Welcome back to The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, or plan to read next.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Samantha feels like an outsider in her exclusive MFA program. She has writer's block and the other girls in her class both fascinate and disgust her. When she is invited to study with them, her world gets completely flipped upside down. Bunny by Mona Awad is both addictive and utterly bizarre with twists you will definitely not see coming. Think The Secret History meets Mean Girls meets Stephen King.
The Need by Helen Phillips
Molly is a paleobotanist and an exhausted mother of two young children. Working at fossil quarry, Molly starts to find strange items that can't be explained - a Coke bottle with the lettering slanting the wrong way, an old toy soldier with a monkey's tail, and, most astonishingly, an alternative version of the bible. When her partner leaves town for work, Molly finds a stranger in her house who makes her question everything and starts to lose her grip on reality. This fast-paced story mixes speculative fiction and ideas of motherhood in a fascinating way.
A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop
This stunning collection of short stories tackles the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires. Some stories are a sentence or two long, others are many pages, but all are full of empathy and insight. Bishop writes about this disaster with clarity, intensity, and extreme beauty. I could feel the smoke unfurling from the pages as I read.
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
I am currently reading Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson and gosh it feels good to be immersed in her gorgeous prose once more. I discovered WInterson 25 years ago and I inhaled everything she had ever written. Her language is dense and vivid and dripping with a subtext of sensuality. In this novel she tackles the debate around AI and trans humanism and she does it in such style. Thoroughly enjoying this one.
Fen by Daisy Johnson
Fen by Daisy Johnson has been a pleasure I indulged in in July. This collection of short stories is wild and fabulous. Girls turn into eels, boys are reincarnated as foxes, groups of women feed off the blood of men. This is a book that weaves folklore with ordinary life and comes up with something refreshingly original. There is even the short story which was the embryo of Johnson's booker shortlisted novel Everything Under. I can't wait to see what Johnson does next.
Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann
Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann. With some books you just have to dig in and hang on for the ride. Beside Myself is one such book. Ostensibly it is about Ali, Russian born, raised in Berlin and currently in Istanbul searching for a twin brother, Anton. But it is a book about identity. Ali, unable to find Anton could perhaps become Anton with the help of some black market Testosterone. Running through and around this narrative is the idea of cultural identity as parents and grandparents spill their stories across generations. A picture of the difficulties of living in Russia through turbulent years comes together slowly and through the traumas suffered through several generations. Ali is the child of people who suffered. How does that suffering play out in Ali's psyche and through Ali's flesh. There is a lot going on in this book and it isn't entirely successful as a novel but if you want to explore queer identity, intergenerational trauma or the Russian diaspora this is a great place to land.
Travellers by Helon Habila
The world Habila describes is familiarly small but the experiences so vast, the suffering so enduring and the joy so unexpected. Travellers is a multi layered story which does enormous justice to the complexity of human migration, the journeys people make and the destinations people reach whether by freedom of implication. It's like each character, event and scene neighboured each other, and my vantage point allowed me to understand their interrelation within a broader narrative. Like being in water and seeing multiple coral ecosystems from above, and then stepping out. The water is still there, it's surface is pleasant, but it is different by the knowledge of what's inside.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
I’m in my genre heartland at the moment. It’s been a few months of reading for the Qld Literary Awards, but I’ve just started Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers - which has been compared to Stephen King's The Stand and Justin Cronin’s The Passage, which are two of my end of the world favourites. If I actually had the time I’d have finished this by now, it’s a first rate novel by a first rate writer and probably his finest work to date. Highly recommended if doorstop post apocalyptic novels are your thing, and, if not, why not?
The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham
There’s two other books that I am highly excited by this month. John Birmingham’s The Cruel Stars - which I’ve also peeked in, and which I would have also finished if I didn’t have judging and parenting duties and a job! This is a significant new Space Opera novel, and I’ll be doing this as an SF Bookclub book either later in the year or early next year. I’ve always wondered what JB would do with Space Opera and I’m not disappointed. I can’t wait to get the damn thing finished.
Garth Nix’s Angel Mage looks incredible too. A new fantasy series by one of our best writers, I haven’t read a book by him that I haven’t adored, and this looks to another classic. It’s a late September release, so I’m aiming to have it as one of our SF Bookclub’s early 2020 book.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
By sharing the innermost stories of four of her patients, Lori Gottlieb, a Los Angeles based therapist, reveals as much about her own life and asks us to think about how we live, how we grieve, how we forgive, and how we choose to die. I loved the wisdom, insight, and wit Lori brings to her writing. If you loved Leigh Sales’ book Any Ordinary Day, I think you will enjoy Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.