Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lavinia Reviews: Mesogeios

Mesogeios by Steve Karas
4 Stars - Highly Recommended by Lavinia
Pages: 40
Publisher: WhiskeyPaper Press
Released: August 2016

Reviewed by Lavinia Ludlow

There isn’t a smidgeon of fat in Mesogeois, Steve Karas’ newest collection containing five stories barely forty pages in length. There is never a gluttony of adverbs, run-on sentences, nor introspection that wanders off the side of a cliff. If anything, there were instances when I might have craved some marbling in the meat in order to savor the passages a little longer.

What you do get is an honest introduction to Karas’ succinct and simplistic way with words and his punctual content that never lags on the superfluous. The vignettes fluctuate greatly in perspective and anecdote, and each story contains a narrative voice of its own, set in different timeframes spread across a variety of timelines.

The title story, Mesogeois, explores a thirteen-year- old boy’s first exposure to the female form and the irreparable impact it had on the significant relationships that followed, whether romantic, sexual, or familial. Over the course of his life, he pieces together an understanding of mortality, summarizing his findings in a few poetic closing remarks:

Life is about having health and finding true love. She shrugs. What else can it possibly be about? She dusts her hands off to signal that’s it, that there can’t be anything more. Don’t forget me, she tells you. I could never forget you, you say. It’s the last time you ever see her.

Invisible Strings takes on the bizarre fad of an air guitar championship. A sixteen-year- old Greek boy grapples for glory in hopes of becoming the next YouTube star. Although his lust for the spotlight distracts him from his obligations to his brother and family, his shallow dreams prevent him from getting involved in violent and xenophobic initiatives. His naivety reminds us that although our worlds may be in shambles, we must find strength in our connections, art, and individuality.

Wherever Karas chooses to set his scene, he challenges himself by taking on a range of perspectives and landscapes. From young to old, male to female, foreign countries to transitional backdrops such as airports or airplanes, Karas is a writer who refuses to settle into his comfort zones, and refuses to accept a passive and complacent single point of view in his writing. Highly commendable, and in the literary space, this approach not only fills a gap in the diversity of narrative voices, but he’s also fine-tuned his ability to write from countless angles.

An eclectic short story collection that shouldn’t be overlooked as 2016 comes to a close.

Lavinia Ludlow is a musician and writer dividing time between San Francisco and London. Her debut novel, alt.punk (2011), explored the ragged edge of art, society, and sanity, viciously skewering the politics of rebellion. Her sophomore novel, Single Stroke Seven (2016), explores the lives of independent artists coming of age in perilous economic conditions. Both titles can be purchased through Casperian Books. Her short works have been published in Pear Noir!, Curbside Splendor Semi-Annual Journal, and Nailed Magazine, and her indie lit reviews have appeared in Small Press Reviews, The Rumpus, The Collagist, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy Magazine, and American Book Review.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kenny Mooney Recommends Samuel Beckett

And so we continue our Writers Recommend - a series where we ask writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like an LSA -Literary Service Announcement. 

Kenny Mooney Recommends How It Is by Samuel Beckett

Beckett is probably much better known for his plays rather than his prose, which is a shame, because I would say the latter are much better. I discovered his novels fairly late after a friend suggested I read them. I’m rather annoyed I didn’t find them earlier, although I think I might have been just at the right moment in my life to really appreciate what he was doing.

I started with Malone Dies, as usual with me, always starting in the middle of a trilogy and then going back to the start. Although this particular “trilogy” (Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable) is very loose. Malone Dies was a fascinating and beautifully stark piece of work that really resonated with me, as I was also very interested in writing that reduces, that explores minimalism. I read How It Is immediately after, and it was just staggeringly good.

It’s not really a novel, and arguably it isn’t really a poem either. It’s something in between. Written in a series of passages without any punctuation, each section is like a run on sentence with no real discernible beginning or end. At first it’s disorientating, as we are introduced to a character lying alone in the mud in the dark. Somewhere. But as you read on, a rhythm and a logic organically takes shape. And it’s one of the most beautiful literary works I’ve ever read.

It’s the style, the language in How It Is that just really grabs your attention. It’s a kind of perfect distillation of the ideas Beckett’s was exploring in his later prose, of reducing character, plot, narrative, stripping it all down to almost nothing at all. All you get in How It Is are the words straight from the mouth (mind) of the narrator, and it mirrors the claustrophobic atmosphere of darkness and loneliness, the desperation he feels when he finds another like him. And while it may be minimal, it’s no less vibrant for it. There’s a real pace and snap to the writing that makes it very readable, and much more accessible than his earlier exploration of this idea, The Unnameable.

 Just opening the book anywhere and reading a few passages is such an inspirational thing to do, it’s that kind of a book. Something that you can drop in and out of; take some nourishment from the energy and lurch of the writing. For me as a writer, it’s also wonderful to be able to read something that dares to go where so many writers are told not to go. To read something that really does challenge conventions and has the bravery to dump a lot of things people expect from the novel. It’s genuinely one of those books that stands as something to aim for, at least for me.


Kenny Mooney is a writer and musician, currently residing in York, England. He was born in Berlin and grew up in England, Scotland and Cyprus. His fiction has appeared in [PANK], New Dead Families, Literary Orphans, and others online and in print. His novella The Gift Garden will be published in early 2017.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A TNBBC Twist on "Top 2016" Lists

We've been putting our own little spin on Top End-of-the-Year Lists for five years running. In the past, we had asked small press authors to share some of their favorite reads from the year. Last year, we started shaking things up and asked our review contributors to share theirs....

TNBBC Review Contributor Series: Top Reads of 2016

Melanie Page - Blogger at Grab The Lapels

Melanie's Picks for the Best Books of 2016:

Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman by Lindy West (Hachette Books, 2016)

West, who has been writing essays and involved in comedy for a long time now, takes on discrimination against fat people, rape jokes, abortion, and internet trolls in this funny, smart, concise book of essays. While I criticized Bad Feminist for wandering all over the place and losing the thread, West uses her observations and applies them to Americans who can then rethink their opinions after considering hers.

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

An award-winning cartoonist, novelist, and teacher, Barry collects her thoughts on what it's like to teach, and what is an image, really? Her notes from her first three years teaching are in this unique book and give readers insight on creativity and teaching.

Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon (Sun & Moon Press, 1999)

A novel that starts off-kilter thanks to unreliable narrator Ursula "Bogeywoman" Koderer soon leads readers through an exploration of what it means to be a closeted lesbian in the 70s. The Bogeywoman lands herself in a "bug house" (mental institution) where she and the "Bug Motels" (a band made up of mental patients) make trouble and do their best to wake up each day and be. Funny, tragic, characterized by innovative language and unforgettable characters, Gordon's underground novel is a huge success.


Lindsey Lewis Smithson - Blogger at Straight Forward Poetry

Lindsey's Top 10 of 2016:

I’ve been reading a little bit of everything this year, big presses and small, poetry to political. Here are my top 10 from 2016 in no particular order.

Bad Baby by Abigail Welhouse
Ophelia: A Botanist’s Guide by Emily Alta Hockaday

Liar by Rob Roberge
Hard Choices By Hillary Clinton

Grace by Natashia Deon
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

One Today by Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey
Peg+Cat; The Penguin Problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson (my daughter loves Peg)

Thug Kitchen: Party Grub (make the twice baked potatoes, you can thank me later)
It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow (sure it’s kind of, um, fancy, but the food is tasty).


Lavinia Ludlow - Author

Lavinia's Top 3 of 2016

Kinda Sorta American Dream 
By Steve Karas
Review at TNBBC 

Summary: It’s easy to approach a collection titled Kinda Sorta American Dream with the assumption that every piece will be about Smalltown, USA middle-aged white guys complaining about their wives, jobs, and blue balls, and thinking about cheating on their wives, quitting their jobs, and sitting in front of the TV self-medicating with Doritos and a bottle of gas station whiskey. Quite the contrary, this collection contains an eclectic mix of protagonists and points of view that represent a diverse America, from the first generation Indian girl wishing she could communicate openly with her mother the way she believes all American girls talk with their mothers (HA! that was a laugh out loud moment) to the lonely thirty-something career woman trying to find happiness in online dating to the twelve-year-old girl who wants to see her Syrian pen pal freed from an environment of war and violence. The contrasting perspectives bring a broad spectrum of color to the collection, and paint a realistic picture of a real American society.  

By Jane Liddle

Summary: Murder is a collection of succinct and dynamite flash fiction that stylishly focuses on the topic of, well, murder. The fast-paced stories range from 40-500 words, and collectively feel like a meal of amuse-bouches. Jane Liddle breathes life into a story in less than a single page, and often, a single sentence, creating an unparalleled literary density. Liddle presents the overarching theme of murder through an eclectic mix of scenarios. Many murderous acts are driven by a combination of insecurity and self-hatred within the minds and hearts of cold-blooded killers. We are exposed to mass shootings, sociopaths swinging baseball bats or burning victims alive, to other incidents ranging from assisted suicide, negligent parenting, or freak accidents such as being trampled by a Black Friday-like herd.

The Hopeful
By Tracy O'Neill

Review at The Rumpus
Summary: Tracy O’Neill’s debut novel, The Hopeful, is a literary deep-dive into the ravaging effects of a teen’s pursuit of perfection as a competitive figure skater. Even the cover bodes a metaphor that illustrates just how much the elite bend over backwards in the pursuit of excellence—a silhouette of a figure skater in a catch-foot spin, contorted backwards but still upright while ferociously balancing on a quarter-inch blade. Hopeful delves into the psychology and the irreversible effects competitive figure skating has on personal identity. An exposé that reads like an extended chapter from Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, Tracy O’Neill has an interesting debut novel on her hands written with an original literary grace all her own.


Drew Broussard - Blogger at Raging Biblioholism

Drew's Top Picks of 2016, small press: 

This year was a tremendous year for small-press, for me. Some years, you know, you only scratch the surface - but other years, you end up doing a deep dive. This was one of the latter years, so I want to just shout out some awesome imprints/discoveries in no particular order.

* anything by César Aira 
(New Directions)

After my BookClub read An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (on the recommendation of Patti Smith in M Train), I bought every single Aira I could get my hands on and I've read another five this year. New Directions puts them out in these gorgeous pocket-sized editions and they are all strange, wonderful, quick-reading, and amazing.

* Square Wave by Mark deSilva 
(Two Dollar Radio)

I ended up talking to Mark for So Many Damn Books and it deepened my intrigue into this complex, flawed, but impressive debut novel. There's a Bret Easton Ellis-y nihilism at work but he's also interested in so many intellectual pursuits that you can't help but be intrigued. Weather modification, non-traditional musical scales, a surveillance state... all of this brushes up against dudes being terrible to women (including an absolutely revolting fetish-porn shoot) and digressions that go on for too long... but there was something darkly captivating about this one.

* Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth and Faces in the Crowd 
(Coffee House Press)

The Story of My Teeth came out of nowhere for me via the Tournament of Books and I think it's what sent me down a rabbit hole of reading translated works this year. Valeria is an impossibly bright star and her work - both in its actual content and in its form - is joyful and intelligent and unapologetic. Although I didn't out-and-out love either book, I enjoyed them so much and have thought about them both more than nearly any others I've read this year.

* Animal Money by Michael Cisco 
(Lazy Fascist Press)

What an impossibly weird book. I tried to describe it to people - rogue economists who all get injured at a conference and come up with an idea of living money and then go on the run; there are also aliens, freedom-fighter-terrorists, angels, gods, the total collapse of civilization, and maybe the author himself. It was an overpowering book, one that I don't know that anyone (the author included) could ever truly wrap themselves around... but the experience of trying was an utter delight. The weirdest of the weird, as it turns out, can be fun if you've got a writer who knows what they're doing!


Bronwyn Mauldin - Author

An indie press reading list for 2017

As I read my way through some terrific books from indie presses in 2016, I had no idea that four of them would turn out to be preparation for 2017. These four books – three fiction and one nonfiction – have much to tell us about a world we are about to enter.  

Originally published in 1931, The Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov (translated from the Russian by Konstantin Gurevich and Helen Anderson) tells of a madcap adventure led by Ostap Bender to scam a corrupt government clerk out of the millions he has methodically embezzled over several years. As satire, it mercilessly takes on both the Soviet Union’s New Economic Policy (NEP) and the widespread corruption it engendered. The book begins by reminding the reader who built the world they live in.

“It should be noted that the automobile was also invented by pedestrians. But, somehow, the motorists quickly forgot about this. They started running over the mild-mannered and intelligent pedestrians. The streets – laid out by pedestrians – were taken over by the motorists. The roads became twice as wide, while the sidewalks shrunk up the size of a postage stamp. The frightened pedestrians were pushed up against the walls of buildings.

In a big city, pedestrians live like martyrs.”  

This is metaphor, of course, but it’s also key to the story where an automobile plays a major role. Of the four books reviewed here this is the most laugh-out-loud funny, in part because much of what Ilf and Petrov were satirizing is now widely known. The Golden Calf was popular in its day and remains so today. Russian films based on the book were made in 1968, 1993, and 2006. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mentions the book in passing in The Gulag Archipelago. This newly translated edition was published in 2009 by Open Letter.  

Oleg Kashin takes on corruption and state-sponsored violence in modern Russia in Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin (translated from the Russian by Will Evans). This book continues in the great Russian tradition of absurdist sci-fi political satire. A scientist named Karpov invents a growth serum and embarks on a scheme to get rich quick. When an oligarch and some government officials discover what he’s doing, Karpov is doomed. Fardwor, Russia! may be somewhat opaque to American readers due to our limited knowledge of modern Russia and its discontents. The title of the book, for example, pokes fun at a 2009 article by then-president Dmitry Medvedev. Perhaps we’ll understand of the more obscure references in the coming year.

Kashin is a prominent journalist who has written widely about abuses of power in the former Soviet Union. He was beaten almost to death in 2010 for his reporting, but he continues to write. This English translation was published in 2016 by Restless Books.

The Underground by Hamid Ismailov (translated from the Russian by Carol Ermakova) takes on a very different aspect of Russian life: racism. The main character, Mbobo, is the child of a woman from one of Russia’s ethnic minorities and a long-gone African athlete who competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. When Mbobo isn’t being beaten by fellow students for being poor and of Siberian descent, he’s being abused by complete strangers for being black. This book is set during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his mother’s struggle to make ends meet looms large in Mbobo’s life. His effort to navigate the Moscow subway system as he is passed from one adult to another is an apt metaphor for his effort to make his way in a dark, uncompromising world. Where the previous two books use humor to shine a light on terrible problems, this one breaks your heart:

“The whole of your life is built on the assumption that something will always distract you: maybe Mommy takes you to kindergarten; maybe at school you run, jump, eat, then sleep with your little eyes closed; then wait for Mommy; then go home; then eat, sing, go to the potty, and sleep… But when your mommy turns to stone, and there is nothing external in the whole wide world, then you find yourself face to face with yourself, beyond demands and duties, in spiritual weightlessness, superfluousness, uselessness… what do you do then…?” (ellipses in the original)  

Ismailov is an Uzbek novelist who was forced to leave Kyrgyzstan because of his writing. He now lives and works in London. Restless Books published The Underground in English in 2015.

I ended the year by reading the nonfiction This is an Uprising by Mark Engler and Paul Engler. The subtitle of this book tells it all: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century. Published in early 2016 by Nation Books, it seems uncannily prescient. With major demonstrations happening across the US since the election – one of the largest expected in Washington, DC, the day after the inauguration – Americans from all walks of life are suddenly engaging in mass political actions, many of them for the first time in their lives. Engler and Engler explain the theoretical roots of mass nonviolent action then lay out the elements needed for it to work, such as structure, discipline, and a transformational view of social change. They also offer a clear explanation of how and why nonviolence is more effective than violence in making social and political change.

This is an Uprising uses examples from modern Serbia to Ghandi’s India and across American history to illustrate their case. If you believe the Occupy movement was a failure, read this book to discover another point of view. Occupy brought us the language of "the one percent," which led to legislative action, though not as much as was needed. If you believe the successes of the civil rights movement of the 1960s were the result of inevitable forces of history, read this book to learn how many people worked how hard and how long to implement “Plan C” in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Their plans were so detailed they even measured the distance and time it took to walk from their offices to the places where they would engage in civil disobedience.

These four books offer a set of insights to prepare us for 2017 and beyond. Two use humor to shine a light on corrupt, self-serving leaders and the public decay their policies produce. They show how this is as true to capitalism as it is to communism. One is a cautionary tale about the price to be paid when racism intertwines with a collapsing economic safety net and declining social order. The fourth book reminds us that another world is possible, giving practical advice on how we can build it.

Combined, these books remind us of the power of independent book publishers. Whether they are giving new life to an old book, publishing in translation, or offering readers a new lens through which to view history, independent presses are a vital part of our civil society. These are only four examples. If you want to take literary action in 2017, check out your mass market books published by big transnational corporations from your local library. Spend your book money on independent presses


Lori Hettler - Founder/TNBBC

Best of the Small Press 2016: 

Mesilla by Robert James Russel
(Dock Street Press)

In this tight little story about survival in the unfriendly New Mexico desert, we meet up with Everett Root as he hides out in a mine after a recent shoot out. Having taken a bullet to the leg, Everett's in pretty rough shape. His only chance of survival is to outrun his pursuer, and get to Mesilla - a town he believes will offer him sanctuary. 

Breathtaking, beautiful, and bloody as hell, Mesilla kept me captivated straight through to the very end. The book is all landscape and language, Russell is one helluva talented writer. The only complaint I have is that I wish it were longer. 

Marigold by Troy James Weaver
(King Shot Press)

Warning: this book is basically a series of sad, heart-clutching, suicidal vignettes. I wanted so badly to reach inside the pages and give the narrator a hug. Or maybe a smack across the face. And then a hug. I live tweeted the shit out of this book because it was just so amazing and every sentence was a world. 

Painfully beautiful. Perfectly neurotic.

Bridget Fonda by Elizabeth Ellen
(self published)

Elizabeth Ellen's poetry reads more like a collection of flash fiction with common, interconnected themes woven throughout - abuse, drugs, depression, and a fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality that is overwhelmingly relatable. It's the best and worst of being human - an irrational fear of strangers, the mundane conversations and interactions we're forced to have, a unhealthy neediness and dependency on our children, the desire to be better than our parents but the realization that we're really all the best and worst of them depsite our best efforts. Breathtakingly, horrifically honest and incredibly grounded, I was in love before I even finished the very first poem.

Each Vagabond By Name by Margo Orlando Littel
(University of New Orleans Press)

Every once in a while, you end up reading a book that shocks the hell out of you. Last year, it was Charles Dodd White's A Shelter of Others. This year, it was Margo's Each Vagabond. 

I don't know what I was expecting when I cracked it open but I certainly wasn't anticipating it to grab a hold of me so tightly. I fell in love almost immediately. I want to see this book in everyone's hands. 


This is a crafty little debut. It's all heartbreak and obsession and not being able to see what's right in front of your own face because you're busy hanging on to the past and it's mopey and indulgent but in the absolutely sweetest sort of way.

It reads like art. It feels like home. It took me places I didn't expect it to. And you should let it take you there too.

8th Street Power & Light by Eric Shonkwiler
(MG Press)

A solid follow up to Eric's debut novel Above All Men. Set some years in the future, we are reunited with Sam Parrish. Gorgeously written in Shonkwiler's trademark bare-bones prose. 

Honorable mentions: 
The Shooting by James Boice
The Warren by Brian Evenson
Swallowing a Donkey's Eye by Paul Tremblay
Arachnophile by Betty Rocksteady
Puppet Skin by Danger Slater

Best of the Big Press 2016:
Fallen Land by Taylor Brown
The North Water by Ian McGuire

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2017 David Bowie Reading Challenge

I really love reading challenges because of the way it stretches your reading comfort zone, but I've always sucked at actually completing them. 

In 2015, over at Goodreads, we kicked off our most outrageous challenge ever, borrowing The Beatles Reading Challenge from another group I was a part of, which had turned their songs into reading tasks. And in 2016, we whipped up The REM Reading Challenge. (I really sucked at this one. I couldn't even complete one album, but man was it fun trying!)

There's just something about reading challenges right??? and so..... because I am glutton for punishment, here we are again!

For 2017, we continue with the music theme. And I chose David Bowie this time because I think it's a great way to honor his musical genius. 2016 took him from us way too soon! I admit to being a late Bowie bloomer. I'm of the Labyrinth generation, and first came to really know who he was through that movie and its soundtrack. I also attended the NIN/Bowie concert in the nineties, though I am ashamed to admit leaving before his set was over. Looking back now, I wish I had stuck around. I had no idea how much I would grow to love his music. 

Choosing his discography for our 2017 reading challenge created the perfect opportunity for me to revisit each of his albums, re-familiarizing myself with the lyrics and trying to come up with tasks that matched the themes and symbolism behind each song. Unshockingly, I am a total 80's Bowie girl!!!!

Regardless of which Bowie decade you prefer, what I think is most cool about these kinds of reading challenges... is that you don't even have to be a fan of the bands to participate. You just have to be a fan of READING!!


So here's how this works:

*The goal is to cross off as many of Bowie songs as you can throughout the course of 2017

You can challenge yourself to complete one entire album, focus on completing one decades-worth of albums, or build your own challenge by hitting your favorite song titles... it's totally up to you!

*You cross off the songs by reading a book that meets the criteria listed after each song title.

If the book meets multiple reading tasks, cool! You can apply it to multiple song titles, OR you can make the reading challenge more challenging by limiting yourself to one song title per book.

*There is a built in redundancy with some of the tasks

They are repetitive on purpose, to give you an opportunity to read more than one type of book and still get credit for completing a task. (Sneaky, I know!)

*You can copy and paste the entire list, or your customized challenge list, into your own thread in this goodreads folder and strike through the song titles as you complete them, OR, you can simply copy and paste each song title and its criteria from the master list here as you complete it. (be sure to write the book title and author next to the song title so we know what you read!)


And here's the list.... 
broken down by album, in the order of their release.

David Bowie (1967)

“Uncle Arthur” – Read a book with a man’s name in the title
“Sell Me a Coat” – Read a book that takes place in winter
“Rubber Band” – Read a book about a musician/band or that prominently features one
“Love You Till Tuesday” – Read a book that has a day of the week in its title
“There is a Happy Land” – Read a book with a child protagonist
“We Are Hungry Men” – Read a book about a global catastrophe
“When I Live My Dream” – Read a fantasy novel
“Little Bombadier” – Read a book that is drenched in cynicism and suspicion
“Silly Boy Blue” – Read a book that explores religion
“Come and Buy My Toys” – Read a YA book
“Join the Gang” – Read a book that features a gang of some sort
“She’s Got Medals” – Read a LGBTQ book
“Maids of Bond Street” – Read a book that features a celebrity or is written by a celebrity
“Please Mr. Gravedigger” – Read a book about murder, or that prominently features a murder


“Space Oddity” – Read a space opera
“Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” – Read a book about grieving or that features a character who is grieving
“Letter to Hermione” – Read a book written in the form of diary entries or letters
“Cygnet Committee” – Read a book that uses alliteration in its title
“Janine” – Read a book with a female protagonist
“An Occasional Dream” – Read a book about a break-up
“Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” – Read a fantasy novel with a child protagonist
“God Knows I’m Good” – Read a book about a character who is just scraping by
“Memory of a Free Festival” – Read a book about someone having a bad day

“Width of a Circle” – Read a book that features a monster (real or imagined)
“All the Madmen” – Read a book that deals with mental illness or features a character that is suffering from mental illness
“Black Country Rock” – Read a parody or satire
“After All” – Read a book that has a sad ending
“Running Gun Blues” – Read a book about a serial killer or that features a serial killer
“Saviour Machine” – Read a book in which technology becomes sentient
“She Shook Me Cold” – Read a book that contains bad sex scenes
“The Man Who Sold the World” – Read a book that leaves itself open for interpretation
“The Supermen” – Read a comic book or a book that features characters will superpowers


“Changes” – Read an angsty book
“Oh! You Pretty Things” – Read a book with a punctuation in the title
“Eight Line Poem” – Read a collection of poetry
“Life on Mars” – Read a sci-book that takes place on another planet
“Kooks” – Read a book about parenthood or that revolves around parenting
“Quicksand” – Read a book about despair or in which a character is disillusioned
“Fill Your Heart”  - Read a book that is co-authored
“Andy Warhol” – Read a book that is an homage to something else
“Song for Bob Dylan” – Read a book that is about or prominently features a singer
“Queen Bitch” – Read a book about a seedy underground lifestyle
“The Bewlay Brothers” – Read a book that’s been labeled as an author’s “sell out” title
“Bombers” – Read a book about nuclear war or a book that features an apocalypse


“Five Years” – Read a book that spans a long period of time
“Soul Love” – Read a cynical love story
“Moonage Daydream” – Read a bizarro novel
“Starman” – Read a book about an alien invasion or that prominently features aliens
“It Ain’t Easy” – Read a book that is a rewrite of an older book
“Lady Stardust” – Read a book that is set in the trippy 1970’s
“Star” – Read a book about a person on the verge of something big or features a character’s big break
“Hang on to Yourself” – Read a book about someone who has lost themselves
“Ziggy Stardust” – Read a book that is known as an author’s attempt to ‘reinvent’ themselves (or a book published under a pseudonym)
“Suffragette City” – Read a book that is heavily influenced by another book
“Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” – Read a book about a protagonist who does not deal well with aging

“Watch That Man” – Read a book that features a lot of partying
“Aladdin Sane” – Read a book about a “lost” or past generation
“Drive-In Saturday” – Read a book that has a day of the week in the title
“Panic in Detroit” – Read a book about political turmoil
“Cracked Actor” – Read a book that features a character who is losing their mind
“Time” – Read a book in which time is manipulable or that focuses heavily on time
“The Prettiest Star” – Read a book with an adjective in the title
“Let’s Spend the Night Together” – Read a book about a one-night stand or that features a one-night stand
“The Jean Genie” – Read a book that packs a punch
“Lady Grinning Soul” – Read a book with a creepy sounding title

PIN UPS (1973)

“Rosalyn” -Read a book about teenage lust/obsession
“Here Comes the Night” – Read a book that takes place primarily at night
“I wish You Would” – Read a book that reads like a country song
“See Emily Play” – Read a play
“Everything’s Alright” – Read a book in which everything turns out alright
“I Can’t Explain” – Read a book that made absolutely no sense
“Friday on My Mind” – Read a book cover to cover over the course of one weekend
“Sorrow” – Read a book that makes you cry
“Don’t Bring Me Down” – Read a book that makes you ragey
“Shapes of Things” – Read a book that is considered the “least popular” of an author’s bibliography
“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” – Read a book that features a protagonist who thinks they are invincible, above the rules
“Where Have All the Good Times Gone” – Read a book that makes you feel nostalgic


“Future Legend” – Read a novelette
“Diamond Dogs” – Read a book whose primary character(s) are animals
“Sweet Thing” – Read a book about city living
“Candidate” – Read a book in which the characters spend a lot of time on the street
“Rebel Rebel” – Read a book that features a jaded protagonist
“Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me” – Read a book that rocks your socks off
“We Are the Dead” – Read a zombie novel
“1984” – Read a classic novel
“Big Brother” – Read the last novel in a series
“Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family” – Read the last book in author’s bibliography

“Young Americans” – Read a YA or NA novel
“Win” – Read a book that you won or were gifted
“Fascination” – Read a book by an author you are fascinated by
“Right” – Read a book that someone recommended to you because they knew you would love it
“Somebody Up There Likes Me” – Read a book that is written in third-person
“Across the Universe” – Read a book in which the main character has to travel a long distance
“Can You Hear Me” – Read a book about a “player”, someone who gets around
“Fame” – Read a book that is considered experimental
“Who Can I Be Now?” – Read a book that defies genre
“It’s Gonna Be Me” – Read a book that is full of regrets
“John, I’m Only Dancing (again)” – Read a book that’s set in a foreign country
“After Today” – Read a book that takes place in the future

“Station to Station” – Read a book that is basically a stream of consciousness
“Golden Years” – Read a book with a color in the title
“Word on a Wing” – Read a book that pokes fun at religion
“TVC 15” – Read a book that features a television show or in which the characters are obsessed with TV
“Stay” – Read a book in which the characters stay put
“Wild is the Wind” – Read a book that takes place mostly outdoors

LOW (1977)

“Breaking Glass” – Read a short story
“What in the World” – Read a book that’s told from multiple perspectives
“Sound and Vision” – Read a book that inspires you
“Always Crashing in the Same Car” – Read a road-trip book
“Be My Wife” – Read a book with Wife in the title
“Warszawa” – Read a book that takes place in a foreign city
“Subterraneans” – Read a book about someone or a group of people who have been left behind

HEROES (1977)

“Beauty and the Beast” – read a fairy tale
“Joe the Lion” -  Read a body-horror novel, or a book that contains some gory scenes
“Heroes” – Read one of the more under-rated books in an author’s bibliography
“Sons of the Silent Age” – Read an historical fiction book
“Blackout” – Read a book that features a protagonist who blackouts or abuses drugs regularly
“The Secret Life of Arabia” – Read a book in which the protagonist is keeping secrets

LODGER (1979)

“Fantastic Voyage” – Read a book that features an older (bonus point for grumpy/cranky) protagonist
“African Night Flight” – Read a book written by a person of color
“Move On” – Read a book that features someone who is constantly on the move
“Yassassin (Turkish For Long Live)” – Read a book about migrant workers or someone who hops from job to job
“Red Sails” – Read a book that takes place on a ship or boat or features one as a means of transportation
“D.J.” – Read a book in which someone’s job eats away at them
“Look Back in Anger” – Read a book in which angels are characters or features angels in some way
“Boys Keep Swinging” – Read a book about drag queens or that features a character or characters who dress in drag
“Repetition” – Read a book in which a word is repeated in the title
“Red Money” – Read a book that you find to be highly symbolic

“It’s No Game (Parts 1&2)” – Read a book that is set during a time of protest or political upheaval
“Up the Hill Backwards” – Read a book that is told out of sequence
“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” – Read a book with monsters or demons in it
“Ashes to Ashes” – Read a book that is a follow up or sequel
“Fashion” – Read a book set in the 80’s
“Teenage Wildlife” – Read a book that revolves around a group of teenagers
“Scream Like a Baby” – Read a book that just scares the shit out of you
“Kingdom Come” – Read a book that features a jail or prison
“Because You’re Young” – Read a book in which an older narrator is pining to be young again

“Modern Love” – Read a contemporary love story
“China Girl” – Read a book written by a Chinese author or that takes place in China
“Let’s Dance” – Read an author’s biggest hit
“Without You” – Read a book that is written in second person
“Ricochet” – Read a book that keeps bouncing around in your head
“Criminal World” – Read a book by an author who is, or features a character who is, bisexual
“Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” – Read a book which features a fire or revolves around fire
“Shake It” – Read a book that tried hard but just couldn’t pull it off

TONIGHT (1984)

“Loving the Alien” – Read a book about a conspiracy theory
“Don’t Look Down” – Read a book about a character who finds himself in a bad situation
“God Only Knows” – Read a book with a narcissistic protagonist
“Tonight” – Read a book in which one of the characters die
“Neighborhood Threat” – Read a book in which something or someone terrorizes a neighborhood or group of people
“Blue Jean” – Read a book that is a throwback to another decade
“Tumble and Twirl” – Read a book about travel or that features a character who travels
“I Keep Forgetting” – Read a book that you keep forgetting to pick up once you put it down
“Dancing with the Big Boys” – Read a book with boys in the title or that focuses on a group of boys


“Opening Titles including Underground” – Read a book that’s been turned into a movie
“Magic Dance” – Read a book that would have been more effective if it was a short story (a book that was just too long for no reason)
“Chilly Down” – Read a book that makes a chill run down your spine
“As the World Falls Down” – Read a book about the end of the world
“Within You” – Read a book in which a character has multiple ‘personalities’ within themselves

“Day In Day Out” – Read a book that takes place over the course of one day
“Time Will Crawl” – Read a book that seemed to take forever to finish
“Beat of Your Own Drum” – Read a book that is unlike anything you’ve read before
“Never Let Me Down” – Read a book in which a character places their faith in something
“Zeroes” – Read a book whose final page number ends in a 0
“Glass Spider” – Read a horror novel (bonus: if it has a spider in it)
“Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)” – Read a western or a book that takes place in the wild west
“New York’s In Love” – Read a book by an author who is from or currently resides in New York
“’87 and Cry” – Read a book about someone revisiting their home town (or country)
“Too Dizzy” – Read a book that makes your head spin
“Bang Bang” – Read a book that is a complete disappointment

“You’ve Been Around” – Read a book that has a profound effect on you
“I Feel Free” – Read a book, any book, and take credit for reading it
“Black Tie White Noise” – Read a book that takes place in Los Angeles
“Jump They Say” – Read a book that revolves around a loss in the family
“Nite Flights” – Read a book in which an airplane is used as a mode of travel
“Pallas Athena” – Read a book that deals with religion
“Miracle Goodnight” – Read a book that kept you up way past your bedtime
“Don’t Let Me Down & Down” – Read a translation
“I Know it’s Gonna Happen Someday” – Read a book in which nothing much seems to happen
“The Wedding Song” – Read a book in which a wedding takes place
“Lucy Can’t Dance” – Read a book that can be considered “brain candy” (a quick, easy, enjoyable read)

“Buddha of Suburbia” – Read a book that takes place in the suburbs
“Sex and the Church” – Read an erotica novel
“Bleed Like a Craze, Dad” – Read a book that takes inspiration from another book
“Strangers When We Meet” – Read a book by a previously-unknown-to-you author
“Dead Against It” – Read a book you had initially refused to read
“Untitled No. 1” – Free Space Read: Read any book and take credit here

1. OUTSIDE (1995)

“Leon Takes Us Outside” – Read a book that contains diary or date entries
“Outside” – Read a book in which all of the action takes place outside
“The Hearts Filthy Lesson” – Read a book narrated by someone distant and/or menacing
“A Small Plot of Land” – Read a book that is long and punishing yet unputdownable
“Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)” – Read a mystery novel
“Hallo Spaceboy”  - Read a ghost story
“The Motel” – Read a book that takes place in or prominently features a motel
“I Have Not Been To Oxford” – Read a book that takes place in a city or country you have not yet been to
“No Control” – Read a book that someone recommended to you
“Algeria Touchshriek” – Read a book in which the title is the character’s name
“The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)” – Read a book that features torture of some sort
“Ramona A Stone / I am With Name” – Read a book with a badass villain
“Wishful Beginnings” – Read a book that had a great beginning but fizzled as it went on
“We Prick You” – Read a book with a sex scene
“Nathan Adler” – Read a detective novel
“I’m Deranged” – Read a book that features a crazy ass protagonist
“Thru These Architect’s Eyes” – Read a book that uses punctuation oddly


“Little Wonder” – Read a book about someone who is haunted by their past
“Looking For Satellites” – Read a book that focuses on technology and its impact on a character
“Battle for Britain (The Letter)” – Read a book that takes place in Britain
“Seven Years in Tibet” – Read a book that takes place over a long period of time
“Dead Man Walking” – Read a book that required many rewrites before being published
“Telling Lies” – Read a book in which the narrator is unreliable
“The Last Thing You Should Do” – Take credit for a book you DNF’d
“I’m Afraid of Americans” – Read a book by a non-american author
“Law (Earthlings on Fire)” – Read a book about regrets

HOURS (1999)

“Thursday’s Child” – Read a book about an unlucky character, someone who just can’t seem to catch a break
“Something in the Air” – Read a post-pandemic novel
“Survive” – Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds
“If I’m Dreaming My Life” – Read a book in which dreams are prominently featured
“Seven” – Read a book with a number in the title
“What’s Really Happening” – Read a book in which you weren’t able to guess what was happening
“The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” – Read a dark comedy
“New Angels of Promise” – Read a book about or featuring video games
“The Dreamers” – Read a book that is basically a mid-life lament

Heathen (2002)

“Sunday” – Read a book that is narrated by a survivor of some apocalypse
“Cactus” – Read a western
“Slip Away” – Read a book that features puppets in some way
“Slow Burn” – Read a book that slowly angered or annoyed you
“Afraid” – Read a book that others were scared by
“I’ve Been Waiting For You” – Read a book that you’ve been dying to get your get your hands on
“I Would Be Your Slave” – Read a love story
“I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spacecraft” – Read a book about space travel
“5.15 The Angels Have Gone” – Read a book about the rapture
“Everyone Says Hi” – Read a book that deals with death
“A Better Future” – Read a novel about a Utopia
“Heathen” – Read a book about a main character who has lost their faith/is faithless

REALITY (2003)

“New Killer Star” – Read a book that takes place in New York City
“Pablo Picasso” – Read a book that is about art or features a character who is an artist or works with art in some way
“Never Get Old” – Read a book that was written in a previous century
“The Loneliest Guy” – Read a book that features a hermit or anti-social character
“Looking For Water” – Read a book that features water in some way
“She’ll Drive the Big Car” – Read a book that focuses on a car or features a car as the main mode of transportation
“Days” – Read a book in which someone takes advantage or is taken advantage of
“Fall Dog Bombs the Moon” – Read a book that has a title that appears to be gibberish
“Try Some, Buy Some” – Read a book that is set in, or written in, the 60’s.
“Reality” – Read a book that deals with issues that mirror those we are currently dealing with
“Bring Me the Disco King” – Read a book whose title starts with an verb


“The Next Day” – Read a book that takes place in the near future
“Dirty Boys” – Read a book that is FULL of characters
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” – Read a book with stars in the title
“Love is Lost” – Read a book that is narrated by one’s older self
“Where Are We Now?” – Read a book in which the main protagonist is lost (physically or mentally)
“Valentine’s Day” – Read a book that is written on or around a holiday
“If You Can See Me” – Read a book in which the main character is especially vulnerable
“I’d Rather Be High” – Read a Vladimir Nobokov novel
“Boss of Me” – Read a book that takes place in an office or features a memorable boss
“Dancing Out in Space” – Read a book that takes place out in space
“How Does the Grass Grow?” – Read a book with a military theme
“(You Will) Set the World on Fire” – Read a book with the word fire in the title or that prominently features a fire
“You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” – Read a book that gives you all the feels
“Heat” – Read a book written by a Japanese author or that takes place in Japan


“Atomica” – Read a book that shares a likeness to another book or is written in a style similar to another author
“The Informer” – Read a book that features a hitman of sorts
“Like a Rocket Man” – Read a book that was written in or takes place in the 20th century
“Born in a UFO” – Read a book that features aliens or space ships
“I’ll Take You There” – Read a book that just sucked you right into the story
“God Bless the Girl” – Read a book written by a female author
“So She” – Read a book told from a female’s point of view


“Blackstar” – Read a book that is open to interpretation
“’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” – Read a book that features prostitution
“Lazarus” – Read a book that is told from the pov of a ghost or a person who has died
“Sue (or In a Season of Crime) – Read a straight up who-dun-it novel
“Girl Loves Me” – Read a book that makes no sense whatsoever
“Dollar Days” – Read a book you picked up at a used book store or book sale
“I Can’t Give Everything Away” – Read a book that someone gave to you

Good luck! And feel free to have some conversation in the comments section here to let us know how you are making out!!