the best indie press books i’ve ever read

Rather than do a year end list or anything like that, I’ve decided to just talk about what books I think are the best ones that I’ve read since I started reading indie back in, like, 2008. These are in no order, but just kind of grouped by writer because it’s easier for me to remember them that way. This is by no means a complete list of the best indie books published in the last however many years. These are just the best of what I read.

No preamble!

Ledfeather by Stephen Graham Jones, FC2

The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto by Stephen Graham Jones, FC2

I’ve read both of these books by Stephen about four times, and they keep getting better. I’m not sure if I’d love contemporary literature as much without these novels. They’re some of my favorite books written in history, and I rank Ledfeather right up there with anything by Virginia Woolf or Ursula K Le Guin, which is a big compliment, if you’re me.

The Book of Lazarus by Richard Grossman, FC2

Girl with Oars & Man Dying by JA Tyler, Aqueous Press

Water by JA Tyler, Civil Coping Mechanisms

JA Tyler is endlessly underrate and overlooked. He’s maybe the most innovative writer in indie lit, and some day he’ll get his recognition. He published some of the best and most transformative books of the last decade and he wrote several of them too. More people need to love JA Tyler. More people need to be like him.

The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised Men by Gabriel Blackwell, Civil Coping Mechanisms

The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss, MudLuscious Press

I have almost too much to say about this novel. I think it’s the best book to come out of indie lit ever. Like, far and away so much better and impressive than anything else the rest of us are even trying to do.

We Take Me Apart by Molly Gaudry, MudLuscious Press

Beautiful and perfect. One of the books that introduced me to the wonderful world of indie lit and I revisit this book pretty often. Still waiting on whatever comes next from Molly. She’s another secret genius.

Poisonhorse by Brandi Wells, MudLuscious Press

Billie the Bull by xTx, MudLuscious Press

Wasn’t really a fan of xTx until this little book. It’s nearly perfect. It might even be completely perfect.

Black God by Ben Spivey, Blue Square Press

This novel, man. It’s almost too much. It’s like reading your own brain falling apart and rotting in your skull. But somehow beautiful and just as heartbreaking. This is a book everyone should read.

American Monster by JS Breukelaar, Lazy Fascist Press

The closest a book’s come to Samuel R Delany’s Dhalgren probably ever. Breukelaar is one of the best new writers around and I can’t wait for whatever comes next. Read this book. There’s really nothing else like it.

The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan: Volume 1 by Scott McClanahan, Lazy Fascist Press

If you don’t know Scott McClanahan, what have you been doing with your life? Funny and heartbreaking and amazing. These are the kinds of stories I would never be interested in if you told me what they were about, but I’m not sure there’s a better reading experience than a McClanahan book.

No by Ocean Vuong, Yes Yes Books

He makes me want to be a poet again, which is something I gave up on back in high school. Since reading this, I’ve written four poetry collections. So, yes, you should read this.

Collected Alex by AT Grant, Caketrain Press

Rain of the Future by Valerie Mejer, Action Books

Dark Matter by Aase Berg, Black Ocean

Butcher’s Tree by Feng Sun Chen, Black Ocean

Ordinary Sun by Matthew Henriksen, Black Ocean

Rather than talk about these books individually, I’ll just say you need to be reading Black Ocean. Every book they put out is pure brilliance.

Edie & The Low-hung Hands by Brian Allen Carr, Small Doggies Press

Brian Allen Carr, another underrate and unknown genius. No one writes like him. No one even thinks like him. I think he may be insane, but it’s the kind of insanity that makes me want to follow him to the ends of the earth.

Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger, MacAdam Cage

Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Lie, Signal 8 Press

Understories by Tim Horvath, Bellevue Literary Press

Quintessence of Dust by Craig Wallwork, KUBOA Press

These three collections by Wallwork, Horvath, and Tieryas are the best collections to come out of indie lit, in terms of quality and diversity. They’re full of big ideas, beautiful worlds, and so much humanity. I don’t typically like short story collections, but these are probably the best ones to read outside of Yasunari Kawabata.

Town of Shadows by Lindsay Stern, Scrambler Books

This little book comes from another dimension, I swear. I’ve Sterns next book as well and it’s somehow even better. Stern is too young to be this good but she writes stories I wish I could write and she writes them in ways I never thought possible. She very well could become my new favorite writer if she keeps this up.

The Empty City by Berit Ellingsen

Beneath the Liquid Skin by Berit Ellingsen, Queen’s Ferry Press

Berit’s books are so different but so perfect. Beneath the Liquid Skin is a collection of fantasy stories that are so full of originality and oddness that they feel like they come from nothing and nowhere. And then The Empty City is so perfect in its quietness. It’s a beautiful book about silence. And, if you follow this site, you know that’s probably my favorite thing. I’ve read her next book as well, and it’s perfect. More people need to know Berit’s work, because she’s one of the true originals.

The Word Book by Mieko Kanai, Dalkey Archive Press

Witz by Joshua Cohen, Dalkey Archive Press

A Heaven of Others by Joshua Cohen, Starcherone Books

Discovered him through Steve Erickson, who’s probably my hero, and I fell in love with Cohen’s work. He’s up there with Kloss, writing so much better than the rest of us could ever hope. And these two books are so completely different that it’s hard to imagine one person doing such disparate things so much better than you can do any one single thing.

The House Enters the Street by Gretchen Henderson, Starcherone Press

The Half-Finished Heaven by Tomas Transtromer, Graywolf Press

For All the Wretched, Beautiful & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed  by Hosho McCreesh, sunnyoutside press

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Mariner Books

We Make Mud by Peter Markus, Dzanc Books

What Precision, Such Restraint by Phil Jourdan, Perfect Edge Books

I hated this book when I read it. If Phil wasn’t a friend, I probably never would’ve finished it. But it’s a collection that keeps brewing in my skull, and it grows on me more and more each month. The entire book is an experiment, and one I’ve never seen attempted. I think the whole is better than the individual stories, but that whole is probably one of the greatest literary tricks I’ve ever experienced. Phil’s a wizard, children. He also makes groovy tunes.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich, Two Dollar Radio

I think indie lit began here for a lot of us. Again, discovered her through Steve Erickson and I’m so glad I did. I love this novel, though it’s by no means an easy one to read or love. It’s chaotic and beautiful and grotesque. It’s hobo junky vampire teens and it’s absolutely brilliant. I wish she had more novels out because I need more of her. The world needs more of her work.

Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita, Coffee House Press

the last of the year in interviews

The final interview of the yearlong weekly interview series brings us back to the man who started it all. It’s JA Tyler’s birthday today, and this is my interview with him at Monkeybicycle. I’ve known JA for a few years now and he’s truly an amazing person, and he does so much for the writing community and young writers like me. He’s a pleasure to talk to, to know, and he always has great advice. Along with that, he’s one of my favorite writers, and, I think, one of the best around, so it’s an honor to call him a friend.

Read his interview and then buy his books. All of them, probably.

I spent last night with Girl with Oars & Man Dying again, almost exactly two years after I first read it. It’s magic and it’s beautiful and it’s perfect. It’s sublime. I love it.

What else? Bart, Bonnie, and Charlie are in town, so we had a very good time the other night, which caused me to spend yesterday sort of a ruinous wreck of human, but tonight we’ll do it again, this time with the Hambro, who’s always a pleasure to see. Just went to the library to get some of the books I requested, so I should have some goodness to occupy my time before they arrive.

I have one more post to write before the year is done, and it’ll be a recap of the year, because that’s what you do, yeah?

Still not sure what to do for New Year’s but Lake & Irving seems to be where I’ll end up.

Lake & Irving is a restaurant started by my good friend Dewey and his brother, Chris. Both of them are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, and Chris has, I think, ten years of experience as a chef at a Hawaiian 5-Star resort, so they come pretty decorated. More than that, they just make awesome food at a reasonable price. Lots of great beers, too, and the interior is so perfect. I really should write a proper post about it soon, but just know that it’s a great restaurant and bar here in Uptown, so if you live in the Twin Cities, treat yourself to some amazing food for a good price.

But, yeah, I guess that’s it. Still doing research on the giant monster novel, which still just means watching godzilla and Evangelion and so on, but the project grows and I’m excited to start writing it. Also, should have cover art soon for a very cool surprise.

It’s 45 degrees out and it’ll be -10 tomorrow, so I think I may try to do anything outside.

Till next time, which will probably be Monday or Tuesday or whenever I have time.

Oh, almost forgot to mention, the indiegogo campaign just broke the $1,700 mark! So many great rewards still to be claimed.

Thanks to everyone who’s been so helpful.

forgot some things

Yeah, so I thought I’d link them now.

The Best Books of 2012 went up at Manarchy a while ago. It’s one of the most liked articles on the site! But, yes, it’s a few lists compiling my favorite books I read over last year, and since I read over 100, it’s a list that matters. I guess. Or something.

My review of The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss also went up at Word Riot a few weeks ago, or maybe only last week. I don’t know. Seems like a long time ago.

Also, I bought my website now. Not really sure why but I guess it makes me more official. Need to update my publications page too. All kinds of broken links in there that need to be fixed.

Anycase, Washington DC in three days, so I can be with my lady love.

Also also, novel’s coming along. Hit the 90k mark a few minutes ago. Want to reach 100k before I leave for the long weekend.

Wish me luck.

Picture!

pi time

My review of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is up at Manarchy Magazine. The site’s going on hiatus for December, so nothing new there till the new year, so my reviews will be going up at other places. Probably about three more reviews going up before the end of the year. Maybe.

MudLuscious Press is doing their subscriptions deals right now, which is an amazing deal from one of my favorite publishers. Be sure to check it out right at the click.

Also, loving this:

mudluscious press needs your help

Words from MudLuscious Press‘ founder, JA Tyler:

–We recd. an enormous outpouring of support since yesterday, when we announced that Mud Luscious Press is in need of about $2K in order to publish the next two novel(la)s and next two Nephew titles for 2012. In fact, in the last 24 hrs. we made about 25% of that goal! Thanks so so much to everyone who ordered or donated, & if we can keep it up today and tomorrow, we stand a fantastic chance of making what we need! If you are game to support MLP, love what we do, and have a little cash to throw to the cause, consider pre-ordering Brandi Wells POISONHORSE, buying a bundle deal, ordering a backlist title from SPD, or even donating directly to us (via jatyler at mudlusciouspress.com). Again, thanks to everyone who has bought a book to keep us alive in the indie publishing scene – we are so grateful for the support!–

One of my favorite independent publishers, and maybe one of the best, or at least most interesting and innovative.

If you’re not sure what exactly to buy, I highly recommend Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby, Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart, Robert Kloss’ How the Days of Love & Diphtheria, Normal Lock’s Grim Tales, Geregory Sher’s The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail.

If you care about independent art, about stories and words and creativity, support it.