Welcome to our Ten Book Challenge where our favorite authors share their most beloved and memorable reads—from the books with their favorite covers and best opening lines, to the reads they gift and the bookstores they frequent. This is a peek into your favorite authors’ perfect bowl of literary comfort food. We hope you discover something delicious!
Meet Claudia Lux, the debut author of the wildly dark book pick that we’re all reaching for during October. Sign Here is the perfect combination of dark humor, paranormal horror and satire, rooted in the unique premise (and incredible world-building) of being an employee in the depths of Hell. Think the sticky web of wealthy family secrets in Revenge meets the The Good Place’s absurdist take on a workplace afterlife.
In Sign Here, Peyote Trip is one of the countless “employees” living out his afterlife sentence in Hell. And while the Hitlers and the sex traffickers of the world may reside in the worst rungs, there are several places dedicated to the liars, the petty thieves, the low-grade jerks. In Hell, time (often measured in millennium) and hunger (main cravings: salt and fresh air) have no defining boundaries, none of the pens work, and the bars only serve Jägermeister. In order to get promoted, Peyote is dedicated to collecting as many souls as possible, including a member of the bougie Harrisons—a wealthy, secretive New England family back on Earth—to sign their soul away to him, and he grows obsessed with the family as they embark on their New Hampshire summer vacation. His desperation and ambition to meet his quota intersects with the Harrison’s intergenerational secrets and scandal, plummeting them all into the family’s dark past in a way no one sees coming.
This is an electrifying unexpected story about what life looks like after we stop living, and more so, what it looks like when we decide to live on anyway.
The Book I…
I last bought/am currently reading: last bought: Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette (I haven’t read it yet and know nothing about it but I love the title and the cover so I bought it! That’s my favorite kind of book shopping.) Am currently reading: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (just started!)
I recommend to everyone: Anything by Rufi Thorpe, especially The Knockout Queen. Also, outside of fiction, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
That was my favorite to read last year, and why: The Mothers by Brit Bennet. Her second book, the Vanishing Half, was incredible and got well-deserved attention, but I loved her debut just as much. And there is something about reading the debut novel of a writer you really respect and admire—you can feel the energy in it. The distance they will go.
Whose author I would love to have lunch with: Honestly, my dad. He died in 2017 and I would give anything to have lunch with him again.
That made me realize language had power: This is a tough one. I was raised on the power of language, both of my parents are writers (father in poetry, mother in non-fiction/activism) and a love of and respect for language was paramount in my upbringing. But I remember the first time I read Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner in college, because it was my best friend’s favorite book and I trust her judgement completely. (She also turned me onto Rufi Thorpe!) The way Faulkner writes the Compson family differs radically from section to section but comes together like one of those Magic Eye images. I remember when it all started clicking for me, when I started making sense of the pieces. I remember being gob-smacked by the brilliance of his writing and the humor, darkness, and longing of the characters…all of it. To this day, that is the book I’ve reread the most. Every time, depending on my stage of life or current predicament, I learn more and more. If that’s not the power of language—continually finding deeper meaning in the same words—I don’t know what is.
I’d like to see adapted to the screen: Queenie by Candice Carter-Williams. And I just now googled it and apparently it is coming to television!! YAY!!
That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It is one of my all-time favorite novels because of the unbelievable character development: I still think about those characters as if they were my friends. Also, no book has ever made me sob harder. In a good way!! A gutted, glorious kind of way.
That has the most gorgeous cover: This might be considered cheating because it’s more than one, but Oberlin College Press has been putting out a literary journal since 1969 called Field, and their covers are the stuff of legends.
With the best opening line: There are so many for this category. But I like a book that grabs me from the first line and, personally, the things that grab me tend to be twisted or funny. The first line of Rachel Khong’s Goodbye Vitamin struck both: “Tonight a man found Dad’s pants in a tree lit with Christmas lights.” I mean, you just have to know why, right? This novel grabbed me right up front and held me tight until the end.
Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and now I live nearby again so I’m there a lot. Also Book People in Austin, Texas.
Bonus: What question do you wish we asked, and your answer! Honestly, I can’t think of anything! These questions had me pulling all kinds of books off my shelves and I love that feeling. It’s been one of my favorite parts of this pre-book-press process (a process full of favorite parts!): getting to revisit and celebrate so many books I love, and so many writers I admire. Thank you for asking such great questions and letting me splash around in that delicious feeling!