Staff Picks

Hill William

by Scott McLanahan

Selected by Matt Nelson, Library and Bookstore Manager


Hill William (NYTyrant) by Scott McClanahan deserves at least five reads. First one, you’re a teenager, and your sister has just graduated college. She gives it to you like a present but it isn’t Christmas and it isn’t your birthday. But this book is a present nonetheless. You flash through it on the bus thinking you are growing valuable in a worldly way that none of your classmates can even imagine yet. You start laughing at the news. The second time you read it is while you’re at the state college, but in a state that’s not yours. The Victorian Literature professor has you reading some dead white dude who speaks in what might as well be tongues. You find Hill William in a care package from home like a twenty on the ground, reminding you that the world is actually real and costly. Three is a special number. You’re out of school and lost in the miasma of city life. People stare at you and you stare right back over your well-worn copy. The anger inside feeds you when your job doesn’t. The characters’ relationships feel like your relationships and then you don’t know if you’re living the book or your life. When you’ve reached the fourth read, you’re spent, but in a good way. You’ve gotten comfortable. Life is a house on a street called Park Lane. But nostalgia comes calling from your sister, who mentions your mom and the pills, and you go straight to a box you haven’t opened in years. Then you remember the hole by the river, the trees between the light. You plan a trip back to the mountain of your birth, so you can show your kids. The final and fifth time you read the book is after you’ve died so as to remember what life was like.