Staff Picks: Best of the Decade

By White Whale Bookstore

By White Whale Bookstore

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

Lucia Berlin

$18.00 $16.56

The GOAT story collection, don’t @ me. -Adlai

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography

Deborah Levy

$16.00 $14.72

I read this book after reading an essay in which the writer's friends could not stop passing it around. Sure enough, I went on to buy about twenty copies to send to all the people I love best (and then read every other book by Levy I could get my hands on). Deborah Levy, writing about an orange, makes you feel as if you're tasting fruit for the very first time. And truly, each and every sentence in this "working autobiography" is juicy and full of zest and only a little bitter. She makes you want to do life her way. Whatever the cost, I'll pay it. -Jill

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Carmen Maria Machado

$16.00 $14.72

A collection of short stories that's also a collection of queer feminist riffs on the horror/thriller genre. My favorite is the novella in the middle that puts Detective Benson of Law and Order: SVU at the center of a terrifying sci-fi whodunnit with no real end. ADORED this book. -Anna

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

$26.00 $23.92

Drafted during the early years of the BLM movement and published during the Obama Administration's final years, this book is a letter to Coates' son, but is also a piece of history, a plea, a treatise Toni Morrison believed might "fill the intellectual void" left by James Baldwin. -Nick

Station Eleven

Emily St John Mandel

$16.95 $15.59

One of the best books I've ever read. I tore through its pages in two days. Follow the survivors of a flu pandemic as they navigate survival and reestablish civilization as best as they can. -Jess

The Narrator

Michael Cisco


The Blood Meridian of fantasy novels. We have far too many fantasy novels that romanticize war. In The Narrator, the world is just as surreal and unreasonable as war is. Low may also be my favorite protagonist of any novel I've read. -Tyler

Citizen: An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine

$20.00 $18.40

Code switching, microaggressions, stop-and-frisk, lynchings, Trayvon Martin, Serena Williams, poetry, essays, photography, art, CITIZEN felt groundbreaking when it was published in 2014. -Adlai


Lily King

$16.00 $14.72

Based on Margaret Mead's anthropological excursions to Papua New Guinea in the 1920s, King's novel is a tense, heady mix of sex and scholarship that is as much about the opaque unknowability of those we love as it is about a clash of cultures. I inhaled this book when it came out, and five years later it's still one of my go-to recommendations for those seeking a story in which to fully disappear. -Jill

Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

Viet Thanh Nguyen

$21.00 $19.32

Both a deeply researched and reported book, and an intimate, personal look at how the Vietnam (or American) War affected not only the policy and culture but also memory and history. Essential reading for anyone interested in the impacts of American engagement abroad. -Anna

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

Michael Pollan

$18.00 $16.56

Michael Pollan will, I suspect, swiftly uproot much of what you know and understand about American history, religion, addiction, mental health, your own perception, and reality itself. -Nick

Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi

$18.99 $17.47

A twisting, heart-wrenching book based on Nigerian myths about magic and magic folk. Good for young adults and older. If you love this one, check out the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance. -Jess

A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause

Shawn Wen

$15.95 $14.67

I never would have predicted one of my favorite books of the decade would be about miming. Shawn Wen reanimates and thoughtfully interrogates the life of world-renowned mime Marcel Marceau in the most lyric essay--let alone biography--I've ever read. -Tyler

The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson

$15.00 $13.80

Part memoir and part criticism, Nelson’s landmark work explores gender, sexuality, family, and is done so with a remarkable force of intellect, scholarship, and empathy. Or to put it another way: This book will fucking blow your mind and change you as a person. -Adlai

Goodbye, Vitamin

Rachel Khong

$16.00 $14.72

When life gives you lemons, sometimes the best thing to do is pack up and go home. You just might find some lemonade there waiting for you. By turns hilarious, touching, and relatable, this is a pill that goes down easily. More generous, uplifting books like this, please. -Jill


Akwaeke Emezi

$16.00 $14.72

Every now and then, we're blessed with a book like this that turns inside out what you may imagine literature to be. A child, Ada, understands at a young age that she is made of many selves, most of which her Nigerian family tries to cancel. The jaded edges of Emezi's writing will cut you to the bone. -Anna

Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng

$17.00 $15.64

The stunning debut novel by Celeste Ng about a seemingly normal family with secrets we all have. How well do you know the ones you think you know best? -Jess

You Got Older: A Play

Clare Barron


If Clare Barron doesn't win a Pulitzer in Drama this decade I'll eat my hat. -Tyler

Salvage the Bones

Jesmyn Ward

$17.00 $15.64

In her National Book Award-winning novel, Jesmyn Ward writes about community and family on the rural Gulf Coast. Katrina is swirling inland, and fourteen-year-old Esch is pregnant, and these two inescapable facts drive the novel forward. Beyond the heartbreak, what you'll remember is Esch's strong, singular voice--deftly evoked through Ward's poetic yet unflinching prose. A modern classic. -Jill

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Ross Gay

$17.00 $15.64

This is the kind of poetry collection that you can't help but savor, can't help but read straight through without stopping, can't help but read with tears in your eyes because it inspires the full spectrum of human emotion. It's a full meal, a whole life lived and loved, in just 98 pages. -Anna

The Word for Woman Is Wilderness

Abi Andrews

$16.99 $15.63

This book really surprised me. I am not one to normally read wilderness literature but I couldn't put this one down. Beautifully written, concise, this book says so much about what it is to be a woman in both civilization and the wilderness. -Jess

Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place

Scott McClanahan

$16.00 $14.72

I will remember kindness and joy. I will continue to reach for the mountaintops, even from the holler. This book is a mountaintop. More mountaintops, please. More mountaintops. -Tyler

All My Puny Sorrows

Miriam Toews

$16.00 $14.72

Full of heart even as it brings you to your knees, Toews' spare and perfect novel about two sisters--one of whom wants, relentlessly, to die--feels like a long letter from a dear friend. You trust one another implicitly, and you laugh together when you're in the thick of it, because what else is there to do? Bring tissues, and maybe don't read in public. -Jill

The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit

$17.00 $15.64

This book changed what I thought both memoirs and essays could do and made me fall in love with Solnit forever. She is so good, one of the very best, at capturing place, relationships, and storytelling in clear, precise ways, and I love how this hybrid work in particular captures intense emotions about family and the self in astonishing ways. -Anna


John Jeremiah Sullivan

$18.00 $16.56

These essays glitter ominously. They are personal and political, real and unreal; forays into banality's high strangeness and into a culture in flux. Sullivan takes risks on the page. Some work, others do not, but the collection stands, either way, as something of a masterpiece. -Nick

A Darker Shade of Magic

V. E. Schwab

$17.99 $16.55

A magical series for adults. Follow Kell as he travels between the four Londons (Grey London, Red London, Black London, and White London), a skill few possess. Magic both light and dark prevail in this exhilarating trilogy. -Jess