The best of the backlist
You may know their recent release, but if you’ve recently discovered an author’s catalogue – what came before the latest work? We’ve done the digging and are recommending books to discover from your new favourite author’s backlist.
So, you’ve just finished Heaven?
From Kawakami’s backlist we recommend the pint-sized novel, Ms Ice Sandwich.
A young boy returns obsessively to a supermarket sandwich counter, entranced by the beauty of the woman who works there. Her aloof demeanour and electric blue eyelids make him feel the most intense joy he’s ever known. He calls her Ms Ice Sandwich, and he wants nothing more than to spend his days watching her coolly slip sandwiches into bags. But life keeps getting in the way - there’s his beloved grandmother’s illness, and a faltering friendship with his classmate Tutti, who invites him into her private world. Wry, intimate and wonderfully skewed, Ms Ice Sandwich is a poignant depiction of the naivety and wisdom of youth, just as it is passing.
So, you’ve had your mind tied in knots by No One Is Talking About This?
We recommend reading Lockwood’s darkly humorous memoir, Priestdaddy.
There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange riddles and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and found a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI, despite already having a wife and children. When an unexpected crisis forces Lockwood and her husband to move back into her parents' rectory, she must learn to live again with the family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of her religious upbringing.
For those looking for a short-form avenue, read Lockwood’s blistering poetry collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.
So, you’ve devoured the queer family saga, With Teeth?
We recommend Arnett’s riotous debut, Mostly Dead Things
What does it take to come back to life? In the wake of her father’s suicide, Jessa-Lynn Morton has stepped up to manage his failing taxidermy business while the rest of the Morton family falls apart. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make alarming art with stuffed animals; and while her brother Milo withdraws, his wife, Brynn - the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with - leaves home without a word. A string of unexpected incidents opens up the chance for the Mortons to mend: can they piece themselves together again? Kristen Arnett’s breakout debut is a darkly funny family portrait; a peculiar, bighearted look at love and loss and the ways we live through them together.
Jamie Marina Lau
So, you’ve been entranced by Lau’s clever below-the-surface machinations in, Gunk Baby?
We recommend her experimental debut, Pink Mountain On Locust Island.
Fifteen-year-old Monk lives in Chinatown with her ‘grumpy brown couch’ dad. When Santa Coy - possible boyfriend, potential accomplice - enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. With her dodgy dad obsessed with Santa Coy’s art, so begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixellated tutorial videos, and senseless violence.
In bursts of fizzing, staccato and claustrophobic prose, this modern Australian take on the classic hard-boiled noir novel bounces you between pulverised English, elastic Cantonese and the new dialect of a digitised world.
So, you’re bursting with emotions and ideas after the final page of Animal?
We recommend exploring Taddeo’s sensational work of narrative nonfiction, Three Women
All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her? All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town? All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?
Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad
So, you’ve been struck by the truth-telling force of The Other Half of You?
We recommend Ahmad’s lauded 2018 (related) novel, The Lebs
‘Bani Adam thinks he’s better than us!’ they say over and over until finally I shout back, ‘Shut up, I have something to say!’
They all go quiet and wait for me to explain myself, redeem myself, pull my shirt out, rejoin the pack. I hold their anticipation for three seconds, and then, while they’re all ablaze, I say out loud, ‘I do think I’m better.’
As far as Bani Adam is concerned Punchbowl Boys is the arse end of the earth. Though he’s a Leb and they control the school, Bani feels at odds with the other students, who just don’t seem to care. He is a romantic in a sea of hypermasculinity. Bani must come to terms with his place in this hostile, hopeless world, while dreaming of so much more.