Here are some books that have given me pause, blown my mind, or otherwise inspired the hell out of me in the last year or so:
What it lacks in plot it makes up for in killer prose. Imagine this: William S. Burrough’s creepy stepdaughter grows up to be a vampire punk who hops trains through Oregon while having one esp/drug-induced fever dream after the other, then writes a book about it. Curious?
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, by Aimee Bender
I found this while browsing in the “B” section of the fiction room at my local library. Short stories about reverse evolution and cement backpacks. Aimee Bender is definitely one of my literary heroes. If you like the weird, magical stories in my zines I Have a Song For You and Further Distractions, you should check her out.
1/3 1/3 1/3 (in Revenge of the Lawn), by Richard Brautigan
I could take or leave everything else that Richard Brautigan wrote, but this short story makes me cry my eyes out. Just find it and read it already.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver
I’m a big fan of Carver’s style–spare, delicate, to the point. But what really made me fall in love with his stories is his subject matter. He writes primarily about working class people from the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it’s depressing. And I wouldn’t exactly call him a feminist. But his stories have a subtle emotional power that I haven’t found in anyone else’s writing. “Why Don’t You Dance?” alone instantly made this one of my favorite short story collections.
Every time I read this graphic novel I’m sure that this will be the time I get to the last page without crying. Listen to me, people! I’m not a crier! Swallow Me Whole is on the shortlist for a reason. This book handles the complexity of mental illness with a kind of delicacy that creeps up on you in the final pages, settling into a tender spot you didn’t even know you had, then (if you’re anything like me) leaving you with a serious craving for some watered-down cranberry juice and a bowl of cereal. Super recommended.
No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July
Jesus. Do I even need to say it? Is there some way you don’t know about this book? “This Person” is by far my favorite, followed by “Something That Needs Nothing.” Miranda July is who I would be if I were eaten by a pod person from a cooler, artsier, more curlier-haired intergalactic dimension. Or maybe moving to Oakland and wearing more light pink would be enough to do the trick. Hmm…
The Beautifully Worthless, by Ali Liebegott
I usually don’t get into poetry, but Liebegott is an exception. She writes about moving boxes of pennies and paper clips across the country, Idaho, and crazy, directionless road trips. I believe this little gem is technically out of print, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.