Martin's Staff Picks

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Check out his extensive list of suggestions for lovers of Sci-Fi, History, Music, and Film for your next read!

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My Hijacking: A Personal History of Forgetting and Remembering By Martha Hodes Cover Image
$32.00
ISBN: 9780062699794
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Harper - June 6th, 2023

"This is an incredible read. My Hijacking combines memoir, investigation, and history to produce one of the most riveting books I've recently read. Don't let this one pass you by."- Martin


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Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins By Aidan Levy Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780306902796
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Hachette Books - December 6th, 2022

"

This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. Not just a narrative of the life of Sonny Rollins, but rather an immersion into the life of one of the greatest musicians ever. Highly recommended."- Martin
 
 


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Mr. Breakfast By Jonathan Carroll Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781612199924
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Melville House - January 17th, 2023

"I find myself struggling to put down in words how much I loved this book. A story of roads taken, and not taken, of love, and the sacrifices we make for those we love. Mr Breakfast is Jonathan Carroll at his genre bending best."- Martin


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The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History By Serhii Plokhy Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9781324051190
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - May 16th, 2023

"This is the best book you’re going to read on the origins and the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At least until Russia opens their archives. Which is to say that it sets the standard for the foreseeable future. And the afterword alone is worth the price of admission." -Martin


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The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World By Karl Schlögel, Rodney Livingstone (Translator) Cover Image
$39.95
ISBN: 9780691183749
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Princeton University Press - March 14th, 2023

"Thirty years gone, but definitely not forgotten, the USSR casts a very long shadow. A survey of everyday life in the Soviet Union; not only the KGB and the Gulag, but also, Soviet Perfume and the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, among many other topics. An excellent, original look at life in what was the USSR."- Martin
 


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Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan (American Music Series) By Alex Pappademas, Joan LeMay Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9781477324998
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: University of Texas Press - May 9th, 2023

"Way back when, in 77...I fell in love with the music of Steely Dan. Now, after almost half a century, it's nice to see them (finally) getting the respect they deserve. This book is so much fun. Like a Sunday in Tj, it's cheap but it's not free."- Martin
 


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Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution By R. F. Kuang Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063021426
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: Harper Voyager - August 23rd, 2022

"Five stars. Absolutely five stars. For me this is the best historical fantasy novel since Jonathan Strange. The author is very anti imperialism-nothing subtle , her principles are absolutely nailed to the mast. I could compare Babel to The Magicians by Grossman, but I enjoyed this a lot more. That the research put into translations is absolutely top shelf. The historical settings ring true as well."- Martin


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Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf By James Segrest, Mark Hoffman Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9781560256830
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Da Capo Press - June 3rd, 2005

" An extremely well written and evocative biography of one of the greatest blues singers of all time. Sam Phillips called The Wolf the best musician he ever recorded." - Martin


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The Mountain in the Sea: A Novel By Ray Nayler Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780374605957
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: MCD - October 4th, 2022

" One of the best novels I've ever read about first contact with another species. And all on earth. Nothing extra-terrestrial"- Martin


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Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past By Richard Cohen Cover Image
$40.00
ISBN: 9781982195786
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 19th, 2022

"Easily one of the best books on history that I’ve ever read. Highly recommended for anyone who reads history for pleasure-or for work. I’ve already purchased several of the books that are referred to in this book."- Martin


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The Great Air Race: Glory, Tragedy, and the Dawn of American Aviation By John Lancaster Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9781631496370
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: Liveright - November 15th, 2022

" An excellent and engrossing look at the early days of aviation. Open cockpits in all weather, navigating with a compass and a map." - Martin


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The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England By Ian Mortimer Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780143125631
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Penguin Books - April 29th, 2014

"This is history the way history should be taught. A knowledge of which battle took place when is only a little interesting, compared to what you would see, hear, smell and taste in mid to late 16th century England. Ian Mortimer is currently my favorite writer of history. The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England is a book I would recommend both to history buffs, and anyone who doesn't think they like history."-  Martin


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The Escapement By Lavie Tidhar Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781616963279
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: Tachyon Publications - September 21st, 2021

"Absolutely fantastic. The coolest, strangest, most hallucinatory vision of the American western I've ever seen. More to follow, but in the interim, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. (trigger warning-clowns)"- Martin


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The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War By John "Chick" Donohue, J. T. Molloy Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780062995476
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - September 28th, 2021

"This is a great -ing book. And the perfect book for these times. Friends letting each other know that they are loved and not forgotten. If I didn’t know that it was true I wouldn’t have believed it."- Martin


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Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York By Francis Spufford Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781501163883
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: Scribner - February 6th, 2018

" Golden Hill is one of those books that reminds me why I got into book selling in the first place. It is a book that I wish everyone who enjoys well written fiction could read, because it shows a great deal of the possibility available in fiction, both in the style and language used, and the story itself. Spufford uses the english language the way Van Gogh used paint. And the research that went into this novel is incredible. It is a book to be read at least twice, once for story, and once for the technique and language. Golden Hill will be on my short list of favorite novels for years to come." - Martin
 


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Night Boat to Tangier By Kevin Barry Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781101911341
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Anchor - July 7th, 2020

"Absolutely a pleasure from start to finish. In my (semi-informed) opinion, Kevin Barry is the best writer out of Ireland since Flann O'Brien. This is a book to read several times-the first for the story, and then again a couple of more times to linger over, and enjoy the language."- Martin


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Light Perpetual: A Novel By Francis Spufford Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781982174156
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Scribner - April 5th, 2022

"The best piece of London fiction since Mother London." - Martin


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Piranesi By Susanna Clarke Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781635577808
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - September 28th, 2021

"Like a really cool fever dream. With great architecture."- Martin


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Life and Fate By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler (Introduction by)
$24.95
ISBN: 9781590172018
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: NYRB Classics - May 16th, 2006

"If this is not be best novel I have read in (at least) the last ten years, it deserves to be in the conversation. A quick description would be War and Peace in WW2, but that does not begin to to justice to this work. If you enjoyed City of Thieves, and I did, that is but an appetizer compared to the feast that is Life and Fate. This is easily the best novel about a nation at war and, I believe the best novel out of Russia. Each chapter reads like a short story. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."- Martin


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Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe By Keith O'Brien Cover Image
$30.00
Temporarily Unavailable
ISBN: 9780593318430
Published: Pantheon - April 12th, 2022

"An excellent piece of narrative non fiction. Big business and politics vs families who just want what’s right."- Martin


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Race to Hawaii: The 1927 Dole Air Derby and the Thrilling First Flights That Opened the Pacific By Jason Ryan Cover Image
$16.99
Temporarily Unavailable
ISBN: 9781641602211
Published: Chicago Review Press - November 5th, 2019

"I love books on the early days of flight and this is one of the best I’ve read. Imagine flying for 2400 miles with dodgy instruments for around 20 to 30 hours and trying to find a series of small islands. There isn’t a dull moment in this book. Highly recommended." - Martin


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The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection By Tamim Ansary Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9781610397964
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: PublicAffairs - October 1st, 2019

"If I was going to a desert island, and could only bring ten books, this would be one of the ten. The Invention of Yesterday may at times seem casual in tone, but it is an exceptionally deep book. I would recommend this book to anyone who takes an interest in the world around them.My favorite book of 2020."- Martin


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Interior Chinatown: A Novel By Charles Yu Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780307907196
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: Pantheon - January 28th, 2020

"We all make choices throughout our lives, choosing different paths to follow, different roles to play.  But who selects the options we choose from?  Interior Chinatown is like a rapier taken to stereotypes that inhabit society's attitudes towards Asian Americans.  The main character, Willis Wu, is a minor actor in an ongoing cop drama who wants to be more than a generic Asian male in the background, maybe even someday becoming "Kung Fu Guy." The novel bounces back and forth between the script Wu is inhabiting and an interior monologue.  And one of the strengths of this book, for this reader, is how thin the line sometimes feels between these stereotypical roles that Willis is acting, and the ridiculousness of the particular situations. Interior Chinatown is a brilliant novel, one that challenged this reader in the best possible ways."- Martin


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Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics By Stephen Greenblatt Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9780393356977
Availability: NOT on our shelves now. Usually ships from warehouse in several days.
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - May 14th, 2019

"Of all of the books that have come out trying to explain the last few years, Tyrant is hands down my favorite. It is also a very good piece of literary criticism. I should warn you that Stephen Greenblatt is not unbiased...but then neither was Shakespeare."- Martin


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San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock and a Third-Place Baseball Team By Lincoln A. Mitchell Cover Image
$41.95
Temporarily Unavailable
ISBN: 9781978807341
Published: Rutgers University Press - November 7th, 2019

"An excellent even handed look at 1978, and the effects of that year in the history of San Francisco. Highly recommended."- Martin

 


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Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology By Eric H. Cline, Glynnis Fawkes (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Eric H. Cline, Glynnis Fawkes (Illustrator)
$18.95
ISBN: 9780691183237
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Princeton University Press - November 6th, 2018

"What an incredible book. For a history lover such as myself, Three Stones Make a Wall is like manna. Since most of we learn about our past comes from archeology, it behooves us to know a bit more about the subject than the lastest Indiana Jones film. TSMAW is a survey of archeology from the first excavations of Pompeii to the most current discoveries. It is a fascinating look at the details of a science that is usually known just for the lastest headlines. I think it is the best general audience book on archeology since Gods, Graves, and Scholars. I cannot recommend this book highly enough." - Martin


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Passing Strange By Ellen Klages Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780765389527
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Tordotcom - January 24th, 2017

"This is an incredible read. I will simply say this. There is a small shelf in my library of great novels about/set in San Francisco. Passing Strange is on that shelf, between The Maltese Falcon and Tales of the City." - Martin


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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories By Ken Liu Cover Image
By Ken Liu
$18.99
ISBN: 9781481424363
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: S&S/Saga Press - October 4th, 2016

"These are some of the best short stories I've recently read. And while you may be thinking 'but I don't like science fiction', these stories transcend genre in the way very few writers are able to do. And so far, there is not a single story in this collection that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. If you are in any way a fan of well written short stories, then I cannot recommend this collection highly enough." - Martin


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The Vorrh (The Vorrh Trilogy #1) By Brian Catling Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781101873786
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Vintage - April 28th, 2015

"How much did I love this book! If one has to assign a genre to The Vorrh, I suppose it would be fantasy, although it could just as easily be called magical realism or a handful of other definitions. There are also bits of historical fiction, and a bit of what might be called steampunk. I won't try to summarize the story. The two weeks I spent reading this book were some of the most challenging, enjoyable and rewarding. I'm hoping for more from Mr Catling as soon as he is ready. Reading The Vorrh is like being admitted to a number of different worlds, each with it's own rules, and watching as these worlds coalesce." - Martin


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Alif the Unseen By G. Willow Wilson Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802121226
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Grove Press - April 2nd, 2013

"The first novel from the author of Ms. Marvel. Alif The Unseen is an incredible fiction debut. The story of a middle eastern hacker on the run from the authorities, Alif is one of the best books yet about the passions and frustrations that led to the Arab Spring(s). It is also a welcome, and long overdue, use of middle eastern culture, legends, history, and other story elements in popular literature. There were moments in ATU that made me put the book down, to let what I'd just read sink in. Based on her first novel, G Willow Wilson is an author we will be enjoying for decades to come. Alif The Unseen is/are many great stories, wrapped together in one novel, very well told." - Martin


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How to Listen to Jazz By Ted Gioia Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780465093496
Availability: Click the TITLE to view store availability
Published: Basic Books - September 19th, 2017

"Hands down, one of the best books on jazz I have ever read. And easily the best book on trying to explain jazz. If you are just dipping a toe in the great ocean that is jazz, or if you have been enjoying this music for decades, this is a book that will increase your understanding and enjoyment of this music. It's already altered the way I listen to music, and I've been listening to jazz since the early eighties. I think it helps that Ted Gioia is a musician himself. How to Listen to Jazz is also very refreshingly free of ideology. Ted Gioia simply wants you to listen to and enjoy the music for its own sake. I cannot recommend this book highly enough." - Martin