A Cappella's 30

None of these 30 books existed—with one notable exception—when we first filled the shelves of our original Little 5 Points location. That makes it imprecise to say that these are the 30 books that define who we have always been. But through the decades, these titles found their way into our shop. We read them, shared them with our customers, and got to know their authors (again, there’s one notable exception). The end result is a roadmap for the incredible journey of these last 30 years.

In many ways, we would not be the same bookstore if it weren’t for these 30 books and their authors. Some of them have been so vital to our existence that we literally might not still be here without them. Books help people define themselves, and those definitions change over time. And really, what is a bookstore but the books and the people who buy and sell them? Each one of these 30 books in some way has changed us, expanded our minds and informed our evolution, as readers, as booksellers, as people.

Everybody has different reading tastes, so you might not love every book on this list like we do. We are confident, though, that in every one of them that you read, you will recognize the clear intellect, passion, and imagination that inhabits them all. And, as you read them, we think you’ll agree that they all have, with apologies to Barton Fink, “that A Cappella feeling.”

We're marking the occasion of our 30th Anniversary with lists of 30 essential reads--books that have defined us as a store and 30 picks from each of our booksellers. Click on the link at the top of each list to purchase titles from our selections. If you can't find one of our picks in stock, contact us.

A Cappella's 30!

A Cappella's 30!

 A Cappella's 30 Picks

1. Carol Anderson - White Rage
2. Joseph Crespino - Atticus Finch: The Biography
3. Bob Dylan - Chronicles, Volume One
4. Robert Gordon - Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul of Music’s Home Town
5. Melissa Fay Greene - The Temple Bombing
6. Lauren Groff - Fates & Furies
7. Jessica Handler - Invisible Sisters
8. Paul Hemphill - The Nashville Sound
9. Tayari Jones - An American Marriage
10. Hank Klibanoff and Gene Roberts - The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation
11. Chang-Rae Lee - The Surrendered
12. John Lewis with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell - March Trilogy
13. Rachel Maddow - Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
14. James McBride - The Good Lord Bird
15. Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
16. Elizabeth McKenzie - The Portable Veblen
17. Thomas Mullen - The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
18. Celeste Ng - Everything I Never Told You
19. Hannah Palmer - Flight Path
20. Gary Pomerantz - Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn
21. George Saunders - Civilwarland in Bad Decline
22. David Sedaris - Barrel Fever
23. Robin Sloan - Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
24. Patti Smith - Just Kids
25. Zadie Smith - White Teeth
26. Bryan Stevenson - Just Mercy
27. Jesmyn Ward - Salvage the Bones
28. Susan Rebecca White - A Place at the Table
29. Colson Whitehead - The Underground Railroad
30. Kevin Young - For the Confederate Dead

Frank Reiss

Frank Reiss

Owner

Frank's A Cappella's 30 Picks

Frank’s 30 favorites from 1989 - present that didn’t make the A Cappella 30.

1. Mary Beard — SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
2. Wendell Berry — What Are People For?
3. Howard Bryant — The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
4. Thomas Cahill — Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
5. Michael Chabon — Wonder Boys
6. Mike Davis — City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
7. Joan Didion — The Year of Magical Thinking
8. Anthony Doerr — Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World
9. Harry Dolan — Bad Things Happen
10. Katherine Dunn — Geek Love
11. Jonathan Franzen — The Corrections
12. Peter Guralnick — Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley /Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley
13. Tommy Hays — The Pleasure Was Mine
14. Denis Johnson — Jesus’ Son
15. Laura Kipnis — Against Love: A Polemic
16. Chuck Klosterman — But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past
17. James Howard Kunstler — The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape
18. Elizabeth McCracken — Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry?
19. Candice Millard — Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
20. Nami Mun — Miles from Nowhere
21. Flannery O’Connor — A Prayer Journal
22. Chris Offutt — Country Dark
23. Philip Roth — American Pastoral
24. Arundhati Roy — The God of Small Things
25. Hampton Sides — Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History
26. Whitney Terrell — The King of Kings County
27. Jeffrey Toobin — American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
28. Calvin Trillin — About Alice
29. Gore Vidal — United States: Essays 1952–1992
30. Sarah Vowell — Assassination Vacation

 

frank@acappellabooks.com

Chris Fanning

Chris Fanning

Manager

Chris Fanning's A Cappella's 30 Picks

These are 30 books that have either altered or explained Chris Fanning’s worldview, and stuck with him more than most.

1. Malcolm X and Alex Haley — The Autobiography of Malcolm X
2. Robert Lane Greene — You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity
3. Bob Dylan — Tarantula
4. Jessica Mitford — The American Way of Death Revisited
5. Mark Twain — A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
6. Salman Rushdie — Midnight’s Children
7. Kate Sweeney — American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning
8. Jane Jacobs — The Death and Life of Great American Cities
9. Charles Portis — The Dog of the South
10. Colum McCann — TransAtlantic
11. David L. Hough — Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well
12. Howard Zinn — A People’s History of the United States
13. N. Frank Daniels — Futureproof: A Novel
14. James Robertson – The Testament of Gideon Mack
15. T.S. Eliot — Waste Land, Prufrock, Poems
16. Mark Stein — How the States Got Their Shapes
17. Cornel West — The Cornel West Reader
18. Lynd Ward — Gods’ Man: A Novel in Woodcuts
19. The Oxford English Dictionary
20. Simon Garfield — On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks
21. Leigh Gallagher — The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving
22. Chang-rae Lee — The Surrendered
23. Sir Walter Scott — Ivanhoe
24. Rick Steves — Travel as a Political Act
25. George Orwell — Nineteen Eighty-Four
26. Oscar Wilde — The Picture of Dorian Gray
27. John Steinbeck — The Grapes of Wrath
28. Edward Bernays — Propaganda
29. Chinua Achebe— Things Fall Apart
30. David Sedaris — Me Talk Pretty One Day

 

chris@acappellabooks.com

Chris Buxbaum

Chris Buxbaum

Events Specialist

Chris Buxbaum's A Cappella's 30 Picks

It was unbelievably hard to nail down 30 titles. I read new books constantly, but you will notice that most of these were written in the last century. Like music, it’s the stuff that gets you while you’re young and open to suggestion that marks you. These are some of the ones that left scars. The ones that will be with me forever.

1. Jack Kerouac — On the Road
2. Jack Kerouac — The Dharma Bums
3. William S. Burroughs — Naked Lunch
4. William S. Burroughs — Junky
5. Lawrence Ferlinghetti — Pictures of the Gone World
6. Diane di Prima — Memoirs of a Beatnik
7. George Orwell — Nineteen Eighty-Four
8. Aldous Huxley — Brave New World
9. Anthony Burgess — A Clockwork Orange
10. J.G. Ballard — Crash
11. Ottessa Moshfegh — My Year of Rest and Relaxation
12. Patti Smith — Seventh Heaven
13. Sam Shepard — Motel Chronicles
14. Charles Bukowski — Tales of Ordinary Madness
15. Michael Ondaatje — Coming Through Slaughter
16. Charles Mingus — Beneath the Underdog
17. Malcolm X and Alex Haley — The Autobiography of Malcolm X
18. Ali Smith — Hotel World
19. Jeanette Winterson — Written on the Body
20. Denis Johnson — Jesus’ Son
21. Georges Bataille — Story of the Eye
22. Alasdair Gray — 1982, Janine
23. Martin Amis — London Fields
24. Haruki Murakami — The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
25. Ernest Hemingway — A Moveable Feast
26. Ernest Hemingway — The Garden of Eden
27. Henry Miller — Tropic of Cancer
28. D.M. Thomas — The Flute Player
29. Hunter S. Thompson — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
30. Colum McCann — Let the Great World Spin

 

Emmy Carmichael

Emmy Carmichael

Bookseller & Newsletter Editor

 

Emmy's A Cappella's 30 Picks

This is a booklover’s eclectic list; simply put, these pages brought Emmy much enjoyment, along with a huge helping of knowledge.

1. Ian McEwan — Atonement
2. John Carreyrou — Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
3. Zora Neale Hurston — Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”
4. Jan Morris — Battleship Yamato: Of War, Beauty and Irony
5. Ann Patchett — Bel Canto
6. Maira Kalman and Barbara Scott-Goodman — Cake: A Cookbook
7. André Aciman — Call Me by Your Name
8. J.K. Rowling — The Casual Vacancy
9. Giles Milton — Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
10. Simon Schama — Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
11. Lauren Groff — Florida
12. John Galsworthy — The Forsyte Saga
13. Frank Stitt — Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill
14. Frederic Dannen — Hit Men: Powerbrokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business
15. Sally Field — In Pieces
16. Tana French — In the Woods: A Novel
17. Richard Ford — Independence Day
18. Peter Carey — True History of the Kelly Gang
19. Anthony Bourdain — Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
20. David Sedaris — Me Talk Pretty One Day
21. Robert Caro — The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent
22. Pete Souza — Obama: An Intimate Portrait
23. Ford Madox Ford — Parade’s End
24. Robert Caro — The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
25. Donna Tartt — The Secret History
26. Tena Clark — Southern Discomfort
27. Caleb Johnson — Treeborne: A Novel
28. David McCullough — Truman
29. Walter Kirn — Up in the Air
30. Mary Beard — Women & Power: A Manifesto

 

Glen Thrasher

Glen Thrasher

Bookseller Emeritus

Glen's A Cappella's 30 Picks

A Cappella’s Bookseller Emeritus and master listmaker’s 30 favorite books from the last 30 years.

1. Paul Auster — The Music of Chance
2. Mike Davis — City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles
3. Alexander Theroux — The Primary Colors: Three Essays
4. Nicholson Baker — The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber
5. Don DeLillo — Underworld
6. Jon Krakauer — Into Thin Air
7. Arundhati Roy — The God of Small Things
8. José Saramago — Blindness
9. John Fahey — How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life: Stories
10. Percival Everett — Erasure: A Novel
11. Martin Amis — Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million
12. John Ross — Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left
13. Dave Eggers — What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng
14. Dan Berger — Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity
15. Cormac McCarthy — The Sunset Limited
16. Chris Hedges — American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
17. Dave Zirin — A People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play
18. Elijah Wald — How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music
19. Michelle Alexander — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
20. Keith Richards — Life
21. Patti Smith — Just Kids
22. David Lodge — A Man of Parts: A Novel
23. Stephen King — 11/22/63
24. Kevin Young — The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness
25. Dina Hampton — Little Red: Three Passionate Lives Through the Sixties and Beyond
26. Mohsin Hamid — How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel
27. Jane Mayer — Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
28. China Miéville — October: The Story of the Russian Revolution
29. Michael Eric Dyson — What Truth Sounds Like
30. Jill Lepore: These Truths: A History of the United States

 

thrasherglen@yahoo.com

Onyew Kim

Onyew Kim

Bookseller

Onyew's A Cappella's 30 Picks

The books in this list are more or less Onyew’s favorites since she started working at A Cappella Books four years ago.

1. Hanif Abdurraqib — They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us
2. Hanif Abdurraqib — Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest
3. André Aciman — Call Me by Your Name
4. Carol Anderson — White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
5. Elif Batuman — The Idiot
6. Ray Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
7. Molly Brodak — Bandit: A Daughter’s Memoir
8. Chen Chen — When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities
9. Sandra Cisneros — The House on Mango Street
10. Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, Dean Rader, and Colum McCann — Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence
11. Ta-Nehisi Coates — Between the World and Me
12. Simone de Beauvoir — A Very Easy Death
13. Katherine Dunn — Geek Love
14. Marguerite Duras — The Lover
15. Yaa Gyasi — Homegoing
16. Mohsin Hamid — Exit West
17. Edward Hirsch — Gabriel: A Poem
18. John Hodgman — Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches
19. David Henry Hwang — M. Butterfly
20. Samantha Irby — We Are Never Meetingin Real Life: Essays
21. Suki Kim — Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite
22. Viet Thanh Nguyen — The Sympathizer
23. Viet Thanh Nguyen — The Refugees
24. Claudia Rankine — Citizen: An American Lyric
25. Marjane Satrapi — Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
26. Natasha Tretheway — Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
27. Ocean Vuong — Night Sky with Exit Wounds
28. Ocean Vuong — On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
29. Jeannette Walls — The Glass Castle
30. Hanya Yanagihara — A Little Life

 

Samantha Allen

Samantha Allen

Bookseller

Samantha's A Cappella's 30 Picks

Samantha chose books she returns to often, books she would recommend, books special because they remind her of the giver or of the times in which she read them, but the main thread is each of these 30 books made her want to be a writer.

1. Marilynne Robinson — Housekeeping
2. Louise Erdrich — The Round House
3. Jesmyn Ward — Salvage the Bones
4. Joan Didion — Slouching Toward Bethlehem
5. Rudolfo Anaya — Bless Me, Ultima
6. Anthony Marra — A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
7. Megan Abbott — Dare Me
8. Donna Tartt — The Little Friend
9. Toni Morrison — Song of Solomon
10. Cheryl Strayed — Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
11. Jo Ann Beard — The Boys of My Youth
12. Elizabeth Strout — My Name is Lucy Barton
13. Elizabeth McCracken — The Giant’s House
14. Larry McMurtry — The Last Picture Show
15. Daphne du Maurier — Rebecca
16. Daniel Woodrell — Winter’s Bone
17. Tana French — Faithful Place
18. Everyman’s Library Pocket Poetry Series — Poems of the American South
19. Jhumpa Lahiri — Interpreter of Maladies
20. Kent Haruf — Plainsong
21. Sandra Cisneros — Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
22. Claire Vaye Watkins — Battleborn
23. Kazuo Ishiguro — Never Let Me Go
24. Elena Ferrante — The Neapolitan Novels
25. Anne Tyler — Breathing Lessons
26. Amy Greene — Bloodroot
27. Ann Packer — The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
28. Alice Munro — Open Secrets
29. Tim O’Brien — The Things They Carried
30. Flannery O’Connor — The Complete Stories

 

Laura Keys

Laura Keys

Bookseller

Laura's A Cappella's 30 Picks

I am a true biblioholic and will read almost anything, but what I love most is a good mystery. People who trivialize mysteries as genre fiction don’t know what they’re missing! This list of 30 mysteries that I’ve read over the last 30 years took me to five continents, sixteen countries, cities, small towns, jungles and deserts, different cultures, systems of belief, professions, and political environments—all while I was sitting in my cozy chair with my cup of tea. And, as a bonus, gave me good writing to enjoy and a challenging puzzle to solve.

1. Lou Berney — November Road
2. Elly Griffiths — The Chalk Pit
3. E.J. Copperman — The Question of the Felonious Friend
4. Spencer Quinn — Scents and Sensibility
5. Malcolm Mackay — The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter
6. Jason Goodwin — The Janissary Tree
7. Peter May — The Blackhouse
8. Zoë Ferraris — Finding Nouf
9. Inger Ash Wolfe — The Taken
10. Kwei Quartey — Wife of the Gods: A Novel
11. Martin Walker — Bruno, Chief of Police
12. Ann Cleeves — Raven Black
13. Benjamin Black — Christine Falls
14. James Church — A Corpse in the Koryo
15. Arnaldur Indriðason — Jar City
16. Colin Cotterill — The Coroner’s Lunch
17. Luiz Alfredo Garcia Roza — The Silenceof the Rain
18. Julia Spencer-Fleming — In the Bleak Midwinter
19. Karin Slaughter — Blindsighted
20. Qiu Xiaolong — Death of a Red Heroine
21. William Kent Krueger — Iron Lake
22. Eliot Pattison — Skull Mantra
23. Steve Hamilton — A Cold Day in Paradise
24. Lisa See — Flower Net
25. Margaret Frazer — The Novice’s Tale
26. John Straley — The Curious Eat Themselves
27. J. Robert Janes — Carnival
28. Joe R. Lansdale — Savage Season
29. John Harvey — Cutting Edge
30. Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö — Roseanna

 

Matt Nixon

Matt Nixon

Bookseller  

Matt's A Cappella's 30 Picks

The leader of A Cappella’s most popular book clubs lists 30 (or so) very good books from the last 30+ years he wants to make sure you know about, just in case you don’t and might be interested:

1. Hanya Yanagihara — The People in the Trees
2. Michel Faber — Under the Skin and The Book of Strange New Things
3. Donald Ray Pollock — The Devil All the Time and The Heavenly Table
4. Lyndsay Faye — The Timothy Wilde Trilogy
5. Alexandra Kleeman — You, Too, Can Have a Body Like Mine
6. Jesse Ball — Silence Once Begun
7. Sandra Newman — The Country of Ice Cream Star
8. Anna Freeman — The Fair Fight
9. Paul Tremblay — A Head Full of Ghosts
10. Claire Fuller — Our Endless Numbered Days
11. Andrea Kleine — Calf
12. Tim Murphy — Christadora
13. Ling Ma — Severance
14. Lionel Shriver — We Need to Talk About Kevin
15. Négar Djavadi — Disoriental
16. Franck Thilliez — Syndrome E
17. Carson McCullers — The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
18. Neil Postman — Amusing Ourselves to Death
19. Carl Wilson — Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste
20. Andi Zeisler — We Were Feminists Once
21. Eve Babitz — Eve’s Hollywood
22. Peter Biskind — My Lunches with Orson
23. Karina Longworth — Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
24. Rick Perlstein — Before the Storm and The Invisible Bridge
25. Will Hermes —Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever
26. Bob Mehr — Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements
27. Terry Pluto — Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association
28. Pope Brock — Charlatan
29. Mikal Gilmore — Shot in the Heart
30. Jill Lepore — The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death

 

Ariane McCullough

Ariane McCullough

Bookseller

For much of her youth, Ari's favorite book would have been one of a few dictionaries; when she was twelve, she would write a new story every day using ten newly discovered words (this exercise was her father's assignment, but she made it her own). Due to a profound turn of events involving a 100th anniversary edition of W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk and the first day of high school, Ari became engrossed in the questions, concepts, and works of 20th century philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon, and later, of more foundational modern figures as Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx. At present, she is a fan of short stories (especially of a speculative nature), European philosophy (particularly in the lineage of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud), and essays of artistic and cultural criticism; some of her favorite writers include Walter Benjamin, Jorge Luis Borges, Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze, and Thomas Ligotti. After years of searching the bookshelves at A Cappella, one can now find Ari behind the counter, working diligently so as not to become overwhelmed by the unfathomable infinity of words she hasn't been able to read yet.

Irene Ruby

Irene Ruby

Bookseller & Photographer

Irene's A Cappella's 30 Picks

Irene’s uncurated list of books that she still thinks about,however long ago she read them.

1. Zora Neale Hurston — Their Eyes Were Watching God
2. Ursula K. Le Guin — The Left Hand of Darkness
3. Alice Walker — Meridian
4. Flannery O’Connor — A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
5. Octavia E. Butler — Parable of the Sower
6. Joan Didion — Slouching Towards Bethlehem
7. Ludwig Wittgenstein — Blue and Brown Books
8. Knut Hamsun — Hunger
9. Aldous Huxley — Brave New World
10. Cornel West — Race Matters
11. Ray Bradbury — The Illustrated Man
12. Margaret Atwood — Oryx and Crake
13. Jack Dann — Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction
14. Kurt Vonnegut — Cat’s Cradle
15. Nato Thompson — Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Twenty-first Century
16. Claudia Rankine — Citizen: An American Lyric
17. Jim Dodge — Stone Junction
18. James Baldwin — The Fire Next Time
19. Leslie Feinberg — Stone Butch Blues
20. Pablo Helguera — Education for Socially Engaged Art
21. Maggie Nelson — The Argonauts
22. Mark Z. Danielewski — House of Leaves
23. Clarice Lispector — The Complete Stories
24. Robert Creeley — For Love
25. Katharine S. White — Onward and Upward in the Garden
26. bell hooks — All About Love: New Visions
27. David Foster Wallace — Infinite Jest
28. Italo Calvino — If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
29. Jamaica Kincaid — A Small Place
30. Philip Roth — Goodbye, Columbus