The 10 Best Books of 2015 …That I Actually Got Around to Reading

In no particular order…

How to Pose for Hustler | Andrea Kneeland

(Civil Coping Mechanisms)

hustler

Kneeland takes us on an uncompromising funhouse ride of damaged women attractions: mistresses; self-destructive party girls; females who begrudgingly text naked pictures of themselves to their porno-obsessed boyfriends; teenaged goths who fool around in churches; suicidal lesbians coping inside treatment facilities; strippers; bulimics; tragedy fetishists who hoard bad relationships as though they were family photo albums. She brings her characters’ hopes, faults, and fears to the surface. She lets them bleed. A stone cold stunner (see that?).

 

F250 | Bud Smith

(Piscataway House)

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I laughed out loud, like literally laughed out loud, not like just chuckling when you read some clever thing or when you type LOL but feel nothing inside but the weight of the world crushing you, like gut-busting-can’t-breath-who-does-this-guy-think-he-fuckin’-is? laughter. Like sad laughter. Bud Smith is pretty much Axl Rose.

 

Visions | Troy James Weaver

(Broken River Books)

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A coming-of-age, Harmony Korine-style, This Boy’s Life-meets-Wise Blood fever dream that Troy James Weaver carved into some Ouija board he later used to summon the spirits of David Koresh, Jesus Christ, and Richard Ramirez. I can’t even begin to tell you how insane and beautiful this book is.

[Note: Weaver’s other book from 2015, Witchita Stories (Future Tense Books) is also dope.]

 

Cult of Loretta | Kevin Maloney

(Lazy Fascist Press)

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Crackling with powerful satanic energy, this book is a love story for the ages. It’s like When Harry Met Sally except Harry listens to nu metal and Sally is possessed by Zuul from Ghostbusters, has an addiction to shitty speed, and may or may not be a juggalo. Maloney is dark, son.

 

Today I Am a Book | xTx

(Civil Coping Mechanisms)

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Today I am a year-end “best of” selection. Today I belong.

 

Making Nice | Matt Sumell

(Henry Holt and Co.)

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Had to unfollow this sumbitch on Twitter ’cause he posted about baseball too much (also, he never followed me back, so whatev.) Still, this book is outrageously funny and outrageously real. Falls into that “Loveable Loser You Want to Punch in the Fucking Face” genre, which I love. It’s funny. It’s real. It’s outrageous. Sumell is the real deal (whatever that goddamn means.) Oh, and fuck baseball.

 

Saint Cole | Noah Van Sciver

(Fantagraphics)

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A dark thrill ride of bad feelings, bad decisions, bad omens, and I can’t believe this fucking book even exists. It was like my emotions were constantly being dunked on by Shaq. The last panel left me speechless. Probably the closest thing to Dostoevsky a comic book has ever come. Amazing.

 

The New York Stories: Three Volumes in One Collection | Ben Tanzer

(Chicago Center for Literature and Photography)

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Supposed to review this for real. In the meantime, I’ll just say that this omnibus (academic words!) of Tanzer’s short fiction is AMAZEBALLZ! Seriously killer, powerful, etc. etc. stuff. Like getting a totally sweet hand job from someone with an MFA—someone really smart, but also someone kinda shifty, kinda dangerous. Harkens back to the golden age of dirty realism, where Carver and A.M. Holmes and Gaitskill and Tobias Wolff were all your tightest bros. Tanzer’s the best, man.

 

Angry Youth Comix | Johnny Ryan

(Fantagraphics)

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Nihilism, gross-out humor, anti-PC, anti-God, anti-children, anti-humanity. Lots of dicks. Funny, bizarre genius. Robert Crumb was even offended by this fucking guy. Can you believe it? Yes.

 

Selected Tweets | Mira Gonzalez & Tao Lin

(SF/LD Books)

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Here, Gonzalez is my main b while Lin is my side b—charming, funny, totally self-indulgent, totally non-academic, and weird as fuck. It’s like Jack Handy for a younger generation of insane, misanthropic curmudgeons who take/have taken too many drugs. Looks like a bible because it kind of is.  

 

Honorable mention that was released November 2014 but who gives a shit:

Hard Bodies | Justin Grimbol

(Atlatl Press)

hardbodies

Manages to capture a feeling/vibe/whatever that’s so rare in literature today and that I’ve personally tried capturing and that few others have managed to capture, which is basically an enjoyable, no-bullshit take on the mundane lives of regular people. Like, for real. Where nothing extraordinary happens. Almost at all. Eddie Grimboli, who watches rom-coms and has a butt-sniffing fetish, lives with his wife, Bella, and they joke around by throwing dildos at each other and they sometimes bicker. That’s pretty much it, but it’s all done with punchy humor and irresistible warmth, so party.

BRIAN ALAN ELLIS co-edits the literary journal Tables Without Chairs, and is also the author of Something To Do with Self-Hate (forthcoming), The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow, 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living, King Shit (with Waylon Thornton), A Series of Pained Facial Expressions Made While Shredding Air Guitar (forthcoming), and Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty. His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Crossed Out, Zygote in My Coffee, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, Heavy Feather Review, Sundog Lit, Connotation Press, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HTMLGIANT, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Out of the Gutter, Literary Orphans, NAP, The Next Best Book Blog, Revolution John, Lost in Thought, Electric Literature, People Holding, and Atticus Review, among other places. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

Links:

  • Atlatl Press: atlatlpress.com
  • Civil Coping Mechanisms: copingmechanisms.net
  • SF/LD Books: hobartpulp.com/books
  • Broken River Books: brokenriverbooks.com
  • Fantagraphics: fantagraphics.com
  • Chicago Center for Literature and Photography: cclapcenter.com/publishing
  • Piscataway House: theidiommag.com/piscataway
  • Lazy Fascist Press: lazyfascistpress.com
  • Future Tense Books: futuretensebooks.com
  • Henry Holt and Co.: us.macmillan.com/henryholt