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Hip reads for 2012

We know it’s hard to invest in a story, play, or essay these days. But with Kindles, Nooks, iPads, old fashion print, and audio books, there are convenient ways to keep your brain stimulated and find time to text. Besides, looking like you care about something other than a video game score during your morning commute totally increases your sexy points. Here’s a list of reads we’ve got to look forward to in 2012 that should keep you current, occupied, and slightly out of reach:

Soul of a Whore and Purvis: Two Plays in Verse
Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson may be better known for his beautifully honest and broken characters, like in Jesus’ Son, Angels, and Tree of Smoke, but he is also the resident playwright at Campo Santo Theater in San Francisco. Two of his works are presented here. Soul of a Whore centers around the Cassandras, a family of—surprise surpise—dysfunctional people, while Purvis is based on Johnson’s other obsession, federal officers. Melvin Purvis was the FBI agent who hunted John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd. It’s twisted romance and American pulp served in Johnson’s economic and deceptively simple dialogue. Scheduled to be released in June, it’s the perfect beach accessory.

The Garden of Lost and Found
Dale Peck
Once the literary world’s enfant terrible, Dale Peck has grown into one of publishing’s last defiant, and honest, voices against the industry’s safe bet/bestseller practice. Peck returns with The Garden of Lost and Found, scheduled to for release in May by Mischief and Mayhem. James Ramsey is a 21-year-old raised by relatives in Middle America after being abandoned by his mother. Once she passes away, James discovers he has inherited a brownstone in New York City’s financial district. James must struggle with selling the property versus the responsibilities of being a broke landlord, facing property taxes, maintenance, and an elderly black woman tenant; all the while wondering if his traveling salesman lover has infected him with HIV. Occupy my heart strings!

The Book of Drugs: A Memoir
Mike Doughty
Some of you may remember indie-music darlings Soul Coughing for their eclectic, echo friendly sound. Singer Mike Doughty left the band at the height of its popularity, traveled across America with the obligatory guitar in search of himself and lord knows what else. Doughty shares episodes of oddity and humor in this memoir, set to the story arc of his band’s rise to success and its drug ridden crash. Coming out this month it’s a must-have for anyone who had a critical mind in the 90’s. Attending a liberal arts college probably helps spur interest, as does an appreciation for self-deprecation done right. Doughty is also pretty fun to follow on twitter, too.

Gods Without Men
Hari Kunzru
Hair Kunzru tells the story of a small family visiting the Mojave desert when the son, Raj, mysteriously disappears, leaving his parents Jaz and Lisa to fear and be humbled by the powers of the desert. Raj returns, looking the same but carrying the weight of stories from previous lives on earth. Slated for release at the top of March, the magical plot allows Kunzru the space to explore some of his more favorite topics, such as war (Iraq), the Cultural Revolution of the 60’s, and UFO’s, in order to reflect the frenetic and fractured facets of contemporary life. Quelle tune in, drop out, and all.

When I Was a Child I Read Books
Marilyn Robinson
It’s hard to ignore the doyenne of American literature in any literary short list. After her one-two punch of fiction releases (Gilead, Home), Robinson finishes us off with a collection of essays that could be considered a paean to literature, reading, and of course, faith. What can we say, she’s an introvert. The essays address Robinson’s usual territory, religion in modern life, and the human condition with its inherent contradictions. Her even tone is cogent, allowing her message to come across less like a defense and more like a truth. Robinson proves once again that you don’t have to be the biggest knife in the drawer to be the sharpest. Now if we could just get her Midwest booty to a salon and let our coastal coiffures work their magic. This is said out of love, Marilyn.