What I Read…


As the year 2012 came to a close people started drawing up lists of what the best books released that year were. We thought it would be more interesting to ask what the best books our booksellers actually read in 2012, whether they were released in 1942 or 2012… This is the first part of an ongoing series. Please join the conversation in the comments section!




How long have you worked at City Lights?

Been working here for about ten years, in sometimes more but frequently less full-time capacity

What is your favorite section in the store?

Literature in translation. But maybe Spiritual Traditions. Or Praxis/Situations and Actions. Native American Studies. Topographies?? Why are you tormenting me with this difficult question?

What are the five best books you read in 2012?

Kornél Esti, by Dezsö Kosztolányi and Skylark, also by Dezsö Kosztolányi
It was a pleasure to discover this wonderful early 20th century Hungarian writer through two books so different from each other . . . The one is a frothy, fanciful fantasia that breaks all bounds of plot and authorial consistency . . . and the other a sort-of-Chekhovian realism that makes the variety and interest of simple human things seem inexhaustible. . . . but both contain so much charm and humor and well-tuned writing and very painful sadness and fascinating Hungarian-ness that I just plain love them.
The Cybernetic Brain, by Andrew Pickering
Andrew Pickering’s excavation of the careers of several very very unusual thinkers/makers must be my favorite academic book of this past year . . . in fact, it is a model of serious writing done with the utmost humbleness, genuine curiosity, and lack of pretension . . . I would call it “down-to-earth”, except that it’s about flicker technology, Allende’s cybernetic control room for the Chilean economy, schizophrenia, machines that get bored or develop new senses, and the possibility of using ponds as computers. . . . It also contains what in my humble opinion are actually profound thoughts concerning the brain’s non-cognitive aspects and what being “modern” is really about.
Hopeful Monsters, by Nicholas Mosley
People slap that “big fat novel of ideas” label on this book, and point out that it’s full of historical characters like Wittgenstein and Hitler and Rosa Luxemburg . . . That’s all true . . . but none of it explains how very strange and urgent and intoxicating and sometimes completely haywire this all feels while you’re reading it . . . and what a peculiar portrait this book puts together of the human species’ capacity for things ranging from holocaustal destruction to respectfully non-monogamous true love . . .
Two Cheers for Anarchism, by James C. Scott– This is not actually an anarchist manifesto, and there is a very specific reason it’s on this list . . . I read it around the time of the last presidential election, when I had begun to be over-affected by the tenor of the times and sank into despair . . . every single bit of political discourse in the U.S. during the Romney-Obama maelstrom seemed like shit, and every possible development in our world seemed liked shit . . . This was the book that cheered me up at the time. In small, gracious ways, it opened up the mental field of possibility.





How long have you worked at City Lights?

Eight and a half  years.

What is your favorite section in the store?

212, Art, Jazz, Surrealism.

What are the five best books you read in 2012?

The Devil in Silver-Victor Lavalle

Aesthetic of the Cool-Robert Farris Thompson

Yourself in the World-Glenn Ligon

The Passion-Jeanette Winterson




How long have you worked at City Lights?
Five months. I’m still a newb, but I’m loving it so far.

What is your favorite section in the store?
During my very first visit to City Lights, I noticed there was a Print Culture section and fell in love almost immediately. I love books about books, and I feel like it’s an awesome section for any bookstore to have.

What are the five best books you read in 2012?

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists by Kay Larson

Eating Animals by Joshua Safran Foer

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Just My Type
by Simon Garfield



How long have you worked at City Lights?

I’ve worked at City Lights for 18 years.

What is your favorite section in the store?

Children’s, New Fiction, Recommended reads/Staff picks

What are the five best books you read in 2012?

Don Bajema’s Winged Shoes and a Shield, which was published by City Lights, a knock-out collection of short stories, and one of my favorite books ever published by us!
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
Are you My Mother by Alison Bechdel
Fine Fine Music by Cassie J Sneider

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