Okay, so I was asked by my dear lone reader to provide a book list of recommendations. As I tend to get a little carried away with book lists (and by a little I mean ridiculously). I thought that I should instead keep the list to 10 really excellent reads from the last five years. That should be simple enough, I thought to myself (not very brightly). So, here is my attempt:
1.) Apex Hides the Hurt By: Colson Whitehead. This is the first book that I read by Whitehead (after reading an essay he wrote for the New York Times and getting freakishly intrigued by his writing style). This is one of the rare books that has made me both laugh out loud (I refuse, absolutely refuse, to use “LOL”) as well as make me get a little choked up at the end.
2.) Ghosts and Lightning By: Trevor Byrne. I picked this book up on a bit of a lark (basically I always pick up books by new Irish authors) and quickly fell in love with it. Byrne manages to be simultaneously haunting, a little scary in a slow building sense of creepiness way, and hysterically funny. I didn’t want this book to end.
3.)Once the Shore By: Paul Yoon. Paul Yoon makes me want to stop writing. He uses language so beautifully and so effectively that it makes me furious that I can’t do it a tenth as well. It also makes me want to read his stories until the end of time…
4.) Brodeck By: Phillipe Claudel. Did I completely understand this novel? No. But, this darkly fable-istic story is beautiful and startling and exquisite. Only read if you are willing to sob uncontrollably (yes, even ol’ heartless me was caught out by the imagery and emotion). It’s also a book that stays with you. I read it well over a year ago and I still find myself running through this book and stopping, sadly quite literally, in my tracks to consider something that I may have missed in my initial reading.
5.) Ray of the Star By: Laird Hunt. I read something else by Hunt and I thought ‘meh’. But this novel is so good that it makes me want to cry. Check out the run-on sentences that are phenomenally perfect and you’ll see why. Also, the shoes. The shoes! Just trust me. They are one of the best concepts ever.
6.) Tokyo Cancelled By: Rana Dasgupta. So, it’s basically Canterbury Tales at an airport. I have a fondness for frame story novels, it’s true. But, I still expect the stories to be kick-ass and Dasgupta delivers. There’s even one piece that is downright glorious: “The Rendezvous at Istanbul.”
7.) The Ministry of Special Cases By: Nathan Englander. Nathan Englander is a god! If, lone reader hasn’t read “The Twenty Seventh Man” then lone reader simply must run out and do so because it is one of the ten best short stories ever frakkin’ written! And this novel, while not quite the perfection of that short story, is still lovely and wonderful and amazing.Truly, Englander could walk up to me and slap me in the face and I would still say something along the lines of: “I love you! Sign my book!”
8.) In the Woods By: Tana French. Bad mysteries are like being forced to eat bitter melon soup (a torture too heinous to ponder for very long) but good mysteries make me insanely gleeful (yes, I have a bizarre fixation with mysteries. Seriously, I am devoted to BBC Mystery! It is my…My precious! [Okay, yeah, a lot of things are my “precious”. I am like Gollum’s totally less picky cousin—Cnc0eagol, but…] In fact, I will go ahead and recommend French’s entire mystery series so far.
9.) Kraken By: China Mieville. Mieville does to Urban fantasy what Proust does for writing about memory and Shakespeare did for whatever he was writing about.. He makes it sing. I think Mieville deserves to be in his own genre—The genre of AWESOME.
10.) The Wizard of the Crow By: Ngugi wa Thiong’O. This book is Thiong’o’s masterpiece. And trust me when I say that that is saying a lot.
Okay, so ten books was not nearly enough. Damn me and my need to give myself limits! There is not enough space in the world for all of the recent books that I wish to write not so poetically about. But can I just say: Neil Gaiman, Nadeem Aslam, Daniel Alarcon, Paul Guest, Kate Atkinson, Patrick Somerville,Alejandro Zambra, Jesse Ball, Ander Monson, Anthony Doerr, Kevin Brockemier (oh my gods I forgot Kevin Brockemier), Kelly Link, and now I am really going to stop myself, but—