Brad Kessler

Underdog Literature, May 2012: 15 fresh or remarkable, off-the-wall titles

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Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

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01: RICHARD FORD, „Canada“, 432 pages, 2012.

02: JOSHUA HENKIN, „The World without you“, 336 pages, 2012.

03: DIRK WITTENBORN, „Fierce People“, 335 pages, 2003.

04: STEPHEN L. PECK, „A Short Stay in Hell“, 108 pages, 2012.

05: CAROL RIFKA BRUNT, „Tell the Wolves I’m home“, 368 pages, 2012.

06: KAZUSHI HOSAKA, „Plainsong“, 169 pages, 2011. [Japan]

07: STEVE ERICKSON, „These Dreams of you“, 309 pages, 2012.

08: RAYMOND FEDERMAN, „Double or Nothing“, 267 pages, 1971. [postmodern / Typography]

09: ANDRI SNAER MAGNASON, „LoveStar“, 275 pages, 2002. [Science Fiction, Iceland]

10: GREG RUCKA, „Alpha“, 304 pages, 2012. [Thriller]

11: RACHEL MADDOW, „Drift. The Unmooring of America’s Military Power“, 276 pages, 2012. [Cultural Studies / Essay]

12: AUSTIN KLEON, „Steal like an Artist“, 160 pages, 2012. [Cultural Studies / Self-Help]

13: JOHN VAN DE RUIT, „Spud“, 352 pages, 2006. [Young Adult, South Africa]

14: ANNETT GRÖSCHNER, „Mit der Linie 4 um die Welt“, 250 pages, 2012. [Journalism/Travel, German]

15: MATTHIAS SENKEL, „Frühe Vögel“, 298 pages, 2012. [German; Link to Amazon]

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: FRANCIS SPUFFORD, „Red Plenty“, 448 pages, 2007. [Science Fiction; German version published in April 2012: „Rote Zukunft“, Rowohlt]

02: JUNICHIRO TANIZAKI, „The Makiota Sisters“, 544 pages, 1946. [Japan]

03: LYNNE TILMAN, „Haunted Houses“, 208 pages, 1995. [Young Adult]

04: MARK OLIVER EVERETT, „Things the Grandchildren should know“, 256 pages, 2007.

05: LIZ MOORE, „Heft“, 352 pages, 2012.

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

1: 4 of 5 stars: BRAD KESSLER, „Birds in Fall“, 256 pages, 2006.

2: 4 of 5 stars: JHUMPA LAHIRI, „The Namesake“, 304 pages, 2003.

3: 4 of 5 stars: WOLFGANG HERRNDORF, „Tschick“, 253 pages, 2010. [Young Adult, German]

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Books against Sadness […and Loss, and Grief]: Personal Book Recommendations

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„I’ve been in an emotionally fragile state for a couple months. I’m looking for some literature that will help me be happy with existing again. What do you recommend?“

Books That Will Help Me Grapple With Existence? [a recent discussion in the „books“ section of Reddit.com]

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Last night, I wrote a quick list, answering the above question.

Here are my recommendations [Link]:

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Let’s split this up in… books that deal with dark/depressing themes, but show lots of hope and will be uplifting BY THE END (…but not neccessarily right from the beginning):

  • Gabriel Bà: Daytripper [mortality; life is short]
  • Evan S. Connell: Mrs. Bridge [everyday life is depressing; make your own decisions)
  • Cormac McCarthy: The Road [life can be hell; love prevails]
  • Stewart O’Nan: A Prayer for the Dying [everyone is mortal; you can overcome any loss]
  • Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking [it’s not the end that counts; it’s the memories you make]
  • David Mazzucchelli: Asterios Polyp [everyone’s an island, but the happy, accidental connections between people make life worth living]
  • Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture [you might die tomorrow; strife harder TODAY!!]
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit [hell is other people; avoid the ones that belittle you]
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley: Lost at Sea [it’s okay to feel adrift once in a while]
  • Rob Sheffield: Love is a Mixe Tape [you will lose love – but you’re stronger than you think!]
  • Gayle Forman: If I stay [even with horrendous loss, there’s lots to live for!]
  • Brad Kessler: Birds in Fall [grief is complex and frightening, but consolation can be found in the weirdest moments]
  • Miriam Toews: Swing Low [if a parent decides to die, it does not mean that he didn’t love you]

I also very, very much would like to recommend the anime series „Neon Genesis Evangelion“. It has a fragile, nervous, deeply unhappy soul-searching main character who has an existential struggle with questions like „Why should I care? What can I do? Who should I fight for?“. The answers are complex, and not sugar-coated at all.

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Then, there’s a second, different category: feel-good books, with lots of joy, energy and a life-affirming atmosphere. If you want to feel… happy, warm and consoled, pick the follwing books:

  • Kyohiko Azuma: Yotsuba&! [everyday life is an adventure]
  • Jiro Taniguchi: A distant Neighborhood [when youth is gone… your sense of wonder should remain!]
  • Tove Janson: A Summer Book [life is like the weather. the harsh moments are as much a part of life as the lush ones.]
  • Harper Lee: To kill a Mockingbird [stand up for your beliefs, and reach out to the people around you]
  • Banana Yoshimoto: Kitchen [find your family. they don’t have to be the people you were born with.]
  • Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore [life is rich, magical, paradox, scary and unpredictable. and that’s a good thing!]
  • Joyce Maynard: The Usual Rules [kids are growing. and you are, too.]
  • Kurt Busiek: Superman: Secret Identity [every step of growing up is scary. there’s a fuller picture. don’t get clouded by fear and alienation.]
  • Julie Orringer: The Invisible Bridge [every moment counts. celebrate reality. tell people you love them. make a difference.]

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That’s all for today: a couple of quick book recommendations for anyone who felt sad or needed consolation. Enjoy!

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Related Links:

Underdog Literature, April 2012: 15 fresh or urgent, off-the-wall titles

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Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

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01: ADAM LEVIN, „Hot Pink“, 207 pages, 2012. [Short Stories]

02: ELLEN ULLMAN, „By Blood“, 384 pages, 2012.

03: DOROTHY CANFIELD-FISHER, „The Home-Maker“, 320 pages, 1924.

04: C.D. PAYNE, „Youth in Revolt“, 499 pages, 1995. [Young Adult]

05: JOHAN HARSTAD, „Buzz Aldrin, what happened to you in all the Confusion?“, 478 pages, 2005. [Young Adult, Norway]

06: DENNIS COOPER, „The Sluts“, 304 pages, 2004.

07: AMBER DERMONT, „The Starboard Sea“, 320 pages, 2012.

08: CATHERINE CHUNG, „Forgotten Country“, 304 pages, 2012.

09: LAN SAMANTHA CHANG, „All is forgotten, nothing is lost“, 208 pages, 2010.

10: KAUI HART HEMMINGS, „The Descendants“, 283 pages, 2007.

11: STEVE YARBROUGH, „Safe from the Neighbors“, 272 pages, 2010.

12: BARBARA WRIGHT, „Crow“, 320 pages, 2012. [Young Adult]

13: REBECCA BROWN, „Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary“, 128 pages, 2001.

14: CHARLOTTE ROGAN, „The Lifeboat“, 275 pages, 2012.

15: EDMUND WHITE, „Jack Holmes and his Friend“, 392 pages, 2012.

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: SLOAN WILSON, „The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit“, 288 pages, 1954.

02: BRAD KESSLER, „Birds in Fall“, 256 pages, 2006.

03: WILLIAM MAXWELL, „The Folded Leaf“, 289 pages, 1945.

04: GRAHAM RAWLE, „Woman’s World“, 450 pages, 2005.

05: ANN-MARIE MacDONALD, „The Way the Crow flies“, 848 pages, 2003.

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

1: 4 of 5 stars: GAYLE FORMAN, „If I stay“, 199 pages, 2009. [Young Adult]

2: 4 of 5 stars: KENNY FRIES, „Body, remember“, 256 pages, 1997. [Memoir]

3: 4 of 5 stars: GREGORY CREWDSON, „In a lonely Place“, 160 pages, 2011. [Photography]

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