Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

“I do not even struggle to speak; the spark of words dies so deep in my chest there is not even space to mount them on an exhale.”

91ZOrAgmdrLOne thing I love about essay and story collections is seeing the recurring images and ideas that pop up throughout, like the weeds (or wild flowers?) of the author’s subconscious. As the title suggests, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado is full of women’s bodies—bodies disappearing, falling apart, taking up space. With hints of surrealism, Machado’s stories explore the ways that we are continually haunted by past traumas. She renders the neurotic mania that sometimes takes the wheel when women remain unheard or misunderstood as well as the pain of feeling like a burden to your loved ones. Her characters don’t necessarily find healing and happy endings, but I love that they face their truest selves, no matter how terrifying it is, and fiercely pursue what they most desire.



In the realm of sense and reason it seemed logical for something to make sense for no reason (natural order) or not make sense for some reason (the deliberate design of deception) but it seemed perverse to have things make no sense for no reason. What if you colonize your own mind and when you get inside, the furniture is attached to the ceiling? What if you step in side and when you touch the furniture, you realize it’s all just cardboard cutouts and it all collapses beneath the pressure of your finger? What if you get inside and there’s no furniture? What if you get inside and it’s just you in there, sitting in a chair, rolling figs and eggs around in the basket on your lap and humming a little tune? What if you get inside and there’s nothing there, and then the door hatch closes and locks?

What is worse: being locked outside of your own mind, or being locked inside of it?

Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña Paris

among strange victims

Rodrigo is a cynical, twenty-something writer contentedly shuffling through life when an unexpected development takes him from his commonplace job at a museum in Mexico City into a rural college town. Indifferent to things like emotional connections and career ambitions, Rodrigo finds meaning only in the most ordinary details of his everyday life, like the chicken in the vacant lot next to his apartment, which “begins to have pathological importance in relation to [his] daily routine.” As the title implies, this novel contains a strange cast of characters: Rodrigo, passive and hyper self-aware; the misogynist academics he finds in his company; and the various female characters who are unimpressive and defined only by what they provide to these self-important men. I don’t think any of the characters are meant to be admirable/likable. Amidst Paris’s rhetorical musings, time travel, and tequila-fueled antics, the story is an unflattering glance into the human ego.

“I don’t seek the permission of the Fates to find a soul mate with whom to deploy my melancholy; I can be alone, really alone, but I do ask the god of neural functions to let me retain this faint line of voice that crosses my cranium, allowing me to laugh at the world around me.”



The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez


One of my favorite reads of this year, The Circuit is a short novel that introduces readers to the life of a child migrant worker from Mexico. Jiménez writes from the perspective of his childhood self, free from judgment or analysis. The language is simple and clear. For Panchito, living in a tent with his family of five is just the norm, but losing his marble collection is the ultimate tragedy. It’s a beautifully written story of growing up in a transient world where family comes first and life fits into a cardboard box. I read this book in one sitting (because it’s both short and hard to put down). The original Spanish version is Cajas de Cartón. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson


The title is fairly self-explanatory…Tyson fits astrophysics into a short read that is accurate but comprehensible, funny, and poetic. It’s like a bed time story for nerds, starting with the first infinitesimally small moments when the universe started to expand and ending with Tyson’s personal manifesto on what the cosmological perspective means to him. Besides giving readers a basic grasp on universal principles and a rundown of key developments in the field of astrophysics, Tyson teaches us that knowledge of the still mysterious cosmos should make us feel BIG and not insignificant. It should give us peace of mind and a profound sense of appreciation, if only we can suppress our giant human egos.