One of my favorite collections! Sommerville's stories sometimes tip into the fantastic and often the surreal, but are always concerned with empathy and basic, flawed humanity. While stylistically quite different, these stories have thematic similarities to the stories of George Saunders, Joe Meno, Aimee Bender, and Kevin Brockmeier. Check it out!
One of Vonnegut's odder novels, yet also quite touching. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain is elected president on the "Lonesome No More" platform, by which everyone is given a new middle name. This indicates a new family for them. Written with Vonnegut's typical humor and humaneness, the story is a commentary on the importance of social ties and advocates for the need for extended families, whether biological or created. A wonderful and underappreciated novel.
As infuriating as it is exhilirating, this collection of...let's call them "writings"... is ultimately an extended rumination on the fluidity of race, gender and sexuality in 21st-century America. Astringently cerebral and broad in its frame of reference, this book provokes as many questions as it refuses to answer. Far from taking "pride" in the labels thrust on him, Als spends most of the book shucking them off as so many ill-fitted garments. Defiant, bod and playfully indifferent to our supposed need for rigid classification, this book seeks to do nothing less than unsettle the underpinnings of all that we think we are.
The book I push on all of my friends. 11-year-old Martin goes to Bible Camp, where Father Tony goes on a killing spree. A slasher movie in book form. Relentlessly graphic. Funny, too. Plus a badass mother-son relationship at its heart. Forewarning: takes place in Canada.
Ursula Todd gets multiple chances at life, trying to prevent pain and find peace. Atkinson has said, "She certainly doesn't always correct in the right way--but she changes and she changes things." She does so beautifully, heart-breakingly, poetically. This is truly a WWII book at its core; the bulk of it takes place during the Blitz. And thanks to Ursula's unique situation, readers experience the war from all angles. It's always haunting and devastating. This is a long, lovely book about human nature and the human spirit, and--though it's quite substantial--I didn't want it to end.
After Ijeoma is sent away from her mother for a time during the Nigerian civil war in the late 60s, she meets and falls in love with another girl. The novel follows Ijeoma through school and adulthood as she battles with the expectations of society, her extremely Christian mother, and herself. Though Ijeoma isn't especially outspoken or bold, "Under the Udala Trees" itself is--Okparanta's novel arrives at a time of particularly high stakes for the LBGTQ community in Nigeria, where same-sex relationships were made punishable by up to 14 years in jail in 2014. An important and heartfelt novel that is well worth the read.
This is the first in a series of high fantasy novels with the coolest, most unusual magic system I've encountered. It's a super well-realized world. Gangs of rogues. Battles. Politics. A lil' bit of love. If you're looking to dive into a new fantasy series, start here.