|Illustration from K. Baker's graphic novel, _Nat Turner_.|
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012)
If you've never read Chabon before, don't start with this one. Instead, read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay or The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. However, if you like Quentin Tarantino films and believe Wu-Tang ain't nuthing to fuck with, then give it a go. Or, if you ever find yourself feeling melancholy over the loss of vinyl and CDs. If digital downloads make you sad.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (2012)
A very quick read, as well as a stark departure from Eggers' previous books in terms of both length and style. The novel offers a sparse look at how the U.S. of the 21st Century uprooted itself from Romanticism's woods and lost itself in a digital desert.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (2011)
Having read this novel, I will now have to consider reading anything Russell ever writes.
Nat Turner by Kyle Baker (2008)
This graphic novel is worth reading if solely for how it appropriates the fonts of 19th century handbills.
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (2013)
While reading this novel, I often felt like it was a half-assed attempt at being Kurt Vonnegut. And maybe it was. But several months after the fact I still find myself thinking about its quirks, which means I'm really thinking about how someone could love a character named Adele Hitler, the ferocity of small lizards, and the orbits of human lives. But mainly I think about the lizards of the future.
Citrus County by John Brandon (2010)
Brandon may not be for everyone. A lot of his writing may contain too much realism or too much macho posturing, but if you're looking to better understand the claustrophobia of small town living in the South, here's a place to start. The kidnapped girl is not the only one in captivity here.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (2013)
As I said earlier, I'll read anything she writes. Several of these stories provide great examples of defamiliarization for students in creative writing or literature courses.
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979)
Of the McCarthy books I've read, this one contains the most sorrow. But it also contains the most hilarity.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013)
I don't read enough contemporary female authors. Wolitzer makes me realize that. I think I understand my mom better now, too. Maybe.
The Sound & the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
If the only time you read Faulkner was in high school or college, go pick up something he's written and read it as an adult. It'll make more sense now.
I cried reading the last hundred pages or so of this last Veteran's Day. I can't remember the last book I read that had me do that.
Eight Men by Richard Wright (1961)
The psychology of blackness in the middle of the 20th century, as depicted by Wright, is both beautiful and haunting, but this book is also about rural versus urban settings and is quite modernist in its stylings.
Far Tortuga by Peter Matthiessen (1975)
In dese modern times, mon, people should read good books. This is a good book and a strong testament to what we all lost when Matthiessen passed away this Spring.
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1972)
Prior to reading this novel, I'd only read Didion's essays. The voice of 30-year-old Maria Wyeth belongs in the same category as Holden Caulfield. To read her story is to understand something both external and internal to the self.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)
First time I thought about reading this book was while listening to Black Star's "Thieves in the Night", when Talib Kweli alludes to the novel in the song's first verse. That was years ago; I don't know why I waited so long to follow through. This is not my favorite of Morrison's novels, but it is a sheer uppercut of a book.
The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)
My favorite of all Eggers' novels. I'm surprised I ever went back on the internet.
Red Sorghum by Yo Mahn (1986)
I read this novel for a global literature class this Spring. I may have been the only person in the class who liked it. The novel is extremely visceral in its depiction of a nation, China, bled dry at the moment of its birth.
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (2007)
A D.C. novel that proves the entire city is not a House of Cards episode. I am grateful for that. Imagine The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway as an Ethiopian immigrant and you'll probably find at least one reason to read a novel that is beautiful for its aloofness.
Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart (1974)
A tale of Caribbean hardships, of Caribbean love, of womanhood, of sorrow, of good times and bad. A really strong novel, similar to Their Eyes Were Watching God.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (2013)
McBride can't change the results of Harpers Ferry, but he can change how a reader imagines the narrative and historical standing of John Brown.
Expect a nonfiction list sometime in the near future. Also, Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.