Discover more from A Book For Ants: Bite-Sized Reviews of Snack-Sized Books
A Far From Exhaustive Reading Guide
Novella tragics, rejoice! It’s #NovellaNovember, the greatest month of the year. Thirty glorious days to celebrate fiction’s finest form. If you’re looking for some great reads, here’s thirty of my favourites that I’m not likely to review on Ants (I’m reserving this newsletter almost exclusively for “new” reads) but that are well worth your time. One a day, should you please!
Oh, and sorry for the (ironically) longer post.
CLASSICS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal. A beautiful, sweet, and heartbreaking book about the love of books. Probably my favourite novella of all time.
The Topless Tower by Sylvia Ocampo. A boy is sucked into a painting for laughing at the devil and is forced to try paint his way out. Dazzling brilliance from Borges’s contemporary.
An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans. A short, savage novella about the fragility of the civil façade in the wake of war.
Mount Analogue by René Daumal. Mountain climbing as mind-melt in this surreal, unfinished masterpiece about an expedition gone awry thanks to the only theoretical existence of the mountain.
Burning Patience by Antonio Skarmenta. You know the great movie (Il Postino) but the book is infinitely better.
Pew by Catherine Lacey. With echoes of Shirley Jackson, Jordan Peele and any number of classic dark fables (think: The Brothers Grimm), this is a timely little novel that is astonishing in its beauty and depth.
The Tiding of the Trees by Wolfgang Hilbig. In the ashes of what was once a forest, a failed writer encounters inhabitants called Garbagemen who are sorting through the detritus of a destroyed civilisation and arranging discarded mannequins into obtuse poses. Incredible. Literally.
The Box Man by Kobo Abe. A man escapes his unremarkable existence by walking the streets of Tokyo inside a cardboard box with eye holes. My favourite of the Japanese legend’s books.
Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom. Wildly imaginative riff on the peace process told via a batshit crazy doctor trying to immunise her baby (one she stole, mind you) against every imaginable illness. Just extraordinary.
Inside the Head of Bruno Schulz by Maxim Biller. The eponymous author seeks to escape his hometown of Drohobych by convincing his hero, Thomas Mann, to help him find a foreign publisher. The clincher: a man has come to the town claiming to be the great German master and Schulz smells a rat.
All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. A lovelorn guy who lives in a world of superheroes sits next to his wife on a plane, trying to convince her that he exists. Sweet, quirky and life-affirming.
The Books That Devoured My Father by Afonso Cruz. A gloriously nerdy adventure through classic and modern literature as Elias heads off on a quest to find his father who was once so engrossed in a book that he literally disappeared into it.
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders. A tiny country, that can only fit a few people at a time, comes under siege from its expansionist neighbour led by the downright awful Phil. Bloody hilarious.
Mona by Pola Oloixarac. No sacred cow is spared in this hilariously wacky satire of the literary life. I felt seen, attacked and thoroughly entertained.
Joseph Walser’s Machine by Gonçalo M. Tavares. A cog-in-the-machine everyman rebels against his daily routine with some rather unsettling results.
First Love by Gwendoline Riley. Obsessive, unpredictable and harrowing, First Love is a razor-sharp glimpse into the marriage of two terribly ill-suited people.
Assembly by Natasha Brown. An exhilarating bomb placed beneath the classist, racist, misogynist, colonial foundations of British society and set off to spectacular effect.
Dept Of Speculation by Jenny Offill. An ordinary marriage plays out (and falls apart) in gorgeously crafted nuggets of prose. To see a life reduced like this makes me understand how diamonds are formed.
Late Sonata by Bryan Walpert. A little book with very big things to say about music, memory, love and the dark complexity of life. Just astonishing.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Two elderly neighbours find solace in one another’s company much to the chagrin of all around them. Haruf’s swan song speaks to the very essence of humanity with a wisdom only available to the dying
Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy. A dual narrative of forbidden love, casual racism and Brexit-era England on one hand and meta observations on writing, political activism and the abysmal treatment of women in Modi’s India on the other, this is a work of rare genius.
Kirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar. For me, the crown jewel of Israeli literature and also the first book to truly question the foundational narrative of the state itself.
Eat Him If You Like by Jean Teule. Based on a true story, Eat Him If You Like is a deliciously savage rumination on political unrest, mob rule and collective guilt. The parallels to today are unnerving.
White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen. Unrelenting cruelty in the face of dire circumstances that somehow freeze together to make a sculpture of unimaginable beauty.
Peach by Emma Glass. In prose rich and visceral, Peach recounts the few weeks in the aftermath of a violent rape as the narrator struggles to make sense of her experience. Harrowing and stylistically daring, it packs so many punches in the gut that you'll likely spend most of it gasping for breath.
The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel. A family is murdered in a rural farmhouse. Schenkel pieces the crime together in a manner so starkly original it borders on revelation.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells. The first book in the delightfully kooky Murderbot Diaries about a sentient, cynical, soap opera-obsessed security robot.
The A26 by Pascal Garnier. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Bernard finds himself free from society's shackles. Crime fiction doesn't get much better than this masterpiece of amorality.
The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. The Polish master’s recurring shlemuzzle, Ijon Tichy, heads to the titular gathering only to be badly injured and flash frozen. There will be a cure one day. Maybe.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. On her way to Oomza University, Binti is caught up in a mission retrieve a sacred artefact stolen in the course of space colonisation. Queer socio-political sci-fi allegory at its best.
Enjoy #NovellaNovember and please let me know what you’re reading!