Dear Unabridged friends,
Our shop doors may be closed for a time, but we at Unabridged Bookstore are eager as ever to share great books with you.
We understand that recent weeks have been difficult for so many, and we feel the strain of this time as well. It is no secret that small businesses and their employees are especially vulnerable and depend on the support of their community through hardship. We also feel a deep gratitude for the support we have seen. We simply cannot thank you enough for the many messages, social media posts, emails, calls, kind words, and book orders. It is so reassuring to see the strength of this community now, and we hope you will help preserve this place for sharing ideas and a love of reading. Here are a few ways to do that:
Remember that we are always open online! We will continue to fulfill orders through our website; be aware that some books will be shipped to you directly from our Ingram wholesaler’s warehouse. Click here to start browsing!
Gift cards are also available on our website, and are a great way to support us right now. We can mail a gift card to you, to your friends or family, or we can hold it for you here in the shop to be used when we reopen. Click here to get a gift card!
And in this time of physical distance, don’t forget to share what you’re reading! Follow our social media channels to see what we are reading at home, and share your thoughts on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter .
Many thanks to our own Owen Keehnen, resident grassroots historian, for sharing the photos above of Unabridged in earlier days. We can’t wait to reopen and see crowds like this again! For more history of Unabridged, the Belmont Rocks, Boystown and more, follow Owen here!
We’ll send periodic updates as information becomes available. In the meantime we want to help you stay connected and informed through books, so scroll on for a peek at what we’ve been reading; some new releases, some favorites, and a few things to look for in the near future. And don’t forget our book clubs! Look for more about what each group will be reading this month and how you can join the discussion from home! Happy reading!
Hardcover Book of the Month:
Hurricane Season
by Fernanda Melchor
A murder mystery set in the horror and squalor of La Matosa, Mexico, a brutal portrait of small-town claustrophobia, machismo and misogyny where a woman known as the Witch has been murdered. What follows is a series of conflicting accounts that depict the wicked events leading up to the witch’s brutal death, and the homophobia, violence, desperation and despair that pervade the town. In 8 chapters (each of which is unencumbered by paragraph breaks) Fernanda Melchor unleashes a torrent of words upon each page, exploding into a ferocious story about the “full, brutal force of male vice,” and the ways women bear the most unforgiving burdens of exploitation and abuse. Melchor says she “was in a dark place” when she wrote her novel, but Hurricane Season shows that from dark places can come great literature, and from coarse language dealing with all things profane Melchor somehow weaves a work of high art. An intense reading experience: I was blown away by the book’s power. Ed loved and highly recommends! Truly an exciting new voice in world lit!
The witch is dead. Told from the perspective of different townspeople, the disquieting Hurricane Season  is a maelstrom of frenzy and fury revolving around the murder of a "witch" in an isolated Mexican town. With lurid and uncompromising language that grabs the reader by the throat, Melchor reveals the backstory of the witch and her role in the village, as scapegoat, as a keeper of the villager's secrets, as a person whom others fear, hate, need. Weaving its own bewitching mythology, Hurricane Season  is rife with superstition and destructive small-town gossip, but simultaneously grounded in institutionalized corruption, suffocating masculinity, and misogyny. This is a wildly inventive and hypnotic tale, dripping with poetic poison and vitriol, an unsparing and brutal book that will cast its wicked spell on you. Shane loves!
by Rob Doyle
“A novel is simply a long chunk of prose in which whatever is said to have happened may or may not have actually happened.”
Structured like a travelogue, a series of vignettes set in Sicily, Paris, Berlin and beyond, Threshold is an autobiographical novel, a cautionary tale of a man adrift, a psychotropic odyssey thru sex, drugs, and philosophy, taking the reader on a destabilizing voyage of self-discovery. Marked by equal parts exuberant eroticism, rapturous excess and ontological disillusionment, the novel follows the narrator (Rob Doyle, the author) traveling the globe on his existential journey, contemplating life’s metaphysical enigmas and dilemmas, seeking philosophical/pharmacological enlightenment while pursuing the “overpowering life-justifying rapture found in music, clubs, art, books, sex and drugs,” all the while writing the book of his life (the book you are now reading!), alternately described as “the great backpacker dropout novel” or “the great Berlin techno novel.” Exulting in the rootlessness of the wanderer and the mind-expanding possibilities of psychedelic drugs, the book is as intoxicating as the drugs imbibed by the book’s narrator/author, and reading it is akin to taking a mind-altering trip. It is provocative, intriguing, enlightening and darkly funny, an adventure in consciousness expansion that may very well be one of the wildest reading experiences you have all year! It sure was for me! Ed loved and highly recommends!
The Man in the Red Coat
by Julian Barnes
Three men arrived together in London in the summer of 1885, among them surgeon Samuel Pozzi, (featured in John Singer Sargent’s classic painting Dr. Pozzi at Home, ) to do a little “intellectual and decorative shopping.” Julian Barnes puts Pozzi's life (and this particular London trip) front and center in this fresh portrait of Belle Epoque France, rich in anecdote and scandal, and filled with poets, writers and artists, melodrama and snobbery, duels and affairs, aesthetes and dandys, camp and sentimentality, refinements and vulgarizations. With his urbane wit, brilliance and novelist's sensibility, Barnes peoples his narrative with a spirited cast of characters, including John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Edmond de Goncourt, Alfred Dreyfus, Count Montesquiou , Prince Edmond de Polignac, Jean Lorrain, and Huysmans (and his very influential book A Rebours (Against Nature.)) Erudite and irreverent, gossipy and scholarly, The Man in the Red Coat is a lesson in art appreciation and literary criticism, with true insights into the human condition, and with its jocular tone and wry observations, quite entertaining and a pleasure to read. Ed loved and highly recommends!
I Want You to Know We're Still Here
by Esther Safran Foer
Esther Safran Foer grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, each of her parents the sole survivor in their respective families. This book is a narrative reconstruction of fragments of memory passed down from relatives and friends, Esther’s attempt to find out exactly what happened to her greater family during the holocaust and after the war. It is an intensely moving, personal account of revisiting places of unimaginable horror (In completely obliterating her parents’ villages of Kolki and Trochenbrod, Ukraine, the Nazis destroyed a people and a place) to keep memory alive, turning that memory into history. It is about grief and gratitude, about the tragedy of the past but mainly about family and the promise of the future. Ed highly recommends!
Recollections of My Nonexistence
by Rebecca Solnit
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit is an enlightening memoir from an inquisitive, original thinker and a writer of consequence, about the events and ideas that have defined her as a woman, a feminist, a writer and an activist. For Solnit, navigating a patriarchal society has given rise to her powerful, hopeful and motivating voice for change. Whether writing about culture (the Patriarchy), counterculture (the Beats), subculture (Gays), urban culture (San Francisco as refuge), or cultural history (The West), Solnit’s intensely personal and political observations are astute and spot-on. I especially loved the beautiful passages about moving from adolescence to adulthood, about the warmth of being wrapped up in passionate friendships, about her passion for reading books, about finding her voice as a writer (at a desk she still has!) and about gay men as models of what else being “male” or being “human” could mean (“being around gay men liberated me, because liberation is contagious.” Ed loved and highly recommends!
“There are so many forms of annihilation. Invisibility permits atrocity. I became expert at the art of nonexistence, since existence was so perilous. My writing was my way of orienting myself.”
A Luminous Republic
by Adrés Barba
Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator reflecting back two decades, A Luminous Republic concerns a group of 32 mysterious, feral children that suddenly appear in the town of San Cristóbal, Argentina, threatening to bring chaos and violence to the lives of its bourgeois inhabits. A chilling fable with a palpable sense of foreboding, Barba toys with our notions of childhood innocence and purity, exposing the fragility of our civil societies and the consequences of neglect, paranoia, and fearing "the other." There are magical moments of pure poetry within these pages, but also a darkness and a terrifying sense of unease that comes as the result not of tricks, clichés or gimmicks, but of masterful storytelling. Shane loves! 
by Julie Joosten
With their metacognitive lyricism and spacious intimacy, the fourteen poems gathered in this second collection from Toronto-based Julie Joosten widen the articulable edge of perception. These are porous and multivalent love poems, proprioceptive and busy with the awe-tinged work of attention. “I’m trying to write you the whole/ body—the brain touching itself and attaching us to life,” she writes, and it’s a pleasure to be alongside the depth of her wonder as she traces overlapping textures of thought, feeling, care, and embodiment – the “unboundary of touch.” Kate cannot recommend this ecstatic and deeply affecting collection highly enough.
The Eighth Life
by Nino Haratischvili
 “The ghosts whispered hoarsely; no one heard anything. For years to come, the words would go on dissolving in people’s mouths.” 
Nino Haratischivili’s The Eighth Life is a grand and sprawling Georgian epic, spanning over a century of Georgian history. Beneath the engaging family saga -- of a secret (and possibly dangerous!) chocolate recipe passed down through generations -- lies the real strength of the novel, in its deftly illustrated history lessons, as the country is drawn into first the Russian civil war, then the brutalist Stalin regime (Stalin himself is Georgian, one of their “countrymen.”), the onset of WWII, on to the Prague Spring. This is a vivid, captivating, and sobering reminder of the intense destruction wrought by political totalitarianism and powerful men. Told almost exclusively through the women of the family, the grandiose novel is dizzying in scope, but precise in its psychological acuity. It is also extremely engrossing -- like a Georgian soap opera, or a great unfolding Russian novel. The natural comparison here is Tolstoy’s War and Peace , but I also found many commonalities with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet ( My Brilliant Friend, etc.). The characters are richly drawn and their personal storylines (inlaid with the historical events occurring) are compelling. Audie highly recommends this fascinating, captivating, and illuminating book.
by Elizabeth Rush
This powerful, elegiac collection of essays is a sobering call to arms as well as a thoughtful meditation on loss and our disappearing world. With a topic that is so often discussed in terms of graphs and statistics, Rush makes it real, and gives a face and a voice to the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us, particularly the coastal communities who are experiencing the detrimental effects of climate change right now. It is rare to find investigative journalism this intimate, compassionate and heartfelt, and scientific reportage this immersive and lyrical, but Rush pulls it off. This is an urgent, very important book, and possibly the best book on environmental justice and climate change I have read. Shane recommends! 
The Blind Owl
by Sadegh Hedayat
Written in 1937, this classic of Persian literature is a force to be reckoned with it. On the surface, it is a tale of obsessive and doomed love, but as the narrator begins his confessions to a shadow on the wall resembling an owl, the reader is thrown into a nightmarish world of existential dread, desire, despair, and insanity. 
A dazzling kaleidoscope of emotions and surreal, unsettling imagery, this modernist novella makes Edgar Allan Poe look like Mary Poppins. Shane recommends! 
Houseplants and Hot Sauce
by Sally Nixon
I didn’t expect to get weirdly emotional about a drawing of a bustling backyard birthday party for somebody’s dog, but here we are. Technically this came out back in 2017, so it’s not new, but if ever there were a moment for a vibrant and beautifully illustrated activity book for adults about somebody’s totally normal weekend, it might be our current one. The old school seek-and-find format combines with overflowing scenes (among them a plant shop, bookstore, art gallery, and taco stand, each filled with people crowded together like it’s nothing) to create a kind of doubled nostalgia that is way way more moving (and entertaining!) than it should be.
Kate loves & highly recommends.
by Sigrid Nunez
Here’s a fun fact: between 1934 and 1938, Leonard and Viriginia Woolf had a pet marmoset, Mitz. In this charming “unauthorized biography,” Sigrid Nunez novelizes those years, working in the vein of Flush , Virigina Woolf’s pet biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel. At first glance, Mitz is an easy read, a playful delight. It is a novel that bears the appearance of simplicity, a lighthearted story of this pet marmoset, whose (impressively researched) encounters with the Bloomsbury set are fascinating, enchanting, and often very funny. (In one of my favorite moments, T.S. Eliot comes to dinner. In Nunez’s words, “[Tom Eliot] was always polite to [Mitz] and did not even mind when she untied his shoelaces under the dining table.”) But don’t be fooled. Just like the most transcendent children’s literature, the novel -- though very easy and quick to read -- is immaculately layered with perceptive commentary about class and privilege during wartime, and interspersed with nuanced observations about love and the nature of relationships (particularly that of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, but also of the relations between Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell).  Mitz is smart and immaculately researched, providing welcome and unusual insights into the lives of the Bloomsbury Group in the years immediately prior to England’s entrance into WWII.  Audie highly recommends!
Birds of America
by Lorrie Moore
This is a book that makes me grateful to be alive. It's also a book that I gift to all of my friends (along with all my family members, acquaintances, and perfect strangers). All of these stories are funny, conversational, rich with compassion and warmth. Some favorites: "Which is More than I can Say About Some People," never fails to make me laugh and then cry, and "Dance in America" will split your heart right open. But really, every one of these stories is a gem.  Audie loves and highly recommends.
by Patricia Lockwood
This is a poet's memoir with the wit and forthrightness of Mary Karr's Lit, the lyricism and compression of Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City , and the structural inventiveness of Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.  Lockwood's father, a perpetually pantsless, electric-guitar-playing, 3rd Rock from the Sun-loving man, who is also a Catholic priest, is rendered in all of his hilarious, off-putting, complicated glory, as is her mother, who says things like, "Listen. Do you know how many kids are afraid of pooping out snakes? More than you'd think."  Even when Lockwood writes in anger, addressing the darker sides of her family and her childhood, including the complicated moral and sexual politics/abuses of the Church, she writes with love. NPR calls this book "shimmer[ing] with wonderful, obscene life," and it is, it really is.  Priestdaddy is honest and funny and seething -- and well worth your time.  Audie loves! 
Click below for details about each of our book clubs, and remember that there is no membership or sign up required to attend our meetings - just pick up your copy of the book in the shop, and come ready for friendly discussion!
While the shop is closed, check in with book club hosts about joining our book discussions via Zoom! Find their contact info below.
Latinx Book Club
The House of Impossible Beauties
by Joseph Cassara
The Latinx Book Club is a monthly event focused on Latinx literature. Join us in discovering and revisiting classic and contemporary voices who have shaped and paved the way for Latinx voices in the American literary landscape. Meets the first Monday of each month. For questions about this book club, email Ruben at
This month the Latinx Book Club will meet via video chat to discuss The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara on Monday, April 6th at 7pm on Zoom!
A gritty and gorgeous debut that follows a cast of gay and transgender club kids navigating the Harlem ball scene of the 1980s and '90s, inspired by the real House of Xtravaganza made famous by the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning.It's 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city's glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone.
As mother of the house, Angel recruits Venus, a whip-fast trans girl who dreams of finding a rich man to take care of her; Juanito, a quiet boy who loves fabrics and design; and Daniel, a butch queen who accidentally saves Venus's life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate sex work, addiction, and persistent abuse, leaning on each other as bulwarks against a world that resists them. All are ambitious, resilient, and determined to control their own fates, even as they hurtle toward devastating consequences.
Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit.
Fiction Book Club
The Museum of Unconditional Surrender
by Dubravka Ugresic
Fiction Book Club will meet monthly to discuss a wide array of literary fiction. With an eclectic mix of authors, themes, periods, and styles, this group will explore both classic and contemporary literature. Join us for friendly discussions on the second Tuesday of each month. For questions about this club, email Matt at .
The Fiction Book Club will meet via video chat to discuss The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugresic on Tuesday, April 14th at 7pm on Zoom!
The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, by the renowned Yugoslavian writer Dubravka Ugrešić, begins in the Berlin Zoo, with the contents of Roland the Walrus's stomach displayed beside his pool (Roland died in August, 1961). These objects--a cigarette lighter, lollipop sticks, a beer-bottle opener, etc.--like the fictional pieces of the novel itself, are seemingly random at first, but eventually coalesce, meaningfully and poetically.
Written in a variety of literary forms, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender captures the shattered world of a life in exile. Some chapters re-create the daily journal of the narrator's lonely and alienated mother, who shops at the improvised flea-markets in town and longs for her children; another is a dream-like narrative in which a circle of women friends are visited by an angel. There are reflections and accounts of the Holocaust and the Yugoslav Civil War; portraits of European artists; a recipe for Caraway Soup; a moving story of a romantic encounter the narrator has in Lisbon; descriptions of family photographs; memories of the small town in which Ugrešić was raised.
Addressing the themes of art and history, aging and loss, The Museum is a haunting and an extremely original novel. In the words of the Times Literary Supplement, "it is vivid in its denunciation of destructive forces and in its evocation of what is at stake."
Queer Book Club
by Danez Smith
A reading group focusing on literature through a queer lens, hosted monthly at Chicago’s premier bookstore for the LGBTQ community. Alternating between the “classics” of gay fiction and contemporary, historically underrepresented voices, we read to explore queer experience across literary genres and eras! Join us in friendly discussions on the last Tuesday of each month. For questions about this book club, email Matt at .
This month the Queer Book Club will meet via video chat to discuss Homie by Danez Smith on Tuesday, April 28th at 7pm on Zoom!
Danez Smith is our president. Homie is Danez Smith's magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith's close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family--blood and chosen--arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez's friends and for you and for yours.
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