Year-end honorable mentions in books

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday December 26, 2023
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Year-end honorable mentions in books

As 2023 wraps up, there are a few notable books publishing at the tail end of the year, and a few more emerging just as the rainbow wrapping on 2024 is ripped away. Enjoy these books as they find their way to shelves and under trees and into the laps of readers looking for something new, something enlightening, and even a few things frightening.

Author Brandi Wells  

'The Cleaner' by Brandi Wells, $27.99 (HarperCollins)
Non-binary author Brandi Wells' upcoming debut novel chronicles the life of an office building cleaner swiping poopy toilets, dusting crumb-strewn break room tabletops, and Windex-ing the fingerprints off windows into the executive suites of the ones in charge. But this particular cleaner has an agenda and it's intense and plays out in exquisitely devilish ways.

Wells is a clever writer who nails a lot of the interior feels of the narrator and demonstrates a particular knack for descriptive nuance. The cleaner has a definitive agenda and as she incrementally insinuates herself into the lives of the office workers she picks up for, things get expectedly messy and she makes each subsequent move more and more personal to disastrous effect. If you haven't read Wells' explicitly ultraviolent 2011 short story collection "Please Don't Be Upset," this would be a curious (and harrowing) way to become acquainted with an author with immense potential and promise.

'Brute: Stories of Dark Desire, Masculinity & Rough Trade,' Edited by Steve Berman, $31 (Lethe Press)
Not for the faint of heart, these 19 erotic horror queer tales of danger, violence, sex, pain and pleasure will definitely satisfy readers who miss all the faux terror and sinister shenanigans of the Halloween season. In his introduction, seasoned editor Berman asks, "What happens when we go looking for trouble?"

The answers can be found throughout these tales of unsavory sex, dark desire, and some ideal images of the "perfect" man, like in Elton Skelter's "I'll Make a Man of You Yet," whose narrator uses a bookbinder's thread to reconstruct and resect the harvested parts of his former lover into an ideal companion. In "Dick Pig," a horny guy goes in search of app sex and winds up discovering much, much more and in the most unlikely of places: a former relative's creaking old house. This just skims the surface of this fantastically perverse and shocking collection, which features sex machines, people carving up people, roadkill skins, peeping toms, and so much more.

'Karma: My Autobiography' by Boy George; $39.99 (Mango Press)
Over the past several decades since his breakout into the music industry in the 1980s, the resilient chameleon Boy George (George O'Dowd) has matured and become a seasoned performer and, at 62, a talented writer who draws on a boatload of anecdotes to tell the story of his adventurous life. He divulges all the melodrama with the Culture Club band, particularly with drummer Jon Moss with whom he had a volatile relationship, including lawsuits accusing O'Dowd of a massive earnings loss due to Moss being ejected from the group.

Other revelations include random interactions with celebrities like Sam Smith, Madonna, and Taylor Swift; his stint in prison in 2009 for charges stemming from a date gone awry with a male escort, and the major physical (surgical) improvements he's had over the years. Endlessly entertaining, supremely dishy and funny, Boy George emerges in epic form in this scandalous tell-all.

'Portrait of a Body' by Julie Delporte; $29.95 (Drawn & Quarterly)
This new graphic memoir details the evolution of a queer woman's life and love. Delporte is a Canadian artist and she admits she came into her lesbianism later in life, freeing herself from what she feels are the constrictions of modern femininity. Bathed in hues of blue and brown, her watercolor images and line-drawn pictures beautifully compliment her journey from yearning girl to a fully realized, content, and life-affirming queer woman.

'The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos' by Mark Chiusano, $36 (One Signal/Atria/Simon & Schuster)
The lifelong grift of con artist extraordinaire George Santos sizzles on the front burner of journalist Chiusano's literary stovetop in this jaw-dropping record of the former congressman's path of lies and deception.

Santos knows the lingo and has become well versed in how to bullshit his way out of answering direct questions on where his cash comes from, how he obtained it, and the general legitimacy of most of the money and business moves he's made. Worst of all is Santos's unapologetic stance and shoulder-shrugging innocence when innumerable accusations are hurled his way.

Though Santos's trail of lies is frustrating from beginning to end, Chiusano's psychosocial probe remains thoroughly riveting. The author certainly has done his research spadework from all sides of the issue, including an introductory section about the writer's personal interactions with Santos.
Chuisano's scrutiny is intense and necessary and shines a blindingly bright light on the chicanery of politics and, in a wider sense, further fuels and affirms our collective distrust of American government.

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