Let’s skip right over Halloween and head straight to the giving season. Shopping is not one of my favorite activities, and I usually end up procrastinating and doing it all at the last minute. Thankfully, I recently discovered a store that is the antidote for holiday shopping stress: a Japanese boutique called Kinokuniya.

With four Texas locations (in Katy, Austin, Plano, and Carrollton), this bookstore and gift shop has a peaceful, whimsical vibe. Wandering the crowded but orderly aisles, I especially enjoyed the limitless stationery choices: dotted journals, textured paper, handcrafted cards, and an array of pens and pencils. Kinokuniya also sells books in English and Japanese, from the novels of Haruki Murakami to the latest manga hits. And with a curated gift selection that includes quirky games, plant kits, and household items such as colorful grocery totes, this is a good place to find something for the hardest-to-please person on your list. All shoppers get their temperature checked at the door, and other coronavirus precautions are observed.

Kathia Ramirez, art assistant

Levitation Sessions

Around this time of year, the droning sounds of psychedelia should be reverberating across the Capital City as Levitation, Austin’s annual psych festival, takes place. In-person concerts may be on pause for now, but the fest’s latest project, Levitation Sessions, beams chill and trippy tunes straight into your home. The virtual performance series began this past summer in an effort to support bands and keep the music going. 

Austin-based band Holy Wave kicked off the sessions back in July at Mosaic Sound Collective with a kaleidoscopic visual-soaked set. Eclectic psych-rock band and festival favorite Osees recorded their set before a hazy Californian desert backdrop in September. Streaming tickets are just a few bucks, and the most proceeds go directly to the artists. Vinyl records, T-shirts, and other items are available to purchase as well. The primary goal of this new venture, according to festival organizers, is “to be a platform where the art and music we love can thrive.” Next up is Windhand on November 14.

 —Gianni Zorrilla, editorial intern

“Gambling Man”

Sometimes, the only way to forget about the current moment is to immerse yourself in a good story. Fat Tony’s sprawling album Exotica does just that by taking listeners into the lives of everyday strugglers and strivers. The first track, “What Wake You Up” featuring Bun B, outlines what an assortment of characters endure just to get through the day, setting the tone for the next eight songs.

In the standout “Gambling Man,” the Houston rapper tells the story of Johnny, a man who, despite his losing streak, can’t give up his vice. The music video follows Johnny through a day of lottery tickets, casino games, and, ultimately, disappointments, interspersed with clips of Fat Tony and Mariachi Luz de Luna, who create the backdrop of nostalgic synths that flourish the track. For a brief escape from your own everyday ennui, give it a listen.

—Arielle Avila, editorial coordinator

Unspeakable Acts

The true crime moment continues, but we’re entering a new wave. Unspeakable Acts, an anthology edited by Sarah Weinman, features true crime stories that center victims, explore issues of poverty and inequality, and generally think critically about the “‘true crime industrial complex,’ which turns crime and murder into entertainment for the masses.”

If this book is any indication, Texas writers are well represented in this next iteration of the boom. In the anthology, Pamela Colloff, who worked at this magazine for two decades, and whom Weinman describes as “among the great nonfiction crime writers of the twenty-first century,” tells the story of the long shadow caused by the 1966 UT Tower shooting; Marfa-based writer Rachel Monroe examines not just a con, but the trope of the con man and his place in our culture; and Melissa del Bosque, who has covered the U.S.-Mexico border for two decades, writes of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a seemingly limitless agency that “operates with wide discretion” to man checkpoints along the border and well within the interior.

Of course, non-Texans join this Lone Star lineup, and the result is a complete work that forces readers to rethink what the purpose of a crime story can be.

Taylor Prewitt, social media editor