Bookmas: James Patterson fans need not celebrate. Those aren’t really books.
Today’s not-so-secret BookSanta: Emily Schultz!Joyland and the host of the podcast Truth & Fiction. Her novel Heaven Is Small was named a finalist for the 2010 Trillium Book Award alongside books by Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Schultz’s novel The Blondes was a Canadian bestseller, and is forthcoming in the U.S. for Winter 2015. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The Walrus, Prism, Geist, Descant, New Quarterly, CellStories, and Prairie Schooner. She lives in Brooklyn.
What 2014-published fiction would you recommend?
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is her best work yet: smart, hugely affecting, deep themes, a post-mortem on our current society without any soap-boxing. A book where cell phones are part of a cultural museum and Shakespeare is referenced throughout just calls to me.
What 2014-published non-fiction would you recommend?
I’m not sure if you can qualify Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric as essay exactly, but I’m going to break the rules. It’s poetry/essay. I ran out and bought this after reading this amazing essay with her on Guernica Magazine.
Jonathan Bennett’s The Colonial Hotel. It’s a surprising novel that references Hilda Doolittle’s Helen in Egypt. It’s set during an unnamed civil war that is nonetheless incredibly real as a foreign doctor and nurse couple become separated by an attack. Bennett’s a hardworking talent, plus over on Goodreads it’s killing.
What book that you’ve read in 2014 (not necessarily a 2014 book) would you recommend?
I was late in coming to Aimee Bender’s The Color Master (a 2013 book). Highly recommended especially for aspiring short story writers.
What author would you recommend?
Megan Stielstra (Once I Was Cool). She’s one of those authors who can tell about a personal experience that was harrowing and still make it hilarious and charming. I interviewed her for my podcast: http://joylandmagazine.tumblr.com/post/98806752642/truth-fiction-episode-13-megan-stielstra
What’s the one book you’ve read in your lifetime that you think everyone should read?
I don’t think everyone should read the same things. There is always that culture of “the one book you have to read this year” but as people we are more complicated than that. I have read some books that have changed my life, or changed how I thought about writing—but I almost don’t want to tell you what they are, because if you read them they may not have the same effect on you and I don’t want you to be disappointed. You come to such books unexpectedly—often when a close friend hands one to you. My advice is when a friend or relative gives you a book, don’t shelve it, read it. They know you best.
Let’s go specific: what books would you recommend for:
- The science-fiction fan: The Peripheral by William Gibson
- The horror fan: The Fever by Megan Abbott, not quite horror but it walks the line in the same way my novel The Blondes was trying. It’s about collapsing, growling girls, based on the real-life twitching girls of LeRoy, New York, a news story that fascinated me.
- The thriller/mystery fan: Joyland by Stephen King. It and he were pretty good to me this year when our books got mixed up.
- The non-fiction fan: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel. I’m reading this for research for my next novel. The stories are fantastic and it’s a great dip-in book for anyone who can only read in short stretches.
- The (your nationality) fan: My nationality is both Canadian and American so I’m going to pick Adam Sol. He’s an American living in Toronto, and his latest poetry collection, Complicity, is a stunner. Tremendous work.
- The (genre I couldn’t think of) fan: Leslie Feinberg died this year, a groundbreaking writer and activist for LGBT people everywhere. I read Stone Butch Blues in 1997. I was 23 and saw Feinberg speak that same year. The journalistic-like plot details a woman passing for a man in the 1960s and transitioning. Definitely worth revisiting.
Neil Smith has a new novel called Boo coming out in 2015 and I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy. That, definitely. It explores an unusual afterlife, kind of like I tried to in my second novel Heaven is Small. But his handling is amazing—the writing and the story both.
What would you recommend for the holidays in a non-literary context?
Sanitize your hands. Often. That is a gift to everyone, including you.