It’s almost Christmas! Or it’s almost Hanukkah, and maybe it’s almost Kwanzaa (not sure), and it’s definitely almost the Firestorm, if you worship Satan. But it’s definitely that time of year where you spend your hard earned money on carefully thought-out presents for all of your family, and maybe get a fruit basket in return. And a week from today, the criminally insane will converge on local big box stores to beat the shit out of each other to get a crappy DVD player made by slave labor in China out of toxic plastic, that will work for roughly 37 minutes before exploding.
So, you looking for some gifts that aren’t made by children in sweatshops that might actually promote an artist and maybe make a person think? How about some books? Here’s my list of books I’ve read lately that aren’t big-6 published, written by people without a massive marketing budget:
- Small Town Punk by John Sheppard – This is probably one of the best self-published books I’ve ever read. All of John’s stuff is awesome, and maybe I’m biased because I published Tales of the Peacetime Army. Make sure to get the original 2002 edition, and not the 1997 abortion. (It’s not in print, but there are many copies floating around for $5, which is the best five bucks you could possibly spend.)
- Mostly Redneck by Rusty Barnes – I only know him as a friend-of-friend through Timothy Gager, which was enough for me to put down the cash. This is 18 short stories of hard living in rural Appalachia, and each one is so precisely crafted, with absolutely no waste. He’s got a way of really haunting you, getting something wedged very deep in your head in a thousand words. Great stuff.
- Treating a Sick Animal by Timothy Gager – Speaking of, check out Gager’s latest collection of flash fiction. It contains 40-some shorter pieces, each just as lethal as the last. What’s even more amazing than the quality of his writing is the tremendous speed at which he turns out this precision work. He’s probably written four stories better than anything I’ve ever done in the time it takes me to finish this post.
- How Some People Like Their Eggs by Sean Lovelace – Lovelace is a writer in Indiana (he teaches at my sister’s alma mater of Ball State) and he has a blog that almost entirely talks about nachos. There’s two things I like about this chapbook, aside from the quality of the prose. One is that Lovelace has a way of coming up with very unique forms, twisting and clever structures that make me think, “god DAMN why didn’t I do that?” (Example: the titular piece is a list of how famous people like their eggs.) The other thing I like is that this is a real damn chapbook: a carefully designed, really printed on quality paper chapbook. It’s not just a POD 6×9 trade paperback, which is awesome.
- Johnny Astronaut by Rory Carmichael and I, An Actress: The Autobiography of Karen Jamey by Jeffrey Dinsmore – These are both kindle reissues of the Awkward Press editor’s earlier novels. He’s added bonus materials to both, and priced them at 99 cents each, so they’re well worth the look.
- Between Panic and Desire by Dinty W. Moore – This is truly awesome creative nonfiction, the telling of a person’s life in hilarious autobiographical sketches, knitted together in a way that tells more than the whole story, and then breaks to throw in some quiz questions or go off on a different tangent. It’s like a mix of Vonnegut at his best, but replace the aliens with tripping acid at the top of the World Trade Center.
- Powering the Devil’s Circus, Redux by Jason Jordan – A collection from the editor of decomP, this is a dozen stories and a novella of experimental work, with plenty of mention of metal, which I of course like.
- Tomorrowland by Grant Bailie – The UPS guy literally showed up with this one as I was typing this post. It’s a collection of interwoven stories, and looks promising. I loved his books Cloud 8 and Mortarville, so this looks awesome.
- Fistful of Pizza by Jon Konrath – Most importantly, buy my damn book! Nine twisted stories, and it’s only 99 cents on the kindle. Break in that new Kindle Fire by reading about a parody of the Ben Hur chariot race, filmed with small breed dogs around a set designed like a 1970s Times Square filled with heroin addicts and pornographers. Also available in print for you luddites.
I’m sure I forgot a few others, but check these out – thanks!