4 books to read this month: Are You Willing to Die for the Cause?, The Book of Ayn, People Collide, Death Valley

A graphic novel about the FLQ, a genre-bending book about gender, getting funny about grief and more.

More about books you should read, and the authors who wrote them, that were recently featured on the Weird Era podcast, by co-hosts Sruti Islam & Alex Nierenhausen.

People Collide by Isle McElroy

People Collide is a genre-bending, mind-blowing introspection into gender, and how to distinguish between the bodies we inhabit from the psyches they carry. In the first few pages, readers meet Eli, who quickly learns he has not woken up in his body, but rather is in his longtime lover and wife’s body, Elizabeth. What is going on? Where is Elizabeth? People Collide is my favourite novel of 2023 thus far. It taught me so much about never really knowing the people we are closest to (how it not only can never be, but a reminder that perhaps it is a truth we are never really owed). Plus, it has one of the best sex scenes I have read in awhile (I read a lot of sex scenes). Tune in to my episode with Isle to hear us consider if a body is anything but limits, mothers, masc and femme emotional capacities, and if anyone marries for love. (SI)

The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman

A New York Times writer is cancelled. She is deemed classist for a recent piece. Anna doesn’t get it. From the very early pages of the novel, our problematic narrator wonders, “Why should empathy only work when you recognized that someone had been hurt, like you’d been hurt? Wasn’t that sort of more about you?” Readers will laugh endlessly at the absurdity of our current politically correct climate, while also finding themselves critical of a 2023 feminist turned Ayn Rand obsessive. This is a novel very much about sex and power dynamics, but also about not feeling bad for being who you are, even though who you are may not be that great. Tune in to our episode and hear us consider why more people should be embarrassed to be the same, what an unflushed turd is in contemporary social discourse, and why Rand was an intellectual top and a sexual bottom. (SI)

Are You Willing to Die for the Cause? by Chris Oliveros

In his new graphic novel, Drawn & Quarterly founder Chris Oliveros explores revolutions in 1960s Quebec and the Front de Libération du Québec. In the years before the October Crisis, the FLQ was a chaotic fringe group intent on bringing independence to historically disenfranchised French speakers in the province. The group was small, its mission heartfelt, but they were ultimately plagued by disorder and violent errors. Tune in to this episode for a conversation about history, politics and why we are still trying to define exactly what Québécois identity looks and sounds like in the 21st century. (AN)

Death Valley by Melissa Broder

One of my favourite novels of this year is a book about grief — albeit one of the funniest I’ve ever read. Our narrator is dealing with both the extended illness of her husband and the hospitalization of her father when she decides to spend a weekend near the desert to do research for a novel she’s writing. What follows is at once an Alice in Wonderland down-the-rabbit-hole story, and one of intense survival, alone in the California desert. Listen to our interview to hear how Broder subverts the hero’s journey, how women relate to men and how she writes about love. (AN)

The Weird Era podcast is available via Apple and Spotify.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

For our latest in Montreal art, please visit the Arts & Life section.