“Look, without our stories, without the true nature and reality of who we are as People of Color, nothing about fanboy or fangirl culture would make sense. What I mean by that is: if it wasn’t for race, X-Men doesn’t sense. If it wasn’t for the history of breeding human beings in the New World through chattel slavery, Dune doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of colonialism and imperialism, Star Wars doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the extermination of so many Indigenous First Nations, most of what we call science fiction’s contact stories doesn’t make sense. Without us as the secret sauce, none of this works, and it is about time that we understood that we are the Force that holds the Star Wars universe together. We’re the Prime Directive that makes Star Trek possible, yeah. In the Green Lantern Corps, we are the oath. We are all of these things—erased, and yet without us—we are essential.”—
"I invoke the writers and artists of the alt lit movement, a movement that has come to signify everything that’s right and wrong about everything that’s fast, cheap, and out-of-control in the arts today. Perhaps the time has come to break the mirrors that bind us to our own little personal victories (i.e. ‘I’m internet famous’) and begin the more fun and difficult work of smashing those fucking mirrors so that we–and the big, bad world–may see ourselves again, as something else, something more, something seemingly uglier and thus, perhaps, more beautiful."
This is the politics of respectability — an attempt to raise black people to a superhuman standard. In this case it means exempting black people from a basic rule of communication — that words take on meaning from context and relationship. But as in all cases of respectability politics, what we are really saying to black people is, “Be less human.” This is not a fight over civil rights; it’s an attempt to raise a double standard. It is no different from charging “ladies” with being ornamental and prim while allowing for the great wisdom of boys being boys. To prevent enabling oppression, we demand that black people be twice as good. To prevent verifying stereotypes, we pledge to never eat a slice a watermelon in front of white people.
But white racism needs no verification from black people. And a scientific poll of right-thinking humans will always conclude that watermelon is awesome. That is because its taste and texture appeal to certain attributes that humans tend to find pleasurable. Humans also tend to find community to be pleasurable, and within the boundaries of community relationships, words — often ironic and self-deprecating — are always spoken that take on other meanings when uttered by others.
Stacey Teague - the second sex by simone de beauvoir, it felt game-changing for me to read it, it made me actively think about all sorts of things, not just feminist theory. it’s dense, but rewarding
Johnny Bryan - Mike Young’s Look Look Feathers, ‘cause it made me laugh many times and cry at one point, which I wasn’t expecting and made me proud to be “from” the pacific northwest
Adam J Kurtz - my boyfriend bought me a copy of “the unbearable lightness of being” (by milan kundera) at the beginning of the year, during a difficult time. it was exactly what i needed to read and will stick with me for life. it was also incredibly tough reading for casual subway rides.
Heiko Julien - “The War of Art” was my favorite book I read this year because I read it most recently. It’s a mega-popular self help book, which I’m not averse to on principle. The popularity seems to be justified. If anyone struggles with being able to sit down and stare at a blank Word document, Steven Pressfield has a lot of good ideas about how you could conquer this white devil. I’d suggest any amateur writer read it carefully.
Beach Sloth - I liked Mason Johnson’s ‘Sad Robot Stories’. It was a beautiful sweet weird thing exploring emotions to the fullest degree.
John Mortara - Love is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of your Life by Anonymous. strange, absurd, badass, heartbreaking - i wish i had written it
Scott Laudati - Nick Tosches “Hellfire” was my fav this year. 3,000 straight sentences of dirt and courage. The book set a standard, I’m just not sure of what.
Cassandra Gillig - AIRY BABY: AN EQUAL TO THE ATE NIPPLE?//I worry/I don’t/Believe in Books/or do owly// Debbie Hu has written the best book of the year because it is perfect like Perfect Lovers Press.
Lyndsay Coloracci - does it count if i haven’t finished it… i have spent most of this year trying to read infinite jest, lol, but i really like that it kind of forces me to trust the writing even when it seems overwhelming or when i feel lost in it. i like reading things that make me uncomfortable, i think
Claire Paquet - Mama Day by Gloria Naylor! i loved it so much because a) it was witchy, and b) her prose is so beautiful and made me want to write - all the best books i’ve ever read make me want to write.
Benjamin Clancy - ”Mirrors For Princes” by Lesley Dixon. Lesley is an Austin based writer who writes some of the most surreal and cutting prose I’ve encountered. The vignettes that compose “Mirrors for Princes” read like Borges or Calvino, dragged into a distopian dreamscape where experience is a grotesque, sublime, and pervasively funny thing. The chapbook is available through Meekling Press.
Nic Rad - Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco. It snuck quietly into my mind and trashed the place. I felt proud that someone wrote that way. Good job someone.
Walter Mackey - My favourite book that I’ve read this year is “Annabelle” by Kathleen Winter. It’s a great coming of age, coming to terms with gender/sexuality story that I highly enjoyed and related to. It was also nice to visualize my city and province (St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) in a different time period. “Anabelle” was a great local book and I would honestly recommend it to anyone who feels alienated, isolated, queer, and alone. Uh huh, honey.
Andrew Worthington - My favorite book of 2014 is HILL WILLIAM by Scott McClanahan. I liked it because Scott knows how to show the beautiful aspects of the fucked up so well, so subtly, so bitter-sweet. Something like that.
Bob Schofield - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I told my friend I was getting bored with all the weird, experimental indie lit type stuff I’d been reading, so she recommended me this 900 page fantasy novel, loaded with footnotes, about two rival magicians in an alternate history version of 19th century England where everything is super detailed and historically accurate except that here magic is real. It is the only book that has ever made me cry.
LK Shaw - Rontel by Sam Pink, because his use of exclamation points influenced the way I think.
Ashley Opheim -The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book deals with some of my favorite topics: Personal Legends, gypsies, crystals, pyramids, love and magic. My boyfriend’s mom came and visited us in Montreal last month and her and I happened to be reading this book at the same time. It was also published the year I was born, 1988. Positive omens aside, the story is about a boy named Santiago who, after having a recurring dream, decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find a secret treasure. I literally couldn’t put the book down and finished it in a couple sittings. The core theme of the book is destiny and frequently mentions “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” It made me feel good and in touch with my Personal Legend
Mason Johnson - Lindsay Hunter’s “Don’t Kiss Me.” It proves that prose can be as poetic or as terrible — in the good, enthralling sorta way — as it wants. Hopefully everyone takes notice and continues to blur the lines that separate writing into restrictive forms.
Giles Ruffer - Replacement by Tor Ulven. I have chosen this book simply because I think it will be the book that I will be most likely to reread in coming years, compared to other books I have read this year. Synopsis: a 150 page prose poem told from various perspectives, as funny/bleak as Beckett, but wholly original… a “poet’s novel”
Chad Redden - Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood. It wasn’t like cartoons, but it made me think in cartoons about everything.
Cassandra Troyan - My Mother: Demonology: A Novel: Kathy Acker I was in Sweden in January sleeping on a blow-up mattress in my friends’ abandoned apartment when I read this. Her work has also been in the back/foreground of my thoughts for years, as it helps in allowing me the capacity to write the things often not said or heard.
Matthew Landry - I don’t read books. I only read reviews of books!!!
Jacob Perkins - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote because, well, I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Something about knowing the outcome for those characters from the beginning gives you the obligation to see it through to the end (watch them die).
Mira Gonzalez - my favorite book i read this year was probably good morning midnight by jean rhys because it made me feel less alone during a time when i felt very alone
Evan Bender - vox by nicholson baker. i found it at strand, its a neon pink erotic novel and it only cost me a dollar. i read it on the train and it made me miss my stop.
Samantha Conlon - i liked ‘amrita’ by banana yoshimoto most this year because i was feeling bad at the time and everytime i opened the book i felt less bad and that there was still a way to be calm if i just remembered how, reading it just felt very slow and i was travelling in asia at the time so it felt like a really nice filter to see things through
James Ganas - Bernhard Schlink- The Reader. No one escapes guilt. Everybody feels bad.
Paul Rizza - Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. my favourite only in retrospect—no other book put up such a struggle in being read—but how could i not love a novel about a woman lying on the floor staring at a dying cockroach?
Matthew Bookin - I think my favorite book I read in 2013 was “Fires” by Nick Antosca. ”Fires” crescendos like a motherfucker. It’s less than 200 pages, but I haven’t encountered any other book that was nearly as moving or frightening this year. I read it in one sitting.
Mike Bushnell - Best Book I Read This Year: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos WHY: This book taught me more about poetry than any other book I read this year.
Tracy Dimond - The Wild Iris by Louise Glück because it screams in a controlled, eloquent voice. I whisper the lines when I’m in traffic.
Sebastian Castillo - My favorite book I read this year was Hypothermia by Álvaro Enrigue. Originally published in 2006 and recently translated/published in English by Dalkey Archive. Short stories like I’ve never read before; I’ll be going back to this book for years.
Matt Nelson - Mike Young, Look Look Feathers
Russ Woods - My favorite book I read this year is Whale in the Woods by Blueberry Elizabeth Morningsnow. The title poem is a simple description of a huge whale stuck in the middle of the woods, dying and crushing a patch of flowers. There are a lot of poems written from the perspective of a lake with lines like “I’m a giant throat in the earth.” The whole thing is totally charming and funny and subtle and somehow metal as all fuck.
Thais Benoit - haute surveillance by johannes goransson. It was an exciting exploration of what one can do with prose poetry, totally enchanting.
Chris Dankland - The book that has made the deepest impact on me this year is probably ‘Crapalachia’ by Scott McClanahan. I learned not to eat food while reading that book because I would it would make me laugh or tear up really suddenly, I felt like the book was partly trying to kill me. Once I almost choked on a piece of half-cooked chicken that got stuck in my throat while reading a scene where a young Scott McClanahan pours a beer into his Uncle Nathan’s feeding tube, who has cerebral palsy and can’t speak. I’d also say ‘Crapalachia’ is probably the only novel I’ve read where the book trailer actually contributed to the book’s effect. McClanahan edited together his own home movies for it…there’s Uncle Nathan and Grandma Ruby, and all these other ‘characters’ you just read about it.
Luna Miguel - My favorite book that I have read this year is “Transparent Boby”, by de Romanian surrealist poet Max Blecher. It’s hard to find this little book in Spanish, so I can imagine that you couldn’t find it in English… but you should. Please: you must read Blecher. His weird poetic world is really awesome.
Guillaume Morissette - One of the books I liked reading the most this year was probably Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday. It’s a pseudo-textbook set during his time working as Director of Marketing for American Apparel that explains how to manipulate the blog economy and engineer viral content to grow your online brand. I liked Holiday’s life advice and level-headed analysis, and felt stimulated reading about the various examples and anecdotes about Gawker and other websites sprinkled throughout the book.
Crispin Best -my favourite thing of this year is “i feel yes” by nick sturm
Meggie Green - The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. This is a moving, messy story about: familial bonds (between Estha and Rahel, young twins who make a home in each other, and their strange relations whose titles — aunt, grandmother — belie their callousness); impending political tumult; damning, ages-old societal laws; what distance does over time; and what time does to longing. The language is deft and playful and I swear the characters are more alive than I am. I love this part: “Now, these years later, Rahel has a memory of waking up one night giggling at Estha’s funny dream. She has other memories too that she has no right to have.”
DJ Berndt - my favorite book I read this year is probably How We Light by Nick Sturm. his poems are beautiful and thin and thunder. I think Nick Sturm will get a lot of people excited about poems.
Stephen Michael McDowell - Taipei by Tao Lin. My experience reading Taipei, a literary ‘crossroads’ between history, poetry, science fiction, and google web search data log, was probably the most cinematic experience I’ve had transposed from page-to-imagination. Tao Lin’s work as a novelist has been an inspiration for my own and i sometimes think that in the days after the modern world has been transformed into the dystopia everyone appropriately fears it will, this book may be our descendants’ most enlightening view of what life in the early twenty-first century was, and may help them understand how their version of the future could continue to progress.
Mallory Whitten - i liked pimp by iceberg slim. not sure why but i did
Sarah Tue-Fee - I really liked Michael Deforge’s ‘Very Casual’, a collection of comic strips and stories that he’s had published in other collections/on the internet. He works as a designer for ‘Adventure Time’ but his personal style is way more unsettling and abject in it’s cuteness, which I like. The stories, which all have this uniquely absurd sensibility, manage to be affecting while frequently making me laugh out loud with their deadpan humor.
Sarah Jean Alexander - “Leaving the Atocha Station” by Ben Lerner. The protagonist is self-deprecating in this evil, hilarious way. He manages to be both super distant and incredibly close to art at the same time, and that is interesting to me. He’s continually trying to convince people he’s a real person, while being convinced he’s actually a fraud, and so am I, I think.
Natalie Chin - one of my favourite books this year was you private person by richard chiem. i know that the book i am reading is a book i love when i keep stopping to re-read lines or when i dog-ear every other page or when i text photos of certain paragraphs to people i like a lot. i kept doing this with ‘you private person’; i still have a bunch of photos in my phone of parts of the book that i liked. it is quiet and very beautiful and all of it felt like it existed outside of time/only between a you & a me
Roshan Abraham - My favorite book I read this year was No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. There is a childlike obsession with small details and micro-worlds that runs through all the stories. This pinned down the interior experience of consciousness for me in a way that felt accurate but also sweet and good-hearted and welcoming.
Vicki Tingle - a room of one’s own by virginia woolf. I felt ‘confronted’ while reading it (in the best possible way) and it has forced me to think more closely about what it means to be a woman attempting to express myself artistically in what is still a potentially hostile cultural climate. it’s a book that makes me want to be better, for myself and for other women.