Booksmart: Carmichael’s top 5 staffpicks

1) The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (non-fiction) — Prepare to be bewildered by the amazing capabilities of your brain. Dr. Doidge provides a detailed history of the science of neurology and shows us how the theory of neuroplasticity prevailed among even the staunchest of skeptics. —Pritchet Miller

2) Smaller Majority by Piotr Naskrecki (non-fiction) — Finally, the little guy gets its/his/her due. This celebration of biodiversity features captivating writing and a focus on invertebrates, frogs and lizards that would make E.O. Wilson proud. Exquisite photographs. —Jessica Howington

3) Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee (fiction) — One part essay, two parts fiction working individually and together fueling one another ever forward to take on the sadness, wisdom and hypocrisies of growing old and of the world at large. —Jason Brown

4) The Learners by Chip Kidd (fiction) — A whip-crack smart and funny satire of early ’60s post-art-school life, the office world and iffy trends in psychology. A worthy descendant of J.D. Salinger and John Kennedy Toole. Kidd’s earlier “The Cheese Monkeys” stars the same main character and is swell as well. —Jonathan Hawpe

5) The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson (fiction) — In this Southern novel, Laurel begins seeing the ghost of their neighbor who drowned in their pool. She’ll enlist her family to help solve the mystery. Gripping from start to finish. —Miranda Boggs