The best things i read in 2017 (What are yours?)
- After finishing my program and reading mostly nonfiction for two years straight, I was excited to dive into novels. I slogged my way through all twelve-hundred pages of Kristin Lavandstratter, an epic set in medieval Norway. It's a gorgeous book with poignant spiritual themes about shame and freedom, but man is it loooong.
- The Power and the Glory: Graham Greene's classic novel follows a 'whiskey priest' as he skulks through Tabasco in the 1930's, evading the government's ruthless elimination of all clergy and religion from the state. The priest is one of my favorite anti-heroes/anti-saints.
- Too Much and Not in the Mood: This essay collection can get a little tangential, but I loved how fresh and current it feels. Chew-Bose writes about living alone, movies, race, and awe, among a hundred other things. I underlined at least one glittering sentence per page.
- A Gentleman in Moscow was one of my favorite novels of the year. The story follows an aristocratic count on house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel during the Russian Revolution and following decades. Everyone should read this novel just for the pleasure of meeting such charming characters.
- Tied with A Gentleman in Moscow for favorite novel is The Arrangement. Ashley Warlick's writing is vivid and lyrical. The story is a fictional reimagining of food writer M.F.K. Fisher's younger years in LA and France, and her twin hungers for food and for sex.
- Holy the Firm: We read this book during a residency March and, as my friend Cat put it, reading it slowly and in community "felt like church."
- Joy Katz, All You Do Is Perceive: "I had an empty plate and there was the color of / it. I cannot even describe the color of it."
- Jane Kenyon, Happiness: "And how can you not forgive? / You make a feast in honor of what / was lost, and take from its place the finest / garment, which you saved for an occasion / you could not imagine"
- Scott Cairns, Idiot Psalm 4: "My enemies are plentiful, and I / surround them"
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Go to the Limits of Your Longing: "Flare up like a flame / and make big shadows I can move in."
- Raina Jones, The Forerunner (find it in Saint Katherine Review 5.3): "When we dream of him, we dream of deep water / Of holding a face made light in our hands."
- Dante Di Stefano, Fat Tuesday: "Let me be stupid enough to love more, / to want less, to desire only what moths / insane for light desire in their beating / against the screen door on August midnights."
- "Living on the Hyphen" by Sarah Menkedick (Oxford American): A meditation on Spanglish, cross-cultural marriage, and identity. This essay is smart, funny, and instructive—and I loved all the Spanglish, obviamente.
- "What Writers Really Do When They Write" by George Saunders (The Guardian): Saunders writes about revision, specificity in writing, and generously imagining the reader: "You revise your reader up, in your imagination, with every pass."
- "Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore?" by Tim Keller (New Yorker): Keller distinguishes between historical and global Christian evangelicalism and American "Big-E Evangelicalism": a civil or folk religion that is merely political (and the subject of much media attention). "Does the word, then, have an ongoing usefulness? For now, the answer may be no."
- "The Mule Deer" by Debbie Weingarten (Vela Mag): On vulnerability, strength, nurturing, the natural world, and the practice of leaving.
- "How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico" by Ginger Thompson (ProPublica): The best reported piece I read all year, told primarily through the voices of cartel violence victims.
YOUR TURN! Favorite essays/poems/blog posts/books/short stories of 2017?