Oh, to live another year with books

It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.

It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.

It would be impossible to include them all, but here is a sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another —  and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.

2021 was a year in which I also became reacquainted with the audiobook — a wonderful format to slow down, marvel at the sound of language on a tongue, and invite voices and oral storytelling into our private ear rooms. The book via the voice vessel becomes a secret companion on so many walks. Another reminder that a life with books is a life of abundance.  A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)

So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.

(in no particular order:)

I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart

Pew by Catherine Lacey

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen

Another Country by James Baldwin *

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell *

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon *

Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo

The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Figuring by Maria Popova *

Sleep, Death’s Brother by Jesse Ball

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Two Big Differences by Ian Ross Singleton

Keen by Erin Stalcup

How I Became a Nun by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer *

Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Woolgathering by Patti Smith

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich *

Book Scavenger Hunt #6: New Directions

Here’s a biblio challenge for your Summer Solstice! Today, we’re celebrating the scrumptious covers published by New Directions. Can you recognize all 12 covers hiding in plain sight? Leave your guesses in the comments!

Craving more beautiful books? Check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, Tin House Books, and Soft Skull Press!

Book Scavenger Hunt #5: Soft Skull Press

Here’s an all new Book Cover Scavenger Hunt for my book-loving friends!

Today’s tessellated collage features 8 technicolor covers from Soft Skull Press. Can you name them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!

If you need to get in better scavenger hunt shape, check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, and Tin House Books!

P.S. What independent publisher should be featured in the next Book Scavenger Hunt?

Book Scavenger Hunt #3: Archipelago Books

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Brooklyn-based nonprofit indie press, Archipelago Books. I love their satisfyingly minimalist book designs. I especially love their mission to publish beautiful translations of classic and contemporary world literature. This includes literature written originally in Arabic, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Tamil, Russian, Slovenian, Greek, and more. According to the press’s website, “less than three percent of new literature published in the United States originates outside the Anglosphere.” This is why Archipelago’s work is so important—to find illuminating international writers that American readers might not otherwise encounter.

So far, I’ve only read Love by Hanne Ørstavik (winner of the PEN Translation Prize and a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature), which was hauntingly outstanding. Now, I can’t wait to go back and read the entire Archipelago catalogue.

Can you name all 14 Archipelago Books titles featured in these slivers?

Want more challenges? Check out my Book Scavenger Hunt #1 (Riverhead Books) and #2 (Graywolf Press)!

Book Scavenger Hunt #1: Riverhead Books

Last Friday, our publishing class had the great opportunity to Skype with Jynne Dilling Martin of Riverhead Books. We chatted all about the history of Riverhead, the changes that social media has made for the industry, and tips on how to break into the NYC publishing scene.

One thing that particularly stuck with me from Jynne’s talk was how the design team at Riverhead strives to craft a unique “visual identity” for each title. Essentially, this means that if you eliminated the text from each cover, you’d still be able to identify the books based on the graphics alone.(Remember this Buzzfeed quiz on classic book covers?)

So in order to test this, I created a fun collaged scavenger hunt, in which I have tucked 18 of Riverhead’s stunning book covers inside. Some are more subtle than others. Can you find them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!

 

 

 

AWP Anticipation … & Waiting for the Snow to Melt

Snow 2.0. Yes, there is still snow, and my feet are slightly bored of the constant snugness of boots. The trees are laced in snow doilies, which is beautiful, but I would very much like some greenery and sun. At least some dogwoods and tulips and fluttering fauna would be nurturing for the soul.

The good news is that we are off on spring break for a whole week, which is a much-earned and much-welcomed break. On Wednesday, I leave for AWP (Association of Writers and Publishers) – the biggest writerly conference in America – where I will be representing Hunger Mountain and working the booth at the book fair. This event has been a bucket list item of mine for many years, and now it’s actually happening! This year, the conference is in sunny Tampa, and I’m not sure I even remember how to dress for warm weather. There are about 200 panels which will be coinciding with the book fair, and I am a little daunted by the schedule! So far, I’ve only looked at Thursday’s schedule and already have added 20 panels to my “Favorites” list! Eek!

Until Wednesday, I am editing a draft of a new short story, applying for a few summer residencies and conferences, and want to start a new art project with my little doodle buddy, but I’m not sure what form the project will take. Tarot cards? A series of graphic quotes? A flip book? Suggestions are welcome.

If you are not familiar with my little buddy, allow me to introduce him!

A few years ago, I found myself doodling in a notebook one day and the result of the doodling was this guy: a dapper sort, always dressed in a cardigan and neatly knotted scarf, with a spinning top for a head.  He’s followed me throughout the years, trotting through notebook page margins, decorating my walls, organizing his scarf drawer within his bedroom of my brain. My buddy exists in variations: sometimes the wind is especially strong and whips his head around and around, tugging on his scarf. Sometimes, he taps into his natural roots and sprouts antler-like branches from his head. Sometimes, he hangs upside down, preferring to see the world from a new perspective. He is a comfort to me, I guess you could say. That he doesn’t have a face doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, it is soothing that he doesn’t have to worry about expressions and vanity and judgments and outward-appearing emotions.

He is strange and wonderful and slightly evasive, and a creature I really want to bring more fully into this world. So again, suggestions for a new art project are welcomed!

Also in new developments, I will be posting frequently on Twitter a new photo series, which will document the books I am reading outside of class. Here is the first of the Reading Bench Series:

Because everyone should have a familiar reading bench (when they are not hula hooping and reading, of course!) Stay tuned for more in the series soon!

So, lots of art and editing in a bomb cyclone wonderland, and impatiently anticipating AWP and spring!