It’s that time of year again. My palms are curled around a peppermint mocha frappe as I watch the first flakes of the season fall from a gray sky. Starbucks is warm, but just on the other side of the glass blows a chilly winter wind. Books are always on my mind this time of year. I long to curl like a fallen leaf in the squishiest corner of my couch with a hardback in hand, uninterrupted except by the occasional whistle of boiling water on the stovetop.
The majority of my winter reads are poetry or short story collections. As the weather outside grows colder and the semester comes to a conclusion, I find myself drawn to shorter reads that I can consume in a single sitting.
Each synopsis has been taken either directly from the back of the book or from Goodreads. Click each cover to be linked straight to each novel’s Goodreads page.
A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
Struggling to cope with urban life-and life in general—Frankie, a twenty-something artist,retreats to her family’s rural house on “turbine hill,” vacant since her grandmother’s death three years earlier. It is in this space, surrounded by countryside and wild creatures, that she can finally grapple with the chain of events that led her here-her shaky mental health, her difficult time in art school-and maybe, just maybe, regain her footing in art and life. As Frankie picks up photography once more, closely examining the natural world around her, she reconsiders seminal works of art and their relevance.
With “prose that makes sure we look and listen,” Sara Baume has written an elegant novel that is as much an exploration of wildness, the art world, mental illness, and community as it is a profoundly beautiful and powerful meditation on life.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitraryborders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
Strange things happen all around us all the time, but is it best to acknowledge or to turn away from moments when the weird pokes its way into our ordinary lives?
In these marvelously inventive stories, Samantha Hunt imagines numerous ways in which lives might be altered by the otherworldly. An FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission. A young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed, nightly, into a deer. Two strangers become lovers and find themselves somehow responsible for the resurrection of a dog. A woman tries to start her life anew after the loss of a child but cannot help riddling that new life with lies. Thirteen pregnant teenagers develop a strange relationship with the Founding Fathers of American history. A lonely woman’s fertility treatments become the stuff of science fiction.
Magic intrudes. Technology betrays and disappoints. Infidelities lead us beyond the usual conflict. Our bodies change, reproduce, decay, and surprise. With her characteristic unguarded gaze and offbeat humor, Hunt has conjured stories that urge an understanding of youth and mortality, magnification and loss, and hold out the hope that we can know one another more deeply or at least stand side by side to observe the mystery of the world.
Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views.
Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.
Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell
Make a cup of tea and let yourself feel.
Pillow Thoughts is a collection of poetry and prose about heartbreak, love, and raw emotions. It is divided into sections to read when you feel you need them most.
Photo credit—Ben White on Unsplash