Book Club

For ATP's Nightmare Before Christas on December 9th-11th 2012, where Battles, Caribou and Les Savy Fav each curate and headline a day, we have again asked our curators to pick a group of books to recommend to attendees. You can find the full lists below.

For this event our friends at the fantastic Lapham's Quarterly will be joining us to lead discussion(s) on selected titles from the list. Lapham's Quarterly sets the story of the past in the frame of the present. Four times a year, the editors choose a question current in the headlines--foreign war, financial panic, the whereabouts of God--and bring answers to it from authors whose powers of observation and expression have passed the test of time. Drawing on sources ranging from the ancient world to last month's New Yorker, the editors reconstruct the backstory to today's events, which are rarely afforded any opportunity for real context in the modern media.

On the stands now: "The Future" issue, which travels through time to explore history's visions of tomorrow. It solicits the input of prophets, from the blind seers of antiquity to Nostradamus to Ray Kurzweil, surveys hopes and fears from the Book of Revelation to H. G. Wells to Martin Luther King, and wanders through sci-fi nightmares brought to you by authors from Jules Verne to George Orwell to Philip K. Dick.

Coming soon: "The Family." The issue digs deep into the dark corners of family lives to discover the struggles of murderous fifteenth-century Italian nobles, terrified twentieth-century Jewish sons, and disillusioned fifth-century Chinese fathers, the maternal sentiments of Medea, Maria Theresa, and Amy Chua, and the marital conundrums of Caligula, Charles Dickens, and Dan Savage.

Lapham's Quarterly will run discussions on Visit From The Goon Squad and Blood Meridian on Saturday 10th December and on City Of Quartz on Sunday 11th December.  Special guests will also take part in the conversations, including Stuart Evers, author of Ten Stories About Smoking who will take part in the Blood Meridian and Visit From The Goon Squad discussions. Whether you love the books or hate them—or haven’t had the chance to read them yet—come prepared to talk! Advance topics of conversation on each title with questions LQ are writing will soon be available, check at later today for the questions! We have copies of the books and of Ten Stories About Smoking that comes in this great box (see below) to give away to the first attendees each day.

To sign up for the discussion or to get more info email

Picked by Caribou...

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto - Stewart Brand (Atlantic Books London) - buy from

(picked by Ryan)

According to Stewart Brand, a lifelong environmentalist who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are under way on Earth right now. Climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. Urbanization-half the world's population now lives in cities, and eighty percent will by midcentury-is altering humanity's land impact and wealth. And biotechnology is becoming the world's dominant engineering tool. In light of these changes, Brand suggests that environmentalists are going to have to reverse some longheld opinions and embrace tools that they have traditionally distrusted. Only a radical rethinking of traditional green pieties will allow us to forestall the cataclysmic deterioration of the earth's resources. Whole Earth Discipline shatters a number of myths and presents counterintuitive observations on why cities are actually greener than countryside, how nuclear power is the future of energy, and why genetic engineering is the key to crop and land management. With a combination of scientific rigor and passionate advocacy, Brand shows us exactly where the sources of our dilemmas lie and offers a bold and inventive set of policies and solutions for creating a more sustainable society. In the end, says Brand, the environmental movement must become newly responsive to fast-moving science and take up the tools and discipline of engineering. We have to learn how to manage the planet's global-scale natural infrastructure with as light a touch as possible and as much intervention as necessary.
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace (Abacus) - buy from

(picked by Dan)

Somewhere in the not-so-distant future the residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of Infinite Jest, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss... 'Wallace's exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight, and he has deep things to say about the hollowness of contemporary American pleasure....sentences and whole pages are marvels of cosmic concentration...Wallace is a superb comedian of culture' James Wood, The Guardian
Independent People - Halldor Laxness (The Harvill Press) - buy from

(picked by Brad)

First published in 1946, this humane epic novel is set in rural Iceland in the early twentieth century.Bjartus is a sheep farmer determined to eke a living from a blighted patch of land. Nothing, not merciless weather, nor his family will come between him and his goal of financial independence. Only Asta Solillja, the child he brings up as his daughter, can pierce his stubborn heart. As she grows up, keen to make her own way in the world, Bjartus' obstinacy threatens to estrange them forever. "There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life." - New York Review of Books
City Of Quartz - Mike Davis (Verso Books) - buy from

(picked by John)

No metropolis has been more loved or more hated. To its official boosters, "Los Angeles brings it all together." To detractors, LA is a sunlit mortuary where "you can rot without feeling it." To Mike Davis, the author of this fiercely elegant and wide-ranging work of social history, Los Angeles is both utopia and dystopia, a place where the last Joshua trees are being plowed under to make room for model communities in the desert, where the rich have hired their own police to fend off street gangs, as well as armed Beirut militias. In "City of Quartz", Davis reconstructs LA's shadow history and dissects its ethereal economy. He tells us who has the power and how they hold on to it. He gives us a city of Dickensian extremes, Pynchonesque conspiracies, and a desperation straight out of Nathaniel West-a city in which we may glimpse our own future, mirrored with terrifying clarity.

Picked by Battles...

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs - Chuck Klosterman (Faver and Faber) - buy from

In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever 'in and of itself.' With an exhaustive knowledge of popular culture and an effortless ability to spin brilliant prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks the entire spectrum of post-modern America: reality TV, Internet porn, breakfast cereal, serial killers, Pamela Anderson, literary Jesus freaks, and the real difference between apples and oranges (of which there is none). "[Klosterman is] ferociously clever and ferociously self-deprecating, which makes him a superb companion." - Evening Standard
Decoded - Jay-Z (Virgin) - buy from

This is the intimate, first-person chronicle of the life and work of Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter in Brooklyn's notorious Marcy Projects. Told through lyrics, images and personal narrative, Decoded shares the story of Jay-Z's life through the 10 codes that define him, giving an unparalleled insight into his background, influences and the artistic process that shapes his work. Each chapter features a highly personal narrative section followed by a visually captivating selection of his most famous and provocative lyrics underlining the chapter's themes, along with Jay-Z's own 'decoding' of each lyric, uncovering the wordplay and stories behind the song. This is a brilliant insight into the art and poetry of hip-hop.
Puppetry of the Penis; The Ancient Australian art of Genital Origami - Simon Morley & David Friend (Prion Books) - buy from

The Ancient Australian Art of Genital Origami has been handed down from generation to generation of men. It is used to promote happiness and laughter, and this book shows you how to do it with step-by-step instructions. Show your friends your penis 'Hamburger', offer them a ride on your willy 'Skateboard', tell the time with your cock 'Wristwatch' and show off all manner of animals - including the Loch Ness Monster!
The Toon - Roger Hutchinson (Birlinn Ltd) - buy from

This is the full, unofficial and uncensored story of one of the greatest football clubs in the world. It brings to life the sensational early successes of the great Anglo-Scottish team before the First World War and follows the club's successes as Cup giants in the 1950s and European conquerors in the 60s, to the Macdonald and Keegan squads of the 1970s and '80s, to its rebirth in the 1990s and through its trials and tribulations of the first decade of the 21st century. Exploring and explaining the lean years as well as the successful decades, Roger Hutchinson brilliantly portrays the managers and players throughout the club's long history and brings the story right up to date as, after the relegation traumas of 2008/09, Newcastle United looks forward to a resurgence in their fortunes as they return to the Premiership in 2010.
Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan (Corsair) - buy from

Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa. We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist's couch in New York City, confronting her longstanding compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life- divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed up band in the basement of a suburban house- and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco's punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang- who thrived and who faltered- and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie's catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou's far flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to Powerpoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both- and escape the merciless progress of time- in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

Picked by Les Savy Fav...

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy (Picador) - buy from

(picked by Andrew)

Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
Love In The Ruins - Walker Percy (Picador) - buy from

(picked by Harrison)

Dr. Tom More has created a miraculous instrument - the Ontological Lapsometer, a kind of stethoscope of the human spirit. With it, he plans to cure mankind's spiritual flu. Though scorned by the experts, Tom embarks on an outrageous odyssey to prove himself. Attempting to save the world from destruction, Tom ultimately begins to understand what he can never really know - the quality and caprices of life and the uncontrollable vagaries of time and chance.
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris (Abacus) - buy from

(picked by Syd)

Sedaris is Garrison Keillor's evil twin: like the Minnesota humorist, Sedaris focuses on the icy patches that mar life's sidewalk, though the ice in his work is much more slippery and the falls much more spectacularly funny than in Keillor's. Many of the 27 short essays collected here (which appeared originally in the New Yorker, Esquire and elsewhere) deal with his father, Lou, to whom the book is dedicated. Lou is a micromanager who tries to get his uninterested children to form a jazz combo and, when that fails, insists on boosting David's career as a performance artist by heckling him from the audience. Sedaris suggests that his father's punishment for being overly involved in his kids' artistic lives is David's brother Paul, otherwise known as "The Rooster," a half-literate miscreant whose language is outrageously profane. Sedaris also writes here about the time he spent in France and the difficulty of learning another language. After several extended stays in a little Norman village and in Paris, Sedaris had progressed, he observes, "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window." But in English, Sedaris is nothing if not nimble: in one essay he goes from his cat's cremation to his mother's in a way that somehow manages to remain reverent to both of the departed. "Reliable sources" have told Sedaris that he has "tended to exhaust people," and true to form, he will exhaust readers of this new book, too- with helpless laughter.
Tree Of Smoke - Denis Johnson (Picador) - buy from

(picked by Seth)

Denis Johnson is one of those few great hopes of American writing, fully capable of pulling out a ground-changing masterpiece, as he did in 1992 with the now-legendary collection, Jesus' Son. Tree of Smoke showed every sign of being his "big book": 600+ pages, years in the making, with a grand subject (the Vietnam War). And in the reading it lives up to every promise. It's crowded with the desperate people, always short of salvation, who are Johnson's specialty, but despite every temptation of the Vietnam dreamscape it is relentlessly sober in its attention to on-the-ground details and the gradations of psychology. Not one of its 614 pages lacks a sentence or an observation that could set you back on your heels. This is the book Johnson fans have been waiting for- along with everybody else, whether they knew it or not. - Tom Nissley
Sixty Stories - Donald Barthelme (Penguin) - buy from

(picked by Tim)

This excellent collection of Donald Barthelme's literary output during the 1960s and 1970s covers the period when the writer came to prominence- producing the stories, satires, parodies, and other formal experiments that altered fiction as we know it- and wrote many of the most beautiful sentences in the English language. Due to the unfortunate discontinuance of many of Barthelme's titles, 60 Stories now stands as one of the broadest overviews of his work, containing selections from eight previously published books, as well as a number of other short works that had been otherwise uncollected.