Here are our picks from the most wonderful books we've read this year, from fairytale to fury, from comic to catastrophic, all waiting for you to turn the page. Amazon Affiliate codes are used where possible to help us make ends meet at the world's greatest neurozine

The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust

I’ve read many books about bitcoin and blockchain, and Kevin Werbach’s book is one of the best. If you want to understand why blockchain is important (and why it must be regulated if it is to succeed) read it. — Mark

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Good Guys

Good Guys is about the minimum-wage sorcerers who investigate magical crimes on behalf of a secret society. It's a brilliant setup for a tight, thrilling detective novel by way of an urban fantasy -- a genre author Steven Brust helped to invent. Fans of the Taltos novels will recognize all the customary Brustian elements here, but reconfigured in a way we haven't seen from him before -- and to excellent effect. New readers will get a tour of what makes Brust beloved by all the writers whose blurbs grace his cover, from me to John Scalzi to Neil Gaiman to Roger Zelazny. (previously) — Cory

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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Samin Nosrat's Netflix show is not to be missed, and neither is the book. I don't think of it so much as a cookbook, but a book about cooking. Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award, and multiple ICAP Cookbook Awards. — Xeni

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The Merry Spinster

Daniel Mallory Ortberg reanimates the grim souls of classic fairy tales—as enticing and repelling as they should be, yet rarely are in modern tellings. To read these mischievous stories is to realize with unease that we are all still children when we are afraid, or horrified, or weak. — Rob

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The Philosopher's Flight

Fantastic world building and wonderful characters in this alternate history where magic helped win the last few world wars. (previously) — Jason

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Book of the Utopian Erotic

Alphachanneling, an anonymous artist, has become something of a sensation on Instagram, regularly posting his brand of sexual art to more than 700,000 followers. The artist has dubbed his work Utopian Erotic, an idealized world of ecstatic, animist, sacred sexuality rendered in line drawings, colored pencil, and watercolor pieces reminiscent of Cocteau and Beardsley with influences from Islamic art, Swiss design, and BDSM culture. The Book of the Utopian Erotic is a handsome, soft-bound collection, with short essays by the artist explaining these sacred and profane inspirations. — 
Gareth



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A Treasury of Great Recipes By Mary and Vincent Price

Mary and Vincent Price's amazing A Treasury of Great Recipes remains my favorite go-to cookbook for events where guests are coming over. (previously) — Jason

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The Tremor of Forgery

Patricia Highsmith is best known for The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is in my top 20 favorite novels. I think The Tremor of Forgery might actually fit into my top 20 list as well. It takes place in a beach town in Tunisia in 1967, and focuses on a group of expatriate misfits. — Mark

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Noma Guide to Fermentation

Includes koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, vinegars, garums, lacto-ferments, and black fruits and vegetables. René Redzepi and David Zilber of Noma share never-before-revealed techniques to creating ferments, in a 2018 book specifically designed for home cooks. — Xeni

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Irontown Blues

Irontown Blues is the story of Christopher Bach (the somewhat estranged son of Joanna Bach, a heroic Luna City police officer who appears in many of author John Varley's stories, and who is now retired to farm transgenic pterodactyls to serve as pets), a private detective who lives in a semi-permanent LARP in which it is eternally the 1940s of Raymond Chandler. Bach's partner is Sherlock, a genetically engineered dog whose neural implants allow him to go places and do things that no baseline human or canine could accomplish. (previously) — Cory

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Help The Witch

Tom Cox was inspired, he writes, by Britain's native landscape, "saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices." His first collection of short stories draws on weird fiction and folklore, taking readers to the deep and distant corners where unsettling notions find purchase in the dark. It's witty and strangely comforting, a promised nightmare revealed as a dream upon close approach. — Rob

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Walkaway, Makers, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Someone Comes to Town, Eastern Standard Tribe, Rapture of the Nerds

This year saw the release of the paperback of Walkaway, along with reissues of my five other adult novels, all in matching covers designed by the incredible Will Stahle (and if ebooks are your thing, check out my fair-trade ebook store, where you can get all my audiobooks and ebooks sold on the same terms as physical editions, with no DRM and no license agreements!). (previously) — Cory

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Inhuman Resources

An outlandish suspense thriller from award winning French author Pierre Lemaitre, about a down-on-his luck middle-aged family man, who finds himself in desperate straits. — Mark

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Mycroft Holmes

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!) and Anna Waterhouse flesh out the early life of Sherlock's even more brilliant brother, a harrowing adventure taking him from the staid trellises of middle-class England to Trinidad. A compelling inversion of the ostentatiously clever Sherlock, Mycroft is the sort of man who would "rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right", founder of the Diogenes Club and ultimately the true cunning behind the British government. — Rob

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Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts.

Annie Duke dropped out of a PhD in cognitive psychology to become a professional poker player; now she runs a nonprofit devoted to improving decision quality by merging the practical cognitive tools of the world's greatest poker players with the leading edge of cognitive psychology, a method she describes in an excellent and charming book. (previously) — Cory

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Recomendo: 500 brief reviews of cool stuff

This book features 550 recommendations grouped by subject. These “best of” recommendations have been selected from the accumulated pool of 6 brief suggestions that Kevin Kelly, Claudia Dawson and I sent out each Sunday for the past two years in my free email newsletter called Recomendo. — Mark

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The Revised Boy Scout Manual

A lost William Burroughs manuscript concerning how to overthrow a corrupt government that has just been published in its entirety for the first time. (previously) — Cory

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FORTNITE official 2019 Wall Calendar

If there's a Fortnite fan on your list, or you are one, you know what you have to do. Includes avatars Rex, Cuddle Team Leader, Jonesy, Tomatohead, and Bunny Brawler, plus there's plenty of space to write in your plans for when you're not playing Fortnite. — Xeni

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Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana box-set

Contains a 400-page retrospective of the classic art of D&D, a reprint of the notoriously hard Tomb of Horrors module (designed by Gary Gygax to challenge the most overpowered characters), and frameable lithos. (previously) — Cory

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The Magic Machine: A Handbook of Computer Sorcery

A.K. Dewdney's 1990 BASIC programming book is long out-of-print, but is still valid and a great way to explore fractals and artificial life. I loved this book when it came out and just bought a replacement for my lost copy. Used copies are cheap on Amazon. Get it for a smart kid in your life. — Mark

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Bullshit Jobs

David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs. (previously) — Cory

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Blue Angel: A Novel

An English professor who should know better falls in love with one of his students and suffers the consequences in this splendid novel by Francine Prose. — Mark

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Liartown: the First Four Years

I laughed so fucking hard reading this book, and drove my wife nuts by making her look at page after page out of it (but then after I was done with it, I caught her reading it). Sean Tejaratchi's keen eye, outstanding design skills, and take-no-prisoners wit are a winning combination, and much-needed in this weird moment of the 21st century. (previously) — Cory

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#SAD: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump

As Garry Trudeau explains in his introduction: the point of satire isn't to change Trump supporters' minds by making them laugh at their racist god-emperor -- it's to afflict the comfortable (Trump can't stand being laughed at) and comfort the afflicted (laughing at Trump is a proven preventative for outrage-induced aneurysms). (previously) — Cory

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History vs Women: The Defiant Lives that They Don't Want You to Know

Women have always done the things that men do—rule nations, rebel against authority, extend the sciences and arts, lay waste to all before them—and a few things they can't. In this book, Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams reclaim twenty-five stories from the chronicles: a new look at powerful women from Mongolian wrestlers to British Prime Ministers. — Rob

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Woman World

Woman World started life as a webcomic created by Canadian cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal to explore the premise of a world where "men have gone extinct" and women have to "learn to talk again because they're not being interrupted" -- what could have been a one-panel joke turned into one of the most remarkable, funny, compassionate, ascerbic, hilarious comics of its day. (previously) — Cory

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Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History

Cybernetics came about in the late 1940s as a way to understand the technology of feedback systems as a form of near-life. Thomas Rid's book is a solid, highly readable history on the subject. — Mark

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Brand Spanking New Day

The election brought the return of the Meadow Party, much-loved from the Reagan/Bush I/Clinton years, as well an an effort to draft both Bill and Opus to front the Democratic and Republican presidential bids. The Boingers try to get booked to play the RNC. Opus gets a new, smart-tie. (previously) — Cory

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Just a French Guy Cooking

If you’ve ever seen his eminently watchable YouTube videos, you already know how informative, charming, and disarming Alexis Gabriel Aïnouz can be. The engineer-turned-chef mixes his love of science and technology with endless curiosity and good humor about the world and a real passion for simple but refined cooking. In his first cookbook, Alex captures his inimitable online spirit and includes recipes for basic and comfort foods (omelets, salads, pancakes, pizza, and soup), kitchen tips and hacks, and thoughts on life, cooking, and food. — Gareth

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The Prince and the Dressmaker

Jen Wang's wrenching and beautiful story about gender identity, passion, friendship, selling out, keeping your integrity, and the surprisingly capacious limits of parental love. (previously) — Cory

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Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.

Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Jeff Tweedy is best known for his work with the band Wilco. In this wonderful 2018 memoir, he opens up about his past, his songs, the music, and the people that have inspired him along the way. — Xeni

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All's Faire in Middle School

Imogene is the homeschooled kid of two Renaissance Faire actors, and now that she's 11, she's graduating from working in her mom's Shoppe to helping her knight/dad out as his squire. As if that wasn't enough, she's also starting middle school, and, for the first time, she'll be around kids her own age all day, instead of her bratty brother and his stupid stuffed squirrel toy. Victoria Jamieson's story of how Imogene navigates the hard social realities of middle school friendship, the delight of being her best imagined self at Faire, and the class, race, and gender realities is told with all the delicacy and humor of Roller Girl. Imogene is at times the bully and at times the bullied, and her friendships are complicated, messy and ambivalent. (previously) — Cory

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Infinite Wonder

Commander Scott Kelly lived a year in the isolating, grueling, and unforgiving vacuum of space. Kelly's photos prove that space is unspeakably beautiful. This 2018 book is a passionate argument for the preservation of our planet in the face of climate change and environmental destruction. — Xeni

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All Rights Reserved

In Gregory Scott Katsoulis's world, the super-rich have legitimized their wealth and power -- and the indentured slavery of nearly everyone else -- by claiming ownership over every expressive word that can be spoken and gesture that can be made. From the age of 15, every citizen must wear an arm-cuff (which can't be removed) that monitors all speech and gestures, from your own name to a kiss or a hug -- and bills you according to a floating market for all forms of expression, complete with surge pricing. (previously) — Cory

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Beastie Boys Book

Beastie Boys began as an NYC hardcore punk band in 1981, and became global hip hop superstars. The official book, released in late 2018, tells their story for the first time in the words of members ADROCK and Mike D, with contributions from Amy Poehler, Colson Whitehead, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, Luc Sante, and more. — Xeni

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The Complete Elfquest

Earlier this year, the story of wolfrider chief Cutter came to an end after 40 years in the telling. This book's the best place to get started on a sprawling tale of feral elves, industrious trolls and other curiously inverted fantasy tropes, but Vol. 5 is the latest from publisher Dark Horse, a nearly 800-page monster exploring the life 'n' times of Cutter's daughter and successor, Ember. — Rob

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Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths

By Graham Annable. Peter & Ernesto have a good life: the two sloths sit in their Amazon treetop and make up songs about the animal shapes they see in the clouds. But one day, Ernesto gets it into his head to see the whole sky, from every place on Earth, and sets out through the jungle. For all that Peter and Ernesto are great friends, they're not all that alike: Ernesto's thirst for adventure is matched by Peter's insistence on staying in his tree, with all the other sloths. Despite that, they are very close friends indeed, and when Ernesto sets off, Peter is heartbroken -- so much so that he follows his friend into the wilds that terrify him. (previously) — Cory

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The Never Ending Story

Who will be eaten first? I'd put on my sales voice and say, "those who have not read Michael Ende's classic story starring a very good friend of mine who somehow got embroiled in normie events," but we all know that it's going to be you. Anyway, the book's pretty good, Ende jazzes up the history nicely. — Falcor

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