The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (New Directions, $13).
Everyone always picks The Passion According to G.H., the Lispector book where the main character eats a bug. But you know what? I'm going with the one where she says things like "And may angels flutter as transparent wasps around my hot head because this head wants finally to transform itself into an object-thing, it's easier." Not really a novel — more an autobiography of nerve endings.
Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz (Future Tense, $15).
An example of a story that the writer handled for a long time almost as an object — turned, saw in different lights, wrote from several opposing angles, before arriving at the finished version we see. It has stayed with me ever since I read it.
How I Grew by Mary McCarthy (Harvest, $15).
Again, I might be expected to pick Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, but instead I'm going to go with the one that contains the improbable scene of a young Mary McCarthy holding a used condom up to a street lamp and thinking, "I recognize it as jism." My God, but she was a broad.
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (Vintage, $15).
Still the finest answer we have to the question, What happens to the life of the mind under the small dullnesses and large oppressions of household routine? What happens to the helpless and horsepowered genius in a family? What happens to her in a classroom, in a culture, in a country?
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou (Random House, $16).
Singin' and Swingin' contains all the usual delights, challenges, and philosophies of Angelou's other autobiographies, but with the added bonus of letting us see her on tour with a company performing Porgy and Bess, chased by wizened European groupies writing her nightly letters about her beautiful legs.
D.V. by Diana Vreeland (Ecco, $17).
Please, I do not want you to die and go to hell before you read this book, which is 1,000 percent perfect in its way — except for the part where she starts collecting something called blackamoor heads, which you already know is gonna be weird before you look it up.
— Patricia Lockwood, known as the poet laureate of Twitter, is a Pushcart Prize winner and the author of Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. In her new memoir, Priestdaddy, she recalls moving back in with her eccentric Catholic priest father.