New Year’s Reading List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year–the time when you make New Year’s resolutions! But before you jump into your stack of must read books, cross fit dungeon, or zumba class, take some time to catch up on a few of the books that made last year great. We know your time is precious, so we set out to curate your 2015 Year in Reading/Catch-up, chock full of titles from our contributors. Happy Reading! 

Matt Salesess- The Hundred-Year Flood
As we saw with Different Racisms: Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity, Matt Salesess is no stranger to writing about personal and cultural experiences of race, gender, and heritage. These themes carry over beautifully into his debut novel, The Hundred-Year Flood, the chronicle of a young Korean-American man named Tee’s move to Prague in a  desperate attempt to discover his own identity beneath that of his adoptive parents’ in the wake of a series of personal and national tragedies and the looming shadow of the century’s flood. Both minimal and entrancing, Salesess’ work brings new life and nuance to the search for identity, a talent which Roxane Gay describes as “much like that flood—epic and devastating and full of natural majesty.”

secret movies nanoMichael McGriff- Our Secret Life in the Movies
Poet Michael McGriff’s debut novel, Our Secret Life in Movies, may just be your next best bet. The novel, which follows two young boys growing up in the dying days of Cold War era, draws inspiration from everything from music videos and cult classics to nuclear winter and Reaganomics–and everything in between. Skip Horack called the book “a remarkable achievement,” saying that Our Secret Life in Movies is “a book of poignant and affecting beauty. Readers are presented with characters who are losing their innocence in lockstep with the changing nation they inhabit, and the end result is a book that provides great insight into both who we are and how we got this way.”

planned nanoJessica Lee Richardson- It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides 
In a stunning mix of stories straddling the surreal and the hyperrealistic, Jessica Lee Richardson’s It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides creates atmospheres where the absurd is real, and the real is absurd to bring the readers towards something else entirely new and ethereal. Ethereal and masterfully crafted, the collection itself realizes the narrative arc; we slip until we don’t, we see the detour that we think means the end, and we ultimately resurface in a story about literal ascent, all the while never missing the chance for humor or light.

John A. McDermott- The Idea of God in Tennessee
Don’t worry; our holiday shopping guide has something for the poetry fans, too. John A. McDermott’s first collection, The Idea of God in Tennessee, is a haunting assemblage of poems about America’s past and present, about fatherhood and geography, all encompassed in the twangs and riffs of Southern music’s history. McDermott’s collection pays homage to and wrestles with many of the musical greats, such as Chet Baker, Elvis, and Zeppelin, and even visits some of the less obvious, such as Flannery O’Connor, all while maintaining that, as the poet writes, “we are not past caring.”

Brian Foley- The Constitution
In a masterful melding of the personal and the political, Brian Foley’s debut collection The Constitution seeks to question the beliefs we hold self-evident and most true. Through both examining the rights we tend to take for granted through lenses such as loss, love, and morality and offering amendments to them, Foley sheds light on the foundations of the self, thoughtfully ruminating on the fluctuating nature of our principles and beliefs.

Rochelle Hurt- The Rusted City
For those of you as into genre-bending as we are, Rochelle Hurt’s The Rusted City is sure to be the perfect stocking stuffer. Comprised of a deft interweaving of prose poetry and more traditional verse, Hurt’s collection reads as a novel full of daring language and inventive vision. Joyelle McSweeney has praised the collection by writing “The Rust Belt Gothic is a new political-aesthetic category, wherein the ignored or statistical pain of the nation’s abandoned industrial heart is made to glow with a Poe-like anti-vigor, an undead (but unnatural) force. Rochelle Hurt’s Youngstown is rife with fairy-tale inmates—a smallest sister, a favorite father, a quiet mother—yet the ruling spirits of the place are not humans but the corpsey avatars of place itself—the shuttered factory, the ruined ballroom, the big hungry plural baby of ‘the century’ with its singular familiar, Rust. Rust paints its red sigil everywhere, blurring the inside and outside of bodies, homes, the city itself, which eventually, like a body, must split open to expose its red and rusty heart. This is a gory, half-delirious business, wonder- and grief-stricken, urgent and exacting, tender and hot, like an iron filing shifting in the palm.”