"The Empathy Exams," by Leslie Jamison, $15

"The Empathy Exams," by Leslie Jamison, $15

Getting punched in the face by a stranger. Observing runners stagger through an extreme wilderness run called The Barkley Marathons. Working as a medical actor. It's not just Leslie Jamison's experiences that make this book worthy of reading - her writing is graceful and innovative. A knockout collection of essays.


"Andre the Giant: Life and Legend," by Box Brown, $17.99

A sensitively drawn graphic novel about the life of Andre the Giant. Ridiculously charming, entertaining, well-researched and poignant, Box Brown's book is infused with respect for Andre, as both myth and human.


"[insert] boy," by Danez Smith, $14

Danez Smith's poem "On Grace" begins with this line: "You know how when Usain Bolt runs/ & you want to cry it's so beautiful? That." Throughout "[insert] boy," Smith excels at dropping big beauty, wisdom and humor onto his reader (immediately search for his poem "alternate names for black boys" if you haven't read his work before).


"Eerie Dearies: 26 Ways to Miss School," by Rebecca Chaperon, $30

A picture book with loveliness and bite. In "Eerie Dearies: 26 Ways to Miss School," Artist Rebecca Chaperon presents an illustrated alphabet of creepy excuses for absence. R is for Revenge, for instance, and pictures a pallid gal in a school uniform brandishing a sword. The illustrations are ghostly yet adorable (Tim Burton meets Wes Anderson).


"Limber," by Angela Pelster, $15.95

This is a book to read slowly, to savor. Philosophical and curious, Angela Pelster's "Limber" is a collection of short essays about trees. Pelster creates stories tinted with folklore and biology. "A tree is not a metaphor," she says in my favorite essay of the collection. "A tree is a tree, and we are both only one strong wind away from falling."