Chosen by Rachel
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is the most fun you’ll ever have reading about the alienation of contemporary culture. Set in a much weirder version of our world of aggressive marketing, chemically created food, talk show freak shows, and reality TV, you’ll go back and forth between thinking, “this is so weird!” and thinking, “but is it really any weirder than the way we live now?” Simultaneously creepy, hilarious, and mindblowingly brilliant, this book may be the weirdest, wildest, best thing you’ll ever read.
Chosen by Jason
This is an incredibly impressive debut novel which takes place during the Chechen conflict of the 1990s. In a landscape where war has layered upon war upon war, Marra beautifully illustrates the stratification of trauma in the lives of his characters. Both lyrical and harrowing, it is one of the best novels I have ever read.
Chosen by Alex
This 2012 book, galvanized by the Occupy movement, looks at the abstraction of life under finance capital and analyzes this in relation to the slippage between sign and referent that occurs in poetry. Unlike finance, which alienates people and subjects language itself to an increasingly mechanized role in society, poetry “reactivates the social body” and makes possible new forms of relationality outside of those prescribed by capital. Funny, weird and sweet, you could easily knock this out in a single sitting. See the 2018 sequel of sorts, Breathing, for a more freewheeling elaboration of the book’s ideas.
Chosen by Ben
Ferris has created the Sistine Chapel of notebook doodles and it is queer, horror-themed, and set in 60’s Chicago. Protagonist Karen Reyes senses her otherness—the book opens with her recurring nightmare, an angry mob outside her window as she painfully turns into a werewolf in her room. In her waking life, she keeps the hairy fanged presentation as her own, a disguise that is true to her. When a neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances, Karen adds a trench coat and aims to solve what the cops deem a suicide. What she discovers becomes a haunting story within Karen’s coming-of-age story. While this could very easily be a book of both fine and horror art to love, it is also an immersive and rich work of fiction, every character presenting multiple intersecting truths.
While I of course want more in the form of a second volume, I invite those with impatient feelings to sit with how much Ferris has done here, that to rush this kind of labor is the best way to kill it, and mention that it is My Favorite Thing to reread this Monster.
Chosen by Christian
Sally Jones is the mechanic on a steam boat and when her best friend, the captain, is wrongly accused of murder, she dedicates herself to proving his innocence. She also happens to be an Ape, which complicates things. A magical adventure and mystery that travels from Lisbon to India and finds Sally becoming friends with a Fado singer, an accordian repairman, and a Raja. An outsider’s journey full of danger, joy, and the ingenuity and love of one remarkable ape.
Chosen by Eddy
I’ve met Stephen Florida. I didn’t like him. At all. He’s violent, spiteful, and constantly slouching into depravity. He’s the most disturbed character I’ve read since American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Only, Stephen is entirely believable, and if you’ve ever cared about anything, ever obsessed over a goal at all, you’ll find yourself identifying with him. Cheering him on. Gabe Habash explores dangerous and frightening obsession in his masterwork of storytelling, form, and voice. Read Stephen Florida slowly. Read it twice. It’s quite likely the best book I’ve read that was published in the last decade.
Chosen by Lynda
Once, when the world was a ball of fire all of its water—every drop that is now on the earth, from the oceans to your coffee cup—hung in the air above it. Then, for one moment the temperature dropped. Just one degree, most likely, but that was all that was needed. And then it rained for a thousand years, and that rain created the world that we know. I think about that all of the time since first reading Barnett's timeless, yet timely, and deeply lyrical history and meditation on that most romantic form of weather, rain.
Chosen by Patrick
The bond between what will likely be Coates' definitive contribution to the literary world, and this peculiar decade from which it helms, is one of symbiosis. I cannot imagine a present in which its near fatalistic tone is not integral to contemporary Black consciousness, and I doubt the book would be exactly what it is outside the context of a Black presidency that, for better or worse, helped birth it. A retrospective look reveals further poignancy, as this mid-decade National Book Award winner predates the rampant literary inquisitions into how a Trump presidency happened, posing a more important and chillingly preemptive question: How could it not?