Book List, Staff Picks

Summer Staff Picks, Round 1

Welcome to the Summer Staff Picks, Round 1! Every summer, each staff members picks a set number of books that they think make great warm weather and vacation reads. They write a blurb for every book, and we put them out on display in the store for all our customers to see (this year they’re to the left when you walk in the front door, along the wall!)

What we don’t always share, however, is our competitive nature. We never want to be coming across as used car salesmen at the store, but behind the scenes, we’re always subtly checking out whose picks have sold more copies. Just like last year, this is a competition among us on the staff, and the books you buy determine the winner! Since we have many new staff members with fewer picks, we’ll also determine who has a single book that sells the most copies!

Here’s how it works: Every staff member has picked between 2 and 8 titles that they think make great summer reads. The person who’s picks collectively sell the most during June, July and August wins the competition at the end of the summer (we don’t get a prize, just bragging rights). Each staff member’s name below links to that staff members summer picks (all of them, not just the featured one). If you’ve already read a book on the list and loved it, mention it in the comments and the staff member who picked it gets a bonus point for each mention!

Basically, we hope you like the books and help us nurture our competitive sides!

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne returns to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles in a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails–and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective–while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper

Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffeehouses, lived on country estates; they breathed ink dust from printing presses and escaped human traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that “the Ripper” preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, but it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness, and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born women.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, the Mistborn series is a heist story of political intrigue and magical, martial-arts action.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The SecretHistory, which has become a contemporary classic.

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

Jack once saved August’s life . . . now can August save him?

August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team—but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has—on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.

August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.

Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness and love.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

The Sawbones Book by Sydnee & Justin McElroy

New for 2020! Join the 750,000 listeners of the Sawbones Podcast as Dr Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin humorously discuss centuries of medical myths, mishaps and mayhem, including modern day medicine and pandemics.

Newly revised and updated for 2020, this new Paperback edition of the bestselling Sawbones Book gives you a fascinating, horrifying, funny and memorable tour through centuries of medical experimentation and practice (and sometimes malpractice). Learn about trepanation, the COVID-19 pandemic, Norovirus, Chickenpox, Diabetes, and more, all inspired by Sawbones 300+ podcast episodes.

Wondering whether eating powdered mummies might be just the thing to cure your ills? Tempted by those vintage ads suggesting you wear radioactive underpants for virility? Ever considered drilling a hole in your head to deal with those pesky headaches? Probably not! But for thousands of years, people have done things like this—and things that make radioactive underpants seem downright sensible! In their hit podcast, Sawbones, Sydnee and Justin McElroy breakdown the weird and wonderful way we got to modern healthcare . . . and some of the terrifying detours along the way.

Every week, Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin amaze, amuse, and gross out (depending on the week) hundreds of thousands of avid listeners to their podcast, Sawbones. Consistently rated a top podcast on iTunes, with over 15 million total downloads, this rollicking journey through thousands of years of medical mishaps and miracles is not only hilarious but downright educational. While you may never even consider applying  boiled weasel to your forehead (once the height of sophistication when it came to headache cures), you will almost certainly face some questionable medical advice in your everyday life (we’re looking at you, raw water!) and be better able to figure out if this is a miracle cure (it’s not) or a scam.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘master’. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries – led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing – Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

For this completely updated edition, Maurice Hindle has revised his introduction, list of further reading and notes, and added two appendices: Stoker’s essay on censorship and his interview with Winston Churchill, both published in 1908. Christopher Frayling’s preface discusses the significance and the influences that contributed to his creation of the Dracula myth. 

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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