Today we kick off a new category, in which we reveal the books on our nightstand. Each week we’ll tell you what a few of our staff members are reading, or we’ll offer a peek at the stacks of our authors and friends. We may have disparate tastes, but the one thing we all share is a love of books.
This week I had the pleasure of starting Bad Feminist, Gay’s recently released essay collection. Beyond bearing my favorite nonfiction qualities (i.e. being wryly funny and painfully honest and entertaining), Gay’s subject matter speaks to pop culture sensibilities. She also explores society’s tenuous relationship with feminism, detailing how she is “a mess of contradictions,” how most of us are. Although she doesn’t wrap anything into a tidy conclusion—another quality I respect in an essayist—I feel better already about being a member of that “messy” camp of feminists, those of us who fall subject to hypocrisy, who can’t always keep the rules straight, but who understand the importance of engaging in the kinds of conversations that Gay presents.
Walking into a library or bookstore—or falling into the swirling vortex the kids call the “World Wide Web”—can be an overwhelming experience. Life is short, and there’s so much literature worth consuming. We all long for a weekend afternoon on the couch, our only companions a cup of coffee and a good book. But what book? You’ve got five sitting unread on your shelf, not to mention three stacked by the front door (library due date approaching), and a Readability queue full of the online essays and short stories you marked “read later.” If you own an eReader, you probably went crazy downloading all the public domain classics you never got around to in high school. Where to begin?
Allow me to simplify things for you by offering some recommendations from a few trusted sources. Herein you’ll discover brand new literature, the craziest stuff on Wikipedia, and everything in between. Mark down what’s of interest to you and disregard the rest. You’ll never run out of things to read, so you may as well just pick something and get started, no regrets.
1) Roxane Gay’s Reading Roundup, Fall 2012: The Rumpus offers some great recommendations and reviews from the co-editor of PANK. She organizes her selections into categories such as “Coming of Age” and “Looking Ahead.”
2) Treehouse: This new online literary magazine requires its contributors to submit Top Five recommendations lists which appear on the site the day after their own creative work is published. The links range in theme from Wikipedia articles to poetry collections to banned books. (The actual pieces posted in Treehouse are excellent, too.)
3) One Way to Talk About Contemporary Fiction: my friend Chris maintains this Tumblr with a friend of his. Find regular links to new fiction and lit-related happenings, nearly all of which are available online.
4) Radiolab: This isn’t a recommendation list per se, but the website for Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s fantastic science radio show is chock full of great listening and reading material. Subscribe to the podcast, check out the show archives, and find supplementary reading material for many episodes.
When you’re on the hunt for new reading material, where do you look first? Whose opinion do you trust the most? Let us know in the comments!