Book picks similar to
Stockholm by Kian Kaul


fiction
contemporary
cultural-studies
humor

The Roaches Have No King


Daniel Evan Weiss - 1990
    This grubby army who, up until now, had happily existed on the food debris littering his flat, now face a harsh future: eviction or death from starvation. Driven into a frenzy by their dark fate, a leader cockroach, Numbers, devises a diabolical plan which will forever rid them of Ruth and her damnable tidiness. Enlisting the unwitting help of Rufus, the local cocaine dealer, Elizabeth and his hot-blooded ex-girlfriend, the Gypsy, they act out a masterplan to save their home?and their lives.

Bear v. Shark


Chris Bachelder - 2001
    The question is apparently of Ancient Eastern extraction....It seems to be a gut thing. The answer just feels right and then you come up with reasons....Given a relatively level playing field -- i.e., water deep enough so that a Shark could maneuver proficiently, but shallow enough so that a Bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity -- who would win in a fight between a Bear and a Shark?" In this brilliant satire of our media-saturated culture, the sovereign nation of Las Vegas -- the entertainment capital of the world -- is host to Bear v. Shark II. After a disappointing loss in the first matchup between the land and the sea, the bear is back with a vengeance and out for blood. All of America is obsessed with the upcoming spectacle, so tickets are hard to come by. With an essay entitled "Bear v. Shark: A Reason to Live," young Curtis Norman wins a national writing contest and four tickets to the event. The Normans load up their SUV and embark on a road trip to Vegas.As they head cross-country, the family is besieged by a dizzying barrage of voices: television and radio personalities, public service announcements, bear and shark pundits, Freudians, theologians, and self-published authors, in addition to the Bear v. Shark fanatics, cultists, and resisters they meet at roadside gas stations and restaurants. Overwhelmed by factoids, statistics, and ten-second debates, the Normans -- along with the rest of country -- can't seem to get their facts straight, much less figure out a way to actually communicate with one another. Sound bites and verbal tics predominate; misheard, misunderstood, andjust plain mistaken information is absorbed, mangled, and regurgitated to hilarious effect; and the most inane subjects -- from the disappearance of Dutch culture to the Shakespearean bias toward the bear -- are vigorously and obsessively debated. These meaningless exchanges of misinformation leave Mr. Norman disenchanted, world-weary, and ambivalent about the impending show, but the family eventually makes it to Vegas for an apocalyptic and surprisingly emotional ending.Written in quick, commercial-like segments that mirror the media it satirizes, Chris Bachelder's debut is a fiercely funny, razor-sharp novel about the odd intersection of zealotry and trivia, about the barriers to human connection in a society that values entertainment above all else. Through a clever act of novelistic subterfuge, Bachelder makes us laugh at our penchant for absurd and useless information while drawing us into a dazzling spectacle of his own imagination.

The Four Fingers of Death


Rick Moody - 2010
    Luckily, he swindles himself a job churning out a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror classic, "The Crawling Hand." Crandall tells therein of the United States, in a bid to regain global eminence, launching at last its doomed manned mission to the desolation of Mars. Three space pods with nine Americans on board travel three months, expecting to spend three years as the planet's first colonists. When a secret mission to retrieve a flesh-eating bacterium for use in bio-warfare is uncovered, mayhem ensues.Only a lonely human arm (missing its middle finger) returns to earth, crash-landing in the vast Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The arm may hold the secret to reanimation or it may simply be an infectious killing machine. In the ensuing days, it crawls through the heartbroken wasteland of a civilization at its breaking point, economically and culturally--a dystopia of lowlife, emigration from America, and laughable lifestyle alternatives. The Four Fingers of Death is a stunningly inventive, sometimes hilarious, monumental novel. It will delight admirers of comic masterpieces like Slaughterhouse-Five, The Crying of Lot 49, and Catch-22.

Confessions of a Crap Artist


Philip K. Dick - 1975
    Dick's weirdest and most accomplished novels. Jack Isidore is a crap artist -- a collector of crackpot ideas (among other things, he believes that the earth is hollow and that sunlight has weight) and worthless objects, a man so grossly unequipped for real life that his sister and brother-in-law feel compelled to rescue him from it. But seen through Jack's murderously innocent gaze, Charlie and Juddy Hume prove to be just as sealed off from reality, in thrall to obsessions that are slightly more acceptable than Jack's, but a great deal uglier.

Perfidious Albion


Sam Byers - 2018
    Brexit has happened and is real. Fear and loathing are on the rise. Grass-roots right-wing political party England Always are fomenting hatred. The residents of a failing housing estate are being cleared from their homes. A multinational tech company is making inroads into the infrastructure. Just as the climate seems at its most pressured, masked men begin a series of ‘disruptions’, threatening to make internet histories public, asking the townspeople what don’t you want to share? As tensions mount, lives begin to unravel.Jess Ellis’s research into internet misogyny pushes her relationship with her over-exposed opinion columnist boyfriend Robert Townsend to breaking point. Robert’s championing of the inhabitants of the threatened estate begins to erode the edges of his fragile idealism. Local England Always politician Hugo Bennington finds his twisted loyalties catching up with him. At the nearby tech park, behind the utopian rhetoric, Trina James finds that something is dangerously amiss.A controversial tweet; a series of ill-judged thinkpieces; a riot of opinions. Suddenly Edmundsbury is no longer the peaceful town it has always imagined itself to be. Things are changing. No-one is quite who they appear. The future has arrived, and it is not what anyone imagined.

Tell Me How This Ends Well


David Samuel Levinson - 2017
    Against this backdrop, the Jacobson family gathers for Passover in Los Angeles. But their immediate problems are more personal than political, with the three adult children, Mo, Edith, and Jacob, in various states of crisis, the result, each claims, of a lifetime of mistreatment by their father, Julian. The siblings have begun to suspect that Julian is hastening their mother Roz's demise, and years of resentment boil over as they debate whether to go through with the real reason for their reunion: an ill-considered plot to end their father's iron rule for good. That is, if they can put their bickering, grudges, festering relationships, and distrust of one another aside long enough to act.And God help them if their mother finds out . . .Tell Me How This Ends Well presents a blistering and prescient vision of the near future, turning the exploits of one very funny, very troubled family into a rare and compelling exploration of the state of America, and what it could become.

Crystal Eaters


Shane Jones - 2014
    As a city encroaches daily on the village, threatening their antiquated life, and the earth grows warmer, Remy sets out to accomplish something no one else has: to increase her sick mother’s crystal count. An allegory, fable, touching family saga and poetic sci-fi adventure, Shane Jones underlines his reputation as an inspired and unique visionary.

Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu


Yi_Shun Lai - 2016
    Asian & Asian American Studies. Semi-Finalist, Thurber Prize for American Humor. Marty Wu, compulsive reader of advice manuals, would love to come across as a poised young advertising professional. Instead she trips over her own feet and blurts out inappropriate comments. The bulk of her brain matter, she decides, consists of gerbils "spinning madly in alternating directions." Marty hopes to someday open a boutique costume shop, but it's hard to keep focused on her dream. First comes a spectacular career meltdown that sends her ricocheting between the stress of New York and the warmth of supportive relatives in Taiwan. Then she faces one domestic drama after another, with a formidable mother who's impossible to please, an annoyingly successful and well- adjusted brother, and surprising family secrets that pop up just when she doesn't want to deal with them. Mining the comedic potential of the 1.5-generation American experience, NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK is an insightful and witty portrait of a young woman scrambling to balance familial expectations and her own creative dreams. "A breezy and charming tale ... Anyone who's grown up immersed in a profoundly rich old-world culture and feels its constant pull will commiserate--and be entertained."--Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family "Marty is a wonderful character who learns to stand up for herself and discovers what she really wants in life."--Booklist "An expert combination of humor and deep feeling... Digs deep into the particular challenges of defining and asserting an artistic identity in the world."--PANK Magazine "Ceaselessly surprising and entertaining... Lai's debut is an unexpectedly radical book on our deeply complicated relations with parents."--Hyphen Magazine: Asian America Unabridged

Sensation


Nick Mamatas - 2011
    When Julia's ex-husband Raymond spots her in a grocery store he doesn't usually patronize, he's soon drawn into an underworld of radical political gestures where Julia is the new media sensation of both this world and the Simulacrum. Told ultimately from the collective point of view of another species, this allegorical novel plays with the elements of the Simulacrum apparent in real life—media reports, business speak, blog entries, text messages, psychological-evaluation forms, and the lies lovers tell one another—and poses a fascinating idea that displaces human beings from the center of the universe and makes them simply the pawns of two warring species.

Atomik Aztex


Sesshu Foster - 2002
    Zenzontli, Keeper of the House of Darkness, is visited by visions of a parallel world run by the Europeans, where consumerism reigns supreme. Aztecs armed with automatic weapons, totemic powers and blood sacrifice conquer and colonize 1940s Europe, as ghosts of the world wars emerge to haunt contemporary Los Angeles.Atomik Aztex is a hilarious read. A potent concoction, with influences from graphic novels, along with Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, the paranoia of Philip K. Dick and William Burroughs, and an outrageous cyber-Aztlán mix reminiscent of Guillermo Gómez-Peña.Sesshu Foster is the author of the critically acclaimed City Terrace Field Manual.

The Book of Dog


lark benobi - 2018
    Mt. Fuji has erupted. The Euphrates has run dry. In America the White House is under attack by giant bears, the President is missing, and the Vice President has turned into a Bichon Frise. It’s Apocalypse Time, my friends. Soon the Beast will rise. And six unlikely women must make the perilous journey to the Pit of Nethalem, where they will stop the Beast from fulfilling its evil purpose, or die trying.The Book of Dog is a novel of startling originality: a tale of female friendship, politics, religion, demon possession, motherhood, love, betrayal, and occasional apocalypse. It’s a contemporary Candide with a dollop of Animal Farm and a dash of Metamorphosis thrown in. It wryly explores how even the most insignificant and powerless of people, when working together, can change the world.

Generation A


Douglas Coupland - 2009
    I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Syracuse University commencement address May 8, 1994A brilliant, timely and very Couplandesque novel about honey bees and the world we may soon live in. Once again, Douglas Coupland captures the spirit of a generation….In the near future bees are extinct — until one autumn when five people are stung in different places around the world. This shared experience unites them in a way they never could have imagined.Generation A mirrors 1991’s Generation X. It explores new ways of looking at the act of reading and storytelling in a digital world.

Plowing the Dark


Richard Powers - 2000
    In a war-torn Mediterranean city, an American is held hostage, chained to a radiator in another empty white room. What can possibly join two such remote places? Only the shared imagination, a room that these people unwittingly build in common, where they are all about to meet, where the dual frames of this inventive novel to coalesce.Adie Klarpol, a skilled but disillusioned artist, comes back to life, revived by the thrill of working with the Cavern’s cutting-edge technology. Against the collapse of Cold War empires and the fall of the Berlin Wall, she retreats dangerously into the cyber-realities she has been hired to create. As her ex-husband lies dying and the outbreak of computerized war fills her with a sense of guilty complicity, Adie is thrown deeper into building a place of beauty and unknown power, were she might fend off the incursions of the real world gone wrong.On the other side of the globe, Taimur Martin, an English teacher retreating from a failed love affair, is picked up off the streets in Beirut by Islamic fundamentalists and held in solitary captivity. Without distraction or hope of release, he must keep himself whole by the force of his memory alone. Each infinite, empty day moves him closer to insanity, and only the surprising arrival of sanctuary sustains him for the shattering conclusion. Plowing the Dark is fiction that explores the imagination’s power to both destroy and save.

In the Country of Last Things


Paul Auster - 1987
    In the Country of Last Things takes the form of a letter from a young woman named Anna Blume to a childhood friend. Anna has ventured into an unnamed city that has collapsed into chaos and disorder. In this bleak environment, no industry takes place and most of the population collects garbage or scavenges for objects to resell. City governments are unstable and are concerned only with collecting human waste and corpses for fuel. Anna has entered the city to search for her brother William, a journalist, and it is suggested that the Blumes come from a world to the East which has not collapsed.

Et Tu, Babe


Mark Leyner - 1992
    In this fiendishly original new novel, Mark Leyner is a leather-blazer-wearing, Piranha 793-driving, narcotic-guzzling monster who has potential rivals eliminated by his bionically enhanced bodyguards, has his internal organs tattooed, and eavesdrops on the erotic fantasies of Victoria's Secret models -- which naturally revolve around him.Leyner's jet-propelled roller derby through the cultures of celebrity, cyberpunk, and rabid egotism is exhilaratingly bizarre, exhaustingly funny -- and you'd better hope it's just fiction.