Men Women & Children by Chad Kultgen: I’ve given this book to so many people it would seem like I’m starting a Chad Kultgen cult. At first you might see this book as pornography. I suppose if it helps you pick the book up then that’s okay. This is a razor-sharp snapshot of several families, circa: right now. It examines every inch of their personalities, from eating disorders to sexual frustrations to the local PTA. It also showers you with more graphic sex than anyone could handle. In the words of Kate Christensen, “it’s unputdownable.”
The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson: If I could marry a book, this would be the one. Told in dueling chapters by a brother sister Buster and Annie Fang, this story is a kick in the ass. I adore Wilson’s ability to make these two misfits beyond loveable, even though it’s not their fault they are misfits. Children of performance artists, these kids have it bad. It isn’t until you finally meet the parents that you realize just how bad. My favorite line in the book comes from Annie after she screws up, she calls her agent on the phone and leaves a message, “I guess I fucked you again!” I’m still laughing.
Ladies & Gentlemen, by Adam Ross: I read Mr. Peanut so early, that the manuscript pages were still warm from the printer in the editor’s office. I began worshiping Adam Ross as soon as I finished it, and I wasn’t alone. Then he delivered a collection of stories that was both death-defying and brilliant. I like to think of Adam Ross as a modern-day John Cheever. These stories are funny, sad, and true. Like in Mr. Peanut, I felt like I was a character in each story as a silent observer, watching things unfold, and held captive.
Runner Up: Listen: I sell Matthew Norman soap on a rope. I loved Domestic Violets, it is laugh out loud funny, and brilliantly written. I just can’t pick three Harper Collins novels for best books of 2011. I did read a ton of short stories this year. The forthcoming collection by Dan Chaon entitled Stay Awake (2-12) and Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Birds of a Lesser Paradise (3-12). These two collections are already at the top of my list for 2012.