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Rico's Reviews

Rico has had a lot of different jobs over the years--carpenter, office manager, teacher, marketing copywriter--but he's spent most of his adult life selling books, first at Capitola Book Cafe and now at Bookshop Santa Cruz, where he manages the Fiction section. In his spare time he does a lot of birdwatching, backpacking, and woodworking. His short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines around the country--one was a Notable Story of the Year in the 2009 Best of the West anthology and two were nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. His essay, "Of Human Carnage," was selected for Best American Essays 2016. Though he mostly reads literary fiction, he also loves outdoor adventure, history and anything about Africa. Aside from being around books all day, his favorite part of the job is making recommendations and turning people on to authors they haven't discovered yet.

 

 

 

 

 

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

In his newest novel, the author of two of my favorite books of the past decade (Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04) tells the story of a “lefty household” in Topeka, Kansas, in the 1990s. The parents are psychologists transplanted from the big city, their son a gifted high school debater. It is about the end of the 20th century and the breakdown of our political discourse, but it’s also about language. Lerner is a poet—literally; he’s published three books of poetry—and every page here brims with fresh turns of phrase, startling images, and precisely rendered emotional moments. - Rico

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The Topeka School: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374277789
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 1st, 2019

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh is old-school, a throwback to the 19th century, when novelists wrote sweeping sagas that captured the essence of entire nations and cultures. Here he tells the story Deen Datta, a rare-book dealer who, after hearing a tale of a lost shrine that pays homage to both a Hindi snake goddess named Manasa Devi and a Muslim saint named Ilyas, sets out on a journey that will change his life. The book is about a world on the brink, about loss and displacement, and also about hope. It’s a deeply satisfying read. -  Rico

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Gun Island: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374167394
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 10th, 2019

Freeman's: California edited by John Freeman

The most recent anthology of cutting-edge literature from long-time Granta editor John Freeman is all about the glorious (and troubled) place we call home. Matching the Golden State’s diversity of landscape and demographics, the collection offers new work from 30 authors, including William Vollmann (covering the Carr Fire), Rabih Alameddine (remembering San Francisco during the AIDS crisis), Tommy Orange (conjuring a potentially suicidal would-be bank robber), and Santa Cruz’s own Karen Tei Yamashita (sharing the correspondence of a Japanese American man visiting Hiroshima shortly after the bombing). In piece after piece, the writing is poignant, compelling, and thought provoking. - Rico

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Freeman's: California Cover Image
By John Freeman (Editor)
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802147875
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - October 8th, 2019

Close to Birds by Roine Magnusson

Though less known in the United States, Magnusson has contributed to National Geographic and is an award-winning photographer in Sweden. In his latest book, he uses his prodigious skills (and a huge amount of patience) to capture absolutely stunning images of birds both rare and common. The photos are so perfectly crisp, so intimate, that you get a sense of each bird’s personality and mood. With over 200 terrific images and thoughtful commentary from naturalists Mats and Asa Ottosson, this is the perfect gift for the bird lover in your life. - RIco

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Close to Birds: An Intimate Look at Our Feathered Friends Cover Image
$39.95
ISBN: 9781611807103
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Roost Books - October 22nd, 2019

The Beautiful Ones by Prince

Though Prince has shed his mortal coil, I am utterly convinced he will never die. I’ve been a huge fan since the ’80s, when his unique voice, ridiculously witty lyrics, and irresistible dance grooves started taking over the airwaves. In addition to being a great songwriter, producer, singer, performer, dancer…the list goes on…he was also one of the best rock guitarists of all time. If you’re in doubt about this, listen again to “Let’s Go Crazy.” In any case, here, astonishingly, is the scrapbook/lyric sheet/photo collage/memoir-ish book he was working on when he transitioned to his next level of artistic brilliance. Like everything he ever created, it is utterly amazing. - Rico

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The Beautiful Ones Cover Image
By Prince
$30.00
ISBN: 9780399589652
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - October 29th, 2019

Alta California by Nick Neely

In 1769, Gaspar de Portolá led a band of 64 Spanish explorers overland from San Diego north to what we now call the San Francisco Bay. Two hundred and fifty years later, Neely—who grew up in Portola (without the accent) Valley—set out to retrace the route, also on foot, in search of a deeper understanding of the Golden State’s history. Using passages from diaries kept during the original journey for comparison and contrast, he explores the biggest issues facing California today—water, agriculture, oil, gas, immigration, and development—while walking through a panorama that’s both beautiful and conflicted. - Rico

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Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, a Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781640091658
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - November 5th, 2019

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

When the narrator’s friend, another writer, dies suddenly, she inherits his Great Dane. Among many problems, she lives in a tiny New York apartment—that doesn’t allow pets. What follows is a brilliant and moving meditation on friendship, love (both Platonic and romantic), art and grief. I found this a profound and beautiful reading experience. - Rico

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The Friend: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735219458
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - February 5th, 2019

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

An homage to Don Quixote, the novel tells the story of a television-obsessed South Asian man who sets out on a journey to win the heart of an actress he’s never met. Along for the ride is his imaginary son, Sancho. The book is also the story of Sam DuChamp, a mediocre and mostly failed author of spy thrillers—and the creator of Quichotte. Though one of the main characters is real, and a couple of the others are fictional, they are all fully realized, deeply human and absolutely compelling. As usual, Rushdie’s writing dazzles with intelligence, humor, breakneck pacing and brilliant turns of phrase. This is easily my favorite novel of the year. - Rico

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Quichotte: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593132982
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - September 3rd, 2019

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

A novel in the form of recommendation letters? Sounds like a literary stunt but Schumacher absolutely nails it. While maintaining the book’s formal conceit, she perfectly blends satire and genuine human emotion, offering a hilarious commentary on modern academia through one professor’s tired pen and fading sanity. I unreservedly recommend (!) this book. - Rico

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Dear Committee Members Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780345807335
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - June 23rd, 2015

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

This novel is, in a word, devastating. It opens as Romy Hall is on the way to prison to serve a life sentence for murder. As much the story of Hall’s life in prison, it’s the story of her past--her childhood on the streets of San Francisco, her experiences as an exotic dancer, and the circumstances surrounding her crime. I can’t recommend this one enough. - Rico

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The Mars Room: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781476756585
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - May 7th, 2019

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