The best books about the world as a dream

Who am I?

I’ve loved fiction that excites my mind and imagination since I was very young. I spent a lot of time in the library growing up, mostly reading horror and historical narratives. Later, I became interested in music, painting, film, philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, religion, and politics. I’m not an expert in anything—I’m too driven to make things to be a good scholar—but these are the subject areas that inform what I write.


I wrote...

Design Flaw

By Hugh Sheehy,

Book cover of Design Flaw

What is my book about?

A troubled high schooler traps a peer in an underground storage space. A traumatized felon returns home to rob the man who molested him as a child. A videogame help-line operator suspects a regular caller, obsessed with a disturbing role-playing game, of real-life misdeeds. In the title story, an unhappy couple adopts a “designer animal,” a genetic hybrid created to be the perfect pet. But the “grot” makes trouble in the neighborhood, becoming emblematic of a deeper problem. “Something is wrong with the world,” the narrator’s husband explains. “A design flaw. It’s so thoroughly corrupted, I’m not sure how to fix it.”

Inventive and unpredictable, these thirteen stories are wholly immersive, showing Sheehy at his captivating best.

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The books I picked & why

The Ogre

By Michel Tournier, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of The Ogre

Why this book?

This book lives up to its title in such unexpected, thrilling, and disturbing ways that I continue to marvel at its many accomplishments. It’s tempting to use certain genre terms to describe it: a fairy tale, horror story, thriller. It is all of those things, but it is also a brilliant psychological novel, a historical novel with few peers, and a work of such persuasive realism that it will shake you to the bone. Few books exceed their ambitions in the way this one does.

The Ogre

By Michel Tournier, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An international bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary award, The Ogre is a masterful tale of innocence, perversion, and obsession. It follows the passage of strange, gentle Abel Tiffauges from submissive schoolboy to "ogre" of the Nazi school at the castle of Kaltenborn, taking us deeper into the dark heart of fascism than any novel since The Tin Drum. Until the very last page, when Abel meets his mystic fate in the collapsing ruins of the Third Reich, it shocks us, dazzles us, and above all holds us spellbound.


A Blessing on the Moon

By Joseph Skibell,

Book cover of A Blessing on the Moon

Why this book?

This novel evokes an extraordinary range of emotions. Skibell works wonders with folklore and history, turning out a tale of tales that is by turns shocking and horrifying, tender, and outrageously funny. The language is deceptively simple and beautiful. Consider this description from the murdered narrator, on returning to his plundered neighborhood after climbing out of a mass grave: “In front of every house were piles of vows and promises, all in broken pieces. How I could see such things, I cannot tell you.” The balance here—of imagination, grief, and lightness—is exquisite.

A Blessing on the Moon

By Joseph Skibell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Blessing on the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Skibell’s magical tale about the Holocaust—a fable inspired by fact—received unanimous nationwide acclaim when first published in 1997.

At the center of A Blessing on the Moon is Chaim Skibelski. Death is merely the beginning of Chaim’s troubles. In the opening pages, he is shot along with the other Jews of his small Polish village. But instead of resting peacefully in the World to Come, Chaim, for reasons unclear to him, is left to wander the earth, accompanied by his rabbi, who has taken the form of a talking crow. Chaim’s afterlife journey is filled with extraordinary encounters whose…


Outer Dark

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of Outer Dark

Why this book?

McCarthy’s second novel is an underappreciated masterpiece, one that combines the author’s distinct style and notoriously difficult subject matter with a genuinely sublime vision of the world. Simultaneously a horror novel, a historical fiction, a Gnostic heresy, a cosmic joke, and act of spiritual seeking, I cannot recommend it enough.  

Outer Dark

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By Cormac McCarthy, the author of the critically acclaimed Border Trilogy, Outer Dark is a novel at once mythic and starkly evocative, set in an unspecified place in Appalachia sometime around the turn of the century. A woman bears her brother's child, a boy; the brother leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes. Discovering her brother's lie, she sets forth alone to find her son. Both brother and sister wander separately through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying and elusive strangers, headlong toward an eerie, apocalyptic resolution.


Spectacle

By Susan Steinberg,

Book cover of Spectacle

Why this book?

This is one of the best, most alive short fiction collections published in the 21st Century. Steinberg’s fictions are generally powerful, but the episodes and sentences that compose them tend to be compelling in their own right. So while the individual narratives in this book are brilliant short fictions on their own, the sentences or thoughts that construct them have an electrifying effect few writers can manage.

Spectacle

By Susan Steinberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An inventive new collection from the author of Hydroplane and The End of Free Love

* A San Francisco Chronicle, Complex, Flavorwire, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Largehearted Boy and Slaughterhouse 90210 Best Book of the Year *

In these innovative linked stories, women confront loss and grief as they sift through the wreckage of their lives. In the title story, a woman struggles with the death of her friend in a plane crash. A daughter decides whether to take her father off life support in the Pushcart Prize-winning "Cowboys." And in "Underthings," when a man hits his girlfriend, she calls it…


Book cover of The Knife Thrower: and Other Stories

Why this book?

Millhauser’s stories are miracles. He combines the wonderstruck imagination of the fairy tale lover with surpassing technical expertise, and the result is beautiful art. This collection’s title story, for instance, is simultaneously a fairy tale, an exploration of group morality, a rigorous demonstration of the Freytagian dramatic structure, and a gripping story from start to finish.

The Knife Thrower: and Other Stories

By Steven Millhauser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Included in this short story collection is "The Sisterhood of the Night", now a major motion picture. From the bestselling author of Martin Dressler, this volume explores the magnificent obsessions of the unfettered imagination, as well as the darker, subterranean currents that fuel them.
 
With the panache of an old-fashioned magician, Steven Millhauser conducts his readers from the dark corners beneath the sunlit world to a balloonist's tour of the heavens. He transforms department stores and amusement parks into alternate universes of infinite plentitude and menace. He unveils the secrets of a maker of automatons and a coven of teenage…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holocaust, women, and Jewish history?

8,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Holocaust, women, and Jewish history.

The Holocaust Explore 300 books about the Holocaust
Women Explore 452 books about women
Jewish History Explore 323 books about Jewish history

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