Book porn, autumn 2015

I don’t think I’ve posted any book porn since I brought back my tremendous stack of books from Sewanee more than two months ago. And yeah, I’ve barely made a dent in that stack but in the meantime, I have indeed still been collecting more books. The backlog, it is impressive.

Anyway, here are some of the books I’ve recently bought, swapped, or finished reading:

Clockwise from top-left: BODY PARTS, by Gayle Towell; BITCH PLANET, by name; TITLE by Shawne ???; PEOPLE LIKE YOU, by Margaret Malone; BEAR THE PALL, edited by Sally K. Lehman
Clockwise from top-left: BROKEN PARTS, by Gayle Towell; BITCH PLANET, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landroz; THE EXISTENTIALIST COOKBOOK, by Shawnte Orion; PEOPLE LIKE YOU, by Margaret Malone; BEAR THE PALL, edited by Sally K. Lehman

And here they are in a list:

Broken Parts, by Gayle Towell

This is the first book in a trilogy, the teaser-prequel to which, Blood Gravity, I’ve mentioned several times on the blog (and which I reviewed on Goodreads — it’s a hell of a book). I picked up this copy in August, when I read with Gayle as part of Christopher Bowen’s West Coast tour.

Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landroz

I first heard about this comics series when author (and Portlander!) Kelly Sue DeConnick appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered. The series sounds fascinating, and when a librarian and bibliophile friend of ours mentioned her interest in it, too, I knew I needed to pick up the first collected volume. (I’ve already read it, and it’s amazing — well-crafted and cleverly written, insightful social commentary wrapped up inside a brilliant send-up of exploitation film and literature.)

The Existentialist Cookbook, by Shawnte Orion

Recently, I was lucky enough to get invited to read with poet Shawnte Orion on his book tour for The Existentialist Cookbook. Dude is a fantastic presence on a stage, y’all! He puts on a highly entertaining reading.

People Like You, by Margaret Malone

This book is technically still forthcoming from Atelier26 Books. I got an early copy via Atelier26’s indie-press fundraiser several weeks back. I would have bought a copy of this one either way, really, because I loved the craft conversation I got to have with Margaret when we discussed John Carr Walker’s Repairable Men on Late Night Debut several months ago. So I’ve been eager for this book for a while now!

Bear the Pall: Stories & Poems About the Loss of a Parent, edited by Sally K. Lehman

Full disclosure: I blurbed this one, gang. And with good reason — it’s a beautiful anthology. Here’s what I wrote for the blurb: “How to sing a song of remembrance when our voice is gone in grief? What is the weight of a life when that life is gone — and how do we bear that weight? In love and sorrow and joy, in celebration and confusion and contemplation, the authors and poets in this slim but beautiful book have crafted a touching tribute to parenthood, a eulogy for fathers and mothers everywhere.”


But wait! There’s MORE book porn!

This past week, I had one of my classes read “The Sanctuary of School” by Lynda Barry, but I (rightly) assumed that none of them had heard of Lynda Barry and didn’t know she is a famous cartoonist. So I bought a copy of Barry’s much-lauded Syllabus and brought it to class. The students were taken aback a bit, but we spent almost a quarter of the class flipping through its pages, and we even tried a prose-adapted version of a drawing exercise in the book — it’s an inspiring text, and the students really got into it!

SYLLABUS, by Lynda Barry
SYLLABUS, by Lynda Barry

The same day I picked up Syllabus (at Portland indie fave Broadway Books, where Ellen Urbani was doing another event in support of the fantastic Landfall — another book I blurbed), I also found the 2015 edition of the O. Henry Prize Stories, which I’ve been eager to get because it contains a story by a friend and Sewanee workshop colleague, Brenda Peynado!


Speaking of Sewanee: I’ve recently started reading two books, one of them by another Sewanee friend and the other by an author who’s repped by an agent I met at Sewanee:

Easiest If I Had a Gun, by Michael Gerhard Martin

I met Michael at Sewanee as we both were headed to dinner the first day — he was at the end of my conference dorm hall, and we frequently passed each other coming and going. He’s a super-cool guy, generous, great for a conversation. But I was planning on buying Michael’s book even before I put face to name and knew it was his, because, come on! There’s a kid on the cover who just lost a lightsaber battle!

I’ve been sitting on this for a couple months, but I finally picked it up this morning, and it doesn’t disappoint — the first story is excellent.

I Was a Revolutionary, by Andrew Malan Milward

I read about this book well ahead of its publication date — I was working on my current novel, set largely in the aftermath of the Civil War, and I was digging around for reading material and a teaser article for this book turned up in my results. It sounded like exactly the sort of thing I was looking to read, but alas, I was going to have to wait a few months to get a copy. In the meantime, at Sewanee, I was talking to literary agent Renée Zuckerbrot about her recently-sold My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh, and about Southern fiction, and about my book, and she mentioned she’d also recently sold a book about a subject similar to my novel’s — and it was Milward’s I Was a Revolutionary! Small world.

On that book’s release date, I was in San Francisco for a reading, and I picked this copy up at City Lights Books. And yeah, that first story? This is going to be a brilliant book, y’all.


I can start these two new books because I just finished reading two others:

Emma, by Jane Austen

Emma is the last Jane Austen I hadn’t read. I picked it up partly because I wanted to finish reading all of Jane’s novels (including her unfinished work, which I’d read in grad school), and partly because I had a student last spring who wants to be a writer but confessed she had tried Pride and Prejudice but didn’t get very far. I told her I was reading Emma this summer and challenged her to join me in reading Emma, too; soon, another student of mine opted in, and then my wife said she wanted to revisit Emma, so we had a kind of unofficial one-book club. But my wife and I decided, since we live together, to share the experience by reading Emma aloud to each other.

I plan to write more about this later, because it was a fascinating experience, but I wanted to note two things here: 1) that edition in the photo is actually my mother-in-law’s edition, published in 1964 and added to my mother-in-law’s collection in 1973; this is the copy my wife read as a girl and then took with her (along with her mother’s other Jane novels) when Jennifer and I got married. I love the heritage of that. And 2) yes, Emma is exasperating, as is the insufferable Miss Bates, and really most of the characters in the novel, but folks, try reading this thing out loud! Because the classic Jane satirical wit that is so biting and clever on the page is just plain uproarious aloud! This is a genuinely hilarious novel, and I don’t think I would have appreciated just how smart and searingly satirical it was if I hadn’t heard these voices and this narration aloud. Trust me: try it.

The Small Backs of Children, by Lidia Yuknavitch

I’ve already effused about this book in my post about Lidia’s launch party back in July, but I wanted to note here that I just finished reading it, and it is as brilliant (and as challenging) as everyone is saying it is. Truly stunning, inspiring writing. Get a copy, fortify yourself, and read it. Let it reach inside you and wrestle your intestines.

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3 thoughts on “Book porn, autumn 2015

  1. I have mentioned this before, but I am so glad you like Austen!

    I wish I had enough time to read more widely. I’m reading an Anne Tyler novel in my spare time – I’ve had it since July and I’m half way through!

      1. I got to appreciate Anne Tyler when hearing ‘A Patchwork Planet’ serialised on BBC Radio. I think it was the way she wove Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 into it that had me; she lifted a phrase from it to express something, and it was well-chosen and exactly fit for purpose. Straight away I recognised that she was a writer who could do stuff – see people and do stuff. That’s a draw for me.

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