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Monday, May 15, 2017

Books of the Last Year: A Recap

The past year has been a whirlwind, in good and terrible ways. But that doesn't mean I haven't been reading, and today I'd like to acknowledge some of the finest books I've read (relatively) lately. A mention here constitutes endorsement, and I plan to place reviews in the appropriate sites.

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag. I wanted something to read on the plane to Spain, but I don't recall how I came across this author. I loved the sense of women's history and empowerment here.

 Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown. A fellow Launch Lab alum wrote this perfectly researched and imagined historical fiction about some of the most universal women's struggles.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had this book recommended to me many times before I finally picked it up at my then-local bookstore, Antigone in Tucson, Arizona. It was the last in a long and hallowed line of books I read to my husband. He hadn't grown up with adults reading to him, so I started reading him my favorites and exciting new books to him before we were married. When my voice would give out, he would often pitch in, especially if we were at a really good part. This is why my husband put Harry Potter in our wedding vows. I had a lot of trouble getting into The Night Circus. Though my husband enjoyed it, I couldn't see that it was coming to any particular point. We didn't quite finish before my husband checked into the hospital, and after he lost consciousness, I read the last three chapters to myself sitting in a chair next to his bed. Of course, that's when the story all comes together and I ended up finally understanding why so many people recommended it to me.

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. I was nervous to get into this book because the great Manolo García, my idol in all things creative, recommended it to me when I met him in May 2016. If it was no good, what would that say about this artist I so admire? I purchased this book at Antigone two days before my husband passed away, which you might think would mar it for me. But I remember going to pick the book up with my sister-in-law as a much-needed break from the hospital, a slice of normal in a world that was quickly turning upside-down. I needn't have feared any of this. Lucia Berlin's writing is so overwhelmingly fantastic, this book is the only thing I remember about the first month after my husband's passing.

Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton. A tour-de-force by a fellow Launch Lab alum.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. On point and familiar, even though everyone's grief is different, with the added benefit of falconry drama—doubly unforgettable. I wish I'd read this before publishing the goshawk scenes in Seven Noble Knights!

The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. Useful and no-nonsense exactly when I needed practical coping mechanisms.

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud. This author was a favorite for my husband and I to read to each other, and I was comforted to be able to read this book when it came out on our wedding anniversary. I loved the mind-blowing imagery of life after death and how the two worlds might intersect. And I'm glad Lucy didn't abandon Lockwood & Co. for long.

Odd Adventures with Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss. I came across this gem by a fellow Kindle Press author when we did a cross-promo together. Whimsical, touching, and shocking in all the right places, this book made me realize I love some kinds of horror writing. The end is an unspeakably beautiful fantasy for someone who's lost a loved one to cancer.

Narrow River, Wide Sky by Jenny Forrester. I earned an internship at Hawthorne Books this winter, and focused on setting up the book tour and other publicity concerns for the wonderful author.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. Thank goodness I came across this daring and truthful memoir in the Hawthorne offices! Read it. Now. You'll thank me.

Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch. A hilarious examination of the gender and age bias in traditional psychotherapy. It made me want to read every other book Lidia Yuknavitch ever produces.

Life is Short—Art is Shorter by David Shields and Elizabeth Cooperman. Astonishingly effective in their brevity, the pieces here inspire you to experiment in this age of short attention spans.

Death's Dancer by Jasmine Silvera. Another wonderfully imaginative book by a fellow Kindle Press author.

The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales. I picked this up because I've been accepted into the prestigious Tin House Summer Workshop, and I'm thrilled I'll be working with Manuel Gonzales in July. Every one of these stories excited me for its approach, its novel logic, its turns of phrase, or the proliferating concepts I sensed behind the imagery, which was always exactly as crazy as I needed it to be.

Violation by Sallie Tisdale. Some of the best essays by one of the best essay writers.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. I won this advance readers copy via Goodreads. I think disappearances and faked deaths are a whole genre in themselves. This one had compelling characters and interesting twists.

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier. Another Goodreads ARC win. Othello is my favorite Shakespeare, and the way the author transferred it to a 1970s middle school playground is fascinating. Great pop culture references run through the interesting and believable decision to make the action take place over a single school day.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. After a tragedy or trauma, you no longer have Option A available. I'm doing a lot of thinking about what my Option B is, and this book helps with that as well as with not feeling so alone.

I'm astonished I've read so much when concentration has often been a challenge this year—I've left out plenty of books here! Thanks for checking out my recent literary path. Straight an narrow it ain't!