Sparks' Staff Picks

Book List

An Elemental Thing (Paperback)

$17.95
ISBN-13: 9780811216944
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 5/2007
Eliot Weinberger, a college drop-out turned tanslator (of Paz, Borges, Bei Dao, and others) writes essays unlike anything you've read. These pieces -- erudite, wide-ranging, poetic -- are of universal scope, touching on topics as diverse (and cohesive) as the varieties of Chinese wind, a history of the rhinocerous in Europe, the Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert, and a reverie on the stars that is breathtakingly beautiful. Weinberger's vast learning is matched by an equally encompassing sense of wonder, and his ability to draw the "exotic" closer, while still permitting it an air of mystery, is a thing to marvel at.

The Peregrine (Paperback)

$15.95
ISBN-13: 9781590171332
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: NYRB Classics, 1/2005
To call J.A. Baker's book a book about birds is similar to saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales. This is so much more than ornithology. It's a marvelously textured, understated, and beautifully written account of a man's quest to learn certain aspects of the natural world--to become part of the corner of the universe he's come to inhabit. Baker's language is precise and poetic and his insights, on the behavior of birds and man, are remarkable. I love this book all out of proportion.

$18.00
ISBN-13: 9780147509796
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Penguin Books, 9/2013
If the best books are those that make you itch for something new—or, in this case, something as ancient as walking—Robert Macfarlane’s poetic travel memoir is certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Tracing his ramblings across moors and seas, up mountains, and along meandering paths, Macfarlane describes in lush, precise prose a natural (and human) world that reveals itself leisurely, step by step. Full of remarkable scenes and a memorable cast of characters, The Old Ways brings to mind recent memoirs like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and classic nature writing a la Peter Matthiessen. I recommend it with only one caveat: read it with your hiking boots on; it’ll make you want to get up and go.

$15.00
ISBN-13: 9780312429461
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Picador, 11/2009
Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage is one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's a book about failure: Dyer set out to write a study of D.H. Lawrence but kept getting sidetracked by things like Ikea, finding an apartment with central heating, and his own inertia. It's a rare accomplishment to be able to poke fun of yourself and make something that transcends its humor, but Dyer manages to create something of lasting value, a book about our inadequacies and how we must continually try to measure up.


The Book of Monelle (Paperback)

$12.95
ISBN-13: 9780984115587
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Wakefield Press, 11/2012
Marcel Schwob is likely the most influential writer you've never heard of. Criminally overlooked in the English-speaking world, Schwob--a sort of French Robert Louis Stevenson--nevertheless exerted influence over a diverse array of his more famous successors, including Alfred Jarry, Borges, Paul Valery, Roberto Bolano, etc. This new translation of the luminous and strange Book of Monelle will hopefully go some way toward reviving the status of a legendary writer of whom it was once declared, "Marcel Schwob was not a man, he was a romance."

A Monster's Notes (Paperback)

$19.95
ISBN-13: 9780375711824
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Knopf, 1/2012

Suicide (Paperback)

$12.95
ISBN-13: 9781564786289
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Dalkey Archive Press, 6/2014
Ten days after submitting the manuscript of Suicide, Eduoard Leve hung himself in his Paris apartment. It is inevitable, given the timing, to correlate the two acts. Is Suicide--ostensibly written as an unsentimental, possibly fictional portrait of a "friend" who killed himself years before--a novel? Is it a final testament? Might Leve's final work have been a culmination of his artistic output? It is left to the reader to decide or tease out the implications of these mysteries, which though tragic come across as strangely graceful.

Whatever (Paperback)

$14.95
ISBN-13: 9781846687846
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Serpent's Tail, 8/2011
One of the funniest, most cynical, and provocative novels I've ever had the pleasure (?) to read. If you like your comedy black (as in charred), this is the book for you.

$16.95
ISBN-13: 9781564782113
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Dalkey Archive Press, 5/1988
You're the last woman alive. (Or are you?) You find shelter in museums, burn artwork to keep warm on chilly nights. You travel the world, piecing together what's been lost, hoping to find evidence that you are not alone. More than anything, you remember: ancient things like Achilles' rage and personal things like the loss of a child. David Markson's profoundly unsettling and affecting masterpiece--which was rejected fifty-four times--was called upon its publication "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country" by none other than David Foster Wallace.

$13.95
ISBN-13: 9781564781888
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Dalkey Archive Press, 3/1998

Chateau d'Argol (Paperback)

$15.95
ISBN-13: 9781901285147
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Pushkin Press, 1/1999
Julien Gracq's first novel reads like a dream. In richly symbolic and moody prose, Chateau d'Argol tells the story of a group of three friends unable to break the erotic and gloomy spell holding them captive. Reminiscent of Borges (although preceeding him) and Jean Cocteau, Gracq's small gem deserves a wider readership, especially in such an elegant translation.

$15.00
ISBN-13: 9781566567718
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Clockroot Books, 10/2009

Motorman (Paperback)

$14.00
ISBN-13: 9780970942821
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: Calamari Press, 1/2004
You can compare David Ohle to a lot of wacky authors--William S. Burroughs, Flann O'Brien, Jorge Luis Borges, and Philip K. Dick, to name a few--but Motorman is, even with its illustrious pedigree, sui generis. Long an underground classic, circulated hand-to-hand, I recommend you get (and hold onto) a copy while you can. You won't regret it.

$19.95
ISBN-13: 9781935935902
Availability: On Our Shelves (as of this morning)
Published: ORO editions, 3/2013
Anything I say about this book will obscure the simple fact of its title, HORROR IN ARCHITECTURE.