Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is both poignant and unsettling. It’s an intimate glimpse into an ordinary life that, in the eyes of society, is still not ordinary enough. This tiny book packs within a Kafkaesque look on conformity, questions about how to live one’s life and what it means to be ‘normal’, all with a fiercely feminist voice and sharp insight. Murata’s novel is the perfect entry point into contemporary Japanese literature.
Alexander Chee’s essay collection is a gift. Some of these essays have been published before, but taken together they offer an incredibly honest inward look, not just into Chee's life, but frequently into my own. They hold up a mirror to my own worries and anger and fear, despite often describing a life not at all like mine. Encouraging readers to examine their own lives is one of the best gifts a writer can give, and I feel honored and lucky to have read this incredible collection.
Unreliable narrators are the best narrators. Unreliable narrators with homicidal tendencies in a creepy orphanage where everyone else also seems to have homicidal tendencies are even better. For proof, read Colin Winnette’s perfectly paranoid and spooky Job of the Wasp. The narrative burrows into your mind and nips off tiny chunks of it until you are not quite sure who is telling the truth. Best read on a gray night with a hot drink.