Fall is here, and it’s the perfect season to curl up with a great thriller. Even more perfect if that thriller is written with a deep literary sensibility and an eagle eye on world events.

Such a book is Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. Set in the seemingly idyllic environs of New Zealand, it is a tragic story of how idealism can be too easily coopted.

Birnam Wood is an agricultural collective of idealistic young activists who engage in light trespassing to plant crops on private property that is going unused. In the spirit of many radical movements of the 21st century, they are excruciatingly democratic and leaderless, at least in theory. All decisions are made by consensus, and the consensus rules. When we first meet the group, the dynamic is being shaken by the return of former member Tony, an aspiring journalist who left years ago after an awkward sexual encounter with Mira, one of the group’s de facto leaders. Tony storms out of a fiery meeting in which he berates the group for what he sees as their naivete and dogged insistence on intersectionalism.

On the opposite end of the social and political spectrum are the Darvishes, a social-climbing couple who have finagled their way into a position of nobility, sporting the unearned titles “Lord” and “Lady.” Their lack of sophistication makes them easy prey for enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine, who offers to buy the Darvish’s property, ostensibly to build a survival bunker, but whose real intentions are far more sinister.

Mira is scouting for a gardening location on the Darvish’s property when she runs into Lemoine, who escorts her off the property, but not before offering to fund Birnam Woods’ projects. At Mira’s insistence, the group reluctantly agrees to take the money, but seeds of discord have been sown. Meanwhile Tony is digging into Lemoine and the Darvishes’ business dealings in the hopes of writing an expose that will bring them down and bring him fame and fortune as a journalist.

What follows is a tangled story of greed, paranoia, sexual politics, and deceit at the highest levels. Ironically, Catton’s writing has been called Austen-esque, and indeed she has a sharp ear for smart, bantering dialog and is a keen observer of the divisive nature of class and political leanings. If Jane Austen went dark and murderous, this would be her book. The tension in the narrative is a slow simmer that escalates to a screeching boil in the last few pages. Birnam Wood is an intelligently rendered page-turner, as relevant as today’s headlines.


October 1-7 is Banned Books Week. (I’m sorry we still have to keep talking about banned books, but here we are.) Ohio is pretty far down the list of states experiencing challenges to books. (Texas and Florida top that list, each with multiple outright bans.) However, challenges are happening in our state. We need to stay alert and aware and ready to defend school and public libraries fighting to maintain access to books for everyone. According to PEN America, the following titles were the most banned books in the 2022-2023 school year, in order of number of bans nationwide. As you can see, many of these books deal with difficult topics, topics which need to be discussed, and which will not go away by banning books about them.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Kobabe’s graphic memoir is a brave account of the struggle to become the person ey were born to be. It’s an eye-opener about the complexities of being nonbinary.

Flamer by Mike Curato

Middle-schooler Aiden struggles with his identity and with fitting in at summer camp in this poignant graphic novel.

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

This coming-of-age novel follows the lives of five troubled teens who fall into prostitution in their search for freedom and autonomy.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s dystopian classic still stands up as a cautionary tale against patriarchal theocracy.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Written in verse, this novel is the grueling story of a young girl’s descent into addiction.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

This National Book Award finalist is the story of Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old who is unwitting sold into the sex slave trade in India.

Push by Sapphire

Precious Jones, a pregnant sixteen-year-old from an abusive family, finds redemption with the help of an empathetic teacher.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

The second installment in Maas’ Court of Thorns and Roses series continues the story of Feyre, a woman who has endured unspeakable hardships and has been granted special powers.

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

Using clear, breezy language, Juno Dawson gives us a nuts-and-bolts primer on all things LGBTQ+. Informative and entertaining, It’s the perfect read for people of all ages coming to terms with their identity.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Morrison’s debut novel won a well-deserved Pulitzer. It’s an uncompromising look at the damages wrought by racism and colorism.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Kaur’s poetry collection has become a publishing and social media phenomenon. Her work addresses themes of violence, loss, abuse, and survival.


Coming in November -

How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney

Anyone who read Elaine Feeney’s revelatory debut novel, As You Were, knows her to be a writer with a keen insight into the human condition and a wry sense of humor. This sophomore novel delivers on the promise so beautifully laid down by the first. Thirteen-year-old Jamie is struggling with the loss of his mother, bullying by his schoolmates, and the normal throes of adolescence. Though Feeney never uses the word autistic, her sharp yet sensitive descriptions of Jamie’s reactions to the world around him suggest a teen with a distinctive response to his surroundings. He embarks on the goal of creating a perpetual motion machine in an attempt to reconnect with his mother. The endeavor morphs into the building of a boat, which he achieves with the help of an empathetic shop teacher. This quest has the effect of pulling the community of lonely adults in Jamie’s life together, united in their desire to help a troubled teen and to find connection in their own lives.


On Community by Casey Plett

This eighth installment in Biblioasis’ Field Notes series is novelist Plett’s first foray into a book-length essay. Plett has a unique set of lenses with which to view community. Her experiences as a trans woman, a Mennonite, and a Canadian writer inform her views. She avoids the sunny, sweeping generalizations espoused by other writers on the subject. Instead, she looks deeply into the complexities of not just beneficial communities such as those that formed during the height of Covid, but the toxic ones such as the radical-right truck caravan that protested across Canada. She explores communities on all scales, from the huge ones formed on social media to the tiny one in her own communal household, and cautions against the monolithic view engendered by labels such as “the black community” or “the trans community.” On Community is a thoughtful, thought-provoking essay that could serve as the starting point for many a meaningful discussion.


Poem of the month - 

Yeats Claimed a Pome Should Come Together

with a click like a box shutting its lid, yet

given what’s for sale in the battlefield Vegas


giftshop, would it be better to choose

the shotgun shells glued together to form a cross


or the pink hoodie with the word LOVE spelled out

using a Glock, a hand grenade, a switch blade,


& the long dark shape of an AR-15 in order

to suggest something closing?

                    ~Matt Donovan


For further reading - 

Click here to read PEN America's full report on the most recent book bans in the United States.

Click here to read about the recent rise of book ban in libraries.

Click here to read C.E. McGill's thoughts on the complicated link between queerness and horror.


Birnam Wood: A Novel By Eleanor Catton Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780374110338
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 7th, 2023

Gender Queer: A Memoir By Maia Kobabe Cover Image
ISBN: 9781549304002
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Oni Press - May 28th, 2019

Flamer By Mike Curato, Mike Curato (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Mike Curato, Mike Curato (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250756145
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks - September 1st, 2020

Tricks By Ellen Hopkins Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481498241
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - January 24th, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel By Margaret Atwood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385490818
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - March 16th, 1998

Crank (The Crank Trilogy) By Ellen Hopkins Cover Image
ISBN: 9781442471818
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - August 6th, 2013

Sold (National Book Award Finalist) By Patricia McCormick Cover Image
ISBN: 9780786851720
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - April 1st, 2008

Push (Revised) (Vintage Contemporaries) By Sapphire, Sapphire Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593314609
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 22nd, 2021

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) By Sarah J. Maas Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635575583
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - June 2nd, 2020

This Book Is Gay By Juno Dawson, David Levithan (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Juno Dawson, David Levithan (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781728254326
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Sourcebooks Fire - September 7th, 2021

The Bluest Eye (Vintage International) By Toni Morrison Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307278449
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - May 8th, 2007

Milk and Honey By Rupi Kaur Cover Image
ISBN: 9781449474256
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Andrews McMeel Publishing - October 6th, 2015

How to Build a Boat By Elaine Feeney Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771965859
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Biblioasis - November 7th, 2023

On Community (Field Notes #9) By Casey Plett Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771965774
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Biblioasis - November 7th, 2023