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Graphic by Sheroog Kubur

Short books that will make you think WTF 

By Sheroog Kubur, August 4 2023—

Storytelling is a wonderful medium because it places you in a world far away from your own, allowing you to step into the shoes of someone else. Sometimes, you don’t want to be whisked away to a magical world of sunshine and fairies but to a world that makes you think “Wow, that was crazy.” Here are some of those crazy worlds.

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop

Trigger Warnings: Violence, death

This story is the most densely packed 150 pages you’ll ever come across. Diop takes the readers on a surrealist journey inside the mind of Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese soldier on the front lines during World War I. Unfortunately, Afla is going mad following the brutal death of his best friend, Madembe Diop. The book is harrowing and ugly, going into repetitive and uncomfortable detail describing each and every gruesome thing that happens to Alfa and Madembe while on the front. There are themes of duty and madness, subtle touches of race relations during the World War and what lengths someone will go to in order to protect their honour. God’s truth, this story will stick with you for a long time. 

Snake and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara

Trigger warnings: Sexual violence, sexual assault

This isn’t a story more than a snapshot into the life of our narrator, Lui. She’s a 19-year-old living in Japan who falls into the world of body modification after meeting a boy with a split tongue at the club. It’s short and to the point, following Lui as she teeters between falling deeper into body contortion and balancing her relationships. Kanehara focuses on the role of violence and pain throughout this process for Lui, and while it can at times feel gratuitous, it makes sense for the extremity of the people in her life. The novella is graphic, so be sure to find a full list of triggers before delving into it. 

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson 

Trigger warnings: Death

Shirley Jackson has a talent for making a story about a single house enticing. The novel follows Mary Katherine Blackwood and what’s left of her family in the days leading up to a life-changing event. The characters are deceptively complex and complicated, leaving the readers constantly questioning their own knowledge as they try to understand the life of the Blackwoods. This is one of the longer novels and can take some time to get into, but once the novel picks up there’s no stopping. It may take a couple of reads to fully understand, but the third time is just as thrilling as the first. 

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Trigger Warnings: Violence 

Definitely the most tame book on this list but one of the most perplexing. The story follows Mari Asai, a 19-year-old girl who just wants to read her book. Taking place over a single night, Mari is carried through the streets of Tokyo by a series of unlikely events, starting off at a Denny’s and ending up in her sister’s bedroom. The story parallels her sister, Eri, who has been asleep for almost two months, as she traverses in some kind of liminal space far away from her room. It’s as magical as magical realism can get but comforting for those nights when you just can’t fall asleep. Definitely the most tame story on the list, but still leaves a lasting impression.

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