This book shook me to my core. Each chapter rarely extends longer than 1 page and explores a different facet of an abusive queer relationship through the lens of a different literary trope (stoner comedy, noir, déjà vu, etc.). As in her critically acclaimed book of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties, Machado's strength lies in her ability to create suspense and horror out of domestic life, Although this is a work of non-fiction, it reads like a thriller. -Ruth, Burlington
Ruth is a recent college graduate from Massachusetts who moved to Vermont in 2020 on a whim and still can't quite believe she gets to live in this beautiful place. Her greatest accomplishment is that she has listened to the full audiobook of David Sedaris's diaries, Theft by Finding, seven times. She keeps at least 3 collections of poetry by her bedside at all times. She is also a writer herself, and has competed in multiple poetry slams. When she isn't reading books, looking at books, or thinking about books, she is eating cookie dough and planning her next road trip. Her favorite genres are poetry, essays, memoir, short story, sociology, and literary fiction. Ruth loves getting asked for book recommendations!
"I had learned about the male gaze in women’s studies classes, but knew no way to dig it out of me," writes Febos. This books is for feminists who are looking back at their own girlhoods and wondering when and why they began to see their body through others' eyes, where along the way their voices got smaller and their "no"s became diluted or disappeared altogether. This was a book I didn't know I needed until I found it. -Ruth, Burlington
In this collection of luminous short essays, Eula Biss mines the minutiae of everyday life to understand her precarious relationship with wealth. Much like Maggie Nelson, Biss embraces contradiction and is unafraid to draw from a wide array of fields-- art, philosophy, history, and economics, to name a few. This might just be my favorite non-fiction book of the year.
A new Didion collection? Yes, please. From the Monica Lewinsky scandal (a genuinely fresh take) to a fierce defense of Hemmingway's posthumously published novel (he didn't consent to it's publication!), to thoughtful musings on the life of a writer, these essays are a master-class in great writing.
This novel follows Adam, a self-doubting stoner poet on scholarship in Madrid. He is equal parts riotously funny and frustratingly unmotivated. Coincidentally, these are all descriptions that apply to me, which might be why this is one of my favorite books of all time. Or maybe it's because it's gorgeously written? Either way, read it.
Mary Gaitskill is the QUEEN of character description. Her sentences snap with wit and specificity, and every page or two you'll hit a line that captures the human condition so precisely... its magic. Here's one: “At times she had thought that this was the only kind of connection you could have with people—intense, inexplicable and ultimately incomplete.”
These stories are not for the faint of heart--some are graphically sexual in a way that Gaitskill has become famous for--but she handles even the most intimate encounters masterfully, and they always have a purpose. The best way to read this collection is cover to cover; you won't want to skip a single story. If you like Ottessa Moshfegh, you'll love Gaitskill!
If you're looking for a gritty, sexy book to get lost in, Sweetbitter is for you. The main character, Tess. moves to New York City at 21 and gets hired at an upscale restaurant where she is quickly swept up in the chaotic, seductive world of its staff. If you've ever worked in the restaurant business, you'll appreciate Danler's spot-on descriptions of restaurant hierarchies and kitchen drama. And her descriptions of food are just... *chef's kiss*.
This book transformed, enraged, devastated, and comforted me as a 22-year-old on the cusp of the millennial generation (born 1998). Petersen's methodical dissection of the economic and cultural odds stacked against this generation is intensely researched and entirely accessible. I especially enjoyed the way she broke down how historical trends, like the decline of labor unions and the rise of temp work, brought us to the economic position we're in today. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks millennials are lazy or entitled, and of course to millennials themselves. It really changed my view of the world.
This intricately woven novel is written in the form of an immigrant boy's letter to his illiterate mother. It touches on themes of war, PTSD, race, immigration, queerness, and the violence of American masculinity. I believe the greatness of this book can only be fully understood by sampling some of its best passages, so here's one:
“You once told me that the human eye is god's loneliest creation. How so much of the world passes through the pupil and still it holds nothing. The eye, alone in its socket, doesn't even know there's another one, just like it, an inch away, just as hungry, as empty.”
Ocean Vuong is a poet first, and it shows. This is the best novel I read in 2019. If you love his writing, check out his collection of poetry, "Night Sky With Exit Wounds."
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Paige Lewis's poems are always doing a thousand things at once: reveling in the wonders of the natural world, calling attention to the strangeness of our contemporary condition, capturing the anxiety that underlies all of our lives, making us giggle at clever puns. One of her lines is "I have never written the word 'doom,' but nothing else fits," and it has always haunted me, especially in our pandemic-world. Another stanza I love: "I'm almost positive I've got what it takes to be a saint/ because I've stopped breaking what I can't afford,/ and if I look up for long enough, everyone looks up." Oh, and fun fact: when Paige Lewis got married to her partner, Kaveh Akbar, they had a poetry-themed wedding. Okay, I'm done gushing. Now buy the book!