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Staff Top 5s of 2009

Staff Top 5s of 2009

Ah, to be a fly on the wall at the Powell's water cooler. You'd witness a level of book geekery beyond your wildest dreams. Now, we've taken that bibliobanter and confined it to our favorite books of 2009. Take a peek. You might find just what you've been looking for. No compound eyes or sticky feet required.


Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  1. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
    by Wells Tower

    The long-awaited debut collection by Wells Tower did not disappoint. Full of masterful tales, brilliant humor, and soul-shattering pathos, Tower's work should place him at the forefront of American storytellers.

  2. Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt
  3. Everything Was Fine until Whatever by Chelsea Martin
  4. Big World by Mary Miller
  5. The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder by Stephen Elliott

Kevin Sampsell has worked at Powell's for over 12 years. In 2008, he edited Portland Noir for Akashic Books. His memoir, A Common Pornography, is due out January 2010 from Harper Perennial.


Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
  1. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
    by Geoff Dyer

    It's got sex. It's got death. It's got drugs. Good observations about art and writing. It's funny, and it's sad.

  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
  3. Livability by Jonathan Raymond
  4. My Abandonment by Peter Rock
  5. Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong


  1. Lit
    by Mary Karr

    The best way I can describe this work is to say that it's absolutely delicious. More than a mere memoir, this fascinating jewel contains universal truths, with delicate and elegant phrasing, and, despite the subject matter, there's no sense of frivolous belly-button gazing. Some of the vignettes seem as if they came from a wildly good contemporary novel, while others resonate with a reader's remembrances of his or her own triumphs and disgraces. Karr's latest is not only her best work, but one of the best journeys in the genre.

  2. I See Rude People by Amy Alkon
  3. BabyCakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna
  4. Engaging the Muslim World by Juan Cole
  5. Portland Noir by Kevin Sampsell, ed.

Frances is in her 10th year working for Powell's. In her spare time she likes to read historical fiction, biographies, and cookbooks; however, she rarely follows the recipes.


The Lost City of Z
  1. The Lost City of Z
    by David Grann

    A true-life, amazing Amazon adventure-mystery. David Grann, mild-mannered reporter, treks into the Amazon to retrace the path of the legendary (and seemingly super-human) British explorer Percy Fawcett. Skillfully researched and written, The Lost City of Z is a fascinating read.

  2. The Bolter by Frances Osborne
  3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  4. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
  5. Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow

Adrienne takes phone orders and answers the many calls that come through Powell's switchboard. Her favorite books are contemporary literature and translated and international fiction and nonfiction, especially Middle Eastern, Chinese, and African-American novels.


Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong
  1. Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong
    by Jen Yates

    In this day and age, any book that can make me laugh out loud earns top o' the list. Some of the pictures in this book are hilarious in themselves, but Yates adds captions with humor ranging from subtle to over-the-top. Keep this one handy for when you need a little lift.

  2. The Signal by Ron Carlson
  3. Naming Nature: The Clash between Instinct and Science by Carol Kaesuk Yoon
  4. Ask Me about My Divorce: Women Open Up about Moving On by Candace Walsh
  5. 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book by Christopher Merrill, ed.

Kelly Lenox works in Powell's marketing department.

Rachel C.

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
  1. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
    by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

    Regarded as one of Russia's most talented contemporary writers, Petrushevskaya's collection of vignettes are far beyond the macabre, with characters who desperately cling to the past while living discreetly painful lives. Their souls dangle on the precipice of vacancy, and an unwavering sadness consumes them. The worlds of life and those of death are often blurred, while giving no time or place in which the stories occur. Given all of that, I find much comfort in these tales, as many of them point to a central theme in life: that nothing is as it seems.

  2. Oh!: A Mystery of "Mono No Aware" by Todd Shimoda
  3. Bodies by Susie Orbach
  4. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
  5. Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson

Rachel is a sorting maven at Powell's City of Books. Much of her free time is spent shopping for yarn, befriending all the stray kitties in the neighborhood, and fantasizing about moving to New Zealand. Or Iceland — that would be fine, too.


  1. Ghanavision
    by Thibaut de Ruyter, intrd.

    This is my only book for Powell's Staff Top 5s 2009, so you can be sure it really is my top pick. Ghanavision is a slim volume of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. A lot of the movies I hadn't heard of, but the posters promise things I would love to see in films: turtles with human heads eating (or regurgitating?) money and people with turtles crawling on their turbans. Skewed perspectives and bodies with disproportionate heads, hands, and feet add to my sense of wonder. There's not a lot of long-winded blow-harding, either; too bad more books aren't like that. Highly recommended. Get it while you can.

Dennis is a fallen monkeyman whose very presence anywhere enhances the place. A discriminating person (remember when that was a desirable quality?), he never just goes along with anything. [Editor's note: That includes submitting a Top 5 list.]


Under the Dome
  1. Under the Dome
    by Stephen King

    The King has returned with an epic tale that has a lot of the qualities of his best work The Stand. Under the Dome includes a large cast with great character development, clashes between good and evil, and edge-of-your-seat suspense throughout its 1,075 pages. I was amazed how fast I read this huge book — it's indeed a page-turner.

  2. The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  3. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  4. The Likeness by Tana French
  5. Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

Gloria is an assistant manager at the City of Books. While an avid reader of books from many rooms in the store, she has a soft spot for kids' books and horror (they go together so well). Reading and watching movies are two of her favorite activities.

Megan Z.

Garden Anywhere
  1. Garden Anywhere
    by Alys Folwer

    Garden Anywhere is an apartment-dwelling wannabe-horticulturalist's dream. With easy-to-follow instructions and super-creative container garden ideas — like making window boxes out of wine crates and growing potatoes in feed sacks — this book is perfect for the DIY urban homesteader. It inspired me to plant a lettuce garden in a dresser drawer. 'Nuff said.

  2. Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon
  3. Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry
  4. Re-Bound: Creating Handmade Books from Recycled and Repurposed Materials by Jeannine Stein
  5. Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz

Megan Zabel works in marketing for Powell's. She can switch out a bike tube in six minutes, but unfortunately can't whistle or perform a legitimate cartwheel. You can follow her often misguided adventures at

Cheryl S.

Ghost Ocean
  1. Ghost Ocean
    by S. M. Peters

    Like all the best works of horror, this modern novel is populated with a cast of varied, well-drawn characters, innocent and/or villainous, who are each tested in pivotal plot points. While there is certainly a great deal of ghastly ambience, spine-tingling terror, and, of course, evil, Ghost Ocean is among the best literature in the way it leaves you pondering the power of choice and exactly what it means to be human.

  2. Iodine by Haven Kimmel
  3. School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
  4. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
  5. What Cats Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven

When she's not working at the bookstore, Cher likes to imagine she can train mammals smaller than herself, such as dogs and elementary-school-aged children.

Jill S.

When You Reach Me
  1. When You Reach Me
    by Rebecca Stead

    When You Reach Me is like one of those great books where it's truly best if you know as little as possible before you start reading. I will say this: if you love A Wrinkle in Time, New York neighborhood stories, and coming-of-age novels, are scientifically (or science-fictionally) inclined, and, most importantly, adore untangling threads of a mystery, you will fall in love with this book.

  2. Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant
  3. NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  4. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  5. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

Jill S. has been a children's bookseller for 10 years. She specializes in teen angst and pickles.


  1. Green
    by Jay Lake

    Immaculate world-building, lush landscapes, and colorful, complicated characters all contributed to Green being the most worthwhile fantasy I read in 2009. Green's world possesses the beauty and intricacy of Jacqueline Carey's Terra D'Ange while Green herself proves a fascinating and complicated character with a stubborn and unbreakable will rival to no other fantasy character I've read. Comparisons to the Kushiel series and Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind are not unfounded, but Lake's vision is uniquely his own.

  2. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins
  3. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  5. My Swordhand Is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

Kara Rae Garland works at Powell's Books at the Portland International Airport where she pushes the SubGenius agenda on the gift and genre-fiction teams. In her spare time, she likes to find Waldo, spin flaming things in circles, and blog about the occult.


Handmade Home
  1. Handmade Home
    by Amanda Blake Soule

    My favorite craft book of the year! Amanda Blake Soule doesn't just want you to get crafty, she wants you to think differently about the objects in your life. Soule's projects are no-fuss but classy, always incorporating reusable and found materials. An added bonus: Soule contributes her own photographs which lend the book more sincerity, intimacy, and charm than other craft books.

  2. Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
  3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  4. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  5. For Just One Day by Laura Leuck

Alexis is on the kids' team at the City of Books. She is the author of the novel Glaciers, forthcoming from Tin House Books.


Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
  1. Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
    by Eduardo Galeano

    In Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, Eduardo Galeano continues his poetic illumination of the forgotten, offering his most sweeping, cohesive, and empathetic effort to date. Written in the singular style that has come to characterize all of his previous books, Mirrors is composed of some 600 beautifully crafted vignettes. Galeano, in a dazzling display of literary prowess, recollects 5,000 years of human history, from the early civilizations of the ancient Near East through the emergence of the 21st century. The grace, humor, and compassion with which Galeano writes set his works far beyond the realm of his contemporaries.

  2. The Fat Man and Infinity by António Lobo Antunes
  3. Jerusalem by Gonçalo M. Tavares
  4. Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
  5. The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Jeremy Garber is a used book buyer at Powell's City of Books. In addition to the printed word, he has a lasting affinity for vinyl records, alphabet hotels, hummingbirds, fresh berries, and baseball (Go, Phils!). He believes José Saramago is deserving of a second Nobel Prize.


Windup Girl
  1. Windup Girl
    by Paolo Bacigalupi

    This is an important book for science fiction. Just as Neuromancer defined cyberpunk, Windup Girl will serve as a rallying point for a number of speculative novels set amidst ecological collapse and bioterrorism. I can't say enough good things about this book. Read it, and discover for yourself.

  2. Transition by Iain M. Banks
  3. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
  4. House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
  5. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest


It Is Daylight
  1. It Is Daylight
    by Arda Collins

    Part of Louise Gluck's power squad of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Arda Collins dominated my poetry world this year. Both lonely and comical, Collins plays with God much like, dare I say, Berryman does in The Dream Songs. Collins shows me a place that I'm simply unable to go to on my own. Poetry fans, keep her on your radar, in the middle of it.

  2. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
  3. Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya
  4. Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
  5. Planisphere: New Poems by John Ashbery

Drew Swenhaugen works in the literature section at Powell's Books on Hawthorne. He and his section-mate Lance are busy working on a brand-new translation of The Kama Sutra in Spanish Braille.


  1. Sprout
    by Dale Peck

    This is simply a stunning book — it's beautifully written, with a realistic teen voice and possibly the most heartbreaking depiction of grief and need I've ever read.

  2. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  3. Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life
  4. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
  5. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins


Lush Life
  1. Lush Life
    by Richard Price

    Among his other literary credits, Richard Price was one of the writers for the excellent HBO series The Wire, and this book provides a similar multifaceted view of a story, in this case set in New York's Lower East Side. Price has an amazing ear for voices, and his dialogue pops and crackles. The plot moves at a fast clip and contains genuine surprises, and the characters are flawed and believable. I could almost imagine the story unfolding on a screen as I was reading; this book would make a fantastic film. After finishing it, I went in search of more books by Richard Price. I also recommend Samaritan and Clockers.

  2. The City and the City by China Miéville
  3. Drood by Dan Simmons
  4. The Likeness by Tana French
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Dehlia is a used book buyer at the City of Books and a grad student in book publishing at Portland State University. On her breaks, she can often be found lurking in the Gold Room.


A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
  1. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
    by Molly Wizenberg

    This one combines my favorite elements: memoir, travel writing, food writing, recipes, a beautiful love story, and quirky family anecdotes, along with all the things that make the Orangette blog one of my online obsessions. Molly Wizenberg weaves together personal stories with innovative recipes that will change the way you look at dinner. She has an inspiring reverence for fresh ingredients, and the simplicity of many of the recipes makes them accessible. The Winning-Hearts-and-Minds chocolate wedding cake is heavenly and incredibly worth taking the time to bake; it quickly became my best dinner-party trick.

  2. The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman
  3. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
  4. The Likeness by Tana French
  5. Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell

Serra enjoys growing, eating, cooking, and thinking about food in Portland, Oregon.


Let the Great World Spin
  1. Let the Great World Spin
    by Colum McCann

    McCann chooses to describe one day in the life of New York City, the day in 1974 that the aerialist walked between the not-quite-finished Twin Towers. The chasm between rich and poor, the joy of connection, and the inevitability of our mortality are told through the lives of six different New Yorkers, including the incredible man dancing on that thin wire who epitomizes joy and triumph, if only for a short and precarious time. If you love New York, read this book. If you love the human journey towards the possible, you've got to read this book.

  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
  3. Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint
  4. Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mary Jo

Strength in What Remains
  1. Strength in What Remains
    by Tracy Kidder

    Strength in What Remains is the story of a young refugee from Burundi who makes his way to New York, but it's also about how a person deals with memories that threaten to overwhelm him. Tracy Kidder is one of those authors who is perfectly capable of writing a fascinating book about nearly anything. His effortless prose carries the reader on a journey that is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

  2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  3. Fire by Kristin Cashore
  4. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
  5. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest


The Islands of the Blessed
  1. The Islands of the Blessed
    by Nancy Farmer

    The Islands of the Blessed is the final book in the exciting medieval trilogy from Newbery-award winning author Nancy Farmer. Blending Norse mythology with a realistic portrayal of medieval life in Anglo-Saxon England, Farmer's story will capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.

  2. Are These My Basoomas I See before Me? by Louise Rennison
  3. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Spot the Plot by J. Patrick Lewis
  5. Book of Monsters: Rex Libris, Vol. 2 by James Turner

Emma has been working off and on for Powell's while attending university over the past four years. She moved back from England this year, after studying for a master's degree in medieval literature, and now works on the kids' team at the City of Books.


Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  1. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
    by Wells Tower

    For fans of short stories, this had to be one of the best years in recent memory. We had established geniuses of the format (Davis, Munro) continuing their pursuit of Chekhov's excellence, while a handful of new voices (Daniyal Mueenuddin, Terrence E. Holt) crafted unique and devastatingly realistic stories that stuck with you long after the brief time you spent with them. Despite such a crowded field, however, one collection has traveled with me throughout the year more than any other: Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Simply put, his stories encapsulate kinetic movement rather than static images, creating characters that we know all too well but that seem fleeting nonetheless.

  2. In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence E. Holt
  3. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
  4. The City out My Window: 63 Views on New York by Matteo Pericoli
  5. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

Lance Cleland is a founding member of The pLagiarists, along with Drew Swenhaugen. Their latest collaboration, a Spanish Braille edition of The Kama Sutra, is due out in spring. As well as working for Powell's, Lance is an assistant editor at Tin House magazine. He splits his time between Portland and the Suez Canal.


Lark and Termite
  1. Lark and Termite
    by Jayne Anne Phillips

    This the story of 17-year-old Lark and her fierce devotion to her disabled brother, nicknamed Termite. It's also the story of their family: proud Aunt Nonie, who raises them; Robert, Termite's father, killed in the Korean War; and their wayward mother, Lola. Time is presented in a fluid, mingled fashion, as the past continues to have consequences in the present. Jayne Anne Phillips writes dazzling, tactile prose that engages all five senses, and here she presents a novel with true staying power, one that lingers in the mind well after the last page is turned.

  2. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  3. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  4. Invisible by Paul Auster
  5. The Boat by Nam Le

Patrick read Gone with the Wind in its entirety when he was 11 years old and has had grey hairs since he was 8. He believes that a gentleman may walk briskly but never run, and the only things he misses from his home state of Georgia are sweet tea and thunderstorms.

Julie W.

Nazi Literature in the Americas
  1. Nazi Literature in the Americas
    by Roberto Bolaño

    I read everything by Roberto Bolaño that was available in English in 2009, and Nazi Literature in the Americas was my favorite of all of his books. The concept of a collection of biographical entries for fictional authors paired with his brilliant execution and style make for a fascinating read that is at turns comic and tragic.

  2. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
  3. The Humbling by Philip Roth
  4. The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb
  5. Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant

Julie has attended more summer camps than most people. She is a middle child and has been told many times that this fact explains a lot about her. When she was eight years old, she trick-or-treated dressed as Virginia Woolf, but everyone thought she was a witch.


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
    by Alan Bradley

    If Nancy Mitford wrote I Capture the Castle or Cold Comfort Farm and starred in them Harriet the Spy you'd have something close to the quirky charm of Bradley's Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Even if you figure out the probable culprit before it's unveiled in the book, the joy is in following the sleuthing of the intrepid Flavia. Reading this book is especially delightful when paired with a cup of tea and a slice of sweet, sweet pie.

  2. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  5. The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

Tracey has been with Powell's for 20 years and is a new book buyer for the City of Books. Her personal library is comprised mostly of cookbooks and books about weaving. When not at her loom she can be found making a gigantic mess of her kitchen. Her favorite household appliance is the dishwasher.


Under the Dome
  1. Under the Dome
    by Stephen King

    As a long-time, dedicated (yes, the word rabid comes to mind) King fan, Dome is a refreshing reminder of why I fell in love with his writing years ago: great characters, great plotting, and a wonderful sense of what scares us the most. This is easily King's best novel since The Stand, and, similarly, King takes a group of people, presents them with an extraordinary and frightening situation, then lets human nature take over. The results are fascinating, suspenseful, and sometimes horrific. However, at the heart of King's stories is the conviction that human kind has a better nature, if we choose to recognize and use it.

  2. Undone by Karin Slaughter
  3. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
  4. The Lovers by John Connolly
  5. White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison

Reading nearly 200 books a year requires dedication and a complete lack of a social life, but Lynn manages (no cable TV helps). Her Powell's coworkers did attempt an intervention this year, but sorry, guys, she's relapsed! Give her a good story, great characters, and suspense or fantasy, or lead her down some dark paths that keep her awake at night, and she's a happy gal. Reading is her comfort food of choice; plus, it's calorie-free!

Sheila N.

Wolf Hall
  1. Wolf Hall
    by Hilary Mantel

    I don't usually pay much attention to award-winning books, as most of the time the panel and I have vastly differing opinions. But, the premise for Wolf Hall — Thomas Cromwell as a sympathetic protagonist — intrigued me so much that I bought the book. And I'm glad I did. This definitely is the best novel I read in 2009. Written in a beautifully lyrical prose style and full of delicious historical detail, Wolf Hall is a masterpiece.

  2. Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker
  3. Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline Murphy
  4. Thing-Thing by Cary Fagan
  5. The Ancient Ocean Blues by Jack Mitchell

Sheila works in the academic and corporate accounts department at the City of Books. She enjoys gardening, playing with her cat, and rearranging her book collection every few weeks.

Jason W.

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes
  1. Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes
    by Daniel L. Everett

    Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking books I've ever read — it just might be the perfect book to read in a pub, and it's certainly one to discuss with friends. The Piraha's language contradicts accepted linguistic theory: they have no grammatical concepts of past and future and no fixed terms for color, counting, war, or personal property. They live entirely in the present, deep within the Amazon rainforest. Written with honesty, subtlety, and great respect for his subject, Everett's adventurous study enriches our understanding of what it means to be human.

  2. Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs
  3. Invisible by Paul Auster
  4. Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder
  5. Eirik Johnson: Sawdust Mountain by David Guterson

Jason is the night supervisor and poetry section head at Powell's at Cedar Hills Crossing. Away from work, he spends his time writing, hiking, and home-brewing.


Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
  1. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
    by Geoff Dyer

    Geoff Dyer, the author of books on subjects as diverse as jazz, D. H. Lawrence, photography, and World War I, is at the top of his game with his latest offering. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (the title is a play on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice) is a pair of novellas which wonderfully combine bits of travel, art, humor, and philosophy. It's a book that may leave you with more questions than answers (Is Geoff Jeff? Is Venice Varanasi?). But, with writing this original and enjoyable to read, who really cares?

  2. The Fat Man and Infinity by António Lobo Antunes
  3. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
  4. Jerusalem by Gonçalo Tavares
  5. Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

Shawn is one of Powell's new book buyers, but spends most of his waking (and non-waking) hours dreaming about travel in distant lands.

Suzanne G.

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better
  1. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better
    by Christopher Steiner

    Most books about Earth's dwindling natural resources leave me too discouraged to read beyond the jacket blurb. Not this one! Twenty Dollars Per Gallon is a refreshingly positive take on the effect that peak oil will have on civilization. It does lean toward the exuberantly optimistic, but what good is negativity (however realistic) if its hopelessness inspires fatalism instead of action? Instead, Steiner points out what we have to look forward to and discusses how we can start preparing now.

  2. The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller
  3. The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb
  4. The Dark Ages: Fables #12 by Bill Willingham
  5. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Suzanne saves time by reading at stoplights and while walking. Lately she has been doing private research to determine the absolute best recipe for drinking chocolate.


The Water's Edge
  1. The Water's Edge
    by Karin Fossum

    Norwegian author Karin Fossum is an exquisite writer of psychological suspense, and The Water's Edge may well be her finest work. Sixth in the series of Inspector Sejer mysteries, the novel follows the investigation and events that unfold in a community after the discovery of a young boy's body beneath a stand of trees. Fossum writes with heartbreaking perception and imagination, at times seeming to channel the blood and tears of her characters directly onto the page.

  2. The Photographer: Into War Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert
  3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  4. The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
  5. Black Seconds by Karin Fossum


First Lord's Fury: Codex Alera #6
  1. First Lord's Fury: Codex Alera #6
    by Jim Butcher

    Like the Vord Keepers entrapping hapless souls in Croach so they can be absorbed, I found myself unable to leave Butcher's story, only to be released on the final page. An awesome read.

  2. Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
  3. On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
  4. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  5. Bone Crossed: A Mercy Thompson Novel by Patricia Briggs

From teenhood on, Carla has loved to shop at Powell's and visit Portland's own Chinatown for dim sum. She stumbled into a job at the City of Books and, voilà, 25 years and counting, she's still at home in the City.

Jill O.

The Anthologist
  1. The Anthologist
    by Nicholson Baker

    The Anthologist is the one of the funniest books I read this year, and one of Baker's best in a long time. Baker creates an incredibly winning main character in Paul Chowder, a minor poet trying (and repeatedly failing) to write the introduction to an anthology of new poems. The Anthologist is gorgeously written, intelligent, witty, and surprisingly touching, as well as filled with more insight about poetry than a dozen anthologies.

  2. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis
  3. Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler
  4. Generosity by Richard Powers
  5. The Interrogative Mood: A Novel by Padgett Powell

Michael T.

  1. Mannahatta
    by Eric W. Sanderson

    There's something ironic about using state-of-the-art computer programs to recreate a world and terrain that has vastly changed over the last few hundred years. Mannahatta, in all its colorful comparative glory, is amazing in its scope and presentation, and as intriguing as the previous year's speculative title, The World without Us. These two make interesting companions, since one looks backward to a natural, primordial New York and the other forward, speculating on the geographic fate of a world without people.

  2. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou
  3. Stitches by David Small
  4. The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb
  5. The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

Sheila A.

Some Things That Meant the World to Me
  1. Some Things That Meant the World to Me
    by Joshua Mohr

    Joshua Mohr's debut novel is that rare literary gem: the kind of story that envelops you so wholly, you forget that you're reading; the kind of book you want to lend to everyone you know — except that you can't bear to part with it. I haven't felt this enamored of a book since I first encountered Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son more than a decade ago, and that is one of my "desert island" books.

  2. Misfits and Other Heroes by Suzanne Burns
  3. Big World by Mary Miller
  4. The Best of Intentions: Avow Anthology, 2nd Ed. by Keith Rosson
  5. AM/PM by Amelia Gray

Sheila Ashdown loves small press. She wants to fan it with palm fronds and feed it maraschino cherries straight from the jar. She also writes fiction, publishes The Ne'er-Do-Well literary magazine, and works in Powell's marketing department.


Asterios Polyp
  1. Asterios Polyp
    by David Mazzucchelli

    Asterios Polyp goes on the short list with Maus, Blankets, and Fun Home as not only brilliant, absolutely essential graphic novels that expand the form with delirious imagination and narrative drive, but also perfect crossover titles for non-comic readers. Writer/artist David Mazzucchelli's return to narrative comics offers a gripping story filled with wonderfully odd and complex characters, as well as gorgeous, spellbinding illustrations that make every page — every panel, in fact — a wonder to behold.

  2. Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris
  3. Livability by Jon Raymond
  4. Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy
  5. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Chris Bolton co-created Smash, an all-ages web-comic about a 10-year-old superhero, and created the web-series Wage Slaves, which premiered in July 2009. His short story set in Powell's City of Books, "The Red Room," can be found in Portland Noir.

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