Scott Sparling

Hallucinations, a blog about writing, trains, and Wire to Wire

Three Great Reads for 2018

Posted on Dec 16th, 2017.

My writing time in 2017 was almost entirely spent on the book I’m trying to finish, a story of kidney theft, Occupy, and a Jimi Hendrix guitar known as the Black Strat. The revisions continue. In my mind, I'm always just a couple months from being done.

But a few sentences of mine did find their way into print this past year—in the form of blurbs for three amazing books that should definitely make your must-read list for 2018.


Parts Per Million

The first is Parts Per Million, a socially conscious, fast-paced debut novel by Julia Stoops, coming in April from Forest Avenue Press. The book was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Robert Newman says "Parts Per Million reads like the bastard offspring of Graham Greene and Naomi Klein.” My take:

Parts Per Million is a cry for justice and a journey through the heart. Julia Stoops brilliantly conjures the social and political unrest of the early 2000s. The war drums, the resistance, the secretive birth of the surveillance state—all lit by deep emotional honesty. Stoops’ keen eye sweeps us into the lives of three Portland activists—separate souls shakily united by a cause, a house, and a radiant artist/ex-junkie named Deirdre, who simultaneously illuminates and complicates their struggles. Compelling and deeply compassionate, Parts Per Million takes us to a time and place we thought we could forget, but can’t, and shouldn’t. Reading it may be the surest way to understand who we were then, and—in the tumult of our times—who we need to be today.”

A Thousand Distant Radios

The second is A Thousand Distant Radios, an amazing debut collection of stories by Woody Skinner, already out on Atelier26. Skinner’s stories have been called mesmerizing, inventive and emotional, and extravgantly weird by Kevin Wilson, J. Robert Lennon and Kyle Minor respectively. I couldn't agree more. Honestly, your local independent bookstore should have this on the table by the front door, and if they don’t, get them to order it. My blurb:

​"Woody Skinner has a heat gun and he will strip the varnish off your soul. You’ll laugh while it’s happening and when he’s done you’ll feel more real."


Beautiful Music

The third is Beautiful Music, the story of a young man’s transformation through music by Michael Zadoorian. Set in early 1970s Detroit, Beautiful Music is coming in May 2018 from Akashic Books. Order it now, and put it on your list for spring. The Don Was blurb alone should convince you—"Michael Zadoorian has captured an era when Detroit simmered with anger and fear while it simultaneously reverberated with the joyous noise of rock and roll"—but in case you need an extra push, here’s my take:

"Like a song you can’t stop playing, Beautiful Music casts a spell on your heart. With clarity and tenderness, Zadoorian sweeps us into a life that we recognize as our own. Remember when you were lonely, scared, unsure, and then somehow found your own kind of bravery and actual, genuine joy? Beautiful Music will take you there—and give you the soundtrack to get you through."

 All three books are terrific. Check them out – I'm sure you’ll love them.