What to Read When Things Go Nuclear


This week, American politics got ugly (uglier?), when the Republicans used to the “Nuclear Option” to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Then, our president deployed sixty missiles in Syria because his great big heart was breaking following Syria’s latest chemical weapons attack.

Here are some books to read that will remind you that there is beauty out there, even if it’s hard-wrought.


One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
If you’ve never read this classic, now is the perfect time to escape into Márquez’s magical, mythical town of Macando and travel through time and history with the Buendia clan.


Call Me By My Other Name by Valerie Wetlaufer
This collection takes as its subject the the lives of two queer women living on the early frontier. Wetlaufer’s poetry explores longing, bodies, beauty, and love in a difficult time.


CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Sure, Lincoln in the Bardo is a movingly weird portrait of grief and understanding in a difficult time. But CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is Saunders at his best—showing us the ugly beauty of this, the world we made.


The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Rumpus Books Editor Brian Hurley lists this among “books that make me rejoice in the particular ways our world is fucked up.”


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid’s new release lives up to the buzz. It’s a beautiful work that imagines a world thrown into chaos when suddenly people are allowed to travel freely through seemingly magical doors. The book ends with a hard-won peace for the main characters and the world.


Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson’s gorgeous exploration of the color blue renders the pain of being human into something meaningful. A book that reminds us to look carefully and thoughtfully at the world.


Death with Interruptions by José Saramago
Rumpus Senior Literary Editor Julie Greicius says this “has one of the most beautiful and life-affirming endings I’ve ever read.”


Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
A book that embraces oddness as the epitome of beauty, reminding us that beauty can look like so many different things.


Gob’s Grief by Chris Adrian
A weird and twisted story of brothers, love, and grief. Chris Adrian, better than anyone, finds a nugget of beauty in the scarred landscape of loss.