Spring break is just around the corner which means a break from hundreds of pages of reading a week and crying in New Side. Looking for something to read in the airport or on the beach? So here we are, being genuine for once in our lives, here are some of the Thrill editor’s favorite reads.
Elise Tran, ‘19
The Incendiaries, R. O. Kwon (2018)
R. O. Kwon made a visit to Kenyon this past fall and she’s a former student of Professor Weber! The prose is beautiful and the plot is riveting (love and religious cults and all that). The best book I’ve read Not For School in a while!
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado (2017)
Now this one, I did read for school, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to close read this with my peers because this short-story collection is WILD! My favorite is the opening short story, The Husband Stitch, but the rest of the collection is also a great read for anyone who’s into horror or speculative fiction.
Tracks, Louise Erdrich (1988)
Even though it’s the third of a tetralogy, this book can stand on its own just fine. I read this for my Native American Literature course here at Kenyon my sophomore year. The prose is poetic and sensual, the main character Fleur is elusive and beautifully threatening. A must read.
Nate Winer, ‘19
The Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
The Secret History tells the story of some elitist kids at a tiny private college in the middle of the woods (lol) and the story surrounding the murder of their friend, Bunny, both the build up to it and the fallout of it. The draw of the book is that it’s not a whodunit but a whydunit. Also it’s about the Classics, and aesthetics, and allows you to enjoy those things from a safe distance, unlike the narrator, Richard, while also critiquing and condemning the elitist attitude of academia.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman (2005)
While this isn’t my favorite Gaiman book, I do think it’s the one that shows his absolute adoration for the art of storytelling better than any other. A quasi-sequel, quasi-spinoff of American Gods (my actual favorite) Anansi Boys tells the story of Charlie and Spider, two sons of the African spider god Anansi, and the trials and tribulations they go through. It’s about brothers, it’s about fathers and sons, it’s about mythology, and most of all it’s about the power and beauty of story.
North American Lake Monsters, Nathan Ballingrud (2013)
This is the most recent book I’ve read, a collection of short stories, some terrifying and some of them depressing and some of them fun but all of them weird. This collection is such a stellar example of modern horror fiction, that doesn’t always go for the gross-out slasher vibe (though there are a few exceptions) but which always warrants close reading and dissection. Not all of these stories are absolute stunners, but they are thought-provoking and disturbing in the best way. Also one has a werewolf in it! Cool!
Chris Raffa, ‘19:
Oreo, Fran Ross (1974)
Fran Ross was an overlooked journalist and comedy writer/genius who was only able to churn out one brilliant novel, unrecognized in her time and only brought back into print in 2015. It’s centered around a young woman on a mission to track down her deadbeat dad, while simultaneously a retelling of the Theseus myth. There are sentences in this book so funny and masterful they will drive you into a Lovecraftian kind of insanity.
The Complete Plays of Sarah Kane (1995-2001)
One of the problems I think a lot of people can have reading plays is that they can seem very trivial. Why should I care about all these wealthy dining room table arguments? Sarah Kane’s plays however (sadly only wrote five) are brutal, violent, grotesque, emotionally trying, and morally uncomfortable, but never for a moment trivial. It feels essential that they be read or staged (if you even can. Her last play 4.48 Psychosis has neither characters nor stage directions.) Though experimental, I never feel the high school play’s “Look at how Important and Quirky this is” cry. And points for the greatest stage direction of all time: “Carl tries to pick up his hands. He can’t. He doesn’t have any hands.”
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James (2019)
Okay, I haven’t actually read this yet, because it came out last week. The real wonder here is his last book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, Man Booker prize winner and crazy sprawling narrative surrounding the 1976 attempt to assassinate Bob Marley. James’ scale is extravagant and his language is blood-real. (First line: “Listen. Dead people never stop talking.”) His new book Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first part of a fantasy trilogy based on African mythology, instead of elves and all that horseshit. Come join me. Read an author doing great work, in his prime.
Cat March, ‘19
Confessions of the Fox, Jordy Rosenberg (2018)
If you like stories about British rogues in the 1700’s (or, alternatively, if you wish the tales of Jack Sheppard were less about cis white men and more about literally anyone else), you will love this story. If you like examining the concept of ‘the archive’ and what it means for trans, queer, impoverished, colonized, and otherwise marked bodies, you will love this story. If you’d like to read a romance between an accomplished trans rogue and his partner (a South Asian revolutionary resisting colonization and seeking justice for stolen knowledges of nature/the body), you will LOVE this story. Read Confessions of the Fox— it’s breathtaking.
The Inheritance Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin (2010-2011)
This story is for anyone who’s tired of reading Academic Books™ and would like to run away to fantasy land. Jemisin uses her mind-blowing worldbuilding skills to create the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a continent where gods walk amongst mortals. If you’ve ever wondered about the kinds of fantasy-logistics it’d take to create tyrant-kings so powerful that they force gods to serve them in chains, then look no further: Jemisim takes the kingdom’s raced/classed/gendered politics and adds mythological consequences to every character’s actions (because, y’know, gods), drawing from black feminism and African folklores to craft a world you won’t want to step out of.
Micah Smith, ’22
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini (2006)
TW: Mentions of suicide. The book is about a kid named Craig, who is ordinary in almost all ways, but he is trying to get into this really high stakes high school. He gets in, but realizes the stress of going to school is worse than simply trying to get in. Eventually, he becomes so overwhelmed and upset with his life that he contemplates suicide, but he checks himself into a psych ward and….well, the rest would be giving away the story. But it finds a way to mix nihilism with the struggles of a teenager and various adults that he meets in the psych ward, and it even works in some comedic elements. Every time I read this book, both in high school and now, it resonates even more with being in such an intense academic environment such as Kenyon.
Tyler Raso, ’19
You Are Not Dead Yet (2013), Wendy Xu
This is poetry, a book of it. I don’t know if you’re a poet, or if you know any poets, but take it from me that, when you read a book of poetry, it’s pretty often you reach the end without laughing (not necessarily a bad thing). You Are Not Dead Yet is not a book that I would call comedic, but it’s a book written by exactly the person who knows how to make you laugh when you feel like you can’t. This book is self-care and soft, strong poetry. I could say a lot about how good this book is, but it’s better to say just how good this book feels.
Reilly Wieland, ‘21
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein (2015)
I just reread this recently, and it was just as good the second time around. Carrie Brownstein is not just in Portlandia! She’s also a very sick musician in the band Sleater-Kinney. She writes like a cool aunt, also. It’s hard to explain the plot of a memoir, so I just suggest that you read it.
Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose (2017)
I actually did read this for a class, but I nonetheless went home and sent a copy to my best friend because I loved these essays so much. They are funny and strange and meandering in just the right way.
Mia Fox, ‘19
Florida, Lauren Groff (2018)
Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson (1997)
I read the second and third books the moment I came out of the womb, and I just read the first book. I didn’t read anything inbetween.