In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. This month, we’re highlighting our favorite books that we caught up on last year. What Are You Reading This Month?
Against The Country by Ben Metcalf
Novels that don’t read like novels are some of my favorite novels. The promise of a problem, its complication, and eventual resolution can feel pat, too blatantly telegraphed from the get-go. Against The Country by Ben Metcalf, published in 2015, forgoes such trappings in favor of something much more interesting: a book-length counterargument to America’s idyllic image of rural life that creates tension through rhetoric rather than plot. The book’s short chapters are divided by subject, like the central family’s massive trash pit, murderous chickens, and ill-fated dogs, and the narrator’s vulgar, and convincing, explanation for not naming his characters. He constructs long, tortuous sentences, each stuffed to the gills with qualifiers, modifiers, and asides, his prose picking up more and more energy with every clause he adds on. It’s caustic and profane and very, very funny. [Laura Adamczyk]
Zeroville by Steve Erickson
After seeing encomiums to it steadily grow in number over the past decade, I finally decided to give Steve Erickson’s Zeroville a try, and yeah—it’s excellent. It’s not just the bold, jackhammer-through-a-needle’s-eye writing style Erickson manages to pull off, nor the narrative, which is tailor-made for A.V. Club types, focusing as it does on a film-obsessed man who stumbles, almost Forrest Gump-like, into becoming one of the most acclaimed and divisive film editors of the auteur era of Hollywood. No, it’s that the book features an obnoxiously violence- and sex-attracting weirdo in the Bukowski vein who doesn’t make me want to fling it out an open window. It’s that good. (And no, I won’t be watching the misbegotten movie adaption.) [Alex McLevy]
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Confession: I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere when it came out in 2017, but I reread it recently to prep for the upcoming Hulu adaptation. I was once again floored by Ng’s ability to turn the common story premise of a stranger—in this case, two strangers, mother and daughter Mia and Pearl—into a suspenseful exploration of families and the familiar. I can’t wait to see how this turns out on the small screen. [Danette Chavez]