June 27, 2016

Looking for something else to read this summer? We’ve got you covered.


Recently, the entire Melville House staff put our heads together and recommended some of our books for you to read this summer. It was an amazing list. We were pretty pleased with ourselves.

But it’s been a week, and we realize you’ve probably now read through all of them. (So great, right!?) And because summer is long, we thought we’d put our heads together again, and recommend another list of books — this time, ones we didn’t publish, but that you should probably read anyway:


Ian Dreiblatt (director of digital media):
Of Being Dispersed by Simone White

“I first knew of Simone White through her ace curation at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project and her urgent essay ‘Flibbertigibbet in a White Room / Competencies.’ In her newest book of poems, she trapeezily code-switches between dialects that recall courtroom, bedroom, bathroom, & laboratory — in White’s words, ‘Speech that has wishes.’ She writes about blackness, diaspora, and how language structures us, in a voice of amazing clearness, complexity, drive. Instant classic.”


Marina Drukman (art director):
Hate: A Romance by Tristan Garcia
Translated from the French by Marion Duvert and Lorin Stein

“A story of four lives over the course of twenty-plus years. Love, betrayal, intellect, creativity, sex, the rise of AIDS, politics, freedom, conflict, nationalism, death. This is a bold and very moving book.”


9780811225397Chad Felix (manager of library and academic marketing):
Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Translated from the Spanish by Lee Klein

“A book but also a fire. It earned its author death threats upon its publication in El Salvador back in 1997, and it’s not hard to see why: the novella is a bitter critique of Salvadorean society, in which an entire nation—not just its ruling class and/or failed revolutionaries—is condemned for its crimes against good taste, not to mention human life. It takes place in a bar over two hours, about the length of time it will take you to read it. Sitting in a bar, Vega, an expat professor visiting home for the first time in years (for the sole purpose of acquiring his dead mother’s house, in order that he can sell it), is allowed to choose the music while carefully monitoring his intake of alcohol. It is here, in his one time and place of peace in San Salvador, that Vega dictates his complaints to the other, character Castellanos Moya. The result is a perverse pleasure, an absolutely hilarious single-sit read that burns and sticks and burns again.”


9780374260507Julia Fleischaker (director of marketing and publicity):
The Sellout by Paul Beatty

“If you haven’t read The Sellout by Paul Beatty, may I suggest that you get on that, like, yesterday? An amazing satire, and genuinely laugh out loud funny. I drove people out of rooms because I couldn’t stop reading passages out loud. It’s brilliant, and, I promise, like nothing else you’ve read.”


9780525426608Bailey Flynn (intern):
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

“Kristopher Jansma’s new novel following the intertwined lives of four college friends, each reckoning with their own minuteness in the clamor of recession-struck New York life, might seem like a sentimental jaunt into millennial territory. Instead, it shows us a dysfunctional world, poignant but far from overdone, without sacrificing complexity and realness even in the characters’ smallest exchanges with each other. Without going completely grim, the novel faces obstacle and tragedy, and documents with a careful hand what it feels like to be young, scared, and among friends.”


4192UQAa5KLNikki Griffiths (managing director, Melville House UK):
The Ornatrix by Kate Howard

The Ornatrix is one of those special novels that leaves a lasting impression. I almost feel as though the lingering images in my head are memories, so deftly and skilfully does Kate Howard paint her characters and scenes. Set in sixteenth-century Italy, it tells the story of Flavia, born with a birthmark across her face resembling a bird in flight. Ostracised from birth for her lack of beauty, she finally rebels against the life dealt out to her and ends up working as an ornatrix — a handmaid to a beautiful but cruel courtesan. Her eyes are opened and she is drawn into a world of desire and jealousy that has devastating consequences. Howard creates a spellbinding, almost fairytale world with deliciously dark undertones, captivating from the first page.”


9780989275989Ryan Harrington (editor):
Man and Wife by Katie Chase

“Katie Chase’s debut short story collection takes the absurdities of our everyday lives and darkens them by one shade to create a world we only half-recognize. Our guides through these worlds are girls and women coming of age through (and often despite) eerie rites of passage: childhoods spent in refuge camps, teenage displays of bravery, forced marriages. Like the sunburn you’ll get out there this summer, these stories will make you wonder how something shiny you thought you knew could sting you. And they’ll stick with you.”


9780679752707Kait Howard (publicist):
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
Translated from the Japanese by Ivan Morris

“I’m still reeling after finishing The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. A fictionalized account of the 1950 arson of the famous Kyoto temple Kinkaku-ji, it’s a strange, perfect novel. A young acolyte obsessed with the temple since childhood slowly becomes bent on destroying it, and thereby wrecking the embodiment of pure beauty it represents for him. It’s intense and oddly funny, with slippery Zen philosophizing and minute, inspired descriptions of the landscape. The acolyte’s moral conflict makes for crackling suspense that runs through to the very end.”


9781555977412Dennis Johnson (co-founder, co-publisher):
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

“Max Porter is one of the most exciting literary editors in the UK, so of course I’m all over a novel written by such, despite a title that might elicit a first reaction along the lines of, ‘I do not need more grief. Not this week.’ However, it’s got feathers, which, as it turns out, leavens things. Which is to say yes, it’s got some achingly beautiful lyrical stretches, but it’s also a fascinatingly constructed piece of art (part-fiction, part-poetry, part-script, and yes, with a joke or two — good ones) that in the end does what we pray for literature to ultimately do: sustain us in the battle against grief.”


9780812986495Hannah Koerner (intern):
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

“Each story in this collection gives you just enough to hang onto as you try to navigate its distinct world and rules and characters, and I’ve never been more content to be lost. Link’s narrators lead the reader around, explaining themselves, jumping from past to present, and just occasionally leading everyone astray. It speaks to the collection’s realism and masterful storytelling that I didn’t even notice one section contains not a trace of the fantastical—I was too enraptured trying to piece the narrative together.”


9780199538584Valerie Merians (co-founder, co-publisher):
The Golden Bowl by Henry James

“My favorite summer reading—before I was just reading only manuscripts—was a big, fat novel that you could sink into and just luxuriate. A book that would take you away to another time and place, and pace. For that reason, for many years, Henry James novels were my go-to summer reading. And of those novels, The Golden Bowl was my favorite. A highly wrought, amazingly tense, funny and at times bewildering, book. It shows off James’ ‘late style’ at its finest. (Caution: that late style is not for everyone.) Basically, it’s the tale of a weird love quadrangle—father, daughter, daughter’s best friend, and daughter’s husband—traipsing through nineteenth-century European high society. And it’s a heart breaker.”


9780062112910Liam O’Brien (senior sales and marketing manager):
Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan

“A wildly risky, profane, and insightful book that revels in the messiness and giddiness of teenagerhood. Two friends-turned-enemies battle it out through high school until a jaw-droppingly paced final showdown. One of the best books about young people I’ve ever read.”



9780811225502Simon Reichley (assistant to the publishers):
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

The Last Samurai is the story of Sybilla, a frustrated and underachieving polymath, and Ludo, her terrifyingly precocious prodigy of a son. It is a novel of missing fathers, Japanese cinema, Arabic grammar, and chance. Originally published in 2000, by Talk Miramax (now defunct), the book has been out of print for years, so big-time kudos to our friends at New Directions for bringing it back. The folks over at LitHub did plenty of bookseller gushing for this book a few weeks ago, but it really is hard to overstate how smart and funny and sad and weird and good The Last Samurai is.”


9780802124845Taylor Sperry (editor):
Goodnight, Beautiful Women by Anna Noyes

“If Claire Vaye Watkins’s Battleborn was a story collection for Sad Girls from the West (this is how it was pitched to me, and the pitcher knew exactly what she was doing), then Anna Noyes’s Goodnight, Beautiful Women is maybe for Sad Girls from New England. This is totally unfair to both books—and Goodnight, Beautiful Women is as much a masterwork of storytelling as it is an evocation of place and feeling—but, Reader, you know who you are.”


Jessica Yung (intern):
Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe

“My professor lent me Loop of Jade as a follow-up to a discussion we’d had about ‘what we hadn’t read enough of’—which, for me, was voices from the Chinese experience. I really haven’t read enough poets like Sarah Howe, who was raised by a British father and a Chinese mother, and is decidedly undecided in how she deals with her dual cultural identity. The collection is inspired by Borges, specifically something he wrote about a fictional Chinese encyclopedia, and from there explores clashes between Western and Chinese thought, familial history and personal identity, the simultaneous resentment and love we can feel for the places we’re from. It’s also the first debut to ever win the prestigious TS Eliot prize (a development that met with some unfair resistance). Not an easy book to find—you may have to order it to your local bookstore–but, believe me, it’s worth it..”


Happy summer!