This is our second installment of What We’re Reading. We hope that some of these recommendations encourage you to try something you haven’t read before or pick up an old fav.
It goes without saying that we’ve each also read about a whole book’s worth of submissions in addition to these little numbers.
I didn’t even notice it until I was writing these but my books take on one common theme: fatherhood. I’m always interested in writing and reading about familial relationships. I find them more interesting and complex than romance. With Father’s Day around the corner as well as my constant angst about growing up, I guess I was subconsciously compelled to read some books that reflect on the bonds of paternity.
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
I read LaVelle’s novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, earlier this year. It won all kinds of prizes and is recommended to anyone who is a Lovecraft fan. I’m not, so I missed out on a lot of the references. Even though I wasn’t exactly in on the joke I still enjoyed LaValle’s writing.
The Changeling seems more up my alley. It’s a dark fantasy where a man, Apollo, goes on a quest to find his missing wife and newborn son. In this piece LaValle takes on fatherhood, family, and fantasy. Yes, yes, and yes. LaValle’s work feels both ambitious and important in today’s world— he’s taking on all the traditions of old school fantasy and horror while calling out the genres for their whitewashed BS.
A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
I read this novel because my sister bought me a ticket to go see Frederick Backman speak at our local library. He was gigantically tall, brilliant, stoic, and hilarious — you know, a Swede. The night before, I finished Ove, his debut novel, with tears and snot running down my face, book in one hand, cat clutched in the other.
The titular Ove is your classic curmudgeon whose life and routine are shook up by the arrival of new neighbors and an ugly cat annoyance. By the end of the novel the whole neighborhood has changed for the better. Sure, it’s a little predictable, but that didn’t stop my river of tears. Recommended if you like old men, Pixar’s Up, cats, or strong coffee.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
This is George Saunders’ first novel and people lost their minds over it. It won The Man Booker, all of my favorite authors said really nice things about it, and it was impossible to get a copy from my library. I recently caved and just bought it since the paperback is out now.
For those of you that don’t know: Lincoln in the Bardo is about Willie, President Lincoln’s son, who gets ill and passes away. The novel takes place in a purgatory called the bardo and is told through over 100 different voices. It’s hard to describe a book that is so experimental. I say just read it for yourself.
I can recap everything I’ve been reading this month in one word: comedy. Comedy writing is what really turned me on to books — and writing in general — when I was younger. I devoured Christopher Moore’s entire collection when I was in college, often reading Vonnegut at the same time. This month, I’ve returned to that base with two Moore books that I’ve reading for the first time and one of my favorite Vonnegut stories (with Pratchett thrown in for good measure).
Noir and Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
I feel like I know the lay out of San Francisco from solely reading Christopher Moore novels. With his wonderful cast of characters (The Emperor is my fav) and witty quips, reading Moore is an all around good time. Then, out of nowhere, the feels hit home, which is why I was so happy to pick up Secondhand Souls, the sequel to A Dirty Job.
His newest novel, Noir, combines gum-shoe detective dialogue, 1940s San Fran, and sci-fi, making it an absolutely blast to read. I truly hope this isn’t the last I see of these characters.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
A classic. If you’re a sci-fi lover, humor lover, or just want to look at the world in a different way, I highly recommend this book. As Vonnegut works go, we all know the usual: Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. Why The Sirens of Titan doesn’t get as much love is beyond me.
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
If you tuned in for last month’s ‘What We’re Reading’ post, you might remember that I was reading Men at Arms. Well, I’ve finished off all of the Watch books and now have gone over to Mr. Moist von Lipwig who has been tasked to reopen the city’s post office.
You might see a pattern here. I’m attempting to read all of Pratchett’s books (in no particular order). I haven’t decided where to go next. So, if you have any recommendations, I’m all ears, though I have read many already!
It feels fair to say I’ve become pretty well acquainted with the trends in speculative fiction. That being said, it’s always good to take a step back from the cutting-edge of the contemporary, and revisit established works. More often than not, hindsight yields insight, as well as reprieve.
The Moon Men (Book Two of The Moon Series) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I found this slim little volume in a box labeled ‘Free’, so I gave it a chance. For being the middle of a three-part tale, The Moon Men stands alone perfectly, a rare feat.
The narrative centers on Julian 9th, a young man living in a dystopian Chicago that was conquered by the invaders from the moon nearly a century ago. Throughout the novel, Julian 9th learns to overcome the social bondage he and his family have suffered their entire lives by means of revolution.
Sure, it’s a bit kitschy and antiquated, but even antiquated kitsch can possess charm and value.
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
A contemporary murder mystery with the sunshine and laid-back attitude ofthe Florida Keys — Carl Hiassen’s detective novel, featuring the upstanding, if detrimentally impulsive Detective Yancy, is equal parts craft, intrigue, and outright absurdity. Imagine, if you will, the guys from Monty Python spending a month in Key West, living on beer, “good vibes”, and seafood, then writing a murder mystery. This is that book, except better.
I have Josh and Andie to thank for introducing me to Bad Monkey. The cast of characters is huge, yet completely varied, as well as succinctly fleshed out, free of lofty waxing and waning. The imagery and detail are minimally, but colloquially rendered. The narrative is expertly plotted, not a single beat out of place. And Hiaasen’s keen sense of wit and comedic timing are firing on all cylinders.
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde
Every bit as biting and brilliant today as ever before, Oscar Wilde is immortalized in this collected volume of his life’s work.
Ever since high school, I’ve been returning to this collection. Few careers have covered and conquered as much ground as Wilde. Most readers of horror and fantasy know all about The Picture of Dorian Gray, while anyone who’s ever cared about theater and play writing has read The Importance of Being Ernest.
Let us know in the comments what books you’re reading this month!