Sometimes game recognises game.
Here's our top picks for reading on your holidays this summer. Or for just reading anyway. In winter. Or whatever. Just books that have come out recently alright?
Gary has gone in all short and sweet on his nominations, whereas Kit has gone gushy. Kind of like in real life, only Gary is massive and not very sweet at all.
Meatspace - Nikesh Shukla
Meatspace is a wonderful book. It's funny – like proper funny – the sort of funny that makes read lines out loud to whoever is in proximity and highfiving them afterwards. It's also utterly contemporary. I personally have a hard time reading books that are set more than twenty years before the time they are written. It's irrational, probably. But it's a real pleasure to read a novel that is in tune with right now.
Shukla explores social media and it's impact on our offline lives with wit, verve and some great characters. Kitab is the narrator of Meatspace but it is his brother in the book, Aziz who may well be one of my favourite literary characters of recent years. I basically want him as my own brother. I could just add the 'ab' to my name I guess. In fact since Kitab's nickname is shortened to Kit and Aziz would sometimes address him as Kit... well, I think that just compounded my infatuation.
Meatspace can be read as a light beach read if you want; it's flows fast and strong. But it has depth. If you want to read this late into the night, when thoughts are like fizzing skittles in your mind, you'll have plenty to think about. [KC]
The Dig - Cynan Jones
From the self styled 'writer of short novels, Jones' tale of the interlocking lives of a bereaved farmer and a primordial badger baiter in the wild greenery of West Wales is a revelation; this is prose approaching the quality of blank verse. Like a Welsh Cormac McCarthy mixed with Niall Griffiths, but better. [GB]
Eat my heart out - Zoe Pilger
I loved this book. It was straight up fun. It's piss-taking, satirical, absurd, farcical and has a brilliant narrative voice. Ann-Marie is a great anti-hero. She is a mess but in all the best ways, convinced that love will save her despite much evidence to the contrary. The book really takes off when she meets an old school feminist in Stephanie who wants to sort of save her. Their interactions and dialogues are fantastic, satirising feminism without demeaning it, mocking idealism without undermining it.
I found the characters, though stretched for satirical reasons believable and somewhat sypathetic. I feel like I've met them in some form throughout my early 20s/art college life. It's a London book, granted, which can sometimes alienate readers but its drunken, hedonistic, woozy narrative would fit in any city.
However, the fact that some parts of the book take place around my neighbourhood mean I'm completely smitten.I've already given my copy away, bought a new copy, then given that one away. I'll probably go and buy another one in the future. [KC]
Sandman: Overture - Neil Gaiman & JH Williams III
Neil Gaiman reprises the Sandman series twenty-five years on from its debut. The worry was always: a) has Gaiman still got it, and b) is this necessary? I'm only two issues in, but the answer is a) most definitely and b) I could read the Sandman forever. Beautiful art from JH Williams III and amazing cover art as usual from Dave McKean. [GB]
Fishing in the Aftermath - Salena Godden
Salena's big collection. The one everyone who has ever seen her live have wanted to buy after a gig but haven't been able to because it hasn't been published until this summer. I'm a big fan of Salena's - like a lot of people I know. We even published a short story of hers in our anthology Connecting Nothing with Something. This collection is an cave of poetic wonders. From my favourite Live-Godden piece, I Want Love ('I want to clip love's toenails') to the Gil Scott Heron tribute poem When I Heard The Man ('it's like wetting the whistle but making no tune') there is gold embedded deep in this book.
Salena is a poet with a big soul, generous with her all her emotions. Her language flits between warm, fighty, dreaming, slapped and tickled. There are enough poems in here for this to be the only collection you buy in 2014 (apart from Chimene Suleyman's Outside Looking On, obviously)
Big shouts have to go to fellow small press Burning Eye Books for publishing the collection, going to show – once again – that the good shit is happening where the good people run things. [KC]
The Wake - Paul Kingsnorth
Kind of a Riddley Walker for the Anglo-Saxon generation. Paul Kingsnorth's novel charting the fates of a bunch of guerrilla fighters fighting the Norman invaders of 1066, written in an Old English 'shadow tongue' is one of the most original novels I've read in years, and delves into the problem of Englishness without ever being patriotic. Beorn angland beorn. [GB]
Bone - Yrsa Daley Ward
I hadn't read or heard any of Yrsa's poetry until our Late Night Literary Salon at Stoke Newington Literary Festival in June. Safe to say, after hearing her read I wanted to get hold of her new collection Bone (her previous On Snakes and Other Stories was published by our friends at 3:AM Press) straight away.
Yrsa's language exudes aches and pains, both the postitive and negative kind. Her poems are simple, they contain truths and lyricism that elevate them to a place of beauty ('Do not thin yourself, be vast. You do not bring the ocean to a river'). I was bewitched with the collection as a whole, each poem flowed well into the next and I read the whole thing in one sitting. This is very rare for me to do. I have revisited it since and again, like Zoe Pilger's book, passed it on and ordered another copy.
I'm pretty broke now, to be quite honest. Books are an expensive habit. [KC]
Vulgar Things - Lee Rourke
Dr Feelgood, the Aeneid, and staring at Saturn from Canvey Island. Lee Rourke's second-novel is a mystery that isn't much of a mystery, a scathing look at the male-gaze and is besotted (as I myself increasingly am) with the huge skies and briny landscapes of the Thames estuary. This is a novel that feels like that rarest of things: new without any hint of vogueishness. Plus it's the only book that's ever made me want to visit Southend. [GB]