Madeleine Wattenberg’s poetry collection I/O is as startling as it is innovative. The imagery through-lines of coins, peacocks, plums, laboratories, dirigibles, and knives complicate a story that is the echo of myth come to rest in a 2000’s apartment kitchen. These poems whisper and lurk, confess and shroud. Anyone turned into what they never meant to be will find themselves in Wattenberg’s careful verse, burning with cold.
My favorites from this collection: * Charon’s Obol * Field Guide to Fission * Imprint with Need * The Blazing Field * Osteoclasts * Aphagia * Poem for the Father Outside the Poem * (Re) * Except by Violence (ii)
I understand the sensational appeal. Despite its sometimes outright soapy-ness, the immersive quality of Owens’ writing is nothing less than seductive. The marsh is the true unforgettable character in this book, and the relateable pull of Kya’s loneliness would tug the coldest heart. The ending was not fully realized in my opinion, but this book deserves its place as a bestseller.
Few authors have the guts to write something that is wildly, fantastically strange and dead serious at the same time. Peng Shepherd has the guts, and her novel The Book of M is a stunner. Technically audacious, plotted with clear eyes, and emotionally searing, this sci-fi epic is a new classic. From an emotional standpoint, this one was personally difficult for me to get through. (If you’ve ever been close to someone who has suffered from debilitating memory loss, there are many tough moments to swallow.) But that doesn’t make the book any less brilliant.
Isabel Cañas brings a dreamy haunted song of a story into the world with her debut, The Hacienda. Deeply atmospheric and psychological, this novel explores the costly war for the soul of one house that is both isolated from and shaped by the social unrest that surrounds it. Cañas brings us a tale that is dark and beautiful, that will make you want to light at least one candle against the late hours of the night, examine the unspoken yearnings of your heart… and listen to your walls.
This novel makes an indelible impression, and it is so, so good. This book was recommended to me over a decade ago and has been sleeping since then on my bookshelf, waiting for the right moment. When the moment came, I tore through it in two days, totally transfixed at Howe’s storytelling–powerful, intimate, surprising. The way Howe approaches the ideas of legacy, birthright, redemption, and healing over the centuries simply blew me away.
I absolutely love the cinematic, pulp-meets-literary quality of Benjamin Percy’s writing. His pacing is fearless and fast, and this second installment in his Comet Cycle is a wild, dark, slippery ride filled with horrors and lots of very wonderfully gross mushroom action. But also banter. I liked this book even more than the first (would totally work as a standalone). I’m excited to see even more of Percy’s twisted imagination unleashed in the next installment. What on earth… or elsewhere… could be next?
Beyond fascinating–part memoir, part pop science thematic compilation, James Nestor’s Deep makes you feel suspended in the dark pressure of the sea. Even as an ocean science nerd, I learned so much. Spoiler: the ocean and the human body are both even more insane than you thought. I hope this book continues to inspire conservation efforts and a gentler relationship between humans and the sea.
One correction I have to mention because I can’t stop myself: in the photo inset, it says “Whale sharks are neither whales nor sharks, but the world’s largest fish.” Actually, whale sharks are definitely sharks. All sharks are also fish. So yes, they are the world’s largest fish and also shark. Thank you for listening.
We Have Always Been Here is a brave, inventive debut that is full of slow simmering suspicion and robot secrets. Structurally interesting, packed with contemplation and action alike, Lena Nguyen’s novel tackles the classic AI science fiction questions from a perspective I’ve never seen before–that of a protagonist who is very much physically human, but feels more like she herself is an android. Both a hard sci-fi mystery and an allegory for coping with emotional isolation, this story takes new angles on the standard discussions of the genre. Favorite part: Glenn backstory.
A solid read with great advice for any creative who is trying to establish their own style and way of bringing their work to the world. Nothing earth-changing here, just a beautiful little book with lots of sense-making guidance to return you to the basics of finding yourself while/despite/in the midst of consistent creative practice.
Sarah Moss is a master of close third person perspective. In this novella that rotates between different strangers’ perspectives while on a dismal, rainy holiday in Scotland, we become so tightly entwined in the idle thoughts of our characters that it’s almost disorienting, nearly uncomfortable. I admire the way Moss understands and explores human flaws. In way of plot, there’s little, but that’s not the point. The point is: What if you could see and understand how everyone was thinking, all at once? It’s a power I’m sure I don’t want to have, but I’m confident that Moss has it.