Staff Picks 2019 : Catherine

December 11, 2019

Staff Picks 2019 : Catherine

Here are books I loved this year, in no particular order!

The Hundreds by Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart

Two incredibly insightful writers and affect theory researchers get creative together in this gem of experimental literature. Reading ‘The Hundreds’ feels like one suddenly accesses crystal clear vision that cuts through everyday daze towards the core of the personal, or an ultra-synthesized version of it.

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The Hundreds

Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart

In The Hundreds Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart speculate on writing, affect, politics, and attention to processes of world-making. The experiment of the one hundred word...

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A Sand Book by Ariana Reines

Real, vulnerable, ethereal, personal, universal, harsh, acute, majestic, lush, heartbreaking. 

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A Sand Book

Ariana Reines

"Mind-blowing." —Kim GordonDeadpan, epic, and searingly charismatic, A Sand Book is at once relatable and out-of-this-world. In poems tracking climate change, bystanderism, state murder,...

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The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

Such a beautifully written book, analytical and yet truly poignant. Lerner fictionalized his experiences as a teenager in the 90s, as he is confronted with the development of his masculinity within a progressive, intellectual family and its potentially toxic developments. As he pursues his goal to win the debate championship, he becomes aware of language’s dangerous elusiveness and elasticity. The book also explores the power dynamics between classes, white supremacy, patriarchy, the political is personal.

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The Topeka School

Ben Lerner

From the award-winning author of 10:04 and Leaving the Atocha Station, a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the...

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Before I Was a Critic I was a Human Being by Amy Fung

I wasn’t familiar with Amy Fung’s work before, I only knew that she was a respected Arts critic. ‘Before I was a critic I was a human being’ goes way deeper than a simple memoir or a reflection about Canadian Contemporary Art. It’s a tremendously important read, as it shows us a bare portrait of Canada from the perspective of a first-generation immigrant (and settler), addressing its foggy multicultural dynamics and colonial politics. Thoughtful, sharp, full of difficult nuances and tough reflections, that book complicated and enriched me.

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Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human Being

Amy Fung

In that moment, I felt closer to whiteness than not. I was completely complicit and didn't think twice about entering a space that could...

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La rose la plus rouge s’épanouit by Liv Stromquist

Stromquist is at ease in this new book, coasting on the same techniques that made her so special and well-loved. This time, she focuses on the purest form of love and the notion of Eros, as well as the difficulty our current generation has to experience it. Referencing heavily Byung-Chul Han’s The Agony of Eros and Eva Illouz’s body of work, she also digs up thoughts and stories by the likes of Fromm, Barthes, Kierkegaard and H.D. Fun & heavy, just what I like in a book!

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La rose la plus rouge s'épanouit

Liv Stromqvist

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Supernatural environmental mystery novel with a twist of psychoanalytical astrology, Drive your plow over the bones of the dead is a compelling read! The main character is a captivating, unconventional aging woman living in a recluse forest in Poland.  When a series of strange murders happen around her, she tries to elucidate what feels like vengeful acts by forces of nature. She muses about environmental issues, cruelty towards animals and the darkness of the psyche, as she experiences the slow inevitable processes of the aging body and its disappearance in our ageist society.

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Olga Tokarczuk

"Extraordinary. Tokarczuk's novel is funny, vivid, dangerous, and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior. My sincere admiration for her brilliant...

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Valerie; or, The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

In Valerie, a powerful novel blurring the boundaries between fiction and biographical essay, Sara Stridsberg plays with the character of Valerie Solanas as she deconstructs her life in short portraits, scanning through the different periods of her life in an intricate back-and-forth that fragments and mirrors, widens and narrows the focal points constantly. The tones constantly shift between abstract poetry, fierce and sometimes also hilarious dialogues, dreamy atmospheric movie-like moments, punctuated with conversations between the writer and its character. Monumental work.

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Sara Stridsberg

A fever dream of a novel—strangely funny, entirely unconventional—Valerie conjures the life, mind, and art of American firebrand Valerie SolanasIn April 1988, Valerie Solanas—the writer,...

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong’s writing is searingly beautiful and tender. Rarely have I seen a title that suits a book so fittingly. Vuong writes a long letter to his mother, but the language barrier between them hinders the message from being transmitted. The book is many personal stories entangled together. The immigration to the United States of his grandmother and his mother, and the experience of shaping their new lives in rural america. A coming-of-age, navigating different cultures and identities at once, while living a devastating first love. I’m excited to Vuong’s future work!

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe,, Huffington Post, The A.V....

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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya V. Hartman

This book is one of a kind, a beautiful experiment itself, a thoroughly researched work of fiction. Hartman explores the revolution subtly broadening the lives of the African American communities living in New York and Philadelphia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Breaking through the rigid and racist moral norms, these characters explored the edges, they dared to live differently, to love differently, aiming at more than pure survival. These stories are not only inspiring, they are important to rectify our comprehension of American post-slavery era. 

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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Saidiya Hartman

A breathtaking exploration of the lives of young black women in the early twentieth century.In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution...

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This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte

The English translation of Moi Aussi je Voulais l’Emporter with beautiful new front cover! Delporte’s musings about being a woman and an artist, about patriarchy, motherhood, relationships and creativity, as she follows Tove Jansson’s trail during a residency, are crucial, they reverberate deeply. I am also haunted regularly by the dreamy description she makes of the béguines, a self-sufficient community from the middle age. I also just love her drawings so much!

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This Woman's Work

Julie Delporte

A profound and personal exploration of the intersections of womanhood, femininity, and creativity. This Woman?s Work is a powerfully raw autobiographical work that asks vital...

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A Fortune for your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib

Poetry generally touches me in abstract ways, often for its content and its flow. Here is a book that has a gorgeous flow and rhythm. I love the sober sharpness in Abdurraqib’s poetry writing. His reflections are filtered through the lenses of the emotional reconstruction after a breakup, it feels like a humble research for clarity and forgiveness. I appreciated the vulnerability and openness present in these pages.

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A Fortune for Your Disaster

Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist. and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was named a...

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Rat Time by Keiler Roberts

Keiler Roberts is awesome! She handpicks meticulously mundane moments from her daily life and presents them honestly, in a simple way, without judgement. She is funny and emotionally aware, it’s a good reminder that being a human is a complex affair. Her books always feel wholesome to me, even if they are at times playing with dark subjects at times.

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Rat Time

Keiler Roberts

Pet deaths and parenting, embarrassing childhood memories and mental illness, Roberts documents her daily life’s minutiae, its up and downs, with the deftness of...

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Making Comics by Lynda Barry

I love this new Lynda Barry. She is easily one of the most stimulating and fun human beings on Earth! 

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Making Comics

Lynda Barry

The idiosyncratic curriculum from the Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity will teach you how to draw and write your story Hello students, meet Professor Skeletor....

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Alienation by Ines Estrada

Fantastically weird, superb drawings of strange, creepy content! Very surreal!  In a post-apocalyptic world, people are confined indoors and face absolute alienation. To distract themselves, they can access any kind of possible experience through virtual reality, and it gets somber, mind bending, as they surfing into a deep-web kind of aesthetics. Human nature in its glorious complexity and dark behaviors!

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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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Finally here are some books I wanted to read that came out this year, but that I didn't have time.

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Essays One

Lydia Davis

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Ingeborg Bachmann

Malina invites the reader on a linguistic journey, into a world that stretches the very limits of language with Wittgensteinian zeal and Joycean inventiveness,...

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Lost Children Archive

Valeria Luiselli

"Impossibly smart, full of beauty, heart and insight . . . Everyone should read this book."--Tommy OrangeFrom the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant,...

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Maria Popova

Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four...

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