Like Joan Didion or Renata Adler, Ben Lerner or Sally Rooney, Anna Wiener writes with dead-on specificity, scalpel-sharp analysis, deep sensitivity, and an eye for the absurd. She headed west into the modern gold rush that is the tech boom and now returns with gleaming ingots of insight, telling tales of a strange land where boy-CEOs ride ripsticks and hoover up your data.
So emotionally suspenseful that many times while reading I realized I had stopped breathing and had to hastily suck in air. I can't say for sure how, but "the drunkenness of return" will affect you, too.
I’ve heard surfers praise Barbarian Days for capturing else the joys and sorrows of surfing—its “special brand of monomania,” to use Finnegan’s phrase—better than anything else. To this non-surfer, Finnegan’s account of life in and out of the water is vivid and precise—whether on fellow surfers’ styles, etiquette in the water, his own wanderlust, or the slow work of growing up—and as propulsive as any of the waves he rides. Surf’s up.
Much like her films, My Mother Laughs breathes Akerman's day-to-day, rooting itself in the deterioration of her mother. It's a crushing love story, brief in length but nails its impact on how toxic a relationship can become, and how we retaliate... My Mother Laughs humanizes Chantal.
A profound work. Little did we know in the ‘80s sitting around dorm rooms and stuffy basements discussing literature and the meaning of life, philosophers, sociology, punk rock, feminism, the racial; or in the '90s at “sex parties” and techno clubs in the East Village, that Nelson’s work, re: 2015, was our bible, as now, for many. Transformative; of parental undergrounds. Sexual self-determination and freedom. Spiritual self-actualization. Love, baby, love. The most important (and best) book I've read since Bolaño's 2666.
Intense, lyrical, uncommonly beautiful, this memoir by photographer Sally Mann is gorgeous - I feel silly for waiting so long to read it. A beautiful evocation of the South, in all its horrors and all its sweet, sticky beauties, her book made me turn immediately once I was done to Eudora Welty and James Agee - it is a work of literature as good as those Southern greats, a work of literature in the same family and of the same brilliance.
Most "funny" books cause me to literally lol not at all. This one did, a lot.
A confessional memoir written by a depressed 19-year-old girl in Butte, Montana who wants to marry the Devil. Oh, and it's 1902.
I am awestruck by the sheer force of this woman's voice. It could send a person running barefoot over the plains, howling at the "red line of the horizon." Remember what it was like to feel this kind of passion? No? This is your book.
— Sarah G.
In this harrowing and hilarious memoir of growing up mixed race and gay in '90s Los Angeles, Myriam Gurba tackles difficult subject matter — sexual assault, survivor's guilt, the casual violence and racism of America —with a razor-sharp sensitivity and disarming black humor that will make you laugh despite yourself, right before your throat starts to close up. She articulates the unspeakable and impossible again and again with inimitable, deadpan, and somehow perfect prose.
The first book of Calvin Trillin's published after the death of his wife carries the dedication "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice." About Alice is the longform version of that exactly perfect two-line love letter.
I don't know anything about giving birth - but I do know a funny, human and honest book when I read one. This is one of those.
Hilarious and deep, basically Trevor Noah in print. Take a deep dive into South African history, contemporary culture, as well as the deep complexities of colonization and religion, domestic violence, and race, all in Trevor's voice, with his own personal outrageous life stories to boot. I laughed. I cried. Literally. A quick but, thoughtful read.
Growing up wasn't easy for Mantel. A dreary northern English village whose people are so accustomed to disappointment that if they found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow they'd say "Call that a pot? Call that a rainbow?" a Catholic family so predisposed against Protestants it considers them a different species, and a medical establishment so obtuse and sexist that it failed to diagnose Mantel's life-threatening endometriosis for over a decade provide the backdrop for this searingly honest memoir, punctuated with reflections on writing, medieval history, fatness, ugliness, and regret.
This is a book about an abortion, by a woman who deserves the Nobel Prize in Literature, and all the other prizes for Literature. It is difficult to write, let alone speak, about abortions. Women tend not to - an abortion is, after all, the most intensely private experience you will ever have. But when I made that decision, at twenty-two, afraid and alone, I wish I could have had this book at hand, just so I might have felt that that intensely personal fear and loneliness was shared by other young women, everywhere, throughout history, without having to say anything to anyone at all.
New York-residing Danish writer Naja Marie Aidt was home in Copenhagen visiting family when she learned her 25-year-old son had taken mushrooms, had a bad trip, and thrown himself out a window. He died. This is her book about losing her son. Aidt writes this book in fragments, because grief itself is fragmented. She uses repetition and grammar like a poet, because grief, like ghosts, are constantly repeating, happening back upon themselves, defying langauge and rational thought. This is a book in the vein of Maggie Nelson and Anne Carson, about greif in its most naked, feverish form.
This is a beautiful memoir by one of my favorite novelists. Moving from a rural childhood to a life as member of Castro’s revolutionary army to detailed accounts of the Cuban literati and finally transitioning to a struggle against the plague of New York City in the 80’s - always with a poet’s eye. Throughout these radical transitions Arenas consistently writes and has sex...lots of sex. Even while fleeing the agents of Fidel who chase him into the woods he finds a way to cavort with hot young Cuban men and rewrite seized novels. Sodomy, war, Castro, this is a great gateway drug for his lengthy, beautiful, novels.
Lucas Mann proves in Captive Audience that you can be sincere and intellectually rigorous about the parts of everyday life most punters would just write off as trivial. This gorgeous book is part love letter, part meditation on ‘reality,’ and part defense of watching television. Because the everyday of just, like, hanging out and watching TV with one’s partner, is what gives our lives shape, and it’s in the habits of the everday that the real texture of our love for another person is formed.
Three seamy, essential memoirs from the most reliable unreliable narrator of our time, and a time capsule of queer and literary becoming. There's something of a lovable Confidence Man about the narrator 'Kevin Killian,' something that enables wild digression, ribaldry, auto-embarrassment, and reinvention, and this collection marks a great occasion to get acquainted with his tell-all generosity of spirit.
Taylor began writing this book as she was extremely ill with melanoma, suspecting that it would be the last book she would write. It was. She passed away shortly before Dying was published in 2016, and it is one of the most astonishing books you will ever read. Clear-eyed, unsentimental, incredibly wise, Dying is not really about death at all. Or, it is, but it's about the ways that death is no real tragedy - we are all bodies, we are all yoked to the passage of time, we will all pass from life and our consciousness cease, but we are not so very different from the birds and the leaves and the light, all of us permeable to the world.
I found this cowgirl memoir in a tiny used bookstore in Flagstaff, Arizona, and it is one of my most treasured unearthed masterpieces. Morley Cleaveland's memoir details her childhood in frontier-era New Mexico, before the Wild West was but a myth. And the wild west was what Morley Cleaveland actually lived - outlaws on her doorstep, gunfights, bear chases, lonely canyons, cattle wrangling, and murder. I was drunk on the words of this bygone cowgirl - unrepentant, strange, unladylike - a woman who dated the death of the frontier to the invention of barbed wire and the birth of the John Wayne Western.
Davide Enia rightly believes that only its protagonists - the millions of people crossing deserts and seas in search for a better life - will be able to tell the story of the great migration that is changing the face of Europe. What he offers in the meantime, though, is equally necessary: by blending reportage from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Europe's southernmost point, with the story of the relationship with his father, Enia brings the enormity of the refugee crisis back to human proportions without losing any of its complexity. The questions posed by this book with raw, unsettling force go to the very heart of our civilization, showing both its corruption and possibility of redemption.
Written by the youngest and only female winner of the annual Mongol Derby - a long and Kafkaesque journey across the Mongolian Steppe on 25 different horses - this book is one of the most astonishing I've ever read about the relationship of humans to animals. For any former Horse Girl, and anyone weary of books that interest themselves only in navel-gazing human concerns, I promise you will not be able to put this down, you will, as I did, miss subway stops and leave parties early to finish it.
Vera Brittain grew up, got into Oxford, fell in love, and then World War One began. So she dropped out of Oxford, trained as a nurse, and she went to war. I read this memoir in the wake of the 2016 election, and it was exactly what I needed - this is the perfect depiction of what it’s like to live in a time of calamity when you’ve believed in the easy promises of your life up until now, and what it’s like to keep going when you fear that the thread of meaning has resolutely frayed. Give this to the proto-revolutionaries in your life, woke and thoughtful women, progressives gearing up for the battle.
Do yourself the favor. It's a uniquely American epic following X from childhood church pews to Harlem hustling and all the way to Mecca. It's compulsively readable and as relevant as ever.
French sociologist Dider Eribon turns his gaze on his own childhood in this incredible, beautiful book, part memoir and part political philosophy. Eribon, who grew up gay and bookish in a working class French family which, once proudly communist, have deserted the left for the nationalist far right, examines the social consequences of late 20th century capitalist realism on the working classes, insisting on the importance of thinking about class if we want to understand the chaos of the present moment. It sounds heavy-going, but Returning to Reims has all the urgency of an addiction - I inhaled the whole thing in two subway rides.
Smart is a literary saint of heartsick, conveying biblical psalms and gothic psychosomatics forward in time to the Smiths and their best executors. Her one and only masterpiece enacts an open diarism without incident, a private practice of style-for-survival; should its haughty loft and sacrificial ardor strike you maudlin, perhaps you are not obsessing over someone enough.
You should buy this book, which is about trying (and fucking up and failing and doubting and swearing) and finally figuring out how to do something new—like if Rebecca Solnit or Annie Dillard had written a book about carpentry instead of getting lost or going outside. Also it's by my sister. I especially recommend the parts about me.
A portrait of the black upper classes circa the 1950s, ie 'Negroland' through the lens of Jefferson's own childhood in Chicago. Beautiful and formidable, from one of this country's greatest cultural critics.
The ultimate mid-century American road-trip book, written by one of the smartest women who ever lived. Simone de Beauvoir arrives in New York in the winter of 1947, and for the next few months she travels by plane and train and Greyhound across the country and back again, smoking weed at the Plaza, gambling in Reno, falling in love with Nelson Algren in a Chicago dive bar, keeping a faithful diary the whole way. Sometimes it's an outsider who can best capture all there is to love and hate in this weird and vast and beautiful country, and I've never known anyone to do it as well as Simone de Beauvoir.
The inspiring story of a young lesbian girl coupled with the tragic story of a middle-aged gay man. It's tempting to think that these two narratives (which also happen to be that of a daughter and her father) cancel one another out and leave one feeling apathetic. Far from it: like Bechdel's striking gray-scale graphics, light and dark entangle, underscore, and ultimately push one another to new artistic heights. She continually tries to separate the good from the bad, and despite her inability to do so she never gives up - recalling the high modernist authors both her and her father so ardently admired.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Poetic, poignant, full of grace. Honest, moving, funny, unapologetic and yet deeply humble. Perry paints an incredible portrait of black motherhood, and of the complexities and beauties of being black in America. Tackling faith, Blackness, Americanness, gender, passion, striving, identity, being, and becoming, processing questions all of us have had to work through as we find our place in the world. It will surely be a gift to you.