Moses Sumney's reading list

By The Happy Reader

Moses Sumney's reading list

By The Happy Reader

Issue 16 of The Happy Reader features a spell-binding conversation between the sonic trailblazer, Moses Sumney, and the inimitable Jia Tolentino. When Moses shared with Jia, ahead of their conversation, a list of books and essays that had been meaningful to him, Jia 'wasn't surprised to find several works I loved, a handful I was exhilarated to read for the first time, and a through line of uncompromising intellect and vision.' You can see some of that exhilarating list, here.


Yaa Gyasi

£9.99 £9.49

The title of the debut novel by Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi is in reference to an old African-American belief that on death one's soul might return to Africa. The book follows two families from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, along the way taking a clear-eyed look at West Africa's role in the slave trade.

The Plague

Albert Camus

£9.99 £9.49

If any book was trending in the early months of the pandemic, it was The Plague, Albert Camus’ story of a contagion setting in, of it becoming entrenched in a community. The book has an allegorical level as well. See the publication date: the plague can be taken as a straight forward illness but it can also be taken as fascist ideology. As time has passed, so have the meanings accumulated.

Chelsea Girls

Mx Eileen Myles

£8.99 £8.54

What kind of book is Chelsea Girls? Structured as a series of essays, it’s described in The Paris Review as a Künstlerroman or ‘artists’ novel’. The artist is Eileen Myles, a lesbian poet from Arlington, Massachusetts and the cumulative effect is a memoiristic tale of coming to terms with, and then embracing, all of the above. ‘I mainly needed to say what I thought was real,’ Myles commented recently.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

Jia Tolentino

£9.99 £9.49

'These essays are about the spheres of public imagination that have shaped my understanding of myself, of this country, of this era,' writes Tolentino introducing her acclaimed first collection. Subjects tackled include early and late internet culture, athleisure as a fetish, the mixtapes of DJ Screw, and organised religion and its discontents.

The Communist Manifesto

Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx

£3.00 £2.85

'A spectre is haunting Europe,' begins The Communist Manifesto (isn't one always?). Few books are more famous, few books are more influential, yet the fame — or notoriety — doesn't often lead to the actual reading of it. Many feel they already know what they'll find here; they may be surprised.

Giovanni's Room

James Baldwin

£9.99 £9.49

Baldwin's stunning novel is centred around an affair between an America narrator, David, and an Italian barman, Giovanni. The book is, 'not so much about homosexual love,' said Baldwin in an interview in 1980, 'it is what happens if you are so afraid that you find you cannot love anybody.'

Confessions of a Mask

Yukio Mishima

£9.99 £9.49

'For many years I claimed I could remember things seen at the time of my own birth.' Yukio Mishima, represented here in a classic portrait by designer Tadanori Yokoo, was one of the most important Japanese novelists of the twentieth century. This is the novel that made him famous: the story of a gay narrator trying to make his way, and conceal his identity, in imperial Japan.

Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

David Wojnarowicz

£10.99 £10.44

The artist David Wojnarowicz was only 37 when he died from AIDS-related illnesses. He left behind an astonishing body of work. Known for his painting but working in other media as well, he moved in a New York-based circle of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nan Goldin and Keith Haring. This collection of autobiographical essays ensure his voice is still being heard thirty years after his death.

Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde

£9.99 £9.49

Fifteen essays and speeches on subjects including sexuality, feminism, motherhood, and the erotic versus the pornographic, which more than live up to the description Audre Lorde once gave for herself as a 'black lesbian feminist warrior poet'.

The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson

£9.99 £9.49

Jason's mythical ship the Argo serves as a totemic metaphor in Nelson's near-undefinable book (experimental


Virginia Woolf

£7.99 £7.59

'I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another.' Woolf's famous fictional biography is of a poet who lives for centuries, along the way turning from man to a woman. Orlando serves as an ambassador to Constantinople before marrying a gender non-conforming sea captain.

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