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10 books worth buying at the annual Barnes & Noble Book Haul sale

From epic fantasies to heists

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A collage image featuring covers of titles in this piece Graphic: Pete Volk/Polygon | Image Sources: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Boom! Studios
Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

It’s that age-old book lover’s conundrum — do I finish a book from my tall to-read stack, or do I buy a new one? I usually end up falling for the latter (so many books, so little time), but it can be hard to choose. Barnes & Noble’s annual Book Haul sale makes that choice a little easier by letting you take home even more. From now through Sept. 5, dozens of best-selling hardcover books are 50% off in-store and online.

To help narrow your selection, here are 10 books we think are worth adding to your shelf, or that hefty to-read stack. Why live vicariously through TikTokers and YouTubers sharing their Book Hauls when you can join them?

The cover for Moon Witch, Spider King, which has an illustrated weaving together a face with creatures and foliage. It is against a hot pink backdrop. Image: Penguin Random House

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Marlon James’ acclaimed follow-up to Black Leopard, Red Wolf (the first in the Dark Star trilogy) puts the focus on Sogolon the Moon Witch. The first book focused on the Tracker, along with Sogolon, his adversary, as they attempted to find a missing boy across a mythical landscape. But this sequel focuses on her version of the tale, highlighting the power of this 177-year-old witch while unraveling her life story — from her childhood as an orphan to her ascendance to Moon Witch. We cannot wait for the third installment of James’ impressive, sprawling trilogy.

The cover for Fevered Star, which centers a face with illustrated golden light piercing out around it. Image: Simon & Schuster

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

This recently published sequel to Roanhorse’s critically acclaimed Black Sun (the first in the Between Earth and Sky series) picks up where the previous book left off. The Crow God’s eclipse has ruined the city of Tova, and Serapio has somehow survived — a fate he never imagined. Favorite characters return: Sea captain Xiala navigates rough waters, and Naranpa, now powerless, must find a way a way forward. Fevered Star deepens the world-building and geopolitical strife of this epic fantasy series, setting the stage for what comes next.

The cover for Portrait of a Thief, which shows the portrait of an Asian, with a blue wash, and bright orange reflective sunglasses. Image: Penguin Random House

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

In this contemporary heist, a group of friends attempts to pull off the impossible: returning priceless paintings to Beijing, their place of origin. The group includes Daniel Liang, the pre-med student (who’s also an ace at lock-picking); Lily Wu, the Fast and Furious-esque driver; Alex Huang, the ex-MIT Silicon Valley hacker; and Irene Chen, the con artist. Portrait of a Thief marries the fun of an Ocean’s 8-style heist with an examination of the Chinese-American diaspora and a serious, valid critique of the way museums are inextricably intertwined with colonialism. This crew is doing it for a $50 million prize — but also, because they feel it’s right. Will they pull it off?

The cover for A Marvellous Light which features the backdrop/shadow of two men, looking at one another, in orange. This is against a background that looks like vintage British wallpaper. Image: Macmillan

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

A Marvellous Light is a perfectly cozy, fantastical (and quite horny) read that mixes gay Edwardian romance with a heavy dose of magic. Robin, an ordinary man who lives in London, gets thrown into a bureaucratic loop when he’s chosen to liaise between the magical and non-magical worlds. He and Edwin, his grumpy, only slightly magical counterpart, get pulled into a conspiracy full of action and adventure. Marske’s own website has a list of “AO3-style tags” to give you an ever better picture. My favorites include: “spiteful librarian/genial jock,” “homicidal hedge maze,” and “bound by sexy magical restraints.”

The cover for Light from Uncommon Stars, which depicts a koi fish swimming to a sky of stars. Image: Macmillan

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

If you love Becky Chambers (who doesn’t adore a queer found family?) and are a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, then Light From Uncommon Stars is for you. Katrina Nguyen, a trans woman who is a skilled violinist, runs away from home. She encounters Shizuka Satomi, a violinist who has struck a deal with the devil, and who must recruit seven other prodigies to sell their souls. Shizuka only has one left to recruit — and Katrina fits the bill. The book also follows the story of Lan Tran, a retired starship captain who runs a donut shop in California’s San Gabriel Valley. Unforgettable and heartbreaking, Light From Uncommon Stars is a must read.

The cover for Goliath showing big block text in front of a few profile images of a Black woman Image: Tor/Macmillan

Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi

One of our favorite SFF books of 2022, Goliath is set in the 2050s, at a point where white flight to space colonies has left BIPOC people to survive on a broken, climate-crisis-stricken Earth. But some of these colonists are coming back — and beginning to gentrify the very same planet they fled from. Sadie Gennis, who recommended the book, wrote:

A nonlinear series of vignettes, Goliath switches between several characters’ perspectives, but the main focus is on a group of stackers, a Black and brown crew of workers who scrape by salvaging bricks from demolished buildings to send to the colonies. With no hope of circumstances improving, they’ve long ago come to accept that grief will be the primary constant in their inevitably short lives — if the cancerous air doesn’t kill them, the automated drone police will. But while so much of their lives are defined by pain, the stackers keep moving forward, searching for meaning and fleeting moments of joy in a world designed to destroy them.

The cover for The Memory Librarian showing Janelle Monáe with a futuristic looking building as a backdrop Image: HarperCollins

The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

If you’ve kept up with Janelle Monáe’s discography, or watched the Dirty Computer “emotion picture” — starring Jane 57821, the android determined to break free — then you know they have a mind for the future. This series of short stories is a celebration of queer Afrofuturism, springing out of Monáe’s own explorations of totalitarianism and survival. The collection features celebrated Black women and Black nonbinary authors like Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Sheree Renée Thomas.

The cover for All of Us Villains show has an illustrated bottom half of a face and two hands forming a triangle pose, all in blood red color. Image: Macmillan

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

This young adult dark fantasy has drawn a lot of comparisons — fans have called it a fantasy Hunger Games or Battle Royale. This action thriller also reminded me of the bloody magical tournaments in V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light. On the Blood Moon, seven families must each select a champion to send to fight to the death. The winner will avail their family with high magick — they, exclusively, may wield it. All of Us Villains tracks the story of four competitors. The Lowe family has emerged victorious countless times in the past — who will win now?

The cover for Dune: House of Atreides Vol. 3, which shows a large illustration of a young white man’s face, with half of the face filled in with illustrations of ships flying through a dark sky. Image: BOOM! Studios

Dune: House Atreides Vol. 3 by Kevin J. Anderson, illustrated by Dev Pramanik

This is the third, and final, volume of the graphic novel adaptation of Dune: House Atreides, the prequel to Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic. This story traces Leto’s path to becoming Duke of House Atreides, along with the backstory for Duncan Idaho, the fighter with the iconic name. Beautiful artwork brings this story to life on the page.

The cover for Manga Storyboard Sketchbook, which has a manga-style face as the backdrop, along with examples of what the illustrative interior cells look like. Image: Union Square & Co.

Manga Storyboard Sketchbook by Union Square & Co.

Not just a book to read, but one to fill out! This is a great choice for manga artists or aspiring manga artists. It has instruction and advice, along with 112 pages of storyboarded grids that make for easy-to-fill-in cells, and space for ideas and notes, along with 60 single-sided pages with drawing frames. This sketchbook lays flat and is made from acid-free, medium-weight paper with a smooth vellum finish — so that sketches will last — that has perforated edges, so you can tote those finished pieces wherever you need.