Ravenna

Latest Staff Picks

Christmas was not a big deal when I was growing up. I was raised by hippies and back-to-the-land folk who either ignored Christmas entirely or honored the Winter Solstice with a bonfire in the snow. But this book holds a special place in my heart. Living off the grid in the British Columbia wilderness in an A-frame my mom and her friends built, somehow we had a battery-operated cassette player, and somehow we had a cassette tape of Dylan Thomas reading this tale. I continue to be enchanted by the details of Thomas’s childhood in Wales, his keen observations of the adults around him, and the delightful humor and tenderness with which he holds those times. For me Christmas is not complete without a reading of this book, either by the author himself, or just me and my mom alternating lines. Give it a try.

Picked by Dana

At the end of the year, we tend to reflect on life, and sometimes vow to make positive changes in our behavior. When it comes to our hopes and dreams, it often feel like we are fighting a losing battle, but how much of that is simply perception? Alain de Botton and the School of Life has produced a lovely volume of essays, advising readers on the art of living a fulfilled life, with the emphasis on emotional intelligence. This book can be dipped into at your leisure, and provides the reader with the tools to thrive in this modern day chaos that we call society.

Picked by Mark B.

To Survive On This Shore is a book that has impacted a number of people in my life very deeply, a book full of wisdom and humanity. It shares from the experiences of older transgender adults across the United States, told in their own words and with vivid full-page portraits that draw you into each person's narrative.

Picked by Nata

Open up to the first poem in this collection, "to the fig tree on 9th & christian". With just the right mix of details-- smells, textures, sounds-- Ross Gay places you there beneath the fig tree with him, stuffing his pockets with ripening fruit from a neighbor's tree, reaching to pick the choicest fruits for passers-by. This book over-brims with beautifully glimpsed reflections on community life: neighbors sharing with neighbors, old friends sharing a meal together, the poet's experiences as a queer black man in relation to his city and his past. Read these poems and feel them create a warm, sacred space within you.

Picked by Nata

I was surprised to learn so much from this book-- about the life of Araminta Ross, who would later be known as Harriet Tubman; about the history of the Underground Railroad and its conductors; and about the many ways that Black folks have always resisted slavery and inequity. Nathan Hale's deeply expressive illustrations draw the reader into the odyssey of Tubman's life and offer an informative, age-appropriate look at the institution of slavery here in the United States.

Picked by Nata

Finally, a book about menopause that doesn't fill me with rage. Instead I am soothed by Darcey Steinke's focus on naming the visceral reality of menopause minus the pathological viewpoint. I'm inspired by her dedication to researching what she finds herself curious about, by how she follows her whims. Menopause has been denigrated as a "deficiency disease," by (primarily) male doctors who have pressed hormone pills into our sweaty palms, promising they're the ticket to youth, good health (damn the statistics on increased breast cancer, etc.), and being loved. This book offers a vision of traversing "the change" unmedicated: as an adventure, a leap of faith, a transformation to explore.

Picked by Dana

In this memoir, the one and only Patti Smith invites us on a road trip. She weaves us into her dreams over coffee, shares intimate moments, and howls about the world as it is. This slim volume is a balm, a hand to hold, a wild, sweet song.

Picked by Dana

Readers who were transfixed by Ottessa Moshfegh's wry, acerbic voice in last year's My Year of Rest and Relaxation must, must read her previous novel, Eileen. It excels as both a slow-simmering crime thriller and a wonderfully grim character study. The titular Eileen is one of my favorite narrators I've met in a novel--although I hope never to meet her in person.

Picked by Theo

A book for people who love books. George Pelecanos is a master at writing crime novels peopled with flawed and yet endearing characters. Michael Hudson was a dedicated member of the prison book club, until he is released, and then he must battle to maintain his dignity and stay on the straight and narrow. Pelecanos has written for the television shows 'The Wire" and "The Deuce," and -- in my oh-so-humble opinion -- he's one of the most dependable writers working today.

Picked by Mark B.