Alyssa's Summer Reads Are Really Weird

July 11, 2019

Alyssa's Summer Reads Are Really Weird

I may have been too ambitious with this list. (I was definitely too ambitious with this list.)

But I couldn’t help myself! There’s too much of the weird, the fabulous, the grotesque, the forward-looking to ignore this summer. What better than to expand the mind in freaky directions while the body is busy melting. 


BTTM FDRS (Ezra Claytan Daniels + Ben Passmore) and Alienation (Inés Estrada) pack a one-two punch of near-future body horror, allowing the all-too-real terrors of gentrification, displacement, and climate collapse to bob and weave around symbiotic life forms and posthuman parasites. And let’s not forget Smashed, the newest collection by Junji Ito, whose horror I always underestimate (and should not read at night).

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Ezra Clayton Daniels, Ben Passmore

Once a thriving working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer...

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Ines Estrada

Drawn in hazy gray pencil and printed in blue pantone ink, this book is about Elizabeth, an exotic dancer in cyberspace, and Carlos, who...

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Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection

Junji Ito

Thirteen chilling nightmares, presented by the master of horror.Try not to be noticed when you eat the secret nectar, otherwise you’ll get smashed… What horrific...

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me (Mariko Tamaki + Rosemary Valero-O’Connell) carries all the pathos of teenage love, following the legacy of Tamaki’s previous home runs Skim and This One Summer. Hot Comb’s (Ebony Flowers) focus is also youth, a coming-of-age story set in a hair salon and rippling outward to touch on identity, sisterhood, race, and love. Michael DeForge’s comic-a-day experiment Leaving Richard’s Valley explores another kind of growing up as animals exiled from their cult fend for themselves in a transitional Toronto.

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Mariko Tamaki

All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her. The day they got back together was the best one...

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Hot Comb

Ebony Flowers

An auspicioius debut examining the culuture of hair from the Rona Jaffe Foundation award-winning cartoonist Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women's...

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Leaving Richard's Valley

Michael Deforge

When a group of outcasts have to leave the valley, how will they survive the toxicity of the big city? Richard is a benevolent...

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Form, function, and phantasm become unmoored in I Become a Delight to My Enemies (Sara Peters), where the voices of an unnamed town rise together to tell the story of the brutality they have survived. In Bunny, Mona Awad’s MFA protagonist falls prey to the sweetly sinister/sinisterly sweet clique of rich girlsthe titular Bunnies—and their monstrous imagination. 

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I Become a Delight to My Enemies

Sara Peters

Dark, cutting, and coursed through with bright flashes of humour, crystalline imagery, and razor-sharp detail, I Become a Delight to My Enemies is a...

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Mona Awad

"One of the most pristine, delightful attacks on popular girls since Clueless. Made me cackle and nod in terrified recognition." --Lena Dunham"Every time I...

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The tender cyborg of Franny Choi’s Soft Science grieves without shame, returning to the loss and pain of each new poem with an openness that should satisfy the most relentless Turing Test. Oval (Elvia Wilk) runs with this season’s themes of loss and urban planning, telling the story of a near-future Berlin in the grips of “sustainability”-driven redevelopment projects, and the young couple navigating mourning, income inequality, and artificial mountains. 

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Soft Science

Franny Choi

Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of...

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Elvia Wilk

“Elvia Wilk’s Oval is a marvel. At the core of this seductive, acute, superbly-contemporary update of mid-period J.G. Ballard lies a deep-beating, deep-dreaming heart.”—Jonathan Lethem"A...

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The non-fiction I want is one that looks to the future and offers hope and resolution. I will make an exception, however, for The Uninhabitable Earth (David Wallace-Wells), a call to action couched in ruthlessly researched pessimism. Alicia Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground approaches suffering, legacy, and racism with fearlessness and grace. The collection of essays is as necessary as it is visceral, offering a deft touch that nevertheless refuses to turn away from the treatment of Indigenous people in North America

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The Uninhabitable Earth

David Wallace-Wells

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon.”—Andrew Solomon,...

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A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Alicia Elliott

A bold and profound work by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a personal and critical meditation on...

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On a very different note, I Like to Watch by Emily Nussbaum brings together some of the television critic’s most intriguing work, incrementally painting the portrait of a writer committed to treating the medium with the respect and accountability that is its due. 

Finally (finally!) I’ll be hosting our next True Reads Book Club (August 19th!) and we’ll be discussing Rough Magic. A chronicle of Lara Prior-Palmer’s victory in the Mongol Derby, the quick compelling read is almost whimsical in its unwillingness to take the “world’s longest, toughest horse race” seriously. There’s a thoughtfulness that guides the narrative from impulsive beginning to thrilling finish line in what is less a coming of age than an unbridling of youth.

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I Like to Watch

Emily Nussbaum

From The New Yorker’s fiercely original, Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic, a provocative collection of new and previously published essays arguing that we are what we...

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Rough Magic

Lara Prior-Palmer

One of Entertainment Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of 2019"Lara’s searingly honest account of her astonishing rise from hopeless underdog to Mongol Derby Champion leaves grit...

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Alyssa Favreau


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