CCLaP Year in Books 2015: Best of the Best and My Personal Picks

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BEST OF THE BEST

  1. Muscle Cars, by Stephen G. Eoannou

A wondrous, accessible short story collection focuses on the Greek-American community in upstate New York. It is also a powerful rumination about how men see themselves in this time of perpetual war and drastic social change.

  1. Taxidermy Art, by Robert Marbury

Marbury, the founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, curates a collection of eccentric taxidermy. The art works challenge and question our relationship with death and the animal world, but in a kitschy, glorious, tongue-in-cheek manner.

  1. A Curious Man, by Neal Thompson

The life and times of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley, a boy from hardscrabble rural California who became a cartoonist. He later spun his cartooning into one of the first multimedia empires.

  1. Murder Most Serene, by Gabrielle Wittkop

Taking place in eighteenth century Venice, right before Napoleon’s invasion, Wittkop presents a murder mystery suffused with decadence and decay. The murder mystery is less a whodunit than a labyrinth of gossip, masquerade, and morbidity.

PERSONAL CHOICES

In no particular order.

  1. Massive Pissed Love, by Richard Hell

Richard Hell used to be a punk rock frontman for The Voidoids. Today he’s writing film, book, and music reviews for esteemed publications. But he preserves his punk rock ethos, championing the recklessly bizarre, the stripped-down, and the sincere. Turns out he really likes Robert Bresson and The Rolling Stones.

  1. The Familiar, Volume 1, by Mark Danielewski

The Familiar, Volume 2 recently came out and I can’t wait to read it. The Familiar series signals an epic ballsy undertaking in experimental literature. Danielewski’s project will involve a planned 27 volumes. The story in Volume 1 revolves around nine main plots, numerous locations, and all taking place in a single day. Imagine the Wachowski’s Sense8 combined with the formal daring of Infinite Jest.

  1. Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial, by Kenji Yoshino

Yoshino’s legal history of the struggle for marriage equality is learned, accessible, and emotionally resonant. Regardless of where you stand on LGBT rights, this book offers a level-headed examination of both sides. An Asian-American gay man who married and has adopted two children, he also celebrated the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of The Westboro Baptist Church. This might confound NPR leftists, but Yoshino embraced the opinion because the law is meant for all and the ruling was a triumph for free expression.

  1. Horizontal Collaboration, by Mel Gordon

Between the world wars, Paris became the hot bed for literary modernism, jazz, and bohemia. It also helped that prostitution was legal, rent was cheap, and pleasure wasn’t taboo. Written as a follow-up to Voluptuous Panic, Horizontal Collaboration charts the erotic exceptionalism of the City of Lights. Gordon provides an informative map of Parisian brothels and nightclubs. He also has lists of slang terms used to describe prostitution, petty criminals, gay and lesbians, and collaborators.

  1. Hunting with Eagles, by Palani Mohan

A beautifully presented photographic examination of the Mongolian Kazakhs. This ethnic minority traditionally uses eagles to hunt for game. Unlike medieval falconry, which was the sport of kings, the Kazakhs use eagles for survival hunting. Globalization and the allure of opportunities in the city have caused the eagle hunting tradition to dwindle. Mohan captures a way of life that soon may disappear.

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