The staff of Greenlight Bookstore (and our sister store Yours Truly, Brooklyn) read widely and passionately, and love to recommend books they've especially enjoyed! You can peruse and purchase current staff picks from the list below.
In case the title hasn’t already convinced you to pick up this one up, let me give it a whirl. Earlier this year, my sister texted me to ask if I’d ever read this book, saying that reading it “felt like tasting something I used to love that I forgot all about… I forgot this is what books can do.” I hadn’t read it, but after that review, how could I not? A few weeks later I was texting her back how much I loved it - “it’s been a long time since I’ve read something that made me lose sense of time” - and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. If you like voice-driven narratives with quirky, unforgettable characters who find themselves in increasingly strange situations, or if you’ve ever believed in second chances, this book is for you. I love it so much that I wish I could read again for the first time, with no idea what I was getting into. And while I will only ever be able to re-read it now (and believe me, I will!), you, lucky reader, have the chance to crack it open and experience it for the very first time yourself. And hey, who knows, it might just save your life.
This chilling story by horror icon Shirley Jackson is about two sisters navigating a disruption to their extremely private life when an unfavorable guest arrives. Following the mysterious deaths of most of their family members, village outsiders Merricat, Constance and Uncle Julian live in secrecy in their once majestic mansion. The appearance of cousin Charles instigates an upheaval of the carefully crafted reality the trio have been living in. I love this story because of the deeply personal and nuanced relationship the sisters have. The sisters’ bondage is unhealthy, but this is a horror story so the author leads us to feel compassion for the sisters rather than judgement. Topics like agoraphobia, mob mentality and ritual make this story poignant to the isolation and unrest we have experienced as of late.
Lila Savage drew on her decade of experience as a caregiver for her fantastic debut novel Say Say Say. This is a warm and empathetic book with a well-drawn interiority for its millennial caregiver protagonist Ella. It's a procedural but for emotional labor, the kind of book where the decision whether or not to read the newspaper at work can be gripping and relatable.
This collection of essays from AK Press brandishes grief as a weapon of healing and communication. It gives the reader an insight to latch onto, making us realize grief as we all know can be nasty and sometimes it shows the worse of human instincts, but if you embrace it and mold it into something life affirming, the chain reaction can be a wonderful stroke of positivity.
Lanark: A Life in Four Books follows a protagonist on a disorienting journey through his life and rebirth, as he navigates unfamiliar landscapes and bizarre encounters with the people around him. It weaves surrealist, fantastic, and dystopian threads into a story that is confusing, compelling, and provocative. If you are looking for a weird escape, this book is for you.
I'd only heard of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings through the ether of what I feel is a greater, shared black experience. I had written a lyric using the title of the book with hopes of expressing the feeling of being trapped in ones environment or cage, and singing a song of release or freedom. But having never read the book I felt it wasn't right to use the metaphor. I picked up this book and couldn't put it down from start to finish. Maya Angelou writes in a way that not only invites you in to her happiness as a black woman, but also her trauma, regrets, her fears and her contentment. This book gave me a feeling of reconciliation and joy.
If you ever have the uncanny sensation that there must have been a better version of this timeline that's just slipped out of sight, read this book. Or, read it for Newman's immersive, viscerally true scene-making, from the group dynamics of a Manhattan rooftop party in the 2000s to the physical sensations of waking up in an Elizabethan-era bedroom. Or for an exploration of the slippery interface between mental illness and an irrational reality. Or if you just love a page-turner. Who knows what consequences your choice will have?
- Sam Park
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is one of the best graphic novels of the last decade. Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell beautifully capture how it feels to be a teenager and tackle difficult topics with incredible grace. It's hard to walk away from toxic relationships. It's hard to prioritize friends when you feel like you're drowning in your own heartbreak. But here, Tamaki and Valero-O'Connell remind us that both are possible, through a truly stunning story with characters we want to root for and art that breathes life into each page.
- Sam Puc
Bright colors, creepy creatures and fright delights are mixed into this fun for all ages story. In the "Emergency Monster Squad" real-life paramedic Dave Horowitz takes us for a spin in the "Am-boo-lance" and spreads gratitude for the hard work of EMS teams. A fun read with health consciousness rolled right in, this book is great for lovers of Blair Thornburgh's "Skulls!" and other things that go bump in the night.
You know when a book ends but you want to keeping flipping the pages, not quite ready to get off the ride? That's In at the Deep End for you. Kate Davies will take you on nothing short of an exhilarating ride and she'll makes no apologizes for it. Poor Julia stumbling through her self-proclaimed and newly minted "lesbian life" is the perfect remedy for readers who wanted The Pisces to be an extra 200 pages. At its core this book is an examination of the wetland between self-discovery and self-assurance, teeming with risqué sex parties, love and things that look like it, and wit! It's everything you need from a rom-com, in book form.
Our world often dismisses the pain of Black women. In The Cancer Journals, poet Audre Lorde offers a critical meditation on her mortality. I left with the unexpected aspects of her grief: playful sensuality, disorienting fear, and radical body acceptance. She reminds us that in our deepest moments of despair, we are not alone.
LGBTQ history is not taught in the classroom. The queer community has had to excavate the artifacts of lives lived in the shadows of society ourselves. With an infinitely readable compendium like this, Prager has granted us access to a history - our history. From profiles of high figure leaders to little known trailblazers across eras & continents, we receive a most satisfying education - that we have always been here. And we are no longer in the shadows. (Fun fact: I narrated this book for the Library of Congress!)
An innocent woman brutally violated at the hands of a local womanizer; or was she? An enraged soldier whose actions were justified to defend his wife’s virtue; or were they? A selfless lawyer whose only stake in a controversial case was the cause of Justice; or was it? One of the most provocative legal thrillers of its time is a well written page turner and a fascinating exploration of the triumphs and failings of the American Legal System.
A Map of Home follows the coming-of-age of Nidali, a queer Middle Eastern child/teen/woman, equal parts funny and tender, growing up under the weight of her family's history of exile and loss. Jarrar manages to capture the universal exploration of family, puberty, sexuality and identity while anchoring the reader in turbulent Kuwait [then Egypt, then the US]. I was so grateful to find bits of my own family and feelings of inherited loss in Jarrar's somewhat-autiobiographical novel. For readers who love a coming-of-age story, but want to leave the rich, white, Brooklynite behind.
Reading Limon’s poetry always reminds me, in the most lovely way, of the quote “I tell you this to break your heart [...] that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” Limon moves through so much landscape, both physical and emotional - from grief and loss, to love, finding ones place in the world, and the sweet wonders it has to offer. I cannot tell you how often the line “I want to try and be terrific, even for an hour” rings in my ears like quiet prayer. And to top it all off, reading the last line of the last poem always brings me to tears: “Say you’d still want this: us alive, right here, feeling lucky.”
Bootycandy is structured as a series of vignettes, but is centered on the character of Sutter, growing up and discovering the world around him in relation to his sexuality. Each scene explores various scenarios of African-American life, from a phone conversation, to a lesbian wedding gone wrong and a playwriting conference where demands are asked of the audience. If you are looking for something to make you kiki, cry, and gut-punch you with emotion then this is the play for you. O'Hara's writing is magnificent; the way he plays with style and structure in this piece is utter genius.
Back when I used to host the young reader's book group here at Greenlight, The Prince and the Dressmaker was a crowd favorite. It's filled with gorgeously illustrated fashion, features a sweet friendship-to-romance story, and kicked off a great discussion of gender diversity. Perfect for ages 8 and up (and up: I'm 30, and I loved it).
- Sarah G.
After reading DeTransition, Baby, my idea of the narratives trans authors could tell was completely upended. McKenzie Wark’s novel draws from her own experiences in a similarly messy, glorious way; she paints a wholly embodied trans experience that avoids trying to conform to the benchmarks we’ve been given. It is at times epistemological, hysterical, erotic, and grim, but always relatable.
A funny, engaging fantasy romp starring a bad wizard, a clueless tourist and a suitcase with a temper. It's a delightful way to while away an afternoon or two. If you love arch humor, rambling plots and a vividly imagined world sitting on the back of a turtle, you'll love this first in a series adventure.
A culinary journey from Africa to America, Dr. Jessica B Harris explores the African diasporic experience through food. I found this book to be so enriching because food is something that we eat everyday yet we are not grounded in the knowledge of knowing where our foods originally comes from. Dr. Harris draws you in and I learned so much about the history of the continent as well as food. The book has been turned into a much needed series. If you read this book and love it; then you should read Toni Tipton Martin's The Jemima Code. African diasporic history is American history. People needs to sit with that, masticate and digest.
Regularly a novelist, Alexander Chee offers up clear and cool essays that draw from a wide variety of facets of his own character. Some are as broad a subject as his time in ACT UP in the 80s, and some are as honed in as the rose garden in his backyard in Brooklyn. They add up to a case study on identity that's very empowering to read.
I just love a vignette. I love an author who's able to drop me in a world that begs me to explore; to get to know the characters, their lives, their hopes and fears. And then, right as you get comfortable, you leave to explore the next. With different styles, different perspective, each story is truly a different, little world. I devoured this collection. 16 short stories written by a Black women set in the 1960s. 16 short stories about people, and their lives, and the little details that make them human and connect them to each other. Can't recommend enough.