For some reason, I’ve decided to organize my book recommendations around the season in which I read them:
Fortune by Joseph Millar: Heaven knows I’m not the type to go around recommending poetry to people, but I feel a little evangelical when it comes to the work of poet Joseph Millar. I read his first collection, Overtime, a few years ago, and was duly floored, but for some reason didn’t get around to his second collection, Fortune, until early this year. Like Philip Levine, Millar writes poems about the American working class, whose concerns have gone largely unaddressed in contemporary literature. Millar’s poetry is full of gritty detail, alcoholic fathers, bad choices and grim compromise, and it couldn’t be more lovely.
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish: How refreshing to read a memoir that rises above the whining, rationalizing and self-indulgence that characterizes most memoirs these days. Kalish, a sassy octogenarian with a sharp eye and even sharper tongue, charmingly details how to domesticate raccoons, shock oats, and draw boils with a sugar beet. It’s like listening to your grandma recount the good ol’ days, only a lot more interesting.
The Terror by Dan Simmons: I read this one, a historical horror story about the doomed Franklin expedition to the Arctic, while sitting on a beach in Mexico. The Terror is harrowing, relentless and, yes, terrifying in all the right ways. And, hey, there’s nothing quite like reading about blizzards, cannibalism, frostbite and giant murderous snow-beasts while sipping iced drinks and cooling your tootsies in the Pacific ocean.
Stiches by David Small: While I haven’t read a whole lot of graphic novels, I can say unequivocally that this is the best one I’ve ever read. It’s baldly honest, sad and somehow redemptive. It’s been in my head for weeks.