Book Recs from Fellow Writers
My fave newsletter writers' fave reads.
I asked some of my favorite newsletter writers to recommend their favorite new books of the year. Here’s what they picked.
BOOK REC: Notes on Complexity: A Scientific Theory of Connection, Consciousness, and Being by Neil Theise
The best introduction to complexity theory that I have ever found or that possibly exists. Searches through all the most interesting and interconnected mysteries of the cosmos ("What is God?" "What is life?"), while remaining both accessible and passionately human. Reading this gave me a new set of eyeballs on the world. I cried at the end. This book is a gift to human kind.
BOOK REC: The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez
Nunez’s books have a certain something that I can’t quite put into words—it’s a yearning quality, I think, combined with a wry, wary intelligence—that I find at once compelling and restorative. So of course I devoured The Vulnerables, a slim, episodic novel about a writer, a parrot, a pandemic, and other mysteries.
BOOK REC: The Holy Day by Christopher Norris
Like Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, which sent me into early labor, this book was a visceral experience, the mechanics of which were almost frightening. Read it if you need a palate cleanser from conventional narrative structure, or if you need a part of your brain rewired. It's like climbing a mountain in flip flops and freefalling off the top.
BOOK RECS: Adult Drama: And Other Essays by Natalie Beach and Scammer by Caroline Calloway
These two books were published/self-published in the same week, and are the culmination of years of competition, internet celebrity, and self-mythologizing. Both books are pretty good reads (though I must admit I preferred Calloway's manic memoir to Beach's studied essays) but together, they become art. Performance art, maybe, but art nonetheless.
BOOK REC: The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Essays on Desire and Consumption by Katy Kelleher
I don't typically read many nonfiction essay collections, but the sheer breadth of this one—essay topics ranged from the history of glass and mirror making to the varied stories behind perfume, silk, and shells—felt like a well-curated tour through a wide breadth of historical topics. The author does such a wonderful job interrogating our continuing attraction toward these things despite their ugly, sometimes violent histories, and as a fiction writer, I found it endlessly inspiring in terms of generating creative ideas.
NAME: Olivia Dunn
BOOK REC: The Book by Mary Ruefle
Is it poetry? Is it prose? Prose about poetry? Either way, it's a magical book full of tiny pieces about nothing, and everything, and makes me feel like anything is possible in writing. It is also very funny.
My own best-of-the-year book list is coming next week, and I gotta say: it sure is tough to narrow down this year. In the meantime, here are my recommendations from last year:
Hope you have lots of time to read while chestnuts roast on the open fire!
PS: The first Book Club for Writers meeting of the new year is Sunday, January 28, 1-2:30PM EST on Zoom. More info here!