It's been a great year for Deep Vellum, and we're pleased to deliver our favorite books from 2016, one contributor at a time. First up, it's Will Evans, Co-Founder of Deep Vellum Books & Publisher at Deep Vellum Publishing. He's our fearless visionary and knows more about Russian literature than just about anyone in Dallas. Will's reading year was cut a bit short due to the arrival of Andy, his (now, almost) seven month-old, adorable, talkative son, but we're impressed with his selections. Read on, friends:
Gessell Dome by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated by Andrea G. Labinger (Open Letter Books)
A brilliant example of why we read foreign fiction: to see a master at work doing something completely different than what we're used to, in this twisted, timely, political thriller from Argentina. It's like Ricardo Piglia's paranoid fiction twisting down history's darkest forked paths.
Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (Saga Books)
Ken Liu is an astonishingly good young writer crafting an entire universe before our very eyes that we don't ever want to leave by closing the book. This book is damn near perfect, an epic sci-fi/fantasy that even the most common or most literary reader will fall in love with.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty (Picador)
American satire is alive & well, and this book will be remembered long ahead into the future of American history. Reading Beatty for the first time gave me the same sense of delight and wonder as when I first read Vonnegut at 16, blowing my ever-loving mind, and it's amazing to see this book win the Man Booker -- sometimes those literary prizes get it right!
One of Us is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, translated by Martin Aiken (Open Letter Books)
I tried to make a rule not to include any Deep Vellum authors, but this really is one of the best books I've ever read: a heartbreaking, sensual meditation on grief with haunting images of nature that make you realize the beauty of this mortal coil and the tragedy that awaits us all. If that doesn't sell you on this book, then nothing will.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Penguin)
So when I went to Seoul once upon a time, I was force-fed meat by a waitress, living out a scene in this book I'd read before going, and it makes you realize the power of conformity in Korean, nay, all world society, and the punishments those who tread their own path must endure. And, of course, the novel goes down its own brilliant path to make even higher points about the human condition, but this book has stuck with me, especially the thought of becoming a tree.
Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despuentes, translated by Sian Reynolds (The Feminist Press)
Badass French feminist erotic love story - it's like Bonnie & Clyde in France. The only word to describe Despentes and all her books is that she is a badass and by reading her you become more badass, or at least she makes me feel more badass, and that rules, because reading is badass.
Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao (Coffee House Press)
Haunting poetry like I've never read before. I thought a lot about loss in 2016, and this book hit me in the right place (gut) at the right time (now)
Nicotine by Nell Zink (Ecco)
God bless Nell Zink out there keeping it weird for the rest of American writers who are just so boring.
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett (Greywolf)
Hell yes, I'll take any book influenced by Kafka's Metamorphosis, but I'll especially take one that fleshes out the influence to a level of satire that makes you question (if you didn't already, and if you didn't, you should) why we are forever placing white Eurocentric culture at the center of the world. There's just so much more to enjoy in life through diversity.