Acid trips and 90s punk in Canada, a reflection on fan girl culture, and a book to incite anarchy with – here’s what you need to read this September 2019
Summer reading – fiction devoured while languishing on the hypothetical beaches of holidays we never booked; Instagram shots of aesthetic memoir covers on al fresco European dining tables, blurred by hastily hiding what you’re doing as a waiter approaches – is officially over. But now it’s time for the far less-romanticised autumn mission! As the days get shorter, let your wishlist get longer with a list of what we’ve dived into and adored – from a diligent celebration of female and queer music lovers to a guide for disrupting our capitalist hellscape, tender writing on endometriosis, and angsty teen memoir. Hot Girl Summer segues to Hot Nerd Autumn right here.
It’s the mid-90s in Calgary, Alberta – you’re clothed in Value Village hoodies and baggy jeans, the mosquito-y vocals of Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan escape through your headphones, and you worship at the altar of Kurt Cobain. High school is a drag, but it’s also a revelation, a space to craft your identity and, for Tegan and Sara Quin, a destiny-defining place. The sisters and musicians that make up Canadian indie-pop band Tegan & Sara have consolidated first experiences, acid trips, queer loves, and losses in their blistering new memoir High School. Through the prism of Grades nine, 10, and 11, the Quins journey through awkward and wild teenage years, coming to terms with their sexuality and the expansive musical career they would soon embark on. A glorious, warts-and-all coming-of-age story, it’s written from each sister’s perspective in alternating chapters that reflects both shared journeys and contradicting memories in rich detail. Released alongside an album of discovered material from their teens, the memoir sees Tegan and Sara Quin taking back their origin story, for music fans and young queer people to hold close. (AC)
Out September 24, Virago
“The choice of this era,” Jia Tolentino writes, “is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional — to be wrecked, or to be functional for reasons that contribute to the wreck.” Fuck. Me. Up. Trick Mirror is a raging and scathing, yet still playful and bold book of essays that goes deep on late-capitalism, pop-digital feminism, the gluttonous, incapacitating dread that molds millennial lives and all those who can call themselves Extremely Online. Always Be Optimising is a personal favourite, skewering her own sick attraction and concurrent revulsion of the wellness industry, where women slog through fitness-fads-of-the-moment classes clad in neon lycra, shoveling down $12 salads. It is effortlessly yet astute, critical yet all-seeing of the twisted love we have for a world that’s destroying us. (AC)
Out now, Fourth Estate
Nathalie Olah’s book is a must-read assessment of the insidious failures of neoliberalism, the class problem in British media, and the hangover of the Blair years in the UK. Steal As Much As You Can is a quickfire takedown of the “tasteful” culture that followed New Labour’s reign and the anaemic mainstream landscape that we’ve been left with: a sea of branded content, and a lack of genuine firebrands upsetting the rhythm.
I read this book in a day, glued to it. It’s beautifully written, and approaches a serious, broad topic with candour. For anyone who lies awake at night thinking things could be so much better, this book is for you. Like any good book, it’ll make you want to quit your job, burn everything down, and start again. (TG)
Out October 8, Repeater
There’s Susan Sontag: the enduring cultural icon and critical essayist with a bolt of Franken-white through her dyed black hair; the Susan Sontag that Andy Warhol referred to as ‘Miss Camp’, Susan Sontag: the diva, the bisexual, the self-described ‘Miss Librarian’; Susan Sontag: the American girl who grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. In a sprawling, unrelenting biography, Benjamin Moser draws on 300 interviews, as well as personal, never-before-seen archives, and close sources to craft a diligent and astute portrait of the cult figure, from childhood to cultural commodity. A mammoth, but necessary read for Sontag lovers, and anyone who loves a difficult woman. (AC)
Out September 17, Allen Lane
One in 10 women have endometriosis, a disease that many suffer from but few have heard of. Eleanor Thom’s comedy career was cut short by the debilitating pain of living with the disease, but she found the strength to write Private Parts, a book that documents her experience of living with endo. It contains tips for fellow sufferers, and includes exclusive interviews with Lena Dunham and Hilary Mantel, who both have endometriosis.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though – Thom’s career as a comedian comes in handy, and she leans on humour to try and see the funny side of dealing with a disease. Private Parts is essential reading if you’re living with endo, or if you know anyone with it. (TG)
Out now, Coronet
From veteran followers of Courtney Love to the forever-emos-at-heart that worship My Chemical Romance, Japanese Directioners, the militant Beyhive, and Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters – Hannah Ewens’ Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture stuns the stereotypes of squalling, superficial female music fans. It is in service and celebration of generations of music lovers, from the 60s to the present day, denied recognition for their contribution to culture. Ewens confronts the oscillating nature of teen girl and queer sexuality, mental health, and life obstacles lived through the fandoms they inhabit, and paints an evocative portrait of camaraderie, lusts, obsession, and pure joy. She huddles up with fans camping out outside sold-out shows, sneaks into pre-gig venues with the most determined, finds connection in their poster-adorned bedrooms. One of the most intimate, profound moments is when Ewens interviews survivors of the Ariana Grande concert terrorist attack. Fangirls, finally, are centre stage. (AC)
Out now, Quadrille
As with nearly all Boot Boyz Biz drops, this book is sold out through traditional channels, but if you keep your eye out there’s a good chance it’ll show up on eBay or Grailed, along with other rare BBB merch. BBB have become known for their instantly collectable bootleg, that reference “Jenny Holzer, BMWs and China’s one-child policy”, as per a 2016 Dazed interview.
On their site, they describe BB-CX72 “as a collaborative exploration with (arts collective) Cixous72. Together we look to phenomena across backgrounds and disciplines that generate important questions about the world and how we interact with it.”
It’s a beautiful collector’s item that encapsulates everything that BBB are about – interpreting the world through graphic ephemera and radical culture. (TG)
Out now, Boot Boyz Biz
Poet, performer, and broadcaster Lemn Sissay has written a sensory, searing memoir that traces his time growing up in the British care system. Born to his Ethiopian mother in England in 1967, he was taken from her and put into a foster family, then care homes – at 17-years-old he was given his birth certificate, which informed him of his real name. Subsequently, he learned of his birth mother’s quest to get him back.
It’s an incredible story of resilience, racism, family, and identity, and it’s totally devastating, making Sissay’s kind, determined, thoughtful hand and heart on such a brutal experience even more staggering. (AC)
Out now, Canongate
MIXED FEELINGS: EXPLORING MODERN LIFE AND THE INTERNET, ONE DISCUSSION AT A TIME – NAOMI SHIMADA, SARAH RAPHAEL
Women are at the centre of our nebulous internet – whether in campaigns to battle online harassment or the invisible women who shape the digital world, the primitive early fan forum organising or decentralized safe spaces. But what are the emotional effects of living our lives through the TL? Digital journalist and Refinery29 editor Sarah Raphael and campaigner Naomi Shimada seek this out in their expansive new book, which explores women’s relationship to the internet. Traversing digital joys as much as URL ennui, internet innovation and stagnation, Raphael and Shimada intimately examine the experience of being bathed in blue screens. At a time when Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have much to answer for by way of how they handle and affect its users’ mental health, this collection of essays and expert opinion feels urgent. (AC)
Out September 19, Quadrille
This is the latest book from award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein. A selection of essays, reports, and lectures, it contains both new material and over a decade of previous work with an environmental justice agenda at its very core. Covering topics from our culture of the ‘perpetual now’, rising white supremacy, to closed borders as a form of ‘climate barbarism’, On Fire is an honest observation and plea for the state of the world as it currently is, tied into the importance and responsibility we have on what to do next. A must-read from one of the world’s most essential thinkers. (Kate Fowler)
Out September 17, Allen Lane
Another world outside of this late capitalist hellscape is possible, and How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century makes the case for it, written accessibly, with optimism, spirit and care. This is the last book written by the late Erik Olin Wright, and a prophetic culmination of his visionary work, that pushes for the socialist future that would allow people what ever their circumstance to flourish. The alternatives are here, with no dense bullshit to read between, for activists, strikers, organisers, and anyone who cares minutely about the rights of others to use as a guide. Buy it, pass it on! (AC)
Out now, Verso Books