My 2018 Reading List

I love to read, but I struggle constantly with my own expectations of how and what to read and specifically with how much to read. The struggle comes to a head about this time of year when I look back and make some kind of judgment about how I spent my limited time and energy. For 2018, I ended up reading 52 books, obviously, an average of one per week, although it wasn’t paced out that way at all.

Dorie and Book Shelf
Seen here, my cat Dorie picks out her next book to read.

Does it matter? Does the number of books I’ve read make me a better person? Does it make me a better writer? There’s some science to back up both possibilities. But more importantly, I enjoy reading. I love a book that captures me with its language and its characters, and yeah, a great narrative helps too.

Two of the books I loved the most this past year are Jacob Shores-Arguello’s In the Absence of Clocks and John Brandon’s Further Joy. Neither writer was familiar to me when I came across their work in magazines. Arguello’s poetry was found in The New Yorker, and I found a short story by Brandon in Oxford American. Both journal pieces blew me away. I felt so lucky to discover that each had books that were as thoroughly good as their individual publications.

Here’s the list of all 52 books I read this year. I’d love to see what you read in 2018. And I’d love to year which books were your favorites and which ones will stick with you.

1. Russell Banks – A Permanent Member of the Family
2. Virgil – Eclogues
3. Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way
4. Laura Hunter – Beloved Mother
5. Elaine Fletcher Chapman – Hunger For Salt
6. Jacob Shores-Arguello – In the Absence of Clocks
7. Michael Dowdy – Urbilly
8. Eric Shonkwiler – Moon Up, Past Full
9. William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice
10. Marie Howe – What the Living Do
11. Robert Pinsky – At the Foundling Hospital (Feb)
12. William Shakespeare – As You Like It
13. Marie Howe – The Good Thief
14. Jacob Shores-Arguello – Paraiso
15. Madeline Ffitch – Valparaiso, Round the Horn
16. Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge – Poemcrazy
17. Todd Boss – Tough Luck: Poems
18. Walt Whitman – Song of Myself (Mar)
19. Marc Harshman – Believe What You Can
20. Rita Quillen – The Mad Farmer’s Wife
21. Linda Parsons Marion – This Shaky Earth
22. Greg Wrenn – Centaur
23. John Brandon – Further Joy
24. John Lane – Anthropocene Blues
25. Larry Thacker – Drifting in Awe
26. Rachel Danielle Peterson – A Girl’s A Gun
27. Michael Knight – The Holiday Season
28. Jia Oak Baker – Well Enough to Travel
29. James M. Gifford – Jesse Stuart, Immortal Kentuckian
30. Manuel Gonzales – The Miniature Wife
31. Sharon Kay Penman – Falls the Shadow
32. Crystal Wilkinson – The Birds of Opulence
33. James Herriot – All Things Wise and Wonderful
34. Ottessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation
35. Rowling, Tiffany & Thorne – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
36. William Glasser – Choice Theory
37. James Herriot – All Creatures Great and Small
38. Sylvia Lynch – Jack Lord: An Acting Life
39. Kevin Fitton – Dropping Ballast (manuscript)
40. Jane Smiley – A Thousand Acres
41. Stephen Mitchell – Gilgamesh
42. C.D. Wright – One with Others
43. Kevin Canty – Into the Great Wide Open
44. George Eliot – Silas Marner
45. Michael Kardos – The Three-Day Affair
46. Christopher Smith – Salamanders of the Silk Road
47. Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell, Beret Olsen – Nothing Short of 100
48. Maureen Seaton – Fisher
49. Amy D. Clark – Success in Hill Country
50. Langston Hughes – Let America Be America Again and other poems
51. Cassie Pruyn – Lena
52. Kathryn Stripling Byer – Catching Light

Advertisements

Love Letters to Ourselves

I’m so fortunate to have interesting friends who are always doing creative things. Case in point is my friend Megan Galbraith. Below, you’ll see a letter Megan wrote calling for people to write love letters to ourselves. Megan has written one to herself, and if you’re game, she’ll trade with you. I’m working on my own love letter to myself right now. It’s not an easy task, but I’m glad Megan asked me to try it. I hope you will too. Check out Megan’s directions below.

Love Letters to Ourselves Image_edited

Dear Lover,

Earlier this year, in the midst of personal despair, I came across a self-care tip that seemed simple enough: write a love letter to myself. I tried it. It knocked me on my ass.

As much as I poo-poo the self-care industrial complex, writing that letter did help. It also got me thinking hard about love, wanting more of it in my life, and about ways to collectively build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

So, as part of The Dollhouse, I’m launching a collaborative project called “Love Letters to Ourselves.”

I want to revive the art of letter writing, spread the love around, and understand how other people love themselves.

Will you write one? I want to see your beautiful soul.

Here’s what to do:
1. Write a love letter to yourself in any form
2. Include your name and return address
3. Put it in an envelope, lick a stamp and . . .
4. Mail your letter to:
Lisette Ophelia Von Elsevier (see what I did there?)
P.O. Box 483
Cambridge, NY 12816
5. When I receive it, I’ll mail you my love letter to myself.
6. Voila! Pen Pals.

Send me some love!

All my love,
Megan

My 2017 Reading List

Some year, I’m going to read 100 books within a space of 12 months.  It wasn’t 2017 though.  My list for this past year is so short, I’m almost ashamed to show it.  But here it is anyway.  Several of these books were read in manuscript form and aren’t available on the market yet.  Look for them in 2018.

I’ve talked a lot about how problematic I find J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.  And I never skip a chance to say again what a bad book it is. Beyond that, I recommend so many of the beautiful books on this list for various reasons.

I suppose the book I’m most proud of reading this year is Cormac McCarthy’s The Orchard Keeper.  I started this book about 15 years ago–maybe longer.  I suppose I wasn’t read y for McCarthy.  And though I’ve read several of his other novels in the past decade, The Orchard Keeper sat on the shelf, never finished.  Going back to it this year, I found it to be a really beautiful book, and I was glad I had kept it around all those years.

I’d love to hear what your favorite books were from 2017, or the one you’re most proud of reading. Let’s all read more this new year.

Here’s my full list:

1. Jim Wayne Miller – The Mountains Have Come Closer
2. J.D. Vance – Hillbilly Elegy
3. Alison Stine – Ohio Violence
4. Lincoln Michel – Upright Beasts
5. Ron Houchin – The Man Who Saws Us in Half
6. Iris Tillman Hill – All This Happened Long Ago – It Happens Now
7. Blas Falconer – A Question of Gravity and Light
8. Claudia Emerson – The Late Wife
9. Charles River Editors – The Library of Alexandria and the Lighthouse of Alexandria
10. Gerry Wilson – Crosscurrents and Other Stories
11-18. 8 manuscripts for a poetry contest
19. Mark Wunderlich – The Earth Avails
20. Timothy Liu – Don’t Go Back to Sleep
21. Anais Duplan – Take This Stallion
22. Peter LaBerge – Makeshift Cathedral
23. Jeanne Bryner – Both Shoes Off
24. Keith Lesmeister – We Could Have Been Happy Here
25. James Arthur – Charms Against Lightning
26. Ocean Vuong – Night Sky with Exit Wounds
27. Sean Frederick Forbes – Providencia
28. Clifford Garstang – Everywhere Stories Volume 2
29. Jenson Beach – Swallowed By the Cold
30. Adam Clay – Stranger
31. Joanne Nelson – If Not For the Mess
32. Katlin Brock – The Dead Always Stay OR Between the Wounds
33. Wes Sims – Taste of Change
34. Mark Powell – Small Treasons
35. Carol Grametbauer – Homeplace
36. Cormac McCarthy – The Orchard Keeper
37. Richard Hugo – The Triggering Town
38. Donald Morrill – Beaut
39. Lynne Sharon Schwartz – No Way Out But Through

Recommended Reading 12/12/2017

The year is slipping away, but here are a few last-minute reading recommendations.  Enjoy!

Megan Culhane Galbraith has a short essay about sex, virginity, and Planned Parenthood online at Boink: http://boinkzine.com/2017/11/10/losing-it/.

Linda Michel-Cassidy’s essay, “This Snow, This Day,” (originally published at Harpur Palate) has been republished at Entropy: https://entropymag.org/this-snow-this-day/.

Rosemary Royston has two poems in the new issue of museum of americahttps://themuseumofamericana.net/current-issue/two-poems-by-rosemary-royston/.

Brian Tierney’s poem, “Morning in Galilee,” is online at Cincinnati Reviewhttps://www.cincinnatireview.com/samples/morning-in-galilee-by-brian-tierney/

You don’t want to miss this fascinating conversation in real pants, “HALF REVEALING, AND HALF CONCEALING THE SOUL: BARRETT WARNER INTERVIEWS CASSIE PRUYN”: https://realpants.com/half-revealing-and-half-concealing-the-soul-barrett-warner-interviews-cassie-pruyn/.

And Christian Whitney’s story, “Acceptance,” was a finalist in the summer fiction contest at Gulf Stream Literary Magazine.  Check out the story here: https://gulfstreamlitmag.com/acceptance/.

Recommended Reading 10/9/2017

Here’s a quick list of some of the wonderful poetry and nonfiction that I’ve found online in the last couple of weeks.  This list is woefully short of fiction recommendations, but I’ll try to fix that soon.  In the meantime, enjoy these pieces:

Joanne Nelson has a new essay, “Just Leave the Damn Thing Open” online in the new issue of museum of americana: https://themuseumofamericana.net/current-issue/just-leave-the-damn-thing-open-nonfiction-by-joanne-nelson/.

Linda Michel-Cassidy interviewed Louise Marburg for Why There Are Wordshttps://www.wtawpress.org/louise-marburg-interview?platform=hootsuite

Megan Culhane-Galbraith and Walter Robinson both have work listed as Notable Essays in the Best American Essays 2017.  Megan’s piece, “Sin Will Find You Out” was originally published at Catapult: https://catapult.co/stories/sin-will-find-you-out.  Walter’s essay, “This Will Sting and Burn,” was originally published at The Sun: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/481/this-will-sting-and-burn.

Didi Jackson has a beautiful poem, “Signs for the Living,” in The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/02/signs-for-the-living.

Corina Zappia has a brilliant new essay in Catapult about growing up in Texas, and a lot of it sure reminds me of what it’s like to live in Tennessee: https://catapult.co/stories/places-loving-hating-and-being-from-texas.

Cassie Pruyn’s poetry collection, Lena, has been reviewed by Lambda Literary Review: https://www.lambdaliterary.org/reviews/09/13/lena-by-cassie-pruyn/ .

Emily Mohn-Slate’s poem, “Landscape with Ex-husband Lingering,” has been nominated for a Best of the Net Award by Gulf Stream Literary Magazine: https://gulfstreamlitmag.com/landscape-with-ex-husband-lingering/

Recommended Reading 8/4/2017

If you’re looking for something worthwhile to read this weekend, look no further.

Lorraine Comanor’s essay, “The Carnevale Masks,” is online at The Raven’s Perch: http://www.theravensperch.com/the-carnevale-masks-by-lorraine-commanor/

LA Times - X PressAgatha French interviewed the publishers of the new L.A. press X Artists’ Books, and yeah, one of them happens to be Keanu Reeves: http://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-keanu-reeves-artists-books-20170719-story.html.

Emily Mohn-Slate’s essay, “The Colossal”—about Iris van Herpen, Girls Write Museum and the way art and poetry makes our worlds larger—is in At Length’s art section: http://atlengthmag.com/art/the-colossal-iris-van-herpen-and-girls-write-the-museum/.

Jennifer Stewart Miller has two great poems in The Green Mountains Reviewhttp://greenmountainsreview.com/two-poems-28/.  Here’s a small taste from her poem, “Thirsty Birds:”

You don’t have to believe,
to think there’s something about

the flicker’s up-stretched profile
that’s like a shaft of sunlight

piercing an old church.

Barrett Warner reviewed Keith Lesmeister’s book, We Could’ve Been Happy Here, for Atticus Review: https://atticusreview.org/life-rattling-review-couldve-happy-keith-lesmeister/.  Barrett also has new poems online at Verse Wrights: http://www.versewrights.com/warner-barrett.html, including one called “Rainbow Pig.”  Here’s a few lines from “All the Latest Talk in Paradise Concerning Butterflies:”

This we know: butterflies need milkweed–
their only food—and its poison, their only defense,
 
and we are pitchfork lonely for connection,
the piercing tines make five holes in our lungs.

Fiction lovers won’t want to miss Tiffany Williams’ new short story, “Murmuration,” in Appalachian Heritage: http://appalachianheritage.net/2017/05/26/murmuration/.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the new issue of The Tishman Reviewhttp://www.thetishmanreview.com/.

Recommended Non-fiction Reading 7/24/2017

I don’t know if it’s something in the air or the water, but I’ve read some really wonderful nonfiction pieces lately, and I wanted to share them.

After the birth of her children, Emily Mohn-Slate had trouble finding her way back to herself.  Check out her essay at Rackedhttps://www.racked.com/2017/6/19/15757368/motherhood-bodies-postpartum-clothes .

If I told you, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” you might think I was speaking about Elizabeth Warren, but I’m actually talking about Megan Culhane Galbraith.  She writes about how divine rules were meant to be broken for The Coachella Reviewhttp://thecoachellareview.com/wordpress/talking-points/

I love to read book reviews and interviews, especially when they are smart and insightful.  K.L. Brown interviewed Brad Listi over at Entropyhttps://entropymag.org/otherppl-with-brad-listi-an-interview-with-the-interviewer-of-todays-leading-writers/

And Cassie Pruyn reviewed Joshua Jennifer Espinoza’s second book, There Should Be Flowers, for Blackbird: http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v16n1/nonfiction/pruyn-c/flowers_page.shtml#.WUqxKA_P-PU.facebook.

Cassie Pruyn has her own book of poetry, Lena, that was recently released by Texas Tech University Press.  If you don’t own it yet, you really should buy it immediately. I’ll be sharing more about this beautiful collection soon, but as a teaser, check out this mention at Rosemary and Reading Glasseshttps://rosemaryandreadingglasses.com/2017/07/18/recommended-reading-lena-by-cassie-pruyn/.

Lena cover

 

 

Recommended Reading 2/26/2017

If you’re looking for something good to read or listen to, here are some suggestions!

K.L. Browne wrote about the podcast A Phone Call from Paul over at Entropyhttp://entropymag.org/podcast-philia-a-phone-call-from-paul-with-paul-holdengraber/.

Susan Ishmael wrote a beautiful essay about religion at Parabolahttps://parabola.org/2017/01/31/the-turn-of-the-dial-seeking-god-in-the-fringes-by-susan-ishmael/?utm_content=buffer49356&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.  Be careful reading if you’re afraid of snakes.

Kate Jayroe has a new story in Juked: http://www.juked.com/2017/02/kate-jayroe-woonwinkel.asp.

Gail Tyson has a beautiful new poem in the February issue of Art Ascent, which is a really cool journal worth exploringhttp://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1229904.

There’s a wonderful interview with Barrett Warner over at Tethered By Letters: https://tetheredbyletters.com/author-qa-barrett-warner/.

The always funny Corina Zappia writes about 50 Shades Darker and “asinine dating choices” online at Salonhttp://www.salon.com/2017/02/20/50-shades-of-regret-a-cautionary-tale-about-online-dating-and-the-movies/.

And the Best of the Net awards have been announced! Congrats to Cassie Pruyn for making the list with her poem, “Traveler’s Monologue,” originally published in Border Crossing.  And congrats to Adam Clay who’s on the list with his poem, “When the People We Know Become the People We Don’t,” originally published at Jet Fuel Review.  You can see the whole list here: http://www.sundresspublications.com/bestof/.

cover-spring-2016-2-crop-u94041

Finally, check out this story about how Danny Judge faced some pretty incredible difficulties while creating of The Indianola Reviewhttp://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/18/iowa-man-creates-literary-journal-while-supporting/.

Recommended Reading 1/16/2017

I just finished reading Lincoln Michel‘s collection, Upright Beasts.  One of my favorite stories is “Things Left Outside,” which also appears online at Weird Fiction Reviewhttp://weirdfictionreview.com/2015/10/things-left-outside/.

lmbookpage3_edited

An essay of Walter Robinson’s that was originally published in The Sun has now been picked up by Reader’s Digest, and you can read the whole piece here: http://www.rd.com/health/conditions/doctor-becomes-the-patient/. (Check out Walter’s new website for more of his work: https://wmrobinson.com/.)

Corina Zappia has a new piece, My Sandwich Is Going to Eat Me, at The Stranger: http://www.thestranger.com/food-and-drink/2017/01/03/24758265/my-sandwich-is-going-to-eat-me.

Kate Jayroe has an essay online at JMWW: https://jmwwblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/essay-parts-by-kate-jayroe/.

Keith Lesmeister interviewed Susan Pagani on his blog (Life as a Shorty) about her story, The Fledgling, in The Rappahannock Review: https://keithlesmeister.com/blog/.

Finally, I was excited to read Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s thoughts about the English poet Stevie Smith in this review: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/looking-for-parents-and-cover-all-the-poems-of-stevie-smith/#! I didn’t know much about Smith’s poetry before reading this piece, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz continues to be so smart.  I admire her more all of the time.

Recommended Reading 1/4/2017

As the new year is starting, I wanted to share some of the great stories, poems and essays that I’ve been reading lately.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

Darnell Arnoult’s essay, When I Started to Cry, is online at Blackbird: http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v15n2/nonfiction/arnoult-d/started_page.shtml.

Becky Bond, who is always hilarious, writes about the anxiety that comes with filling out forms: http://www.beckybondwrites.com/ffa-form-filling-anxiety.

Agatha French, the new staff writer in books at the Los Angeles Times, recently interviewed Stephanie Danler about her bestseller, Sweetbitter: http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-danler-sweetbitter-20160916-snap-story.html.  She also interviewed Jill Soloway and Eileen Myles about creativity, “queer art,” and the end of their relationship: http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-soloway-myles-20161031-story.html?utm_source=Books&utm_campaign=5465d277fe-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_10_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ee9d7b9236-5465d277fe-79848189.

Megan Galbraith’s wonderful essay, Learning to Mother Myself, was published in The Manifest Station: http://themanifeststation.net/2016/11/22/learning-to-mother-myself/.

Keith Lesmeister’s forthcoming collection, We Could Have Been Happy Here, is included in Memorious’s list of most anticipated books of 2017: https://memoriousmag.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/barrett-bowlins-anticipated-books-of-2017/.

Linda Michel-Cassidy interviewed Gonzalo Torne for The Rumpus: http://therumpus.net/2016/11/the-rumpus-interview-with-gonzalo-torne/.

Shawna Kay Rodenberg has written an important article about education, coal and poverty in Eastern Kentucky for Salon: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/31/sheltering-in-place-for-students-in-donald-trump-loving-coal-country-school-choice-isnt-a-solution/.

Susan Pagani’s story, The Fledgling, is in the new issue of The Rappahannock Review: http://www.rappahannockreview.com/susan-pagani-the-fledgling-f/.

Cassie Pruyn wrote a brilliant essay for VIDA that you should read and share: http://www.vidaweb.org/report-from-the-field-speaking-into-silences/.

Corina Zappia is a frequent contributor to The Stranger’s Food & Drink section. Recently, she wrote “Mackerel, You Sexy Bastard: In Defense of Sardines, Herring, and other Maligned Fishy Fish,” http://www.thestranger.com/food-and-drink/2016/10/26/24645304/mackerel-you-sexy-bastard and “Washington Is Getting so Cheesy,” http://www.thestranger.com/food-and-drink/2016/09/09/24551761/washington-is-getting-so-cheesy.