shares

Concrete Playground's Autumn Reading List

From hilarious local poetry to photography dissection and the war on drugs, this list seeks to satisfy every type of literary appetite.

With the mercury starting to drop and beach swims increasingly confronted by sideways rain, afternoons spent inside with a cat curled up on your lap and a book in hand are becoming the new seasonal normal. And while it's always nice to revisit old favourites with dog-eared corners, it's also nice to get some new book recommendations to devour— which is what we hope to provide here.

From hilarious New Zealand poetry a la Hera Lindsay Bird to the delicate, well thought-out irony of David Foster Wallace and books which investigate the rise of ISIS and the war on drugs, this list will hopefully satisfy every type of literary appetite.

cp-line

lobster

CONSIDER THE LOBSTER BY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

"...in real life I always seem to have a hard time winding up a conversation or asking somebody to leave, and sometimes the moment becomes so delicate and fraught with social complexity that I'll get overwhelmed trying to sort out all the different possible ways of saying it and all the different implications of each option and will just sort of blank out and do it totally straight - 'I want to terminate the conversation and not have you be in my apartment anymore' - which evidently makes me look either as if I'm very rude and abrupt or as if I'm semi-autistic and have no sense of how to wind up a conversation gracefully...I've actually lost friends this way."

Superlatives come easy when describing David Foster Wallace's brilliant collection of essays on topics ranging from the minutiae of grammar to a porn convention and a lobster festival in Maine. Delicate, well thought-out and warm irony oozes from every page while the author of Infinite Jest teeters on the brink of an articulate, hilarious, existential crisis about every topic his diamond-cut brain examines.

cp-line

sellout

THE SELLOUT BY PAUL BEATTY

I'm so fucking tired of black women always being described by their skin tones! Honey-colored this! Dark-chocolate that! My paternal grandmother was mocha-tinged, café-au-lait, graham-fucking-cracker brown! How come they never describe the white characters in relation to foodstuffs and hot liquids? Why aren't there any yogurt-colored, egg-shell-toned, string-cheese-skinned, low-fat-milk white protagonists in these racist, no-third-act-having books?

The Sellout is the 2016 Man Booker Prize winner written by Paul Beatty because, "[he] was broke". The satire stars an artisanal marijuana and watermelon grower as its protagonist and was hailed by historian Amanda Foreman as "both manag[ing] to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct, nuanced, every sacred cow... while both making us laugh, making us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time and it is really a novel of our times."

cp-line

chasing

CHASING THE SCREAM BY JOHANN HARI

Addiction is an adaptation. It's not you—it's the cage you live in.

Chasing the Scream is the type of book that will leave you a slightly tweaked version of yourself after having read it. Hari's unapologetic dive into the world of drugs, and easy to read but interesting prose, is an absolute bullseye hit to drug law dogma that has been circulating for the last century as well as a lesson in compassion.

cp-line

hera

HERA LINDSAY BIRD BY HERA LINDSAY BIRD

...What kind of a name for a show was F.R.I.E.N.D.S
When two of them were related
And the rest of them just fucked for ten seasons?
Maybe their fucking was secondary to their friendship
Or they all had enough emotional equilibrium
To be able to maintain a constant state of mutual-respect
Despite the fucking
Or conspicuous nonfucking
That was occurring in their lives...

Since the launch of the poet's debut self-titled poem compilation late last year, Hera Lindsay Bird's name has been etched on the tongues of high brow and low brow readers alike. The super accessible collection of poems is a dissection of her love life and sexuality with witty, modern irreverence and is well worth a leaf through.

cp-line

rise

THE RISE OF THE ISLAMIC STATE BY PATRICK COCKBURN

ISIS is the child of war.

According to the book's cover, Patrick Cockburn has been credited as "the best Western journalist at work in Iraq today" by Seymour Hersch, an American investigative journalist himself as well. While the compliment could be taken as perhaps a backhanded insult at all Western journalists, or not be much of a compliment in the first place, a few pages into The Rise of the Islamic State disproves the latter at least, digging into how exactly the West's policy has helped cultivate the environment for the creation of the modern day monstrosity that is ISIS. A heavier read, but a necessary one.

cp-line

ON PHOTOGRAPHY BY SUSAN SONTAG

A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.

For a trip down the Daedalusian maze that is Sontag's brain, pick up a copy of On Photography which roasts the concept of photography while also incorporating flavours of Marxism and high level abstractions. We won't promise that you won't overthink every single selfie, sunset and foodgram afterwards though.

cp-line

didion

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING BY JOAN DIDION

It was in fact the ordinary nature of everything preceding the event that prevented me from truly believing it had happened, absorbing it, incorporating it, getting past it. I recognize now that there was nothing unusual in this: confronted with sudden disaster we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy.

Documenting the deeply personal with a coolness, candicacy and clarity that evades most of those grieving, Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is a stunning memoir about the experience of grieving those you love.

cp-line

Published on March 06, 2017 by Laetitia Laubscher

Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x