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Happy Holidays From My Bookshelf to Yours

Quite a few blog posts and newsletters have been posting holiday deals and wish lists. Since the bandwagon was rumbling by, I figured I’d better jump on it. Below are my lists of favorite books read in 2011 chosen by virtue of no expertise, just love.

Favorite Novels

The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich. A 100 year-old priest living on a reservation turns out to be a woman. What’s not to love? And if you can’t get your hands on this novel in particular, anything by Louise Erdrich is sure to be brilliant.

My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk. Part murder mystery, part love story, part meditation on art, this novel blew me away with its sophistication and its heart.

Favorite Short Story (and Essay) Collections

Bear Down, Bear North, by Melinda Moustakis. Brave and beautiful, these stories will entertain you, break your heart, and then light up a cigar.

Holy the Firm, by Annie Dillard. If you don’t already have Annie Dillard on your shelf, you should. I can’t speak to her fiction and poetry, but her non-fiction is some of the best I’ve ever read. After reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I never took a walk in the woods the same way again.

Favorite Graphic Narratives

One Hundred Demons, by Lynda Barry. A self-described autobiofictionography, these strips range from the demon of dancing to the demon of head lice, jumping back and forth in points from Barry’s childhood. Brightly colored, and wonderfully written, Barry beats back her demons and conquers some of yours along the way.

Swallow Me Whole, by Nate Powell. This graphic novel follows a brother and sister who both have schizophrenia. More than any other graphic artist I’ve ever seen, Powell uses images like poetry.

Favorite Books of Poetry

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson. Even though this book talks about heartbreak, what really breaks your heart is the language. And if you enjoy heartbreak rendered beautiful, you should also check out Joanna Klink’s Raptus.

Pigafetta is my Wife, by Joe Hall. You wouldn’t think a poet would be able to successfully blend Magellan’s journey around the world with contemporary love poems, but Joe Hall does it, and beautifully at that.

What to Keep Your Eye Out For in 2012

Of course I can’t tell you exactly what these books are going to be about because they’re not out, but based on what I know of these poets’ work, these will be beautiful and brilliant books:

  • Bright Power, Dark Peace, by Brynn Saito.
  • A King Me, by Roger Reeves.
  • Small Porcelain Head, by Allison Benis White



Traci Brimhall
Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (forthcoming from W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She was the 2008-09 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and currently teaches at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral associate and King/Chávez/Parks Fellow. Visit her website at http://www.tracibrimhall.com/
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