A Year in Reading: Rene Denfeld

The best years are the ones where I read
as much as I write, so I am wrapped in a delicious swirl of story. Like most
writers I think the secret to good writing is good reading—and this was a
banner year. Here are just a few of the good books I read:

Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus by Gayle Brandeis. This comes out February 2020 and wow what a dazzler: a story told in prose about the 650 girls and women murdered by the Countess Bathory of Hungary between the years 1585 and 1609. As with all great stories it is about even more.

As a River by Sion Dayson. A lovely, sweet and hopeful debut novel.

The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi Laskar. One of many books I read this year that deserved more attention than it got. I think that is true for 99.9 percent of books published nowadays. Instead of the same handful of books getting all the praise, wouldn’t it be nice to see more range and diversity on the lists?

Strung Out by Erin Khar. As a novelist I love memoir. Good memoir is someone peeling back their own lies to reveal the aching truth underneath, and Erin Khar does a brilliant job of that here.

A Grip of Time by Lauren Kessler. Lauren teaches writing I the same prison where I do my death row work. But that’s not why people should read this book. It is an award-worthy account of lives we have vanished, disappeared and erased through mass incarceration.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. A story inside a dream inside a miracle.

Lastly, Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson. This is one of the rare novels that doesn’t depict foster kids as either evil seed demons or hopeless throwaways. As a former homeless street child and longtime foster parent I am thankful.

Happy reading, everyone!