Danya Kukafka recommends 6 mind-bending books
The novelist recommends entries from Rachel Yoder, Kim Fu, and more.
Danya Kukafka is the author of the 2017 best-seller Girl in Snow. Her ambitious new literary suspense novel, Notes on an Execution, interweaves a serial killer's final hours with the stories of women who became caught in his orbit.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder (2021).
This is a slim, weird, gorgeous novel about a mother who believes she's turning into a dog. While the premise might seem bizarre (it is!), the book asks so many deeper questions about femininity and motherhood, ambition and art, and what it means for women to break the molds we've been given. Buy it here.
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (2022).
You're in for a treat with this short-story collection. Fu is one of the most imaginative and innovative writers out there — she plays with form, structure, and the sentence in ways I've never seen before. These short stories are magical, meaningful, packed with wonder. Buy it here.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (1994).
Imagine you wake up one day and you've forgotten what birds are. This speculative novel is set in a world in which society's collective memory is actively policed — to remember the things that make us human has become a crime. The hero must fight for her own mind, and the story is not for the faint of heart; I found it uniquely devastating. Buy it here.
The Push by Ashley Audrain (2021).
What happens when you can't trust your own child? In this perfectly paced nightmare of a novel, a mother questions her young daughter's complicity in a series of potentially coincidental tragedies. The Push is at once a harrowing thriller and a larger examination of the complex relationships between parents and children. Pro tip: The audiobook is fantastic. Buy it here.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (2018).
If you're looking for something completely original, fresh, and cerebral, this is the novel for you. It's difficult to describe on a surface level. The main character, Ada, develops two separate selves. But the result is one of the most potent explorations of identity I've ever read. Emezi is truly a modern visionary. Buy it here.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (2016).
Abbott is the queen of psychological suspense. Her books, like this one about a mother who has put the ambitions of her gymnast daughter above all else, explore complex relationships within communities of women. I'm a superfan. Buy it here.
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