41. Between You and Me, by Scott Nadelson

39. & 40. The Eye in the Door, by Pat Barker

38. Death in Spring, by Merce Rodoreda

37. News From the World: Stories and Essays, by Paula Fox

36. The Belly of Paris, by Emile Zola

Mayflower, by Nathanial Philbrick (unfinished)

35. The Martian, by Andy Weir

34. The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

33. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

32. In the City of Shy Hunters, by Tom Spanbauer

31. Loving Day, by Mat Johnson

30. The Imago Trilogy, by Octavia Butler

29. The Next Scott Nadelson, by Scott Nadelson

28. We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

27. Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard

26. The Guild of Saint Cooper, by Shya Scanlon

Jillian, by Halle Butler (unfinished)

25. You Deserve Nothing, by Alexander Maksik

22., 23., 24. The Sevenwaters Trilogy, by Juliet Marillier

20., 21. Works by Robert Stone: “Under the Pitons”, The Death of the Black Haired Girl, Bay of Souls

19. Leaving Before the Rains Come, by Alexandra Fuller

18. Mitko, by Garth Greenwell

17. Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York and London, by Mohsin Hamid

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty (unfinished)

16. The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers

15. All Our Names, Dinaw Mengestu

The J.M. Coetzee Award for a Bad Female POV

Sometimes female characters written by men make me want to throw the book across the room, for a particular effect that I’m going to call The J.M.Coetzee, and now I’m instituting an award for it—shortly to be granted to another lucky author. [click here to continue reading this post on The J.M Coetzee Award]

14. Things I Like About America, by Poe Ballentine

There was a desperately unhappy and bored time in my life when I learned to draw the map of America freehand, all the states named, in the right places, mostly in the right shape…. [click here to continue reading this post on Poe Ballentine]

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles De Lint

It is such a pleasure to experience clean prose and good storytelling when reading books aloud to children (….as anyone who has had to suffer through that godawful Harry Potter aloud probably knows). A children’s book has to move the plot along with every sentence, use every detail, create a perfect balance of scene-setting, emotion and action. [click here to continue reading this post on Charles De Lint]

13. Guantanamo Diary, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

First up, this book is not depressing, and is fun to read. I realize that’s a weird thing to say about a torture chronicle written by a current Guantanamo detainee, but I lead with it because I bought it only from a sense of duty to know, as an American, what my government is doing. I cracked the spine with dread, and then was amazed to find myself uplifted… [click here to continue reading this post on Mohamedou Ould Slahi]

12. Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle

A successful pop musician writing a good novel as John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats has done, is such a rarity I can’t think of another example. Wolf in White Van is more than a curiosity of interest to Mountain Goats fans, it’s a stand-alone wonderful book, a maze of slippery, non-chronological text about a solitary mail-order fantasy-game designer who suffered a disfiguring accident in late adolescence, and his ability—or not—to move past it. [click here to continue reading this post on John Darnielle]

11. Lord Peter, the Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories, by Dorothy Sayers

I’m now re-reading all of the more obscure Dorothy Sayers books, delving into the corners of Lord Peter Wimsey’s existence that I wrote about earlier this month. There are twenty-one stories here collected—which seem to not be all of them, despite the “complete” of the title—and include two dated after Sayers stopped writing the novels. [click here to continue reading this post on Dorothy Sayers]

10. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Barbed Wire Kisses, by Zoe Howe

In the Beatles/Rolling Stones dichotomy where people can be sorted into personality types depending on which of these two foundational bands they were obsessed with in high school, I always go for option 3, The Velvet Underground, or sometimes just to be contrary option 4, The Jesus and Mary Chain. [click here to continue this post on Zoe Howe]

9. Passage & Place, an Anthology of Letters, Essays and Visual Art by Both Free-World and Incarcerated Queer Writers/Artists

An LGBTQ prison-activist group asked incarcerated gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to send writing and drawings in response to the question of what home meant to them. The result is this lovely anthology produced for the 2014 National Queer Arts Festival. [click here to continue this post on Passage & Place

8. The Known World, by Edward P Jones

In his possessions he had one of the first photographs ever taken of life in New York City–a white family sitting all along their porch. They seemed to live on a farm in that city and on either side of their house Calvin could see trees and empty space rolling off and down into what appeared to be a valley…. In the front yard, alone, was a dog looking off to the right. [click here to continue this post on Edward P Jones]

Swinburne, the Masque of Queen Bersabe

I am the queen Aholibah.
My lips kissed dumb the word of Ah

Dorothy Sayers fans might recognize that couplet, quoted by Peter Wimsey in Busman’s Honeymoon (only the best love scene in all of literature, but I digress).

The line is from Swinburne’s, The Masque of Queen Bersabe, my other contender for a great alternative reading at a wedding, if the happy couple can loose themselves from the bonds of the literal and celebrate fate and passion. [click here to continue this post on Swinburne]

7. Testo Junkie, by Beatriz Preciado

This book, translated from the French, is a “voluntary intoxication protocol,” in which Spanish drag-king activist and cultural theorist Beatriz Preciado takes testosterone off-label for 200-something days, as a strategy of resistance towards the involuntary intoxication of what she calls the “pharmacopornographic” regime. [click to continue this post on Beatriz Preciado]

Alternative Readings for a Cool Wedding

In my 20s I went to the wedding of a bookish, literary older man I was in unrequited love with, and was outraged—now, comically, I can see—by his choices of selections from The Prophet and The Song of Songs for readings. We can probably assume the woman he was marrying chose, but same diff. I wore a gold dress, got drunk and misbehaved myself… [click to continue this post on alternative readings]

6. The Corpse Exhibition, by Hassan Blasim

I recently saw an article in The New York Times celebrating all the Serious Writing by Americans coming out of Iraq, which I’m sure was valid, but had an unsettling whiff of cultural appropriation…we go in, fuck shit up, and then get works of literature out of it. Yay.

Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition is a wonderful corrective to that type of thing. [click to continue this post on Hassan Blasim]

5. The Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy Sayers

Unless you are obsessed with Dorothy Sayers, as I am, there is little to recommend this, one of her dullest and most arcane titles. In it, Lord Peter Wimsey is on vacation at a bohemian little arts village in Scotland. A hot-tempered, obnoxious Scottish painter whom almost everyone hates is murdered, and the “five red herrings” are the five out of six major suspects who turn out to not be the murderer. [click to continue this post on Dorothy Sayers]

4. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The main character of the brilliant and wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a blogger and Nigerian immigrant to America rocketed to Internet fame by writing, “Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non-American Black.” She had me at her first words, about “Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing” and how “she had always found it a little irresponsible, the eating of ice cream cones by grown-up American men in public.” [click to continue this post on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie]

3. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

This book of essays on gender, pop culture and race is indeed as intelligent, funny and likable as everyone has been saying. Roxane Gay is awesome. Roxane Gay for president. She brings humanity and dignity to every topic she touches, from sexual abuse to Real Housewives. [click to continue this post on Roxane Gay]

2. Thrones, Dominations, by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh

I have owned, but been afraid to read Thrones, Dominations for 17 years.

The book, published in 1998, is the first volume of a continuation of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries written by an English mystery writer and Sayers fan named Jill Paton Walsh. [click to continue this post on Jill Paton Walsh]

1. Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers

There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

No more perfect romance has been established in all of literature than the one between the effete, incunabula-collecting, quotation-spouting detective Lord Peter Wimsey and bluestocking detective-novelist Harriet Vane. [click to continue this post on Dorothy Sayers]




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