Weird Books for Weird Girls

  1. After Claude by Iris Owens
    The narrator is hard to love but easy to know; funny, troubling. There's a man in a hotel. There are other weird things. I think about it a lot.
  2. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
    Natalie talks to detectives in her head and hates her college classmates. She's a collegiate Wednesday Addams and this story doesn't go much of anywhere but there is world building in the margins of the suburban dreg she wades through.
  3. The White Album by Joan Didion
    The best snapshot of moody 1960s Los Angeles in its transitioning pre and post-Manson paranoia. Did you know Didion bought Linda Kasabian the white dress she wore in court?
  4. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
    Love Lessing and this novella still sticks in my brain. If motherhood and children frighten you, this will validate your fears.
  5. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
    My perennial recommendation but one you should trust. Dunn, who recently passed away, is a spellbinder and this book is a nasty piece of Americana.
  6. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
    Atwood lite but one of her purest stories. It dabbles in mystery and mental illness. Read this and then Power Politics and then call your mom.
  7. Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
    I hate most memoirs but Forrest isn't a braggart self-documentarian. She reconciles with her past through fluid, transfixing prose. It reads like inky memory instead of forced recollection.
  8. Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath
    I prefer this collection to Ariel. There's less density but I enjoy some of that matter of fact hurting to the more fragrant kind. "I Am Vertical" is perhaps my favorite Plath poem.
  9. Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter
    Eerie, wicked stuff. The stories are short, about all sorts of things - murder, witches, vampires. She writes with a sick and blatant precision, hot like a knife.
  10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    More Jackson. This is maybe my favorite book about outcast sisters in a morbid old house. Merricat, like Natalie, is pleasurably evil.
  11. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    Everyone has read this. Everyone should read it again. My battered copy is signed by Tartt herself, who I met in a basement bookstore. We talked about Estée Lauder and fountain pens. She's my hero.
  12. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
    Woolf was one of my earliest obsessions, every book and letter like some new treasure chest of self discovery. This remains my favorite. The Ramsay summer home is as alive to me as any place I've known.
  13. Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates
    I can take or leave Oates but I love Bellefleur and its oddball warping of time, gothic tendrils, incest and magic and other icky family stuff.
  14. Live or Die by Anne Sexton
    Sexton is retrospectively a hard one to swallow but this collection is the easiest portal into bad motherhood and having a story that doesn't fit right.
  15. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
    The best book about sexuality and racism I've ever read. As a white Midwestern teenager I found a way of seeing new worlds through Lorde's eyes. She has a magical way with words.
  16. Cruddy by Lynda Barry
    A graphic novel that almost physically repulsed me on certain pages but that I'm better having read. Barry is criminally under-known.
  17. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
    I've followed Block through faerie obsessions and weird follow ups just to chase the particular high of Weetzie, one of my first literary loves. I didn't understand her and that's why I learned from her. The cutting edge LA of this book is so hypnotically rendered.
  18. Scoundrel Time by Lillian Hellman
    Pentimento is more famous but Scoundrel Time is a feminist magnum opus. I read it when I worked in a library and then spent a solid month Googling Hellman.
  19. Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford
    The sister of Nazi sympathizers, Jessica rejected her posh British upbringing and ran away to America and this autobiography about her rebellion is wicked and wonderful
  20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    It's heartwarming, sure, but Jo March is a weird girl through and through. She rejects social norms, refuses to marry for profit, writes vampire stories during the Civil War era, generally knows her shit.