Columns > Published on April 1st, 2019

A List of Books I Recommended to Autumn Christian for "Girl Like a Bomb"

I like to be a hands-on editor.

Playing in bands, when I share songs with other musicians, I want them to understand where I'm coming from and what influences me. I tell them to check out certain bands to inspire them and help them build off what I'm trying to.

Publishing is not that different. As an editor and publisher, I am the "producer" of someone’s book. Besides giving edits and suggestions, I like to recommend books to help the writer in their revisions. But it’s not just about the project they’re working on. These are recommendations to inspire an author for their entire career.

Girl Like a Bomb is an amazing and unique novel. I semi-joke when I say it's like an X-Men origin story meets Nymphomaniac. It’s about a girl, Beverly Sykes, who learns that when anyone has sex with her they achieve self-actualization—they become their best and truest self. The reader experiences her life from 15 to 30, and I hate to make two Marvel references in the same paragraph, but it’s a very with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility story.  

Here are the books I suggested to the author, Autumn Christian, while she worked on Girl Like a Bomb. I suggested the fiction titles because they were genre-benders, mixing literary with erotica and science fiction; and the non-fiction titles because they applied to the biology and sex themes of the novel. Enjoy.

"The Siren" by Tiffany Reisz

Let me say straight up, I am a Stan for Tiffany Reisz. I believe she is one of the most well-rounded writers out there. I did not recommend this book to Autumn because it is erotica. I recommended it because it is a brilliant book that just so happens to have ten more hot af sex scenes than the average literary novel. Every facet of great novel writing is there: a smooth and crafted third-person voice, memorable and multi-dimensional characters, and a great sense of pacing. Honestly, you could say this is a literary novel with sex scenes or an erotica novel that is literary—either would be true. 

[amazon B072VB5NK7 inline]


"The Pisces" by Melissa Broder

Another example of the grey area between literary fiction and erotica. Melissa Broder is super talented and has a great range as a writer. She is a poet, a Twitter brand, a killer essayist, and with The Pisces she has proven herself a great novelist as well. Sex and female desire is at the forefront of the story, but so is poetry, loneliness, and what it means to be human.

[amazon 1524761567 inline]


"The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us" by Richard O. Prum

I believe in reading non-fiction to inspire fiction, especially when it pertains to the subject matter. The Evolution of Beauty really is a game changer in evolutionary psychology and challenges a lot of the dogma in certain studies. It focuses on how female choice shaped the evolution of all species, including humans. Part of what is interesting about Girl Like A Bomb is the fact that Bev’s ability to make humans better through sex is kind of the whole point. This book led to some interesting discussions about duck vaginas.   

[amazon 0345804570 inline]


"The Sexy Part of the Bible" by Kola Boof

I’ve already talked about how awesome this book is in my Top 10 Transgressive Novels column. Kola Boof did something special with this one. It’s a genre bender with tight language and a wild story. Boof shows that surreal and transgressive stories can be moving, political, and entertaining. I recommend this book anyone who is writing anything that is even a tad weird.

[amazon 1936070960 inline]


"Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson" by Camille Paglia

I think about 25% of this book is ridiculous and wrong, but 75% of it is really insightful, entertaining, and interesting. I appreciate what Camille Paglia has to say about art. Sexual Personae is Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy on steroids. Her ideas on Apollonian versus Dionysian energy and how sex affects art is fascinating, as she goes through some of the most influential writers of all time.   

[amazon 9780679735793 inline]


"The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield

I feel that old familiar demon as I write this list. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to put myself out there with books I have written or published. I care how Autumn's book does, but am nervous to say anything that could sound stupid. I always had this feeling, this negative voice inside my head, but The War of Art gave me the term for it—resistance. My job is to write through it and be a professional.  Pressfield's book showed me the way and I recommend it to anyone who is writing anything.

[amazon 1936891026 inline]


"Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch

A lot of people know about Blake Crouch for his Wayward Pines novels. It’s a great series and a fun TV show, but he really proved himself with Dark Matter. It’s a great mix of science fiction, philosophy, literary fiction, and strong storytelling. Autumn’s last book was a good mix of those genres, and I thought Dark Matter would be great inspiration for future books she writes.

[amazon 1524763241 inline]


"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

I think everyone should read Moby Dick. I’ve been working on a retelling with frat boys—for real. Moby Dick is a great novel to look at to note what works and what doesn’t. I love the novel; it has a great voice and character in Ishmael, one of the best villains of all time with Ahab, and touches on some amazing themes. But the novel really needed an editor. There are whole chapters that should have been cut. It’s a good lesson for writers about putting in unnecessary info that slows a story down.

[amazon 1503280780 inline]


"The Palace of Illusions: Stories" by Kim Addonizio

I’m not only a Stan for Tiffany Reisz; I'm also a Stan for Kim Addonizio. I believe she is one of the best poets of this century. I bought her collection at AWP just to get a book signed by her, thinking it would be cool to see what her fiction is like. Well, it might be my favorite story collection of the decade. It mixes genre with literary and horror. It also has maybe my favorite vampire story of all time.

[amazon 1593765428 inline]


About the author

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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