Bookmas: when a picture is worth a thousand dirty words, because you wanted a book, dammit!
Today’s not-so-secret BookSanta: A.G. Pasquella!
A.G. Pasquella’s work has appeared in various spots including McSweeney’s, Little Brother, Hardboiled, Dragnet, Joyland, Monstrosity, Wholphin, The Believer and Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. He’s published three books: The This & The That, NewTown, and Why Not A Spider Monkey Jesus? He lives in Toronto with his wife and two children, makes music with his band Miracle Beard and once appeared as The Voice of Death in a cartoon about a seal with human arms.
What 2014-published non-fiction would you recommend?
How To Breathe Underwater by Chris Turner. This is a collection of essays Turner has written over the years, all bound up in a beautiful package from Biblioasis and edited by Jeet Heer. It’s really cool to see Turner develop as a writer right before your eyes. If you care about technology, pop culture and the environment, then this is the book for you.
Also: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero. If you enjoy Bad Movies and you haven’t seen The Room, go watch it right now! And then, head swirling with questions (“WTF was that?!?”), read this book.
What one 2014-published book do you believe needs more love?
Wall Street. Jacqueline Valencia is an amazing writer and it’s only a matter of time before everyone catches on to that fact. Wall Street is a book of poetry created by raiding The Wall Street Journal. It’s hilarious, inventive and you can download the PDF for free (here)!
Adam Robots by Adam Roberts. This book of short stories was published in 2013 but I didn’t read it until this year. These stories cover almost every single genre of science fiction and made me fall in love with Science Fiction all over again.
What ongoing series of books would you recommend?
The 33 1/3rd books and their Canadian equivalents, The Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing (I really enjoyed NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere by Mark Black). Also the Pop Cultural series from ECW. They published a cultural critique about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Raise Some Shell by Richard Rosenbaum) that is equal parts hilarious and enlightening.
What author would you recommend?
Grand Master: Dashiell Hammett. Damn, that guy could write!
What’s the one book you’ve read in your lifetime that you think everyone should read?
The Phantom Tollbooth comes immediately to mind.
Let’s go specific: what one book would you recommend for…
- Science Fiction: Half Past Human by T.J. Bass. I bought this book from a street vendor in Washington Square Park in New York City. It might be the strangest book I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. Also: Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany: a surreal classic!
- Horror: I used to read tons of horror anthologies when I was younger but I don’t read much horror these days. It’s not a book but the short story “The Pounding Room” by Bentley Little will haunt me always.
- Fantasy: The Odious Child by Carolyn Black. This book of short stories was labeled ‘Urban Fantasy’ by her publisher. This isn’t the High Fantasy of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (which are both great, but you knew that) but a quieter, more magic realist approach to city living and all the claustrophobia, anxiety and paranoia that city living can produce. Fans of surreal humour take note!
- Strict Realism: Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos. Can a novel be considered strictly realist if it includes experimental stream-of-consciousness techniques? I say Hell Yeah.
- Thriller/Mystery: The Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy by James Ellroy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover.
- Non-Fiction: Planet Simpson by Chris Turner. Even if you’re not a member of The Simpsonian Generation, this book is an amazing exploration of a true cultural force.
- Canadian: Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. Set in a dystopian Toronto and infused with Caribbean folklore, Hopkinson’s first novel isn’t of the quiet realist ‘I saw my grandmother standing in the autumn leaves’ school of Canadian writing, but it is definitely Canadian and well worth a read.
- Graphic Novel: The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen. Beautiful, surreal and touching. Also: The Box Man by Imiri Sakabashira. Imagine the work of Charles Burns except even darker and more surreal… that’s The Box Man.
- Poetry: Alien Vs. Predator by Michael Robbins. This book is so much fun it practically bounces. Also: Insects by Iain Deans.
If, god forbid, people couldn’t find any of your books, who else would you suggest they seek out for a similar literary fix?
All of my books are available except for The This & The That, which was a limited edition of only 100 copies and is sold out. For a similar fix, seek out George Saunders, Tex Avery, Lydia Davis, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, William S. Burroughs, Joe Wenderoth and Lou Beach.
For the holidays and anytime I’d recommend everyone remember: we’re all in this together.