Kristen Arnett’s Book Recommendations


Welcome to the lifespan, The books section of, in which the authors share their most memorable readings. Whether you’re looking for a book to console you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers of our series who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite titles will become one of yours as well.

Dedicated Florida daughter, queer writer, and librarian (our first in Shelf Life — and hopefully not the last), Kristen Arnett has just released her second novel, With Teeth (Riverhead) on Lesbian Parenthood Disorder. Other premieres: his first novel Mostly dead things was a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the Lambda Literary Prize. And the first (and only?) Book launched at Orlando 7-Eleven was his collection of short stories. Felt in the jaw. Love letters to the Sunshine State, all.


The Miami-based Sagittarius has a French Bulldog named Lola, who once lived in a house a few blocks from where Zora Neale Hurston was. raised, and ideas for tweets for themed bars. She has met many friends on Twitter, including her girlfriend, writer Kayla Kumari Upadhyaha.

Love: The real housewives, Butter cookies, organized email folders, Olive garden, Office holiday episodes, dogs and happy hour (if With Teeth if a drink it would be Screwdriver). Dislikes: Having to explain why something is considered dumpling, beer with less than 5% BAC, and when people denigrate Florida.

Arnett is working on an untitled short story collection for Riverhead. As a young reader, she had to hide books in her evangelical house. Below is a multitude of our kind of sins.

The book that …

… kept me awake far too late:

Dark places by Gillian Flynn. The first time I read this book, I stayed up until I saw the sun come through the blinds, and it was a working day! Then I just slammed some coffee, got dressed, and took the book with me to the library where I finished it on my break from work. It was so good.

… I recommend again and again:

Edinburgh by Alexandre Chee. I can’t get enough of this book and I feel like telling everyone about it. It’s such a beautiful, heartbreaking and tender look at homosexuality. I guarantee you have never read anything like this.


… I read all at once, it was so good:

The Historical Corrections Office by Danielle Evans. This is without a doubt one of the best story collections to come out in the last ten years. Danielle is a powerhouse. No one writes like her.

… Is currently sitting on my bedside table:

Peace by Hélène Oyeyemi. I love everything Hélène writes! Once I get through this giant stack of TBRs, this book is next!

… proved me wrong about something:

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habache. I never thought I could love a book about a straight male protagonist (especially the one named after my home country) so much, but here we are! Gabe absolutely proved me wrong. This book is amazing.

… made me laugh out loud:

Wow, no thanks by Samantha Irby. Everything Sam does is comedic gold, but this book made me laugh out loud. Like, it’s laughing out loud, seriously. And I was on a plane! If I could even be a tenth as funny as her, I might die happy.

… I would like to transform into a Netflix show:

Something new under the sun by Alexandra Kleeman. This book comes out in August, and I had the chance to read a preview copy. First of all, it’s a mind-blowing novel, but one of the things that makes it such a fabulous read is that every character feels made for TV – I spent so much time imagining who would play these people, how they’d set up the shots! It’s such a dense book that demands the screen, in my opinion.

… I first bought:

Little house in the great woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was the School Book Fair in first grade, and I had no money (my parents never had money for anything, and they certainly wouldn’t have had money for anything. books), so my teacher gave me some money from her own purse and told me to choose what I liked. This is the book I chose. I read it until the covers fell! I still have this much-loved, battered and taped copy on my bookshelf.

… I bought for the last time:

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. This book has received incredible reviews and I admit it is totally worth it. It’s going to be a rereading of mine, that’s for sure.

… has the best title:

Room where I get what I want by S. Whitney Holmes. I’m a headline person before I start writing, and this headline is definitely a headline that will stick in your head. Plus, it’s a terrific collection of poetry, which I come back to quite often when I feel stuck and need to relax with a mess of pictures.

… Has the best opening line:

Marlena by Julie Buntin. “Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are. »Julie! Buntin! I read that first line and put the book on my lap and screamed. The whole book is also good, it’s definitely in my top ten all-time favorite reads, but that first line! Are you kidding me?? His mind!

… I had a memorable trip:

The greatness of the world by Lori Ostlund. I was on my way to my very first Lambda Literary scholarship, and it was my second plane trip. I felt very small and very unworthy. I had a feeling in my gut that they accidentally picked the wrong person. This book, which is one of my favorite news collections, looked like a blanket. It made me feel grounded, even very high in the air. It tied me to the house.

… I reread the most:

The brilliant by Stephen King. I first read this book when I was in college. My parents wouldn’t let me read anything they didn’t approve of in advance (meaning it had to come from the Baptist bookstore), so I started hiding controversial books under my dresser and putting them away. read secretly whenever I could find a single moment. I still come back to this book probably once a year. It retains all of its original scare, I think, and it also reminds me that tenderness and terror are quite often packed together, and sometimes they live inside the house with you.

… gives me the impression of being seen:

Caroline’s bastard by Dorothy Allison. This is the first book I read where I felt like I finally saw myself. It’s a book that’s so vividly place-based, so unmistakably odd. It is the book that made me want to become a writer.

… Presents the most beautiful book cover:

Don’t let me be alone by Claudia Rankine. I like the size of this book, the dimensions. How heaven and earth feel as if they are perfectly cut out and handed over to you, the reader. The billboard with its title announcement is still so sweet. Imploring. I feel like it’s the perfect book cover.

… everyone should read:

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. This book is so beautifully, without a doubt, Florida. Karen is one of our greatest living writers. Each sentence is a treasure. This book proves Florida right.

… taught me a Peril!-Worthy little trivia:

Used to be by Flannery O’Connor. This book is essentially a collection of letters from Flannery (she was a prolific correspondent). In one of these letters I learned that peacocks can have heart attacks and die if they are surprised. Like, literally scared to death! If you have read my last book, Mostly dead things, then you know how I put this little piece of trivia to use.

Bonus question: if I could live in any library or bookstore in the world it would be:

Orlando Public Library, Florida. When I was a child, my greatest wish was to live inside this library. It was so big, so vast. So full of everything I wanted and was never allowed to have. It was the library that made me want to become a librarian. I would like to honor little Kristen and let her come in, spend some time in this beautiful place. Read whatever she wants.

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