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Rico's Reviews

Rico has had a lot of different jobs over the years--carpenter, office manager, teacher, marketing copywriter--but he's spent most of his adult life selling books, first at Capitola Book Cafe and now at Bookshop Santa Cruz, where he manages the Fiction section. In his spare time he does a lot of birdwatching, backpacking, and woodworking. His short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines around the country--one was a Notable Story of the Year in the 2009 Best of the West anthology and two were nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. His essay, "Of Human Carnage," was selected for Best American Essays 2016. Though he mostly reads literary fiction, he also loves outdoor adventure, history and anything about Africa. Aside from being around books all day, his favorite part of the job is making recommendations and turning people on to authors they haven't discovered yet.






The Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Inspired by a real-life newspaper article, Gaige tells the story of a young father who decides to give up his middle-class life, buy a sailboat and take his family on a long sailing voyage off the coast of Panama. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. Alternating between the wife’s post-voyage narration and the husband’s sailing journal, this is an extremely well-written, utterly gripping story of a family trying to hold it together in the face of crisis. Now in paperback, this was one of my favorite books of 2020. —Rico

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Sea Wife: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525566922
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 2nd, 2021

The Last Great Road Bum by Héctor Tobar

Though billed as a novel, this book is essentially the true story of a world traveler, vagabond, writer, and guerilla fighter in El Salvador’s bloody civil war named Joe Sanderson. Tobar spent more than a decade reading Sanderson’s journals and other writings and interviewing his family, friends, and fellow revolutionaries. Throughout the book, “Sanderson” playfully interrupts the narrative to correct Tobar on points of fact and call out places where he might be taking too much literary license. In writing this story of an American from the Midwest, Tobar, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, has created a book that is both a big, old-fashioned novel of adventure, personality, and daring-do, and a meditation on narrative authority. — Rico

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The Last Great Road Bum: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374183424
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: MCD - August 25th, 2020

How to Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy

As the primary songwriter for the band Wilco, Tweedy is known for his poetically off-kilter lyrics and unusual melodies. Hot on the heels of his bestselling memoir Let’s Go So We Can Get Back (which I loved), Tweedy offers a meditation on his unique writing process, including suggestions for finding inspiration, his approach to melody and how and when he decides a song is “done.” A small, gift-sized hardback, the book is perfect for the songwriter or other creative types in your life. And of course it’s a must for all Wilco fans. — Rico

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How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593183526
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dutton - October 13th, 2020

The Quiet Americans by Scott Anderson

The author of Lawrence in Arabia returns with yet another masterpiece. At the end of World War II, the US recognized the Soviet Union as its primary adversary for global dominance and deployed the newly formed CIA to establish a spy network and run covert operations to stem Soviet influence. Anderson focuses on four of the CIA's best spies, each more accomplished and daring than the next. Their stories illustrate the ways we gave up our democratic ideals in the name of fighting communism, as we overthrew democratically elected governments and supported brutal regimes. When the smoke finally cleared, we had earned scorn both here and abroad, caused Americans to distrust their own government, and locked ourselves into the Cold War for decades to come. — Rico

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The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War--a Tragedy in Three Acts Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385540452
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - September 1st, 2020

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

I was first introduced to Nunez many years ago when my book club selected The Last of Her Kind. While that book remains one of my favorite contemporary novels, I was equally impressed with The Friend, for which Nunez won the 2018 National Book Award for fiction. Honest and wise, with a wicked sense of humor, she writes prose that uses few words to create deeply layered characters, settings, and moments. Her new novel tackles big issues—death, the meaning of life, and contemporary politics, among others, and promises the same rich reading experience I’ve come to expect from her. I can’t wait to get started. — Rico

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What Are You Going Through: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593191415
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 8th, 2020

Surrender: The Call of the American West by Joanna Pocock

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Surrender: The Call of the American West Cover Image
ISBN: 9781487007249
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: House of Anansi Press - April 7th, 2020

Growing restless in middle age, Pocock, a Canadian writer and journalist, packs up her husband and daughter, and heads to Montana, looking for…she’s not sure. Trying to find meaning in an increasingly complicated world, she sets out to investigate the modern West, and ends up spending time with people across the spectrum: ranchers, militia members, anti-government wolf trappers, Native-American “rewilders,” spiritual leaders, red-state liberals, sexologists, and even other moms just trying to raise their kids the best they know how. As a sort-of foreigner (I mean, how foreign is Canada, really?), she’s able to both understand the West and offer fresh insight on the country and region we call home. —Rico

The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes

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The Man in the Red Coat Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525658771
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - February 18th, 2020

At its heart, this is the story of Dr. Samuel Pozzi, a late-Nineteenth-Century French surgeon, philosopher and societal figure, and subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s most famous portraits. But it’s really an intelligent, witty re-examination of the Belle Epoque. In addition to the era's glamour and artistic achievements (think Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust, etc.), Barnes shows us its darker side—the prejudice and backward thinking—and the ways it parallels our current era (think Brexit, the broader global swing toward nationalism, and America’s own political situation). A great read for fans of art, literature, history and excellent writing. —Rico

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

When the narrator’s friend, another writer, dies suddenly, she inherits his Great Dane. Among many problems, she lives in a tiny New York apartment—that doesn’t allow pets. What follows is a brilliant and moving meditation on friendship, love (both Platonic and romantic), art and grief. I found this a profound and beautiful reading experience. - Rico

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The Friend: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735219458
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - February 5th, 2019

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

In his newest novel, the author of two of my favorite books of the past decade (Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04) tells the story of a “lefty household” in Topeka, Kansas, in the 1990s. The parents are psychologists transplanted from the big city, their son a gifted high school debater. It is about the end of the 20th century and the breakdown of our political discourse, but it’s also about language. Lerner is a poet—literally; he’s published three books of poetry—and every page here brims with fresh turns of phrase, startling images, and precisely rendered emotional moments. - Rico

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The Topeka School: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374277789
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 1st, 2019

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh is old-school, a throwback to the 19th century, when novelists wrote sweeping sagas that captured the essence of entire nations and cultures. Here he tells the story Deen Datta, a rare-book dealer who, after hearing a tale of a lost shrine that pays homage to both a Hindi snake goddess named Manasa Devi and a Muslim saint named Ilyas, sets out on a journey that will change his life. The book is about a world on the brink, about loss and displacement, and also about hope. It’s a deeply satisfying read. -  Rico

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Gun Island: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374167394
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 10th, 2019


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