Hipster Lit: An (Irreverent) Top Ten List

Subtitle: So you’ve admitted you’re a hipster.

(Meant in a purely facetious manner. I was astounded to see an actual list with this title the other day, but then I thought…why not? Everyone knows that Margaret Atwood released an amazing new collection of short stories, but does everyone know that Benjamin Whitmer has a new book? Nope. So this list is for you.)

The End Cat
(Cats are hipster, right?!)

Side note: Guys. I’m sick. I have one of those wretched summer/fall cold/flu things. It’s glorious. Or not. It’s taken me three full evenings to even put this post together. So please forgive me for the slow pace of the blog this week. I’m ridiculously tired and totally worthless.


Since I’ve already established that I’m quite possibly not a hipster, yet I sort of am (I blame craft beer and Bob Dylan), we’ll just go with that. Here is a list of ten books that aren’t quite mainstream, but aren’t quite obscure either – mainstream obscurism or Hipster Lit, if you will. The point of this list is that I’m looking out for you. The following are excellent books released over the last 10 months that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

For your enjoyment:

10. Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer. “In the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown comes a haunting story about men, their fathers, their sons, and the legacy of violence.”

09. The Dylanologists by David Kinney. “It starts with the voice. One day we hear its strange, broken glory, and before long everyone else in our lives would rather jam ice picks into their ears than listen to another Bob Dylan song. We know what you’re thinking. That the man cannot sing, that he yelps, grunts, and caterwauls, that he sounds like a suffering animal or a busted lawn mower, that his throat is a rumbling, grating cement mixer. How can we ever explain this so you will understand? Dylan’s voice, so reviled and ridiculed by you heathens, is a wonder of the world to us. It’s human, real, and above all expressive. It embodies rapture, heartbreak, rage, bitterness, disdain, boredom. It can be by turns biting, sarcastic, and deeply funny. It’s freighted with weirdly spellbinding magic. It’s what pulls us – the faithful – to the foot of the stage, and keeps us there for a lifetime.”

08. Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner. “One does not travel the path to vengeance alone. Twelve -year -old Thomas Walker has never left New York City. His father, a traveling salesman hoping to earn money by selling Samuel Colt’s recent invention, the “Improved Revolving Gun,” takes young Thomas with him on the road. But even the world’s first true revolver cannot save them from danger, and what starts as an adventure soon turns into a nightmare.”

07. The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison. “By an award-winning writer of short fiction, a devastatingly powerful debut novel of hero-worship, first love, and betrayal. Justin Bailey is seventeen when he arrives at the shop of legendary muscle car mechanic Nick Campbell. Anguished and out of place among the students at his rural Connecticut high school, Justin finds in Nick, his captivating wife Mary Ann, and their world of miraculous machines the sense of family he has struggled to find at home.”

06. Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom. “A novel of love in all its forms: for the land, for family, and the once-in-a-lifetime kind that catches two people when they least expect it.”

05. Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson. Opening line: “Get out, you cunting, shitting, little fucking fucker!’ were the first words I ever heard.” That’s hard to beat.

04. Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter. “Fridays at Enrico’s is the story of four writers living in Northern California and Portland during the early, heady days of the Beat scene. A time of youth and opportunity, this story mixes the excitement of beginning with the melancholy of ambition, often thwarted and never satisfied. Loss of innocence is only the first price you pay. These are people, men and women, tender with expectation, at risk and in love, and Carpenter also carefully draws a portrait of these two remarkable places, San Francisco and Portland, in the 50s and early 60s, when the writers and bohemians were busy creating the groundwork for what came to be the counterculture.”

03. The Ploughmen by Kim Novak. “Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.”

02. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia. “Bellweather Rhapsody is a genre-bending page-turner, full of knowing nods to pop culture classics from The Shining to Agatha Christie to Glee. But its pleasures are beautifully deepened by Kate Racculia’s skill with her characters, her melancholy, affecting writing about music, and her fearlessness about the loss and darkness that underline the truest humor. This is a wholly winning new novel from a writer to watch.”

01. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrienne Harun. ” “I scrolled through screens, flipped pages, lost again and again, until I began to wonder if Disappointment was a scalar or a vector quantity; is Direction could make a human heart go bad; if the Acceleration Equation could illuminate all the ways to avoid disappearing. And in the notebook (mostly blank) that my mother liked to shuffle through, I sketched my first full equation, the first that made fractional sense to me at least:

Average acceleration = velocity + desire / time + wasted dreams = vf– vi + d /  t/wd1

The equation looked so right, like the first true thought I’d ever had…”

Math + coming of age angst = pretty much the best thing ever.

What book do you wish was getting a bit more attention? Anyone else manage to catch an autumn cold yet?

Cat Image

23 thoughts on “Hipster Lit: An (Irreverent) Top Ten List

  1. Sure hope you feel better soon! I’ve felt like I was getting sick several times since my kids have gone back to school but I’ve been able to fight it off, fortunately. Multi-vitamins and Emergen-C are my weapons. 🙂
    Cry Father and The Ploughmen were both fantastic and haven’t been getting nearly enough attention, I agree. I’m really shocked at how few ratings they have.


  2. I read your list thinking “oh, I’ve heard of these,” but I think I’ve only heard of them because of you!

    I’m in the midst of a review for just such a book. I’ll come back and link to it when I’m done. Yeah, I know that’s annoying blogger beahaviour, but you’ll forgive me, right? 🙂


  3. Rory, thanks for the list..though it’s impossible to keep up with you! I feel like saying-as in the word verification for the comments on some blogs-“prove you’re not a computer”.

    I’m actually quite glad that the books I like don’t get much attention. I will be sad when people latch on to Falconer..talking of which: his journals have these lovely opening lines:

    ‘In middle age there is mystery, there is mystification. The most I can make out of this hour is a kind of loneliness. Even the beauty of the visible world seems to crumble, yes, even love. I feel that there has been some miscarriage, some wrong turning but I do not know when it took place, and I have no hope of finding it.’


    1. Haha, I’ve actually slowed down. I used to read 2-3 books a week and now I am only read one (sometimes two). So I promise I am not a computer. Maybe.

      I love “I do not know when it took place, and I have no hope of finding it.” So pretty.


      1. So I promise I am not a computer. Maybe.

        Isn’t that what all computers say? Hmm. And it might explain why you hadn’t heard of the Fiorentina and had to run the word through your memory banks (google)!


        hope you’re feeling better now.


  4. I don’t know any of these books so my non-hipsterishness has been confirmed. *sigh*

    I loved The Plover but have not heard much about it and think it was hit or miss for those who did read it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: