Alexandra Kleeman$15.99 $14.71
Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel is wonderfully creepy, ponderous, and strange. A young woman known as “A” lives with her roommate, “B” in an unidentifiable city. The line between the two women starts to blur as B begins to dress and act like A, who can’t be bothered to care. A goes through the motions of her days — putting on makeup, watching endless hours of television, and eating nothing save for a chemical sweet known as a Kandy Kake. Nothing can shake her from her habits, that is until B disappears. Part ghost story, part missing person tale, and part cult narrative, Kleeman presents a world drained of color; where people are numbed by commercials and reality television and their need to consume and consume as a substitute for feeling.
Whether she’s writing about Brecht in California, architecture and its relationship to language, or migration and displacement, Latimer brings a sharp observational skill and compassionate curiosity to her subjects. Blending theory, personal history, and criticism, Like A Woman is a fascinating collection of work that explores the constructs of womanhood, writing, solitude, place, and space.
Julia Armfield$24.99 $22.49
Julia Armfield’s collection of short stories are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The women of her stories are by turns angry, grotesque, brutal, graceful, and ever-transforming. A girl develops an uncanny relationship with her stepmother’s pet wolf; an all-female identifying punk group drives their fans insane; a teenager with a skin disease turns out to be more than meets the eye. Her surprising and sometimes playful descriptions balance out her more gruesome tales — She’ll keep you reading, even as you wish to turn away.
Ottessa Moshfegh$26.00 $23.40
A story of isolation and transformation that is ripe for the current moment, My Year of Rest and Relaxation tells the story of a women whose only goal is to sleep for an entire year. The woman, an unnamed narrator, plans to do so through a methodical application of prescription drugs. She wastes away in her Upper East Side apartment — paid for by an inheritance from her now-dead parents — with the hope of emerging from her year long slumber as a better, spiritually fulfilled person. With cutting descriptions of a certain class of New Yorker — the hip young visual artist, the quack therapist, the Wall Street misogynist, the depressed trust fund WASP — Moshfegh paints a canny and callous view of her narrator’s limited world. In sleeping for an entire year, are you really missing that much in the city that never sleeps?
Lucia Berlin$18.00 $16.56
This exceptional collection of short stories from the brilliant brain of Lucia Berlin is sure to keep you rapt and entertained with each page. Berlin has a knack for finding the miraculous in the mundane. A trip to the dentist’s office reads like a harrowing fever dream. A laundromat crackles in the Southwest sun. Cleaning women, emergency care workers, and drunks all come to life through her vivid prose as each story illuminates the underclass that keeps America afloat.
Patricia Lockwood$17.00 $15.64
Priestdaddy is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read — no small feat considering it’s subject matter. Lockwood wrote the book after she and her husband had to move back in with her parents, owing to a surprise illness and subsequent financial loss. Needless to say, her father (the eponymous Priestdaddy) is not an easy roommate. Lockwood’s way with words is nothing short of miraculous, and it will come as no surprise that she was known as a poet before writing her memoir. Whether she’s writing about the Catholic Church, the early days of the internet, or getting drunk with an Italian priest on Christmas Eve, her wit and originality shines through.
Carmen Maria Machado$16.00 $14.72
Playing with horror and ghost story tropes, this collection by Carmen Maria Machado subverts our expectations at every turn. A dress shop filled with ghosts, a claustrophobic writer’s retreat in the wilderness, a re-imagining of Law and Order SVU, are all fodder for Machado’s genre bending tales. Taken as a whole the collections seems to ask, how do women survive in a world that dictates how they should look, think, feel? What is the embodied cost of that gendered psychological and physical violence? Isn’t that its own kind of horror story?
Elif Batuman$17.00 $15.64
The droll narrator of The Idiot is a delight to spend time with, and I could’ve lived inside her head forever. Selin Karadağ is a freshman at Harvard in the early 2000s, a time when the internet was still new and email offered a radical new form of communication. She meets and falls for an older student named Ivan, and the two begin a nebulous courtship both on and offline. Batuman perfectly captures the beautiful but stuffy atmosphere of an Ivy League campus, where the excitement of learning mixes with the mundanity of days spent between the dining hall and the classroom. Selin and Ivan’s inability to articulate their true feelings for each will feel familiar to anyone who’s ever had a crush on someone they feel is their intellectual superior.
Zadie Smith$17.00 $15.64
Smith has the ability to create characters who feel remarkably human in their joys, their sorrows, their triumphs and their failures. She knows the importance of history and culture in shaping our identities, how trauma can be inherited through generations, and how class plays an enormous role in our lives. In Swing Time, she balances these themes on the shoulders of two girls who meet at a tap dance class in London. The story follows the girls as they grow up and grow apart, their lives unfolding in divergent paths across England, Africa, and America. As a coming-of-age-tale, Swing Time is an incisive portrait of the bonds of friendship and the importance these formative relationships have in our lives.
Warsan Shire’s collection of poetry is a beautiful and painful meditation on what it means to be a woman, a refugee, a mother, a daughter, and person who has to fight for their right to exist. Shire immerses the reader in a world that is being ripped apart, where thousands of people are displaced and forced to flee in order to survive. She then zooms in on individual experiences of those in migration, acknowledging their bodies, their sexuality, their desires and wants. Although it exposes the brutal realities of racism, systematic oppression, and violence, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth is ultimately a portrayal of resilience, it is a voice that claims its right to be heard.
Anna Jastrzembski is a former bookseller and current playwright living in New York City. She can be found on Instagram (@ajastrze) and Twitter (@annajaster).