Ravenna

Latest Staff Picks

Reading Trust Exercises is like watching Susan Choi draw a perfect circle, freehand, over and over and over. She's drawing a ring around a set of circumstances and a set of questions and asking you to look, then look again, and then one more time to be sure. At an exclusive high school theater program, Sarah and David fall in love under the watchful gaze of their enigmatic instructor, who provokes his students to both endless vulnerability and competition. The adult reader will pick up immediately on the exploited, uneven power dynamics that Choi's characters are almost helpless to avoid. The twisted knots binding all of the students together get even more tangled when Sarah and David break up, and what follows is a spiral of events explored with incredible intelligence, nuance, and emotional depth.

Picked by Christina

Krazy Kat remains a marvel even more than a century after its debut. Anarchic and wondrous, it stands among the most innovative and influential strips in all of comics history.

But my staff pick isn't Krazy Kat, it's Krazy by Michael Tisserand: a richly detailed and endlessly compelling biography of the strip's visionary creator, George Herriman. From the complex racial politics of New Orleans to the hyper-competitive world of newspaper comics publishing, Tisserand deftly lays out the cultural and historical contexts that informed Herriman's brilliance.

Picked by Theo

This is a love letter to books. It's addressed to you, the reader. Letters compiled from authors, activists, leaders, and thinkers are masterfully paired with illustrations by artists of every style. The Velocity of Being shows us where reading can take us (and reminds us of where we've already been). Look through the book. There's a letter in here for you too.

Picked by Halley

Japanese stories of the supernatural brought to life. I am enthralled by Mizuki's art and storytelling. Specifically his tellings and re-tellings of Japanese ghost stories; best exemplified in his zany adventure/horror series: GeGeGe no Kitaro. Start here! The Birth of Kitaro. Learn the origin story of Kitaro and his eye-ball Father (Don't worry, it gets weirder.), as they meet, befriend, defeat, and take on spirits, ghosts, and horrors. These are stories to read before bed and share with friends.

Picked by Alex

Washington Black is the best book I've read in a while. The story is told by George Washington Black, who is born into slavery on the island of Barbados, then a British colony. What starts off as a brutal slave story soon becomes an adventure tale, as Washington Black ends up on a ship bound for Virgina, and then finds himself bound for the Arctic. The threat of the slave plantation is never far from his thoughts though. I love the narrative voice in this book, which was a finalist for the Man Booker prize and won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada. (Edugyan lives in Vancouver, CA.) Do yourself a favor and let yourself get caught up in the adventures of Washington Black.

Picked by Mark B.
Staff Pick Badge
Cicada Cover Image
By Shaun Tan, Shaun Tan (Illustrator)
$19.99

Cicada has worked tirelessly at a cold nameless corporation for 17 years. I'm not sure if he ever made a living wage, or if his job was threatened by an unnamed internet conglomerate entity, but there is something better waiting for Cicada at the end. I can't imagine why I related to this dark and yet hopeful story, but I'll just say that Shaun Tan does it again.

Picked by Mark B.

One of my favorite novels has been reissued with a nifty new cover. Wild Life takes place in the Pacific Northwest during the early 1900's, and features Charlotte Bridger Drummond, a fearless, tough-as-nails, independent woman. When a little girl goes missing, Charlotte decides to join the search. Molly Gloss has written a beautiful tale with mythical elements, but that is firmly grounded in the reality of the logging camps and wild woods of the northwest frontier. Unforgettable.

Picked by Mark B.

In 2016, Albert Woodfox was released from prison after years of campaigning by activists, judges, politicians, and members of the Angola Three support network. Framed for the murder of a prison guard along with two other Black Panther Party members, he'd been kept in solitary confinement for over 40 years due to a system of falsified accusations, reprisals, and sabotaged appeals involving collusion at dizzying levels of government and judiciary. In these pages, his goal is not just to tell his incredible story, but to educate us about the many, many ways mass incarceration and police brutality are used as a weapon against Black communities. Radicalized in prison, Woodfox drew immense strength and determination from the principles of the Black Panther Party; in every cell block or yard, he worked to eradicate violence, materially improve conditions, practice liberation, and call for change. The very least he's owed is for us to listen.

Picked by Christina

This post-apocalyptic tale is set in a small, Anishinaabe town in winter. Without warning the phones stop working, then the TV. Fuel for the generator is limited. Food becomes a problem. Into this struggling community, an "unexpected visitor" arrives and things get complicated in historically familiar and harrowing ways. It's too late for you to read this while snowed in like I did, but if you like mysteries and you appreciate layers of meaning, this allegorical winter's tale is an excellent read. Waubgeshig Rice is originally from Wasauksing First Nation and this is his second novel.

Picked by Dana