Carmen's Picks

Carmen moved to Asheville on a whim in 2013 and hasn’t looked back. She credits reading to shaping her character...whether that’s good or bad, nobody can decide. On her bookshelves you can find anything from contemporary fiction, feminist commentary, magical realism, to 19th century novels (she may or may not have a copy of Little Women that’s survived 18 years and 2 torrential downpours and no, she will not stop reading it). In another life she was probably a cat or Sylvia Plath.

When she’s not slinging books she can be found tending to her houseplants, planning potential vacations, searching for fun cocktails, or re-watching episodes of Law and Order SVU with her partner and their pets. She thinks that if the world had more bookstores it would solve most geopolitical problems, but she doesn’t know much about geopolitics, so don’t take her word for it.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525510543
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - August 6th, 2019


Jia Tolentino dissects the state of our society and how millennials exist within it deftly and without bias, but with enough personal experience and intellectual prowess to bring necessary weight to the collection. The topics range from the internet as a force of both delusion and empowerment, Amazon as an illegal monopsony, the age of self-optimization, and the paradoxical acceptance of difficult women in mainstream feminism. She is critical in a disarmingly even manner, careful not to separate herself from any parties criticized. In fact, her involvement is key to the story she’s telling. 

While “millenial” can be a fully loaded and often undefinable term, these essays argue that understanding how they experienced the world and, in turn, how they process, react, and cope with the issues of today can give us a more solid framework for measurable progress. They are a reminder that analysis even without hard and fast solutions is imperative. She’s arguably a millennial voice unlike any we’ve seen yet, and she makes a convincing case that we should all be listening.

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Eileen: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143128755
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - August 16th, 2016

In "Eileen," a woman recalls her escape from a dysfunctional family and small hometown. It's sharp, morbid, and suspenseful until the last page. Moshfegh is unparalled in her ability to write controversial characters, and her talent for constructing a sentence is almost unnerving. She left my brain spinning and wanting more. If you like this, read "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" (it's a riot!) and keep an eye out for her new book, "Death in Her Hands" that's out in April!

In the Dream House: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450031
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - November 5th, 2019

Know My Name: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735223707
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - September 24th, 2019

Most people have at least heard of Brock Turner. If you haven’t, his name swarmed the internet in 2015, enraging many and bringing about a nationwide discussion about sexual assault. But what about Emily Doe - real name, Chanel Miller - the girl left naked and unconscious by him? Her victim statement went viral and sent a shock wave through a society that blames victims. She may have wanted to remain anonymous then, but today she wants us not only to know her name, but listen to her story. Both a searing commentary on the legal system surrounding rape trails, as well as a exquisite account of Chanel’s personal spiral toward despair and subsequent rebuilding, I needed to read this book like I need to breathe.

Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters Cover Image
ISBN: 9781642590180
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Haymarket Books - September 3rd, 2019

Ever since I read "Men Explain Things To Me" earlier this year, I haven't been able to shut up about Rebecca Solnit. Seriously, it's borderline obssessive. Her ability to zero in on current political divisions, connect them to overarching power structures, and turn that discourse into a call to action is disarming. She radiates this sense of calm, but her voice is equally biting in just the right moments. She's concise, well-researched, deliberate, balanced - in short, everything a cultural critic should be (and so often is not). Do yourself a favor and read this book. I can almost guarantee you won't be able to stop here. 

Play It As It Lays: A Novel (FSG Classics) Cover Image
By Joan Didion, David Thomson (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780374529949
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - November 15th, 2005

Most people meet Joan Didion in an autobiographical or journalistic essay form. I fell in love with her because of this novel. This book challenged the way I saw the female character portrayed. "Unlikeable" women hold a precarious place in both literature and society, and Didion plays with nihilism, apathy, and moral grey areas throughout the book in a way that generally leaves people squirming. It's a scathing look at Hollywood in the 1960s, a theme she is no stranger to, but what resonated with me was Maria's unsettling awareness of the lunacy of the world surrounding her, as well as her attempts at finding agency in a world that didn't allow for female agency. This book may not be light or easy, but you'll devour Didion's terse language and acute cultural observations. You won't be able to shake this book once you're done.

The Days of Abandonment Cover Image
By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781933372006
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - September 1st, 2005

What an astonishing book. A raw, feverish, electrifying account of the depths of the human psyche when we lose grasp of the stories we've built for ourselves. Ferrante pulls you beneath the surface of the water and doesn't let go. Is there such a thing as an exquisite drowning? I'm beginning to think so.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977887
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 3rd, 2017

I've only recently gotten into short stories, and oh boy, do I feel late to the party.  These stories practically bleed off the pages.  They're a little horrific (don't let that deter you if you aren't a fan - I'm not either ), a little science fiction, a little queer, and a thick thread of feminism tie it all together.  Each story keeps you guessing and wanting more.  I can't believe this is Machado's debut collection...  consider me a die-hard fan.  

Men Explain Things to Me Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608464661
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Haymarket Books - September 1st, 2015

Essential reading for all. The term "mansplaining" may have lost some of its punch, years after the essay credited with popularizing it was published, but the ideas presentedremain just as, if not more, relevant today.  

Solnit thoughtfully connects numerous cultural power structures and the everyday silencing of women to the epidemic of violence against half the world's population.  This book will enrage you, make you think, a nd in the end, give you hope that the fight for equaility hasn't seen its last d ay.  

Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608469468
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Haymarket Books - September 4th, 2018

I'm absolutely smitten with Rebecca Solnit. Read this book. Read all of her books. Just do it.

Arcadia: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316434706
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hachette Books - July 13th, 2016

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Swamplandia! (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307276681
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - July 26th, 2011

This book is a wild ride! Ava is such an engrossing protagonist. Sharp, light-hearted, funny, tormented, with the dark innocence of a child on the brink of adulthood. The storyline brings just enough absurdity to keep you turning the page faster than you saw coming. I mean, it's Florida! Alligator wrestling! Ghost boyfriends! Swamp people! A journey to the underworld! What more could you ask for?

Juliet the Maniac: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781612197593
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Melville House - May 7th, 2019

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385720250
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - October 17th, 2000

The Bell Jar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060837020
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - August 2nd, 2005

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525522133
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - June 25th, 2019

Welcome to the inner life of a woman in the throes of debilitating depression. But don't let that deter you. The raw talent shown by Moshfegh is the bright light in this story. Her sharp observations about seemingly mundane human qualities are funny and borderline grotesque. She pulls you into a character that is unlikeable on the surface and reminds you that there is truth, beauty, sadness, ugliness, strength, and pain in all of us.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062420718
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - June 12th, 2018

Women Talking Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635572582
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - April 2nd, 2019

Eight women learn that they (and their children) have been repeatedly violated by the men in their remote Mennonite colony. The book follows their gathering to discuss whether or not they will fight, flee, or do nothing. What results is an astonishingly intelligent and witty discourse on violence, patriarchal structures, and civil responsibility. Toew's manages to give the women an agency that is raw and inspiring. Their relationship dynamics are relateable, at times hilarious, and their voices grow stronger over the course of the novel. In the wake of the #metoo movement, this book is current and essential, using an isolated real-life event to shed light on a world of women waking up and standing up. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060932138
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - July 5th, 2005

The Nickel Boys: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385537070
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - July 16th, 2019

Normal People: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984822178
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth - April 16th, 2019

The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501137488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 26th, 2018

Ninth House Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250313072
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - October 8th, 2019

The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel (Queen of the Tearling, The #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062290380
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - April 14th, 2015

I fell into this series without even meaning to. It follows the life of Kelsea Glynn, a girl who has lived in exile her entire life while unknowingly being groomed to be the next queen. Seem like a familiar plot? Think again. This series has serious layers. A failed utopian society in a dystopian world, dark and corrupt magic, an impending massacre, and a surprisingly insightful look at power structures, gender roles, human nature, and government. I couldn't put this book down.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143125679
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - July 29th, 2014

Smart, fantastical, a little dark and twisty. I had such a blast with this book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel! 

State of Wonder: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062049810
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - May 8th, 2012

If I had to pick one world to describe this book it would be "intoxicating". The story grips you from the start, but the real show stopper is Patchett's dazzling writing. This book exposes nature as the spellbinding force that it is. This is real life magic!