Ghost Music by An Yu is a wistful and thought-provoking book. Song Yan is living an unremarkable, simple life in Beijing as a piano teacher with her husband and mother-in-law, when boxes of mushrooms are suddenly being sent to their apartment every week from an unknown sender. The truths she discovers as a result sets her routine and everything she knows to be reality ablaze. This book urges us to reflect on who we are outside of our family, relationships, and career…outside of ourselves and our routines. I also love the jacket cover art–it’s quite whimsical!
What a magnificent novel. The Guest Lecture is succinct in its execution, wise and generous in its intellectual offerings, creative and a little experimental but never belligerent. If you're ever to summon an English economist into the rooms of your conscience, let it be John Maynard Keynes, and may your guide be as good as Abby, Martin Riker's heroic/anxious protagonist. High entertainment and a hell of a lot of fun. I'm going to read it again before too long.
I've read everything this guy has ever published, and after 25 years since his first (and best) collection, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, he's still coaxing the dark out of us and showing that people are neither bad nor good: they're both. This collection contains classic George Saunders—the story "Ghoul" is set in a hell-themed amusement park—as well as new, subversive modes of storytelling. If you haven't read him, literally anywhere, right now, is a great place to start.
Katherine Dunn's is a voice that only comes along once in a lifetime.
Toad is bone dry with moments of unexpected tenderness that will knock you sideways.
Some call Osamu Dazai the Japanese Thomas Bernhard—a masterful writer of estranged narrators, the relentlessly dour, and timeless cruelties. Originally published in 1948, and translated into English by Donald Keene in 1958, this extraordinary book recently found new life on TikTok, where it's introduced thousands of young readers to literature in translation.
A novel I return to when I can't read anything else. This unabashedly funny debut chronicles the post-academic life of writer Peter Cunningham. Martin’s characters are all sharp and easy to love, despite their errors. They drink too much, lay out their ambitions, overanalyze, pursue destructive relationships, and mine the dreadful ends of experience for something to poke and laugh about. There's even a love triangle. A brilliant book that names the unnameable gloom of being unsure and writing in the 21st century.
Always kooky but never clownish, One's Company is the most impossible of things: a zany novel about trauma.
Dermansky is one of the few writers for whom I’ll drop whatever I’m holding wherever I am because her books are always worth risking a broken toe.
This is classic Dermansky: acerbic, immersive, and the kind of fun that makes you question your moral compass a smidgen. Which, let’s face it, is the best kind of fun.
Hurricane Girl left me as concussed as the protagonist and there’s really no higher praise.
Something about the deadpan confidence of Haber's work has the power to convince me that imaginary paintings are real, conjured writers have walked the Earth, and the sky is purple and filled with green clouds. We're all gullible neophytes before Mark Haber's breathless novels. Saint Sebastian's Abyss is one of the first of its kind by an American writer, a sleek novel about Renaissance art, rivalry between friends and devotees, and the meaning of the obsessions that orbit our careers. There's not a single sentence in this book that isn't ecstatic.
Mieko Kawakami has the talent to quietly devastate through her poetic narratives, bringing a uniquely female voice to contemporary Japanese literature. While I read this in one sitting, I kept having to take little breaks to sigh and swell, taking in all the beautiful minute details of Fuyuko Irie's lonely freelance life, and the sparse moments of companionship she finds with the kind but mysterious physics teacher she met under strange circumstances.