Matthew Hein ( www.matthewhattiehein.com ) has been a bookseller at TBC since the Summer of 2019. He has previously worked at Laughing Horse Books, The Title Wave Bookshop, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center. His handle is @hattiehein.
An irresistible roman a clef of 1990s Portland featuring a queer Bridget Jones, several straight boys in cardigans, and an immense empathy for everyone who has ever made a decision—or tried not to. -mh
My favorite essay collection of 2021. It's filled with short little magic-mirror reflections on thrift store records, lost and found photos, a $150/month NYC apartment, and the "Summer With a Thousand Julys" (the season that "wasn't always like this. It had a decent upbringing and a reasonable education.")
You'll re-read parts over and over, like watching a magician in slow-motion, and say, "I still don't know how the hell she did that!"
Am I on drugs?
As irresistible as Sally Rooney. As morally ambiguous as Michel Houellebecq. As sensual as the summer of '54 on the French Riviera. Everyone from Rachel Cusk to Jean-Luc Godard adores this book, and so will you.
My favorite novel of 2020. Every character is real, even the bit players. Every city and room is real, from coastal Washington to Manhattan. All that, and a great big heart. -mh
The master is back, with his best book in years. Wow, this book is fun. I read it in 4 days, grinning the whole time.
Like an episode of “Wipeout!” this will make you forget morality, intelligence, and everything else that matters for 350 gloriously stupid pages. Co-written by the owner’s then-teenage son, this memoir of a below-the-law 1980 New Jersey water park reeks of Sun-In, Coors Lite, and hormones. -mh
This is serious stuff—it’s truly gripping. Like All the President’s Men or Catch and Kill, this is suspense journalism. It tells twin tales of the initial crime, and then the chase to uncover it. -mh
The David Sedaris-like protagonist makes his living by ghost-writing celeb quickie memoirs: "Downhill All the Way! is about a skier; "Hot Seat!" is about a stock car driver... you get the idea. He finds the ideal little Tuscan villa to fix up, while satirizing every posh ex-pat book since the 1990s. But wait! There's a new neighbor, Marta--a shabby composer from a sketchy Eastern Bloc family--who absolutely insists on sharing our hero's penchant for 80-proof Fernet. A riotous farce worthy of rereading every few years.
I acquired my first copy from a display table at Looking Glass Books in Portland, Oregon. -mh
The slapstick sequel to Cooking With Fernet Branca has all the alcoholic-yet-inedible recipes, snide-yet-sublime commentary, and wordplay of its predecessor. ("Rancid Pansies" is itself an anagram for Princess Diana, about whom our delusional John Waters/David Sedaris-like hero hope to write an opera.) This might be the funniest, snarkiest, big-hearted book in the shop.
Somehow, this incredible book about things I know nothing about--being a sister, growing up Mennonite, parenthood--grabbed me tight. Once I started, I carried it everywhere until I finished. It's not light and fluffy; it's not a globe-traversing multi-generational epic. It's a perfect little gem of a novel. -mh
This is finally legally available in paperback after years as a clothbound-only release. Worth the wait.
The great Lydia Davis translation of 2003 can be read on its own. No professors or notes needed (though she adds a plot summary at the back). This masterwork of art, sex, and memory will change your life.
An incredible " autobiography of the audience" from the author of "What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?" Claire Dederer weaves memoir along with film criticism (Woody Allen, Roman Polanski), literary criticism (Lolita, Sylvia Plath), and an interrogation of What Makes a Genius, eventually asking herself, "Am I a Monster?" I think what really get me are 1) her pure honesty, 2) her interest only in discovering the truth for herself--not making arguments or pronouncements. May be destined to be picked up every few years, alongside Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just.