What We’re Reading: December 2020

We editors love reading at HFR—and talking books, writing, and publishing around the clock—so we decided to catalog our selections every two months as the new feature “What We’re Reading.” Following are our recommendations for December 2020.

 

Novels

Antioch
By Jessica Leonard

“Antioch used to be a quiet small town where nothing bad ever happened. Now six women have been savagely murdered. The media dubs the killer ‘Vlad the Impaler’ due to the gruesome crime scenes of his victims. Clues are drying up fast and the hunt for the monster responsible is hitting a dead end.

 

Newspaper
By Edouard Levé

“In his second ‘novel,’ Newspaper, the acclaimed writer, photographer, and artist Edouard Levé made perhaps his most radical attempt to remove himself from his own work. Made up of fictionalized newspaper articles, arranged according to broad sections―some familiar, some not―Newspaper gives us a tour of the modern world as reported by its supposedly impartial chroniclers. Much of this “news” is quite sad, some is funny, but the whole serves as a gory parody of the way we have been taught to see our lives and the lives of our fellow human beings.”

 

Ruination
By Katie Jean Shinkle

“Katie Jean Shinkle is our new master writer of the nightmare. In Ruination she has created a classic world of infestation and prophets and terrorist sisters. It’s a world where girls are sent to eradication centers for sprouting flowers and mushrooms and forsythia bushes from their skin. The prose is tender and bold and sharp. If you were to carve the initials of this book on your knee, you would have to spell one word: amazing.” —Scott McClanahan

 

Outré
By D. Harlan Wilson

“In a future where cinema has usurped reality and there’s nothing special about effects, an aging movie star takes on the role of a lifetime, growing the flesh of an otherworldly kaiju onto his body. At the same time, all of the roles he has played in the past fight for control of his psyche and identity as agents of the media prey upon him. The result is alcoholism, ultraviolence, psychosis . . . and the promise of eternal life.”

 

Novella

The Mold Farmer
By Rick Claypool

“From the author of Leech Girl Lives comes a novella of cosmic claustrophobia and workplace survival horror. It’s the story of Thorner, crushed under the weight of an alien occupation and also a refrigerator; of his family and campmates and fellow workers on Weckett’s mold farm; of the nglaeylyaethm and their masks and pets. It’s the story of people in intolerable situations, faced with untenable choices, in an appallingly cruel society—a fanciful tale of the distant future.”

 

Short Stories

Rashömon and Seventeen Other Stories
By Ryünosuke Akutagawa

“Ryünosuke Akutagawa is one of Japan’s foremost stylists—a modernist master whose short stories are marked by highly original imagery, cynicism, beauty and wild humour. ‘Rashömon’ and ‘In a Bamboo Grove’ inspired Kurosawa’s magnificent film and depict a past in which morality is turned upside down, while tales such as ‘The Nose,’ ‘O-Gin’ and ‘Loyalty’ paint a rich and imaginative picture of a medieval Japan peopled by Shoguns and priests, vagrants and peasants. And in later works such as ‘Death Register,’ ‘The Life of a Stupid Man,’ and ‘Spinning Gears,’ Akutagawa drew from his own life to devastating effect, revealing his intense melancholy and terror of madness in exquisitely moving impressionistic stories.”

 

Things You Should Know
By A. M. Homes

“In this stunningly original collection, A. M. Homes writes with terrifying compassion about the things that matter most. Homes’s distinctive narrative illuminates our dreams and desires, our memories and losses, and demonstrates how extraordinary the ordinary can be. With uncanny emotional accuracy, wit, and empathy, Homes takes us places we recognize but would rather not go alone.”

 

Mouthful of Birds
By Samanta Schweblin

“The brilliant stories in Mouthful of Birds burrow their way into your psyche and don’t let go. Samanta Schweblin haunts and mesmerizes in this extraordinary collection featuring women on the edge, men turned upside down, the natural world at odds with reality. We think life is one way, but often, it’s not—our expectations for how people act, love, fear can all be upended. Each character in Mouthful of Birds must contend with the unexpected, whether a family coming apart at the seams or a child transforming or a ghostly hellscape or a murder.”

 

Machines of Another Era
By Bess Winter

“Bess Winter’s stories are lovely and lithe and odd; much like scraps of paper and curious photographs found tucked away in old books, they haunt in corners of the mind for a long time after reading, full of ephemera and wonder.” —Amber Sparks

 

Poetry

TwERK
By LaTasha N Nevada Diggs

TwERK unveils an identity shaped by popular media and history, code switching and cultural inclusivity. The poems, songs, and myths in this long-awaited first book are as rooted in lyric as in innovation, in Black music as in macaronic satire. TwERK evokes paradox, humor, and vulnerability, and it offers myriad avenues fueled by language, idiom, and vernacular. This book asks only that we imagine America as it has always existed, an Americana beyond the English language.”

 

Nonfiction

Down Along with That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy
By Connor Towne O’Neill

“When O’Neill first moved to Alabama, as a white Northerner, he felt somewhat removed from the racism Confederate monuments represented. Then one day in Selma, he stumbled across a group of citizens protecting a monument to Forrest, the officer who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and whom William Tecumseh Sherman referred to as ‘that devil.’ O’Neill sets off to visit other disputed memorials to Forrest across the South, talking with men and women who believe they are protecting their heritage, and those who have a different view of the man’s poisonous history.”

 

 

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Image: mentalfloss.com

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