The best books if you find genre boundaries kind of silly

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigrant, an Asian American, and a gender-questioning person, I’ve never fit comfortably anywhere. So perhaps it’s no surprise that my writing isn’t easily categorizable either: many have told me that my work is too literary to be considered SF/F and too SF/F to be strictly literary. But what is genre anyway? My favorite books have always been the ones that straddled genres, and every time I read a wonderful book that can’t be easily labeled or marketed, I grow even more sure that the future of literature lies in fluid, boundary-crossing, transgressive texts. Here are some of my favorites—I hope you enjoy them.


I wrote...

Book cover of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

What is my book about?

When Shek Yeung sees a Portuguese sailor slay her husband, a feared pirate, she knows she must act swiftly or die. Instead of mourning, Shek Yeung launches a new plan: immediately marrying her husband’s second-in-command, and agreeing to bear him a son and heir, in order to retain power over her half of the fleet.

But as Shek Yeung vies for control over the army she knows she was born to lead, larger threats loom. The Chinese Emperor has charged a brutal, crafty nobleman with ridding the South China Seas of pirates, and the Europeans have new plans for the area. Even worse, Shek Yeung’s cutthroat retributions create problems all their own. As Shek Yeung navigates new motherhood and the crises of leadership, she must decide how long she's willing to fight.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Rock Eaters: Stories

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did I love this book?

Short story collections are funny things: some are strong from start to finish, and some… read as if the author wrote all the other stories over the course of a weekend after one of their stories garnered public attention. No, I will not name names.

Peynado’s The Rock Eaters is a glowing example of the former. The collection spans genres: realist, science fiction, magical realist. What all the stories have in common is Peynado’s controlled hand and breadth of imagination, not to mention her keen insights into what it’s like to exist in the real world, a world fraught with gun violence, racism, and xenophobia.

You finish the collection feeling like you’ve traversed worlds and, in the process, learned something new about the world we live in.  

By Brenda Peynado,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Rock Eaters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A story collection, in the vein of Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, spanning worlds and dimensions, using strange and speculative elements to tackle issues ranging from class differences to immigration to first-generation experiences to xenophobia
 
What does it mean to be other? What does it mean to love in a world determined to keep us apart?
 
These questions murmur in the heart of each of Brenda Peynado's strange and singular stories. Threaded with magic, transcending time and place, these stories explore what it means to cross borders and break down walls, personally and politically. In one…


Book cover of Light from Other Stars

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did I love this book?

It is my sincerest belief that science fiction loses its purpose when it focuses too much on the science and too little on the humans (or aliens, or sentient spores) at the center of the story.

No one can accuse Swyler’s Light from Other Stars of that. Straddling the line between literary and science fiction, this novel is about space travel, yes, but it’s also about parent-child bonds, friendship, and the people of a small town in Florida in all their idiosyncrasies, virtues, and flaws.

This novel will make you think (mostly about physics), but it will also make you deeply feel.     

By Erika Swyler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Light from Other Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Long Island Reads 2020 Selection * A Real Simple Best Book of 2019

From the bestselling author of The Book of Speculation, a “tender and ambitious” (Vulture) novel about time, loss, and the wonders of the universe.

Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach--if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda's newborn brother several…


Book cover of Interior Chinatown

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did I love this book?

Yu’s Interior Chinatown won the National Book Award because it married form and function in the most spectacular way.

Written in part like a screenplay, the novel tells the story of Willis Wu, an actor trying to break out from the role of “Generic Asian Man.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the push for better Asian representation in Hollywood. That certainly plays a role in the book, but there is also interrogation and critique here.

A novel written in the form of a screenplay could have easily turned into a gimmick. Yu made it art.

By Charles Yu,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Interior Chinatown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • “A shattering and darkly comic send-up of racial stereotyping in Hollywood” (Vanity Fair) and adeeply personal novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.

Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as the protagonist in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but always he is relegated to a prop. Yet every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant,…


Book cover of Lone Women

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did I love this book?

I first learned about “proving up” from the eponymous Karen Russell story.

The history of the practice was so fascinating that, when I heard Victor LaValle had written an entire novel about it, I immediately preordered. And wow did it not disappoint.

Part horror and part Western, the story centers a Black woman named Adelaide in the early 1900s who has moved to Montana to prove up as a “lone woman,” carrying with her only a single steamer trunk bearing her “curse.”

LaValle ratchets up the suspense in every chapter while beautifully capturing the desolation of life in the Wild West.    

By Victor Lavalle,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lone Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blue skies, empty land—and enough wide-open space to hide a horrifying secret. A woman with a past, a mysterious trunk, a town on the edge of nowhere, and an “absorbing, powerful” (BuzzFeed) new vision of the American West, from the award-winning author of The Changeling.

“Propulsive . . . LaValle combines chills with deep insights into our country’s divides.”—Los Angeles Times

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2023: The New York Times, Time, Oprah Daily, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Essence, Salon, Vulture, Reader’s Digest, The Root, LitHub, Paste, PopSugar, Chicago Review of Books, BookPage, Book Riot, Tordotcom, Crime Reads,…


Book cover of The Great Frustration: Stories

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did I love this book?

Is Fried’s short story collection The Great Frustration literary, science fiction, fantasy, absurdist, or something else? I have no idea, and I suspect neither does he, but that’s one of the reasons I love this book so much.

Whether Fried is writing about the animals in the Garden of Eden or a town that refuses to change its ways despite its pesky recurrent problem of massacres, these stories will make you laugh.

After you’re done laughing, when you’ve had some time to think, you’ll realize that you were only laughing because Fried is adept at pointing out those aspects of society and human nature that we find uncomfortable—which, of course, the best comedians have always done.       

By Seth Fried,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Frustration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Equal parts fable and wry satire, The Great Frustration is a sparkling debut. Seth Fried balances the dark--a town besieged, a yearly massacre, the harem of a pathological king--with moments of sweet optimism--researchers unexpectedly inspired by discovery, the triumph of a doomed monkey, the big implications found in a series of tiny creatures.

In "Loeka Discovered," a buzz flows throughout a lab when scientists unearth a perfectly preserved prehistoric man who suggests to them the hopefulness of life, but the more they learn, the more the realities of ancient survival invade their buoyant projections. "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre" meditates on…


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Subjugation: Zanchier

By SG Boudreaux,

Book cover of Subjugation: Zanchier

SG Boudreaux

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Harper Brinley is running for her life.

After escaping from a government holding facility where she, along with other scientists, was being forced to build a deadly weapon. She headed for the most remote place she could think of, the wild Xantifal Mountains.

The one place where no one would think to search for her. There, she found a massive hollowed tree in which to survive the harsh mountain winter. If she can survive the four-legged, fire-breathing firebirds and the equally large wildcats of the mountain ridge, then maybe she can find her way back to her children. She was…

Subjugation: Zanchier

By SG Boudreaux,

What is this book about?

Harper Brinley is running for her life. After escaping from a government holding facility, where she along with other scientists were being forced to build a deadly weapon, she headed for the most remote place she could think of, the wild Xantifal Mountains. The one place where no one would think to search for her. There she found a massive hollowed tree in which to survive the harsh mountain winter. If she can survive the four-legged, fire-breathing firebirds, and the equally large wildcats of the mountain ridge, then maybe she can find her way back to her children. She was…


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