Non-Fiction

  • The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

    John Tingey

    Image of The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

    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 into it (the turnip itself didn’t survive to be documented). His experiments seem more inquisitive of the abilities of the Royal Mail than artistic though.

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  • Smoking Typewriters

    John McMillian

    Image of Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America

    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.

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  • Wild

    Cheryl Strayed

    Image of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

    Like many people, I first came across Cheryl Strayed through her column Dear Sugar on the Rumpus, though her identity was still a secret at that point. Sugar’s advice is so unsparingly raw, honest, and compassionate — I think I read all the entries the first time I came across one of them.

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  • Giving up the Ghost

    Eric Nuzum

    Image of Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted

    The story behind this book is a bit more interesting that its execution. In his adolescence, Eric Nuzum was haunted by a recurring dream of a girl in a blue dress screaming at him in gibberish, which lead him to numb himself with various substances and fear what may be lurking behind closed doors. Another girl, Laura, in his waking life was crucial in him managing to overcome this downward spiral. But she died tragically, leaving him with a slightly more tangible ghost to contend with.

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  • Swimming Studies

    Leanne Shapton

    Image of Swimming Studies

    The best adjective I’ve seen so far to describe this book is “pointillistic,” as it was described in The New York Times review. Invariably “quietly” will qualify other descriptors, which rightfully suggests it’s a tricky book to recommend to others, especially if you don’t know how it fits in with their usual reading choices.

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  • Blue Nights

    Joan Didion

    Image of Blue Nights

    A few months ago I saw a reference to Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That” and read it again and remembered that I still hadn’t read this semi-follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking about her daughter Quintana’s death. While the first book is primarily about grief, this one is focused more on mortality, and, more specifically, Didion facing hers without her daughter.

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  • Good Mail Day

    Jennie Hinchcliff & Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

    Image of Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art

    The news about the USPS a few weeks ago was dire, so I bought some new stamps (I recommend a couple panes of the

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  • Consider the Lobster

    David Foster Wallace

    Image of Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays

    After reading Infinite Jest two years ago, I didn’t become a DFW fanatic, settling instead for a measured respect for a writer who manages to be incredibly brilliant and hilarious at the same time.

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  • Girls to the Front

    Sara Marcus

    Image of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

    I became aware of riot grrrl late, mostly from a distance through zines and records. I can still conjure some sadness that Huggy Bear actually played a show in northeastern Connecticut, but on a Tuesday night when there was no way I could go. What I experienced influenced me greatly, but I never felt like I was a part of the movement in the political sense. There was a lot that I didn’t know about the origins and history. I’m glad this book exists now, though it doesn’t feel like the “definitive” record it claims to be.

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  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

    James Agee & Walker Evans

    Image of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: The American Classic, in Words and Photographs, of Three Tenant Families in the Deep South

    Words could, I believe, be made to do or to tell anything within human conceit. That is more than can be said of the instruments of any other art. But it must be added of words that they are the most inevitably inaccurate of all mediums of record and communication, and that they come at many of the things which they alone can do by such a Rube Goldberg articulation of frauds, compromises, artful dodges and tenth removes as would fatten any other art into apoplexy if the art were not first shamed out of existence…

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