Dear Match Book,
IÃ¢Â€Â™ve been reading Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Norton Anthology of Short FictionÃ¢Â€Â over the last few years, but I canÃ¢Â€Â™t seem to find satisfying contemporary literary fiction. I think the publishing worldÃ¢Â€Â™s obsession with New York City is pompous and a little smug. I have found great comfort in the last decade in reading and watching old Agatha Christie mysteries. I have read most of Louise PennyÃ¢Â€Â™s books. IÃ¢Â€Â™m not at all interested in Lauren Beukes. IÃ¢Â€Â™m enchanted by Edward Carey. I prefer Helen Oyeyemi and other writers of fairy-derived stories to anything tired and angsty. I am particularly opposed to books about young men in New York trying to score. Or rich young women trying to score. Or complicated family dramas involving trust funds. Or food porn. I relish satire. I saw Ã¢Â€ÂœGet OutÃ¢Â€Â and loved it. IÃ¢Â€Â™m also a big Ã¢Â€ÂœSouth ParkÃ¢Â€Â fan and I like to play Magic: The Gathering, the trading card game. Go figure.
If you drew a Venn diagram for your reading habits Ã¢Â€Â” with a circle each for speculative fiction, well-plotted mysteries and satire Ã¢Â€Â” the categories would overlap in modest, but vivid, segments. Your reading proclivities (and your equally compelling aversions) donÃ¢Â€Â™t have to mesh; plenty of books fit neatly into a single genre. But wouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t it be sweet if a couple of your interests aligned in a book or two?
Once Upon a Time
Victor LaValleÃ¢Â€Â™s tender and monstrous modern fairy tale Ã¢Â€ÂœThe ChangelingÃ¢Â€Â could be a book for you, but youÃ¢Â€Â™d have to overcome your antipathy toward literary representations of New York City, the bookÃ¢Â€Â™s setting. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s worth it. Throughout the tale of the rare-book seller and new parent Apollo KagwaÃ¢Â€Â™s nightmarish and suspenseful search for his wife and son, cross-cultural folklore and familiar stories fly (Maurice SendakÃ¢Â€Â™s Ã¢Â€ÂœOutside Over ThereÃ¢Â€Â takes a star turn). But the whole horror story is starkly rooted in thorny, real-world technology, race issues and politics.
Many of Kathryn DavisÃ¢Â€Â™s novels have what you are looking for: beautiful sentences, fantastical bona fides, surprise. Suspense rises from the first, pleasantly disorienting pages of her books. In Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Thin Place,Ã¢Â€Â the backdrop is a rural New England town teeming with animals and with characters who drift between the natural world and a dream-like plane. In Ã¢Â€ÂœDuplex,Ã¢Â€Â on a typical, if futuristic, suburban block, robots and sorcerers mingle with ordinary people, and time and space are charmingly elastic: Ã¢Â€ÂœThe passage of time made no sense to the robots; their farsightedness extended backward and forward in ways that bore no relationship to it.Ã¢Â€Â
More enchantment lies in Kelly LinkÃ¢Â€Â™s deadpan, winsome collection of short stories Ã¢Â€ÂœMagic for Beginners,Ã¢Â€Â though angst haunts these pages, too. A lovelorn teenager hunts for her grandmotherÃ¢Â€Â™s missing handbag; a witchÃ¢Â€Â™s children pine for happy lives. Link is a master of teenage consciousness Ã¢Â€Â” convenience-store ethos and pop cultural references included Ã¢Â€Â” layered with the additional charm of parallel dimensions.
Murder, They Wrote
Two unconventional mysteries mix genre conventions with unexpected stylistic twists. In Kate RacculiaÃ¢Â€Â™s Ã¢Â€ÂœBellweather Rhapsody,Ã¢Â€Â two mysterious killings set 15 years apart at the same grand yet shabby hotel anchor the book, which swells with dramatic plot points and back stories. Despite the surfeit of violent deaths, the story at the fore Ã¢Â€Â” twin musicians, Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker, attend a high school music festival Ã¢Â€Â” remains a daffy coming-of-age story for siblings who get mixed up in murder.
Ben H. WintersÃ¢Â€Â™s apocalyptic detective story Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Last PolicemanÃ¢Â€Â contains an earth-shattering element of science fiction that lifts it beyond a typical procedural. In Concord, N.H., a fledgling police officer named Hank Palace remains stubbornly devoted to solving the mystery of a single death-by-hanging, even though itÃ¢Â€Â™s just one of countless worldwide suicides taking place amid a universal sense of impending doom: Six months from the opening of the book, a giant asteroid will slam into Earth. The familiar tough talk and gallows humor among cops seem achingly poignant when the last days are at hand.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Sellout,Ã¢Â€Â Paul BeattyÃ¢Â€Â™s sweeping satire, slices through the story of race in America with linguistic bravado that is both barbed and jocular, overflowing with wordplay and long strings of cultural associations. Blink and youÃ¢Â€Â™ll have to reread entire, meaningfully cadenced phrases (Ã¢Â€Âœantebellum vellum,Ã¢Â€Â Ã¢Â€Âœsatsumas and segregationÃ¢Â€Â) and paragraphs about a contemporary slave-holding African-American man (with the surname Me), his agrarian childhood near Los Angeles and the details of the case that takes him in front of the Supreme Court. Doubling back to piece together the wild, shocking ideas is almost a requirement, but itÃ¢Â€Â™s also part of the fun.
Do you need book recommendations? Write to email@example.com.
Check out Match BookÃ¢Â€Â™s earlier recommendations here.