Four of Ought’s Favorite Books


We asked Ought to answer a simple question around the release of their debut album More Than Any Other Day: if you started a book club tomorrow, what would the first round of required reading be? They responded with a healthy range of material, from a fantastical story collection to a graphic novel that hit particularly close to home…


1. Kelly Link, Magic For Beginners
These are stories with dream logic, with a patience we’ve lost. This is fiction a la Krautrock, with the dark humor of Roald Dahl and the broader-than-human eye of 100 Years of Solitude. Like a Zelda game, where you open things (dare I say… pages?) with equal parts excitement and apprehension. Also, truly the most 0-100 book I’ve ever read, being equally excellent for people of most any age. But instead of sitting there, blipping and staring at the boss-level creature, Link slowly passes incredible oddities to you, as if she’s reaching into bag that has no bottom. (Spoiler alert.) Though, as she normally gets shelved in Young Adult, I’m hesitant to talk about Zelda with someone I would honestly put closer to David Lynch. Plus, she self-published and released her book as a free PDF in conjunction with the physical printing. A Good Book. —Tim Beeler


2. Michelle Alexander,The New Jim Crow
I sadly haven’t gotten around to much fiction lately, so it’ll probably be an outlier here, but Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow would be on my book club list. It’s incredibly smart and written in very readable prose. No jargon-for-jargon-sake and lots of brutal yet insightful documentation and commentary on the criminal justice system in the United States in the post-Jim Crow era. The book is explicit in its content and aim, which is in essence that racism is and has been a driving force behind the rapid growth in the use of imprisonment as a means of justice, and that the abolition of prison would be an essential part of having a more free and just society. It’s very engaging, and there’s a lot to think about here for people coming to it from different places. —Matt May


3. Ferenc Karinthy, Metropole
I came across Metropole during the days I would walk through every shelf-alley in my city library trying to find my next book. The author was a Hungarian water polo champion with a PhD in linguistics. The lesson is to never fall asleep on a flight to Helsinki. The main character, a linguist named Budai, winds up in a massive city where he cannot understand or identify any of the languages spoken. As he tries desperately to navigate the city in order to find his way home, readers begin to learn that he has arrived in this unknowable city during a pivotal moment in its history. Seems to me to be enough of a premise for anyone to want to pick it up. I have an obsession with art that explores the grime and shadow of urban environments so this work was an obvious choice for me. —Ben Stidworthy


4. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
While I feel a little sophomoric including a book I read for class, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home hit me far deeper than I normally expect from prescriptive reading. An autobiographical graphic novel, it details Bechdel’s upbringing in the family funeral home her father ran. Suffering the abuses of her deeply repressed father while emphatically grappling with her own queer identity, the novel gives really, really personal insight into the anxiety of identification—how fucking scary it can be to be anything at all.

I found this book’s depiction of family life personally difficult; although much less dramatic than Bechdel’s, there are some parallels in my experience. There’s this reoccurring self-inflicted violence of transforming transgressive desires into conventional work ethic as if that will somehow steamroll them, and the way that an inability to look at oneself honestly can manifest as a repressive and scary family dynamic, etc., etc. I read it like I was sharing a secret. —Tim Keen

Ought tour dates:
10/15 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
10/16 Washington, DC – DC9
10/18 Princeton, NJ – Terrace Club
10/19 Purchase, NY – The Stood at SUNY Purchase

The previous feature was taken from our quarterly tablet magazine. Download it for free via our iPad app or check out more stories in our online archive.

And now, some more Ought material, including an exclusive mixtape that’s explained here and an excerpt from their upcoming EP