It’s been a great year for books, y’all. And now that the crunch is on for gift-giving season, I wanted to share some books published in the past year by friends of mine! There is a LOT to love here — poetry, prose, anthologies, even a few adult coloring books! So I’ve included some blurbs or endorsements so you know what you’re getting into, and I’ve sorted the whole list by something like genre, as well as a couple of sections for particularly prolific publishers I love.
Click the links to zip down to the kinds of books you’re looking for, or just scroll through and buy one or two of everything.
I’ve even included a few books scheduled for publication early next year — they’re on pre-order now, so get in early and snap those up, too!
Poetry | Anthologies & hybrid collections | Novels & collections | Memoir | Young Adult
Blue Skirt Press | sunnyoutside press
Coming in 2016!
How To Be An American, by Ally Malinenko
The poems in How to Be an American strike the chords of conversations we should be having, should have already had and resolved, or conversations that should be irrelevant. In this generation’s remake of democracy, Malinenko’s book is an incendiary device.
— Jason Baldinger, author of The Lower Forty-Eight
Confluence, Sandy Marchetti
Marchetti’s debut collection, Confluence, delivers taut, emotionally-charged poems that never cease to surprise. These poems are unified and purposeful, but are also dynamic and nuanced. Marchetti knows just when to shift gears, to spring a surprise on her readers, so that reading Confluence becomes an enthralling, epic journey, while also musing about the merging between large and small, real and imaginary, nature and urban, lover and beloved.
Hive, by Christina Stoddard
Hive is a remarkable debut collection of poems about brutality, exaltation, rebellion, and allegiance. Written in the voice of a teenage Mormon girl, these poems chronicle an inheritance of daily violence and closely guarded secrets. A conflicting cast of recurring characters — best friends, sisters, serial killers, and the ominous Elders — move through these poems as the speaker begins to struggle with the widening gulf between her impulse toward faith and her growing doubts about the people who claim to know God’s will. Ultimately she must confront what it means to believe and what it costs to save ourselves.
Last to Leave, by Christie Grimes
In Last to Leave, Christie Grimes two-steps through the heat and seasoning of Texas and embraces rural northern New York in poems that sweat and chuckle, question and speak of resolve. These poems are familiar with salsa and barrooms, classrooms, and warm kitchens. These are rites of passage painted in language lush with flavor and craft.
— Georgia A. Popoff, author of Psalter: The Agnostic’s Book of Common Curiosities
The Existentialist Cookbook, by Shawnte Orion
In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to “Project Runway,” writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronology and humor.
Anthologies & hybrid collections
The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction for Beginners, by Michael Gillan Maxwell
Part-Time Shaman Handbook blasts us back to childhood with peyote force of recognition, strips us of stagnant, uniform blinders that have “adulated” us. Don’t leave home without it!
— Meg Tuite, Bound By Blue
Bear the Pall, edited by Sally K. Lehman
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.
— Samuel Snoek-Brown, author Hagridden (that’s right — I blurbed this book!)
Novels & Story collections
America’s Most Eligible, by Corie Skolnick
America’s Most Eligible is a hilarious romp about an ambitious young woman who has come of age in the pretentious world of Southern California. With great humor, Corie Skolnick satirizes “the bad tweed set” of literary academia along with the self-important characters of Hollywood, journalism, self-help Psychology, politics, and especially traditional commercial publishing even as the latter languishes in the throes of death at its own hands.
Find more of Corie’s work at Broadway Books in Portland or online.
Spirits, by Todd McNamee
Spirits is a compelling novel about a man with psychic abilities that have been enhanced by the government. Over time Sean’s gift has become a curse due to a combination of the constant barrage of telepathically hearing the multitude of people around him every day and the horrific things his government requests of him. The novel begins with Sean’s profound struggle with alcoholism and regrets for the things he has done. He is contacted by a group who inform him that they need his help to fight a coming evil, a rogue agent with his same powers who is not afraid to use them to create his own army of mind slaves. Sean acquires other allies along the way, including a ghost and a coven of witches. But it all depends on whether he can hold it together long enough to save the world.
Find more of Todd’s work at foxflame.net.
Your Little Red Book, EJ Runyon
Two voices. Alexis in the unconscious second person style scribbles, sketches, and keeps notes; like she’s tracing out someone else’s story. Maureen, just doing the best being honest with herself about the women in her life. Alexis, a broke young artist with problems reading and writing, keeps her little red book close at all times. It holds her life. She wants to be sure she’s gotten it all down as it comes. She narrates to herself in illegible script, unaware of her unique style of recording her own world. Here we have one half of a She said/She said scenario. Maureen, a successful owner of a small chain of Art Supply stores, catches Alexis in her store with a pocket full of stolen tubes of paint. And she’s smitten from first glance. Knowing all too well the pitfalls ahead, Mo wants only to help. Only for a while. Only in any way she can. No one told her she’d have to fight nearly every step of the way. And therein lays the other half of said scenario.
You can find more of E.J’s books at her website
Rattle of Want, by Gay Degani
The stories in this book are a masterclass in narrative craftsmanship. From the brief sparks of her microfiction to the meditations of her long stories to the tapestry of her novella-in-flash, Degani displays a mastery for calling forth human characters and conjuring whole lives out of meticulously wrought images and moments. Rattle of Want is a beautiful, smart collection.
— Samuel Snoek-Brown, author of Box Cutters and Hagridden (I blurbed Gay’s book, too!)
Killer &Victim, Christopher JH Lambert
Alexander, the first crowd-sourced city, has come to rival NYC as the premier metropolis in America. It’s known as The Paradise City, the first step of a new era. But tonight: A haunting art performance. A killer’s quest for redemption. And a photo shoot in a field set aflame. These plant in Alexander seeds of chaos that, when they blossom, will see paradise tearing itself apart.
Landfall, Ellen Urbani
Ellen Urbani’s story of Katrina and its aftermath is an important part of America’s modern mythology, a chronicle of one of our greatest national trials. But Urbani’s characters reach beyond mythology: two rich and complex young women, two troubled and heartbreaking older women, whose separate journeys and literal collision are unique yet timeless. Landfall is a mirror in the floodwaters, showing us our own distorted faces in the murk and mayhem of our recent past.
— Samuel Snoek-Brown, author of Hagridden (yep — I blurbed Ellen’s book, too)
The Small Backs of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch
A fierce, provocative, and deeply affecting novel of both ideas and action that blends the tight construction of Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending with the emotional power of Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Small Backs of Children is a major step forward from one of our most avidly watched writers.
In the Fat, by Sally K. Lehman
The voice of In the Fat‘s narrator, Sky, feels sometimes adult and sometimes childlike and is the perfect rendition of a young woman in transition — a forced transition — from girlhood to womanhood. This novel is a hard, honest look at mothers and daughters, sexuality and psychology, fear and friendship. Lehman has written a powerful book about a whole range of difficult subjects filtered through the mind and voice of a strong young character.
— Samuel Snoek-Brown, author of Hagridden (I blurbed this book, too!)
The Animals, Christian Kiefer
Bill Reed manages a wildlife sanctuary in rural Idaho, caring for injured animals — raptors, a wolf, and his beloved bear, Majer, among them — that are unable to survive in the wild. Seemingly rid of his troubled past, Bill hopes to marry the local veterinarian and live a quiet life together, the promise of which is threatened when a childhood friend is released from prison. Suddenly forced to confront the secrets of his criminal youth, Bill battles fiercely to preserve the shelter that protects these wounded animals and to keep hidden his turbulent, even dangerous, history. Alternating between past and present, Christian Kiefer contrasts the wreckage of Bill’s crime-ridden years in Reno, Nevada, with the elusive promise of a peaceful future. In finely sculpted prose imaginatively at odds with the harsh, volatile world Kiefer evokes, The Animals builds powerfully toward the revelation of Bill’s defining betrayal — and the drastic lengths Bill goes to in order to escape the consequences.
The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert, Rios de la Luz
Rios de la Luz’s writing blows minds and breaks hearts. A sort of new and bizarre Tomás Rivera, Rios is able to blend the familiar of the domestic with all the wilderness of the universe. Her stories will grab you in places you didn’t know you had, take you by those places to where you’ve always wanted to go — though you never knew how to get there. Buy this book and enjoy that journey.”
— Brian Allen Carr
People Like You, by Margaret Malone
Malone’s writing could be seen as a close cousin to the work of Tom Drury, Mary Robison, or Denis Johnson — stories that casually draw you in and leave you wanting more. People Like You feels like being let in on a secret that won’t stay secret for long.
— Joshua James Amberson, The Portland Mercury
Kill Us On the Way Home, by Gwen Beatty
Six short stories of where and how life moves ever forward, with or without the person living it. Birds and amputees and hot dog vendors go in circles. The cars all still run but can’t seem to leave town. Beatty pulls gum from under the park bench and you chew for what seems like forever before finally swallowing, the thing stuck between your ribs like your mother always warned you it would.
The Sorrow Proper, by Lindsey Drager
The Sorrow Proper is a novel-length investigation of the anxiety that accompanies change. A group of aging librarians must decide whether to fight or flee from the end of print and the rise of electronic publications, while the parents of the young girl who died in front of the library struggle with their role in her loss. Anchored by the transposed stories of a photographer and his deaf mathematician lover each mourning the other’s death, The Sorrow Proper attempts to illustrate how humans of all relations — lovers, parents, colleagues — cope with and challenge social “progress,” a mechanism that requires we ignore, and ultimately forget, the residual in order to make room for the new, to tell a story that resists “The End.”
I’d Walk With My Friends If I Could Find Them, by Jesse Goolsby
Wintric Ellis joins the army as soon as he graduates from high school, saying goodbye to his girlfriend, Kristen, and to the backwoods California town whose borders have always been the limits of his horizon. Deployed in Afghanistan two years into a directionless war, he struggles to find his bearings in a place where allies could at any second turn out to be foes. Two career soldiers, Dax and Torres, take Wintric under their wing. Together, these three men face an impossible choice: risk death or commit a harrowing act of war. The aftershocks echo long after each returns home to a transfigured world, where his own children may fear to touch him and his nightmares still hold sway.
Jesse Goolsby casts backward and forward in time to track these unforgettable characters from childhood to parenthood, from redwood forests to open desert roads to the streets of Kabul. Hailed by Robert Olen Butler as a “major literary event,” I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them is a work of disarming eloquence and heart-wrenching wisdom, and a debut novel from a writer to watch.
The O’Henry Prize Stories 2015 (includes “The History of Happiness” by Brenda Peynado)
My Unsentimental Education, by Debra Monroe
A misfit in Spooner, Wisconsin with its farms, bars, and strip joints, Debra Monroe leaves to earn a degree, then another, another, and builds a career — if only because her plans to be a Midwestern housewife continually get scuttled. Fearless but naive, she vaults over class barriers, but never quite leaves her past behind. When it comes to men, she’s still blue-collar. Negotiating the world of dating, Monroe pays careful attention to what love and sex mean to a woman ambivalent about her newfound status as “liberated.”
An Unsuitable Princess, by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
In An Unsuitable Princess, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, a Los Angeles native, combines imaginative narrative and personal memoir to show how her own coming-of-age was warped by her hometown’s peculiarities, particularly the constant, confusing mashup of glittering fantasy with the complex urban reality that, ironically, provides the fantasy with vital context and support.
Silverwood, by Betsy Streeter
A story of finding where you belong, even if it involves time travel, shape shifting, and hacking. Helen Silverwood, fourteen, is sick of life on the run with her mom and her younger brother. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t understand why she has recurring dreams of shape-shifting creatures, why her mother is always disappearing, and how her brother can draw things that haven’t happened yet. Most of all, Helen longs to know what happened to her dad is he imprisoned, a fugitive, or gone forever? When someone blows up the apartment where Helen lives, the stories of the ancient Silverwood clan and her role in it begin to unravel. All Helen wants is to feel like there is someplace she belongs but getting there will prove very, very complicated.
When Stars Die: The Stars Trilogy, by Amber Skye Forbes
Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. [. . .] Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?
Shadowgirl, Kate Ristau
Shadowgirl tells the story of fairy teen Aine, who is haunted by a fiery dream, where her mother loses her mind and her father makes a devastating choice. Áine escapes into the Shadowlands to discover the secrets of her family and her past. But the moment her foot crosses the threshold, Áine is thrust into a war that has been raging for centuries. Guardians, fire fey, and a rising darkness threaten the light, and Áine must learn to fight in the shadows — or die in the flames.
Blue Skirt Press (currently offering special deals, including a coloring book package!)
Women: Heart & Whimsy, by MaryElizabeth Mono
Explores the feminine with an uplifting sensuality that invites the observer to look deeper. This book contains 20 original images to color.
Nightmarish Dreams, by Chris Bonney
This book contains 21 original 8 by 10 images to color. Chris Bonney’s artwork has been described as a cross between Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss.
Broken Parts, by Gayle Towell
Jake Smith, a book smart loner hiding in a dead-end welding job, is thrown for a loop when his fifteen-year-old brother Ben shows up on his doorstep after outing their father for molestation. During Dad’s trial it comes to light that not only was Jake also abused, but he turned a blind eye for years as it happened to his brother. But with Dad in jail and Mom insistent that Ben is lying, Ben is forced to rely on Jake even if he can’t forgive him, and Jake is forced to step up and care for his brother despite struggling with his own trauma and brutal flashbacks.
The Shepherd’s Journals, by Drew Andrews
Constantly seeking God in both the everyday and the esoteric, an obsessive and conflicted prophet known only as the Shepherd lives out his salvation under streetlights, in grand visions, and in the arms of others. These journals chronicle his experience as he struggles with divine calling and human need. The Shepherd’s Journals is part poetic love letter, part prayer, and part feral howl against modern living. Its musical rhythm pulls readers in and guides them through an uneasy, spring-tension urban landscape.
The Butch/Femme Photo Project, by Wendi Kali
There are many identities within the LGBTQI community. Among these are butch and femme. Both of these identities date back to the beginning of the 20th century and are a part of the lesbian and bisexual subculture. Both have taken on many definitions. In this collection of photographs, people from across the United States and Canada who claim these identities today share their own definitions and describe how they express themselves uniquely.
Songs & Yes, by MRB Chelko (poetry)
Scattered Trees Grow in Some Tundra, by Cheryl Quimba (poetry)
Lot Boy, by Greg Shemkovitz (novel)
Coming in 2016!
Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto (YA)
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s just perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Seven years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
Every Anxious Wave, by Mo Daviau
A high-spirited and engaging novel, Every Anxious Wave plays ball with the big questions of where we would go and who we would become if we could rewrite our pasts, as well as how to hold on to love across time.
The Folly of Loving Life, by Monica Drake
Following her acclaimed novels Clown Girl and The Stud Book, Monica Drake presents her long-awaited first collection of stories. The Folly of Loving Life features linked stories examining an array of characters at their most vulnerable and human, often escaping to somewhere or trying to find stability in their own place. These stories display the best of what we love about Monica’s writing — the sly laugh-out-loud humor, the sharp observations, the flawed but strong characters, and the shadowy Van Sant-ish Portland settings.
3 thoughts on “Your 2015 holiday shopping list: books, books, and books!”
Reblogged this on Amber Skye Forbes.
I love this thoughtful, generous list, and can only imagine how much time you put into compiling it for everyone to enjoy. Thanks, Sam!