(1) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell: This has been kind of the year of Vowell here at the dunce academy, but so far, so far, our favorite of hers, hands down, has been Assassination Vacation. She has a passion for this particular material that is downright contagious. Infectious, even. She loves, she’s hilarious, it’s the perfect combination. Read it now. Like stop reading this post and go get a copy and read this book as quickly as you can. You will thank me.
(2) Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker: We at the dunce academy sort of fell in love with Parker while reading this book, so maybe don’t pick it up if you’re not prepared for that. She’s a brilliant writer, funny, moving, delightful, thought-provoking. For a more thorough dunce analysis, you can click here. But pick this book up quick if you know what’s good for you.
(3) You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett: I actually hadn’t thought about this breathtaking short story collection in some time. But then I happened to see it on my book shelf late last week, and then just read this article on Lit Hub and it made me think of him again. I don’t think any collection of short stories has ever moved or made me think more. If you haven’t read this, you need to read it. I would put this one on my desert island book list. I think I will be reading it again this month, and you should too.
(4) The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel: Great, great, great suspense/crime fiction Danish writer Sara Blaedel has a new book out/coming out, The Killing Forest, and you’re going to feel like you’ve been missing out if you don’t read The Forgotten Girls first.
(5) The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. Ferrante has finally, finally been gaining some recognition, but she is mostly known for either her breakout and exceptional novel The Days of Abandonment or her Neapolitan novels (My Brilliant Friend, etc.). Those are great, but The Lost Daughter is sort of a hidden gem, short and sweet, but containing everything there is to love about Ferrante. Plus, it’s almost summer, and there is no place better than Italy in the summer. Let your mind go there, even if your body can’t.
(6) The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie: Okay, enough is enough, I can’t let this list get any longer without enthusiastically inserting Mckenzie’s brilliant, moving, breathtaking, hilarious, thought-provoking, mind-blowing novel The Portable Veblen. I laughed out loud. I pondered. Sometimes within the same page. So fresh, so unique, so much going on here, so many awesome and somehow fitting squirrel references. If you have complicated family dynamics and, in fact, normal kind of scares you, this is the perfect book for May. Do it! Do it now! If you didn’t already stop reading to go pick up Assassination Vacation above, seriously, seriously stop now and go get this book. It comes dangerously close to being a perfect novel. Get on it immediately. You will thank the dunce academy later.
(7) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I know we’re going old school on this one, but if you haven’t read it, I think you really need to. It’s great and very moving. Plath was a vibrant, wonderful writer, and I think ahead of her time in terms of depression and the other issues she knew about all too well. This book moved me (see here), and if you haven’t read it yet, May is the time!
(8) A Wrestling Season by Sharon Sheehe Stark: Last, but absolutely not least, is Stark’s A Wrestling Season, a genius, virtually unknown author of one of the funniest books I can remember reading. It’s kind of hard to find, but well worth it. I include a link to AbeBooks; in case you didn’t know, they have just about everything. Similar to Veblen above, AWS deals with complicated family dynamics and related issues, but in a fun way. I ripped through this one. So fun, so good, a real treat.
That’s all for now, Dunce Academy! Happy reading, dunces!