• On Writing

    Stephen King

    It’s been a while since I read a book focused on writing. Many writing books are useful for thinking about creativity in general or for applying to any type of writing, but this one is geared toward fiction, at least in the specifically advising sections that are technically the core of the...more

  • You Are Here

    Katharine Harmon

    A curated exploration of “Personal Geographies And Other Maps of the Imagination,” I appropriately read and browsed through this while visiting a city that I used to live in, wandering old neighborhoods, piecing together streets, and layering new experiences over the mental cartographies. There are a few essays and textual maps in this book, but most of it is visuals.

    One map from Kathy Prendergast shows the US and its state borders and topographical details but the only labels are places that involve the word “lost,” suggesting a country of disorientation, missed opportunities, or even the land that was colonized away from native people.

    The Map as Art is evidently a follow-up the came to be largely because artists sent Harmon work in response to You are Here.more

  • Housekeeping

    Marilynne Robinson

    I remember hearing about Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead years ago, probably when it was published in 2004, and it’s probably still on some...more

  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider

    Katherine Anne Porter

    I stole this book for my own reading list from the responses to a friend’s request for book suggestions not too long ago. While trying to determine what to read and skimming through my list, I browsed some synopses and reviews of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and found this comment: “Katherine Anne Porter is a woman who spent a great deal...more

  • The Orphan Master’s Son

    Adam Johnson

    After no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded last year, people who care about such things worried that it could happen again. Instead this novel set in North Korea was recognized for 2013, one of a...more

  • Grace

    Grace Coddington

    As someone who first learned of Grace Coddington from her feisty presence in The September Issue, I felt appropriately chided by the introduction where Coddington declares it “the movie that is the only reason anyone has ever heard of me.” That claim is mostly untrue in terms of...more

  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

    Jeanette Winterson

    I loved Winterson’s first, semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit when I first read it as a teenager. Her slightly...more

  • Salvage the Bones

    Jesmyn Ward

    It’s hard not to think of Benh Zeitlin’s beautiful film Beasts of the Southern Wild while reading this book that is also centered around an impoverished bayou community bracing for an approaching hurricane. The heroines also have similar fierceness nestled in...more

  • Building Stories

    Chris Ware

    I assumed that I’d love this graphic novel due to its book-as-object nature, so much so that when I recently read Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s description of it being “not an actual book so much as a twee art project,” I also assumed that was an...more

  • The Long Goodbye

    Meghan O’Rourke

    When I read the excerpt from this book in The New Yorker a couple years ago, I wasn’t particularly drawn to read the whole thing. But a copy showed up in a giveaway pile at work, and I wound up turning to it between library holds. I thought I’...more

  • This is How You Lose Her

    Junot Díaz

    Partway into this collection, Teri tweeted a link to this comment thread on a Hairpin advice post, prompting a brief discussion of Díaz and how autobiographical his work might be. Since I haven’t read much about him as a...more

  • Tenth of December

    George Saunders

    I always feel I should like George Saunders more than I do; when The New York Times emphatically declared this “the best book you’ll read this year,” I thought perhaps these would be...more

  • The Round House

    Louise Erdrich

    For some reason I’ve never read any Louise Erdrich novels before, so I was glad to get to The Round House and later find out that many of her books are centered around the same fictional North Dakota reservation and the community there. It’s impressive to know that this book is grounded in a well-established...more

  • Snow

    Orhan Pamuk

    Feeling pleased at the wintry theme at the time, I bought Snow with Winter’s Tale — now the association with Helprin’s novel is not at all flattering, but luckily they have little in common beyond cold weather. And whereas Winter’s Tale is best at the...more

  • Calling Dr. Laura

    Nicole Georges

    It’s that time of year when I tend to think of Portland and my time living there — now five years distant; so it was fitting that Nicole’s new book came out right now. I read it in one snowy evening, finding many old familiars of that city and of the people. Nicole is someone I knew there, through mutual friends as...more

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise

    Rebecca Solnit

    I started reading Storming the Gates of Paradise early last year, but since it’s not a light read, the library wound up wanting it back before I could finish. Only thanks to having added it as my “currently reading” book on Goodreads was my memory jogged enough times to get another copy...more

  • The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

    John Tingey

    In many ways W. Reginald Bray could be considered a mail art pioneer, as he sent a bevy of interesting items through the post including, as the title reveals, himself — twice! He also posted his dog and various objects with addresses and stamps applied directly to them, as when he traveled to Ireland and dug up a turnip and etched his address...more

  • Winter’s Tale

    Mark Helprin

    In 2006, a New York Times poll asked “a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages” What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?, and Winter’s Tale incredibly received...more

  • Smoking Typewriters

    John McMillian

    For the past couple years, I’ve been pretty focused on fiction, so I determinedly picked this history of the 1960s underground press off my to-read list in an attempt to seek a bit of balance, plus the alternative media angle still had my curiosity piqued two years after I first flagged it for later reading. I felt...more

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

    Robin Sloan

    I imagine this quirky novel would be a talking point for people interested in the “digital humanities,” as it pits dusty, old books and their creaky scholars against shiny, electronic devices and their optimistic geeks. That’s definitely both exaggeration and simpli...more

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