Christopher Boucher teaches writing and literature at Boston College, and is the managing editor of Post Road magazine. He is the author of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive and Golden Delicious and lives with his wife and two children in Newton, MA.
Intimations, by Alexandra Kleeman
Alexandra Kleeman’s one of my favorite new writers. I was floored by her first novel, 2015’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, and her new collection is every bit as good--filled with beautiful sentences depicting moments both simultaneously strange and all-too-real. Take a look at “Choking Victim,” which was published in the New Yorker earlier this year, or the fantastic “I May Not Be the One You Want, But I Am the One for You.” If I want to know where fiction’s going from here, I’ll read Alexandra Kleeman.
A Gambler’s Anatomy, by Jonathan Lethem
I’m biased here--I’ve been working on a nonfiction collection with the author due out in March--but you’ll have to take me at my word when I say that A Gambler’s Anatomy is one of the best books of 2016. The story of a backgammon player whose illness leads him on a strange journey, A Gambler’s Anatomy kept me riveted with its brilliant design and its rich, complex characters.
Of course, I expected as much from Jonathan Lethem. Having penned several of my favorite contemporary novels--As She Climbed Across the Table, Motherless Brooklyn--I know by now not to bet against him.
Good on Paper, by Rachel Cantor
Rachel Cantor’s writing some of the smartest fiction today--her first novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, was outrageous and hilarious, and Good on Paper is even better: funny, wise, and bighearted. A story of a translator who’s given a cryptic assignment, Good on Paper is the best kind of page-turner: briskly paced, beautifully wrought, and full of joy and mystery. (Out in paperback on December 6!)
I teach a course on David Foster Wallace at Boston College, so this book was a revelation for me when it was published in 2014. While the Reader is an essential addition to the Wallace fan’s bookshelf (for Wallace’s teaching materials, if nothing else), it’s also a great introduction to a writer whose work seems to gain cultural relevance by the day. I like the Reader, finally, because it exemplifies one of my favorite qualities about Wallace: his intellectual and stylistic range.
The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished & Newly Translated Writings, by Jack Kerouac, Todd Tietchen and Jean-Christophe Cloutier
I met Jean-Christophe Cloutier at this year’s “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac” Festival, and I was stunned by what he had to say about Kerouac’s relationship to his native tongue and his complicated notions of home. Cloutier and Tietchen have captured those concepts in this new Library of America anthology--a book which, as the selections amass, suggests that we’ve overlooked some of the Beat hero’s intentions and ambitions. The Unknown Kerouac’s a great read in its own right, but I’m guessing it might also bring you back to your favorite Kerouac novels--On the Road, The Dharma Bums--with a fresh perspective.