal arts types live in tense bubbles amidst a sea of religious conservatism and working class anti-intellectualism. This familiar setting forms the backdrop of Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping, which is at its heart a love story between Owen and Alma, from two very different backgrounds. But more than a simple love story it is also a pitch perfect exploration of the nuanced ways race and class form the boundaries of relationships in these communities. I laughed, I cheered, I cringed with recognition, I shared the characters’ pains and sorrows, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming

Xochitl Gonzalez

$27.99 $26.03

May every activist cause & social justice movement get themselves a Xochitl Gonzalez. It is a rare gift indeed to be able to write a novel that is so incredibly rich, satisfying, and fun to read while also educating the reader about something as complicated as Puerto Rico’s history of colonial oppression. I rooted for Olga as she fought for her family and to get the life she desires, while taking breaks to google more about Puerto Rican history.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

Clint Smith

$29.00 $26.97

Poet Clint Smith’s personal, intimate examination of sites of historical significance to slavery is as soulful and accessible as it is urgent and important. The opening chapter on Jefferson’s Monticello is one of the best chapters of American historical writing in recent memory, and should be required reading on the legacy of America’s founders. It’s rare to encounter a work where every paragraph brims with significance, but Clint Smith does just that.

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

David Wengrow and David Graeber

$35.00 $32.55

This book packs the foundations of modern political philosophy with dynamite and lights the fuse! Through recent advances in archaeology and anthropology, Davids Graeber and Wengrow show us a dizzying range of sophisticated models of human social organization among indigenous peoples, around the world, over tens of thousands of years, undermining our dearly-held myth of linear historical progress. This meticulously researched masterpiece transforms you into a kind of sociological time traveler, dipping in and out of the vibrant social worlds of ancient cities and cultures in such a way as to vividly remind us that other wiser, richer, saner ways of life remain possible.

The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club

Richard Osman

$17.00 $15.81

Get ready for a delightful, witty, and incredibly fun mystery! Four septuagenarian sleuths in a peaceful retirement village have a hobby club working to solve old cold cases when there is a mysterious murder of a local developer. These clever senior citizens run hilarious circles around the local police as the murders continue and the personal histories of the seniors themselves become entangled in the increasingly wild mysteries!

Great Circle

Great Circle

Maggie Shipstead

$28.95 $26.92

The fictional tale of the lives of aviator Marian Graves and her artist brother Jamie makes for a damn fine yarn. I loved this incredible, epic novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize and definitely making my top 10 list for the year!

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Anthony Doerr

$30.00 $27.90

Anthony Doerr's masterful epic weaves the fine threads of several storylines into an extraordinary tapestry. This book isn't just a celebratory ode to the power of words and books, it is a heartbreakingly beautiful lament for our threatened planet, like a sad song that you want to keep playing because you kind of like the bittersweet feeling it gives you. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a big-hearted, imaginative, and ultimately hopeful gift of a book sure to please just about anyone who appreciates great storytelling.

The Ministry for the Future

The Ministry for the Future

Kim Stanley Robinson

$17.99 $16.73

This hearty work of hard science fiction has been the antidote to my climate change despair. As a novel, it is good. As a thought experiment in imagining a near future in which humanity averts complete disaster and begins the transformation into an ecologically humane civilization—it is a masterpiece. Is it possible that we’ll overcome the converging catastrophes of the coming century? If so, we’ll need stories like this to help us find the way forward. This is a book I have been longing for and desperately needed – neither dystopian nor utopian, but powerfully hopeful.

The Four Winds

The Four Winds

Kristin Hannah

$28.99 $26.96

I devoured Kristin Hannah’s masterful work of historical fiction. I found myself desperately rooting for the Martinelli family as they face a persistent series of crises during the Great Depression & the Dust Bowl. This is character driven storytelling at its best — each time I stepped away from it I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The Four Winds is a deeply moving story about a particularly dark era of profoundly relevant American history.

The Overstory

The Overstory

Richard Powers

$18.95 $17.62

My favorite novel in years, a sweeping, brilliant, page-turning environmentalist epic. It’s long, but I listened to the audiobook and was devastated when it was over. It’s like Richard Powers kidnapped Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, John Grisham, Margaret Atwood, Rachel Carson, and a shaman and spent 5 years in a room with them while writing this book. Whether you’re a tree hugger or not, this is storytelling at its best.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Becky Chambers

$17.99 $16.73

Becky Chambers is my new favorite science fiction author. The Wayfarers series is so emotionally satisfying. I know "cozy mysteries" is a genre, and I'm not sure if "cozy sci-fi" is really a thing or not, but it is kind of how I think about this series. It's fun, smart, character driven goodness.

Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

$27.00 $25.11

I don't consider myself to be a horror genre reader, but I loved this one. Megan refers to it as "deliciously creepy" and that is the perfect description. Such a satisfying read. Hulu is producing it as limited tv series as well, but you should totally read the book first!

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

$24.99 $23.24

Harari's brilliant cross-discipline synthesis of humanity's last 100,000 year story arc is sweeping and brilliant. I would almost use a phrase usually reserved for beach read thrillers-it's a page-turner. Rarely does a book stir up conversation in academic circles while still being so accessible to a general audience. That a history book has been on the recommending reading lists of such big name entrepreneurs as Tim Ferris and Bill Gates is worth noting. I finished the book feeling both inspired and disturbed. And that's about where homo sapiens sapiens is a species about now--both inspired and disturbed. 

Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Wall Kimmerer

$20.00 $18.60

A beautifully written book, full of profound and lyrical insights. Perfect for illuminating the scientific skeptic mind to the complementary truths of native spiritual wisdom. Everyone interested in world changing ideas and perspectives, and hope for the long term viability of human life on earth should read this.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Merlin Sheldrake

$28.00 $26.04

Do you keep hearing about all the breakthroughs happening with mushrooms and fungi, and wonder what all the fuss is about? Entangled Life is a wonderful overview of the impact mushrooms and fungi are having on a variety of urgent human endeavors. It's not just our understanding of forest ecology and mycelial networks (the "wood wide web") that are undergoing a revolution, it's also mental health and brain science, and even certain more industrial applications. Sheldrake is a wonderful science writer, making this obscure emerging science as entertaining as it is accessible.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Michael Pollan

$18.00 $16.74

Pollan didn’t create the local food movement, but his books brought our attention to it, catapulting the conversation to farmers markets and dinner tables everywhere. In How To Change Your Mind, Pollan has turned his eye to psychedelic drugs. What The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules did for food, this book is set to do in the fields of end of life care, addiction treatment, depression, and (most radically) questions of spirituality & meaning. A+!

Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

Tena Clark

$17.00 $15.81

Tena Clark’s memoir about growing up in rural Mississippi is the southern memoir of the year, y’all. This isn’t my wording, but I will paraphrase the publisher’s blurb: Southern Discomfort is The Glass Castle meets Fried Green Tomatoes. A powerful, satisfying, page-turning memoir, good for fans of this year’s earlier hit memoir, Educated by Tara Westover.

Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover

$28.00 $26.04

How a young woman, raised without modern medicine, any schooling, or even a birth certificate, in a remote Mormon, survivalist household in Idaho, made it to college and ended up receiving a PhD from Cambridge is the incredible story of this memoir. Outstanding! This true story is a beautifully written, soulful, hilarious, heartbreaking, even suspenseful page-turner, and not to be missed!

Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Declineof America's Man-Made Landscape

Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Declineof America's Man-Made Landscape

James Howard Kunstler

$18.00 $16.74

This pop history of urban planning in America opened my eyes to the ways our built environment has contributed to the social problems we face today. Kunstler was an early  advocate of “New Urbanist” design, emphasizing walkable & bikeable neighborhoods and mixed use village-style planning. Part of my love for downtown Carrollton was explained to me by this book, celebrating the human scaled intimacy of pre-automobile urban village design. Kunstler’s biting sense of humor makes learning about the dark and sad history of America’s urban planning a less bitter pill to swallow.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut

$17.00 $15.81

Vonnegut’s 1973 novel is set in the fictional town of Midland City, and is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast." Breakfast introduced me to the offbeat, brilliant humor of an author who thinks like a kind of zany alien anthropologist. Illustrated throughout with Vonnegut’s own childish drawings, the book also explores serious and troubling aspects of U.S. history by providing simplistic explanations of things like racism, oppression and inequality without the contextual explanations that are often used to excuse these trends.