Chosen by Daisy Johnson
Daisy Johnson’s first novel, Everything Under, has been short-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. The book’s narrator, a woman raised on a canal boat in England, looks back on the unsettling final year she spent with the mother who abandoned her.
White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (2009). Oyeyemi’s third novel takes the typical haunted-house narrative and uses it to examine racism and the inevitable pull of the past. Nothing here is quite normal: Apples grow in the cellar, the house speaks to us, and the protagonist—a sufferer from an eating disorder that compels her to eat things that are not food—has gone missing.
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2011). This is one of those books I read every few years to remind me of what writing can do. A peaceful holiday in a villa in the south of France takes a dark turn in a brief, sparse novel that packs an enormous punch and lingers for days. Dreamlike, entrancing.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (2014). Structured as a conversation between a dying woman and a young boy, this story set in the author’s native Argentina is unapologetically weird and shudderingly creepy. From the opening page, there is the sense of rolling toward a conclusion it might be better not to find out about.
You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (2016). A struggling German screenwriter retreats to a beautiful rented home in the mountains, where writer’s block becomes the least of his concerns. Don’t read this novel at night. Don’t read this when you’re alone in the house. Watch out for when the writing itself starts becoming haunted.
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (2018). Set in a forest camp that re-creates Iron Age England, this is a book about family and abuse of power and how the most unsettling things are often those closest to us. Moss knows how to wrap the tension around her fist and keep it clenched right up until the final moment.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (2017). Machado’s recent story collection is filled with doubles, ghosts, and evocations of apocalypse. Incredibly compelling, hugely beautiful, Her Body and Other Parties uses the surreal and weird to tell truths about the world we live in. It’s an enveloping read that balances on a line between realism and fantasy.