Collage by Beth Hoeckel.

Collage by Beth Hoeckel.

Norwegian Wood
Haruki Murakami
2000, Vintage Books

Norwegian Wood is a story of childhood spiraling into adulthood. Two individuals, Taru and Naoko, are haunted by old memories to the point of being paralyzed with fear: They just don’t know how to escape their pasts. Both were scarred by the same tragic incident—the death of a loved one. Now, they realize the only way to fix themselves and rejoin the world of the living is by helping each other. Like Murakami’s other novels, Norwegian Wood dances along the strings of the surreal and the imaginable. There is so much beauty in the way Murakami portrays his characters that even their faults begin to twinkle and shine like stars. The novel really taught me that in life there will come a time when, instead of depending on myself, I will need to lean on those I love so that I can rebuild parts of myself. One of my favorite quotes is when Naoko describes what she believes is the reason for her unhappiness at 20: “Because we would have had to pay the world back what we owed it…The pain of growing up. We didn’t pay when we should have, so now the bills are due.” This novel teaches us to really love who we are, even if our feelings are imperfect. —Kati Yewell

Natasha Stagg
2016, Semiotext(e)

I had never read a good piece of fiction that featured internet culture as a predominant part of its plot until I read Surveys. The main character of this short novel is Colleen, a 23-year-old woman whose claim to fame in life comes from her social media following. She is honest, selfish, and blunt, and is obsessed with people. Nearly every chapter is named after a certain person she interacts with, reflecting the uncurbed desire to know, see, and live as many lives as possible. The novel never trivializes young peoples’ extended realities through the internet. The way Stagg portrays the experience of molding oneself according to hyper-real standards in order to appeal to other people is brilliant. —Emily Wood

Sarah Ferrick
2016, 2-D Cloud

Sarah Ferrick’s Sec is a dearly innovative comic zine. Rather than employing delicate, finely tuned pictures to supplement the lack of words, it uses patterns and color to amplify the narrator’s internal monologue. Reading this zine is like being inside of someone’s head—watching them turn over the desire for another person and repeat moments of fantasy, while grasping at straws for visuals to complement this wordy internal desire. Sec somehow finds a way to flawlessly illustrate those moments when, laying in bed, I attempt to recreate one of my wildest dreams: I have all the words for it, know the specifics of the fantasy, yet I’m unsure of the visuals. The words swoop across the page—this way of morphing the presentation of monologue helps the reader to realize the importance of it in a way that is next-to-impossible with a regular prose story. Reading Sec and making meaning out of it is intimately satisfying. —Rachel Davies ♦