Tumblr recommends

As anyone who uses the site can attest, Tumblr is a great venue for people to come together and gush about the things they love (most of which tends to involve pictures of elaborate cupcakes and/or Banksy stencils—but I digress).

Lesser known, maybe, is that there’s also a strong literary community here. So I asked some of my fellow bookish types to recommend a lesser-known title that speaks to them in direct and unusual ways. Blogs generally tend to talk a lot about the news of the day, but this time I wanted to pin down some ironclad, desert-island picks—books that might give your perspective a healthy little kick sideways.

I’ve added all of these titles to the ever-growing list in my notebook. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do the same.

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52books (Laura—New York, NY, USA)

"On Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus Of New York (2003)Though it may seem colossal at first, New York City remains a small town. Unknown forces make residents collide, buildings sway, and time move at unmeasurable rates. Colson Whitehead was born in Manhattan and is able to discern the ebbs and flows of urban life better than most. The stories in this book are as poetic as the views from the Empire State and as gritty as the subway below. When all is said and done this collection is not so much a set of fiction narratives, but a romance novel dedicated to those of us who will always love New York.

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bookavore (Stephanie—Brooklyn, NY, USA)

"On Lynn Freed’s The Curse Of The Appropriate Man (2004): Stumbled across this in another store’s remainders section and will feel eternally guilty for not paying full price, so I recommend it every chance I get. One of the greatest short story collections I’ve read in a while. A fantastic devotional to the deep, dark desires that most women house, and what happens when they are unearthed. I judge story collections by whether I ever skip to the next story without finishing the one I’m on; it didn’t even occur to me to do so with this book. Agonizing and stellar.

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booksinthekitchen (Michael—Edmonton, AB)

"Funny books are usually the ones most in need of defending, but this year’s Booker Prize kind of broke the mold. So who knows? Either way, Chris Bachelder’s 2006 novel U.S.! still makes me laugh every time I even think about its premise—namely, that left-wing muckraker Upton Sinclair has (for some reason) been granted immortality. So he keeps getting killed, then resurrected, all the while pouring out worse and worse novels. The first two-thirds of Bachelder’s book are pure comedy gold, with made-up Amazon reviews and transcripts from the Sinclair sightings hotline. But then it takes an unexpected left-turn, and turns into a heartfelt reminder of literature’s pure transformative power. The best sucker punch you’ll ever walk into.”

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distantheartbeats (Laala—Scotland)

On Fernando Pessoa’s The Book Of Disquiet (1982, posthumous): It’s hard to explain the immense gratitude I have for Pessoa for writing such a work of genius, and my love of his words. Each line is written with absolute authority and affecting poetry. There are an abundance of great authors, but a shortage of those who produce a work where no line is lacking in talent. He wrote, ‘I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling,’ but all he has done is pass it on.

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fictionandcaffeine (Alicia—Long Island, NY, USA)

Dance With Snakes (1996; trans. 2009) is one of only three of Horacio Castellanos Moya’s 15 or so books to be translated into English, and it’s the one that’s been discussed the least. It’s about an unemployed sociology graduate who becomes fascinated with a homeless man and the utter catastrophe on a national scale that ensues when he gets involved in his life. Though more traditionally told than the other two of his novels available, Senselessness and The She-Devil In The MirrorSnakes is similarly dark and hilarious. It propels forward with cinematic force—if a filmmaker could pull off talking snakes on screen like Moya does on the page, the movie adaptation would make millions.

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katiecoyle (Katie—Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

I want to urge all literate people to read Vestal McIntyre’s 2006 collection You Are Not The One. These are eight wonderful, surprising stories, full of funny and insightful prose, and driven by a healthy fascination with the various weirdness of people—two new friends crash parties in New York City, a boy’s beloved pet octopus dies, a woman dances for the very first time. Your heart will soar; your heart will break. Plus, do titles get any better than that?

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lenorebeadsman (Chicago, IL, USA)

"Michael asked me to do a short write-up of a relatively unknown book that speaks to me. I don’t know what ‘not so well known’ means, so I don’t know if I’m cheating by choosing Death Is Not An Option (2010) by Suzanne Rivecca. Each of the stories in the collection features a woman who is living a script she’s written for herself, and in each story, that script is punctured with a flash of emotional insight and honesty. What I love about the book even more than its elegant, limpid prose is its trueness to life. Each of the characters resonated with me; all of their struggles felt real. Rivecca singularly captures the moment when the stories we tell ourselves fall away before enveloping us again, and though it’s only been out since this summer I can tell that Death Is Not An Option is one of those rare books that both changes you and changes with you.”

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maudnewton (Maud—Brooklyn, NY, USA)

I’m not sure what it will take to restore Peter De Vries, once a well-known New Yorker contributor, to prominence—maybe a Jeffrey Frank biography? Kingsley Amis, no slouch in the humour department, called him the ‘funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic.’ But the one novel of De Vries’s that Amis didn’t prescribe for light reading during hangover recovery, the one that he said ‘has its real place in the tearful category, and a distinguished one,’ is my favourite: The Blood Of The Lamb (1961). Rarely have fury and laugh-out-loud comedy been fused as seamlessly as they are in this ultimately wrenching story, which was inspired by the death of the author’s daughter. Initially the narrator approaches religion with the ironic (and hilarious) detachment of someone raised in, but estranged from, the church. But in the end, all humour drains away in an explosive and utterly fruitless confrontation with the divine.”

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thepointedword (Rebecca—Long Island, NY, USA)

Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988) by David Markson is a novel unlike any other, certainly one of the most masterful ever written. The word ‘genius’ has been used by those who are considered geniuses themselves. Experimental fiction is not for everyone, but for anyone with a passion for literature and an appreciation for art that pushes at the margins of its form, this novel is a must. Wittgenstein’s Mistress is the seductive story of a woman named Kate, who believes herself to be the last living person on earth. Her narrative voice is hypnotic and enriched by the world of art and creation, an enigmatic personal history, and the painful truths of her existence and the deterioration around her. It’s heartbreaking. The layered precision and learnedness of the novel are brilliant but never stiff or dull, often comic, and always compelling. It can be read at its surface or for its depths, but it is stunning either way. When I finished, I was genuinely grateful for the experience.

  1. mfox04 reblogged this from booksinthekitchen and added:
    To this list I would add Christopher Miller’s hilarious Simon Silber: Works for Solo Piano, a brilliant send up of...
  2. rebeccaschinsky reblogged this from bookavore and added:
    I am ready to buy THE CURSE OF THE INAPPROPRIATE MAN based on the title alone. Love love love.
  3. megnolia reblogged this from bookavore and added:
    Each and every one of these books listed sound amazing. I’m almost finished reading In Hovering Flight, by Joyce...
  4. condalmo reblogged this from bookavore
  5. bookavore reblogged this from booksinthekitchen and added:
    What an incredible list. Like I needed a larger TBR pile (like any of us do) but hey, there is a certain joy in knowing...
  6. bloom14 reblogged this from distantheartbeats
  7. distantheartbeats reblogged this from booksinthekitchen and added:
    Michael had this great idea for a big tumblr post about some bookish tumblrs greatest books. Sort of like a Books...
  8. katiecoyle reblogged this from booksinthekitchen and added:
    I love recommending Vestal McIntyre to people, and I love that this list makes my opinion look as if it is of comparable...
  9. victoriastreet reblogged this from booksinthekitchen
  10. thepointedword reblogged this from booksinthekitchen
  11. maudnewton reblogged this from booksinthekitchen and added:
    Seconding the Whitehead — he’s a friend now, but I liked his work before I knew him — and wanting to read the others.
  12. booksinthekitchen posted this