Welcome to Chris's recommendations! Chris Lee is a writer & reader from West Virginia. He reads & writes books & screenplays about lost boys. He was raised on Seinfeld, Oatmeal Crème Pies, and dirt.
Check out what Chris has been reading below!
As Sam Pink writes, you have to make rules for you life. Rules like, don't die in a bagel suit. This book is two novellas connected by an irascible, bust-a-gut funny narrator who gives a look at life on the grubby side. Pink is an indie darling who deserves a wider audience for his ability to dig into moments of life at its weirdest and most revealing. Dark times at an afternoon pool party outside Tampa. Shoveling snow in Chicago out of boredom. And best of all - unclogging a bar toilet, a potential gross-out that Pink turns into the greatest sex scene you've ever read in your life.
Bored, curious, a little angry, a little scared, Miles Lover drifts through the summer before high school getting drunk and high, crashing his divorcing parents' condos, and wandering the streets of Baltimore, looking for something, though he's not sure exactly what. This is the absolute best book I've ever read about being a teenage boy, feeling aimless and invisible. It ditches the cliché eye rolls and angsty sighs for a voice that's realer than real and tells the truth of those nervous, empty, unsure moments between adolescence and adulthood as life begins tripping toward one of any infinite number of different paths.
Jamie Paddock is living the standard-issue millennial New York life - overpriced apartment, underpaid bank account, sorta cool media company writing gig. The only piece of his former life is an arrowhead from the woods of his childhood, carried like a totem. He’s floating, drifting along, semi-lost, semi-attached, semi-high. Then his father dies under strange circumstances, and he’s drawn back to West Virginia and the accent he’s suppressed, the family he’s ignored, and the life he’s left behind. Halstead’s book explores the tensions between home’s hold on us and our desire to make a new life and leave our roots behind, especially coming from a such a hard, poor, dark place as the hollers of West Virginia. The story captures the way a place shapes who we are and who we let ourselves become and the unique sense of folks born in the mountains who feel like outsiders from both the world and from their own kind and kin.
Terrifying. Reading Kehlmann's latest novel is like watching a horror movie from the inside. A writer takes his family for a mountain retreat, hoping to escape the city, finish his newest screenplay, and maybe find a bit of serenity. But something in the rented house isn't right. Rooms shift, hallways expand, reflections fade. Brisk and gripping, you'll read this slim novel in one sitting, consumed, disappearing into the book as the writer disappears into the house, stunned as you turn the last page, compelled to check in a mirror to be sure you still exist, then turning back to the first page to immediately begin rereading.
DeShawn looks in the mirror and sees a man absent from himself. A San Francisco punk, he feels his hard-won years of partying and promiscuity coming to a close yet cannot envision the rest of his life. An uncle’s death brings him home to the deep south of rural Alabama, his mother’s church and the women who raised him, the specter of his father, and the boys and men of his youth who shaped him. A deeply human story of a man unapologetically defining himself against expectations and labels yet struggling to feel that he still deserves to be loved.
"History marks its territory. The past scars the land, erodes rocky soil and streams. It lives in the shape of boulders and peaks. In Null's stories, people shudder against the seismic pressure of time that shapes their lives in the ancient Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. This collection is hard, deep, and true as the mountains' darkest hollows, as Null sweeps through moments in the last century, making each feel as urgent as your foot caught in the rocks and your body pulled under swirling white water rapids." --Chris
A nurse and a teacher marry and divorce in a small town in West Virginia. This is the greatest love story ever written. Scott stares down Sarah with crocodile tears shimmering in his eyes and laughter growling inside his toothy grin. His heart is punch-drunk, and he dies every day then gets up again the next morning, fists swinging and full of life. His writing will humble you with its honesty and leave you embarrassed by every tiny fib and little white lie you've ever told in your whole life. If you don't like this book, you must already be dead inside.
"Stewart O'Nan's ‘City of Secrets’ is at once a return to the mystery and suspense of much of his oeuvre and an exploration of a difficult place and time in history, a new setting for his work. O'Nan's singularly fluent prose marks the book as solely his from the first page, and the remarkable depth with which he understands human nature and the internal conflicts that both drive and give pause is on full display as he unfolds the story of Brand, a holocaust survivor and illegal refugee in British-ruled, post-WWII Jerusalem. Brand is a somewhat reluctant member of the violent underground resistance to the British occupation, and through his story the novel asks how much of his humanity a man can lose before giving into despair, who he'll cling to when he's desperately alone, and how much of his own moral code he's willing to break for another man's cause." --Chris
With her first collection of short fiction, Deb Olin Unferth lets the rest of the world know what those who've been following literary journals and the Pushcart Prize have known for a while – she's one of the best. Her stories are about people who are determined – sometimes flawed, damaged, oblivious, or just plain mean, but always determined. She understands the way people become attached to things, and her stories are like catalogs of life, lists of experiences and jobs, poolside detritus and terrible disappointments. In a voice comically detached which, impossibly, makes these stories all the more visceral and immediate, her writing explores the things we're inseparable from and merely accustomed to, what our attachments say about how we live in the world and the damage we'll inflict on each other to avoid letting go.
"McClanahan recounts his time as a kid living with a grandma who battles the trash cat that just won't die and palsied uncle who sends what little money he has to the TV preacher, years spent with little else to do but hang out watching the action at the gas station next door. This book will break your heart, but you won't mind for all the laughing you'll do. It's truest book I've ever read about growing up in my home, the hills and hollers West Virginia, and if you don't like it I will fight you." --Chris
"In this haunting debut Dana Cann has created a hybrid genre, the supernatural suburban suspense, a dope fiend domestic drama. In the wake of two seemingly unrelated deaths, the lives of three survivors are unhinged, a woman drifting into addiction and a couple’s marriage dissolving. In deftly plotted chapters these lives intertwine as the characters’ grief and guilt manifest as ghosts both metaphoric and real. The emotions are big and complicated, drawn so expertly the discomfort of their experience is felt before it’s understood, a feat not easily accomplished. The novel drives to its conclusion like a traditional mystery, but the question of ‘whodunit’ is an afterthought to Cann asking how we repair our lives after bearing witness to death." --Chris
Reading these super dark comix feels a little like being hypnotized. This book isn't just "murderous antisocial teens vs. murderous satanic adults." Well, okay, so it is a little bit that. But there's another layer to it, a deep and moving understanding of what it is to be disaffected, detached from the rest of the world. And there's the creeping sense that it may only take one or two turns for your own life to run as far off the tracks as these runaway teens.
"The Bone brothers - one goofball, one shyster, one bashful, reluctant hero - are banished from their hometown (and after just two or three shady business deals gone horribly wrong) and lost in an unfamiliar world where they fall backwards off a mountain and into an epic journey home. A book that's won an almost embarrassing number of awards, and deservedly so, Bone is a graphic novel adventure full of wisecracks and literary references wrapped around a huge heart." --Chris
"An unfortunately oft-overlooked classic, A Fan's Notes might just be the Great American Novel that everyone is looking for. Exley's reflections on "that long malaise," his life, is a roaring, hilarious mediation on fame and football, on living on the outside and looking in, on masculinity, sanity, booze, and the impossibility of surviving a life lived in America." --Chris
"Guilty to have life and not know what to do with it." Kyle and Swin are two young, small time criminals hiding out in a dilapidated state park, caught up in a dope deal that's too big for them and going all wrong. Brandon uses the set dressing of a crime novel against the backdrop of the strip-mall, backwoods modern American South to explore bigger questions. Can young, aimless men find meaning for their lives anymore? And can they do it before Frog decides he wants his money back and comes to take it?" --Chris