By Maggie Nelson
For inspiration and consternation, I often carry Maggie Nelson's Bluets. It is a book-length essay/poem/something that studies blue as a color, an emotion, a state of being, the meaning of sex, an existential mystery, and as art. It can be opened randomly and read with equal (mis)understanding. It's a Rubik's cube of a book.
By Ben H. Winters
Ben H. Winters's Bedbugs is a nightmare novel that, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, tells you everything you need to know by its title.
The Better Angels of Our Nature
By Steven Pinker
I am both delighted by and suspicious of Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, which posits that we live in the most peaceful time in human history. It just doesn't seem possible, does it? But it's true.
Death Is Not an Option
By Suzanne Rivecca
Suzanne Rivecca's Death Is Not an Option begins with a bitterly funny Catholic schoolgirl's story that is absolutely not about redemption, and ends with a small-town schoolteacher fright tale that knocks magical realism on its butt. A brilliant collection.
By Lee Child
Second Son, an electronic-only book, by Lee Child, tells us the origin story of his wandering hero, Jack Reacher. I can’t think of another fictional action hero whose childhood has been so closely chronicled. It’s a love story, yes, but it’s fundamentally about Jack Reacher’s lifelong passion for justice.