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25 Books to Read Before You Die: 21st Century

This playlist from Powell's includes novels, poetry, short stories, and nonfiction that speak to central concerns of 21st-century life: among them, race, heredity, identity, war, and the vanishing wild.

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The Blazing World

A Novel

By Siri Hustvedt
Narrated by: Patricia Rodriguez & Eric Meyers
Length: 14 hours 45 minutes

Named one of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of the Year ** Publishers Weekly’s Best Fiction Books of 2014 ** NPR Best Books of 2014 ** Kirkus Reviews Best Literary Fiction Books of 2014 ** Washington Post Top 50 Fiction Books of 2014 ** Boston Globe’s Best Fiction of 2014 ** The Telegraph’s Best Fiction to Read 2014 ** St.... Read more »

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The Book of Strange New Things

A Novel

By Michel Faber
Narrated by: Josh Cohen
Length: 19 hours 25 minutes

A monumental, genre-defying novel that David Mitchell calls "Michel Faber’s second masterpiece," The Book of Strange New Things is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter... Read more »

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Cloud Atlas

A Novel

By David Mitchell
Narrated by: Various
Length: 19 hours 50 minutes

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific... Read more »

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Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching

A Young Black Man's Education

By Mychal Denzel Smith
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
Length: 5 hours 52 minutes

How do you learn to be a black man in America? For young black men today, it means coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means witnessing the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, and too many more. It means celebrating powerful moments of black self-determination for LeBron James, Dave Chappelle,... Read more »

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The Lost City of Z

A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

By David Grann
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
Length: 10 hours 3 minutes

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling... Read more »

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Citizen

An American Lyric

By Claudia Rankine
Narrated by: Allyson Johnson
Length: 1 hours 37 minutes

Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the... Read more »

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Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition)

A Story of Justice and Redemption

By Bryan Stevenson
Narrated by: Bryan Stevenson
Length: 11 hours 10 minutes

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING MICHAEL B. JORDAN AND JAMIE FOXX • A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

“[Bryan Stevenson’s] dedication to fighting for justice...
Read more »

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Far From the Tree

Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

By Andrew Solomon
Narrated by: Andrew Solomon
Length: 40 hours 36 minutes

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Books for a Better Life Award, and one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2012, this masterpiece by the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon features stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound... Read more »

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

A Novel

By Susanna Clarke
Narrated by: Simon Prebble
Length: 32 hours 25 minutes

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England-until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician... Read more »

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Lincoln in the Bardo

A Novel

By George Saunders
Narrated by: George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Various, Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Kirby Heyborne, Keegan-Michael Key, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Susan Sarandon & Ben Stiller
Length: 7 hours 24 minutes

Lincoln in the Bardo

“Saunders' first novel has a steep entry curve. It's not a novel that reveals itself quickly and easily, but if you give it your attention, if you burrow deep into the book, you'll be eminently rewarded. There is a richness and depth of humanity here. There is the strange and wonderful. There is love and grief and mystery all brought together in the story of Abraham Lincoln's dead son, the Civil War, and what may happen to us all after we leave the mortal coil. It's a beautiful and moving book that will stay with you for a long, long while.”

University Book Store image Jason Vanhee, University Book Store
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Oryx and Crake

The MaddAddam Trilogy: Book #1

By Margaret Atwood
Narrated by: Campbell Scott
Length: 10 hours 29 minutes

A stunning and provocative new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize

Margaret Atwood’s new novel is so utterly compelling, so prescient, so relevant, so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true, that readers may find their view of the world forever changed after reading it.

This is Margaret... Read more »

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A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson
Narrated by: Richard Matthews
Length: 18 hours 16 minutes

One of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to... Read more »

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War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

By Chris Hedges
Narrated by: Chris Hedges
Length: 6 hours 27 minutes

As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans. Hedges, who is also a former divinity student, has seen war at its worst and knows too well... Read more »

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Wolf Hall

A Novel
Wolf Hall Trilogy: Book #1

By Hilary Mantel
Narrated by: Simon Slater
Length: 22 hours 59 minutes

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years,... Read more »

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The Omnivore's Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

By Michael Pollan
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 15 hours 53 minutes

One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award

Author of #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules


What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening... Read more »

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The Yiddish Policemen's Union

A Novel

By Michael Chabon
Narrated by: Peter Riegert
Length: 12 hours 37 minutes

From the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize winner Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay comes an equally dazzling, original, and imaginative work of fiction.

For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descen-dants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and... Read more »

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The Echo Maker

By Richard Powers
Narrated by: Bernadette Dunne
Length: 20 hours 3 minutes

On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven year old Mark Schluter flips his truck in a near fatal accident. His older sister, Karin, returns to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when he emerges from a coma, Mark believes that this woman is really an impostor who looks just like his sister. Shattered, Karin contacts... Read more »

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