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Dave's Reviews

A black and white photo of a seated man wearing "alien eyes" sunglasses, looking backwards towards the camera amongst foliage.

Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Brina weaves her own life—from a desperate attempt to camouflage herself with a variety of punk hair colors, doomed attempts at relationships, and her first ever conversation with her mother in Japanese as an adult—together with that of her mother, a survivor of the Battle of Okinawa and a war bride living unhappily in America. The deep scars of the battle, and the ongoing US military occupation of Okinawa, show in the trauma and healing between them. — Dave

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ISBN: 9780525657347
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - February 23rd, 2021

Devil in a Blue Dress: An Easy Rawlins Novel, 30th Anniversary Edition by Walter Mosley

Thirty years ago, Walter Mosley busted open the LA noir crime novel, taking us to the backroom gin joints that Chandler never could. His laid-off worker turned detective, Easy Rawlins, has to navigate the racist seamier underside of the seamy underside of Los Angeles that most fictional gumshoes tread. It's a smoke-filled, bourbon-soaked, jazz-fueled and intensely atmospheric trek through the Harlem of the West Coast, expanding the idea of what LA noir could mean. Still one of the best detective novels I’ve read. — Dave

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Devil in a Blue Dress (30th Anniversary Edition): An Easy Rawlins Novel (Easy Rawlins Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982150341
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - October 6th, 2020

The Blessing and the Curse by Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch surveys themes of alienation in the Old World, assimilation in America, and newfound nationhood in Israel, bringing to light, or profoundly illuminating, some of the great works of Jewish literature. He ends with a selection of Judaism’s formative religious responses to the 20th century, from philosophical to feminist. His fascinating and enjoyably readable prose made me want to read, or reread, almost every one. I believe I will.  — Dave

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The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393652406
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 6th, 2020

If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore

This is sort of a history of late-stage 20th-century America, seen through the lens of the Simulmatics Corporation. Their forays into big-data human manipulation during the Kennedy election and Vietnam War would later metastasize into Facebook, Google, and the coinfections of Fancy Bear and Cambridge Analytics. Liberal social scientists with a plan to help elect liberal politicians turned, for the most part, into counterinsurgency consultants. But we did get FB likes and targeted ads out of it, so cool, right? — Dave

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If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631496103
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - September 15th, 2020

Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas by Roberto Lovato

Ranging back and forth between the United States and El Salvador, and from the ‘30s of his father’s childhood to his own journey of discovery, Roberto Lovato uncovers the history, trauma, resilience, and love which powers Salvadoreños across the Americas. From the US supported massacres of the indigenous people of El Salvador, to the ongoing gang and immigration hysteria, Lovato uncovers how unforgetting our history lets us begin to heal. Go on this journey with him. You won’t forget it.  —Dave

This book is part of our Fall Reading Challenge. Read more here.


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Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062938473
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - September 1st, 2020

Cool Is Everywhere New and Adaptive Design Across America by Michel Arnaud

Kind of a cross between “how to save your medium-sized city” and “architectural repurposing porn,” this book by an architectural photographer has almost got me ready to head out on the road to see what other kinds of awesome I’ve been missing. Case studies highlight Oakland, Portland, Austin, and Denver in the West as well as Rust Belt jewels and Southern revitalization in action. Cool Is Everywhere discusses gentrification and the unequal distribution of the benefits of urban recovery, but mostly it’s a naked-brick-and-stripped-hardwood-floor blueprint for saving your city, one abandoned factory at a time.

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ISBN: 9781419738227
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Abrams - June 2nd, 2020

Europe: A Natural History by Tim Flannery

Scholarly, hilarious, and sometimes absurd, this interdisciplinary book is fascinating. I learned that Europe had been an archipelago, and that the apex predator of one island was a giant carnivorous hedgehog. And that such a thing as the giant winged and likely dinosaur-eating Transylvanian pterosaur Hatzegopteryx existed, described elsewhere as a “giraffe-sized, quadrupedal Panzer-stork.” No kidding, look it up. Sometimes it’s the ancient fauna that amaze; other times it’s the protopaleontologists that defy belief. This natural history is about as dry as albondigas soup.

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ISBN: 9780802148704
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - March 17th, 2020

Sigh, Gone A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

Phuc Tran: Ubergeek. From discovering punk rock egalitarianism to relating The Iliad to girls’ high school sports, Tran is always ready to dive into whatever comes next. He puts it all down to a desperate need to fit in, as a Vietnamese refugee in small-town Pennsylvania, but you can tell that he’s always going to be the one in the deep end of the pool, regardless. He’s a Latin teacher, a tattooist, a TEDx grammar star, and now a touching memoirist. 

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ISBN: 9781250194718
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - April 21st, 2020

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

Wright cowrote a 1998 movie about extremists attacking New York City. With his new novel about a viral pandemic, you might think he’s prophetic. But the real trick is that he writes about what’s most likely to actually happen, researches how it might play out, then writes a book. I’m afraid he isn’t a master of character in fiction, but he does have a heroic scientist trying to save the world and a president who is going to let it go down the drain. That’s pretty realistic. And I still think we should airdrop this to every home in Santa Cruz County.

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The End of October: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525658658
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - April 28th, 2020

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

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ISBN: 9781534430990
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Gallery / Saga Press - March 17th, 2020

This Is How You Lose the Time War combines war via time travel (think Haldeman’s The Forever War), a love story between agents on opposite sides, and the epistolary novel (Les Liaisons dangereuses / Dangerous Liaisons, Griffin & Sabine). Exciting word play, and the intriguing letter delivery methods, made me look forward to the next epistle as much as the main characters did. —Dave



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