Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Your Stocking All December

Book Your Stocking: December 31

Many of you have begun, or finished, packing away ornaments, rolling the recycling to the curb, and wondering what project you could make with this year's Christmas cards, and so it is that time here, too, at Book Your Stocking. 

What began as my sharing my book wish-list and wanting to know what others might want, quickly became a lovely reading series here, albeit an impulsive one. Every day of December, different readers have shared what books they would give, and what books they would enjoy reading this coming year. Many of the readers are writers themselves, with their own books, so be sure to read their bios and visit their websites to learn more about their writing and what's next.

Please enjoy reviewing all the books that have appeared on this year's Book Your Stocking, and I look forward to next year's books and stockings. Thanks for following! All names below are linked to their individual recommendation and wishing lists.


Holiday Season 2017

December 1 Erin Pringle
December 2 Tom Noyes
December 3 Sharma Shields
December 5 Kathleen Callum
December 6 Julia Drescher
December 7 Marilynn S. Olson
December 8 Chelsea Martin
December 9 Ira Gardner
December 10 Michael Noll
December 11 Donna Miscolta
December 12 John Kenny
December 13 Stephanie Noll
December 14 Christie Grimes
December 15 Regi Claire
December 16 Amelia Gray
December 17 Melissa Stephenson
December 18 Michael Martone
December 19 Michael Wolfe
December 20 Ann Tweedy
December 21 Abby Freeland
December 22 Rajia Hassib
December 23 Alvaro Rodriguez
December 24 Maya Jewell Zeller
December 25 Merry Christmas
December 26 April Cypher
December 27 Shawn Vestal
December 28 Polly Buckingham
December 29 Laura Robey
December 30 Barbara Simmons
December 31 Reprise

See you next December!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Barbara Simmons

Book Your Stocking: December 30

Last night, we went to the bookstore because we had received reading gift cards from family. We spent a good long while moving through the aisles, searching for titles and remembering titles we'd long wanted and shelved in maybe-later. Many other people seemed meandering for similar reasons, the bustle gone out of them, but the brightness of quiet and solitude suited them better. And, thankfully, we have one more day of December before the series' reprise, and one more day of book wishes and book gives. May you add these to your own list, mental or pencil, and take them with you into the aisles of your own reading places.

Please welcome today's reader, Barb Simmons.


To Give 

To Receive 


Barbara Simmons,
photograph used with permission
About today's reader:

Barbara Simmons teaches English and is Director of  Composition at Spokane Falls Community College. She lives in Spokane with her husband and two daughters.


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Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Laura Robey

Book Your Stocking: December 29

Welcome back to Book Your Stocking, the holiday reading series in which readers of all stripes recommend their favorite books and share what books they'd like to become their favorites, if someone would do the honors. The official gift-giving day has passed, but New Year's Eve moves ever closer, and seems a very good excuse to give words, and find words, that draw us back to ourselves and the ideas of others. 

Here's a new list of wishes and gifts from today's reader, and my childhood friend, Laura Robey.


My Wish List 

I am going to continue working my way through all of the Newberry Award (and Honors) books. This year, I decided that I would like to own them all because that is the kind of treasure I want to keep. As a reading challenge and as a fun hobby, I began looking for the books at garage sales, used book stores, and library sales. Yeah, I could go online and find them, but the discovery and the actual reading of a well-loved edition simply makes me happy. 

Anyone who has spent anytime with me knows that I throughly enjoy quality children’s literature. I think it is the most overlooked genre. Although YA is certainly receiving plenty of attention now, adults who only look for a reading “challenge” are missing some of the most thought-provoking literature. Re-reading a book from your childhood is an intensely emotional experience that deserves time for contemplation and discussion.

Speaking of which, I have throughly enjoyed sharing my collection with my four daughters. I am able to read aloud to my 7-year old and share with my three teens. “Mom, do you have anything good to read?”  I simply take them to my growing Newberry Collection! 

After all that talk about simple books (from American authors no less), my other Wish List Item is a large leap. For the past few years, I have been drawn to the intimidating world of Russian Literature. Notice I said drawn to…I have yet to dive in. I attempted but quickly realized that I lack the language, historical knowledge, and cultural understanding was holding me back. I haven’t had the time to immerse myself in any of that but I am getting closer. So my goal this year is to spend time with Leo Tolstoy, specifically his short stories

My Gift-Giving List

Hard-Cover Gift Book for Anyone (And my go-to Baby Shower Gift)
I read this book for the first time earlier this year and “haven’t put it down yet.”  I purchased the audio version which is read by the author. It is my go-to to fall asleep, listen to in the car, and well, anytime I just need quality words. 

For My Seven-Year Old
A shared audible library with me
Sharing books this way has given me accountability in reading quality and classics. Playing alone in her room or laying in bed at night are her main listening times. For me, it is while driving or walking the track. Through audiobooks, we are spending time with the same “people” and in the same places, even when we are not together! Does she understand it all? Certainly not, but her vocabulary is increasing, and we have plenty to talk about. Our favorites: Little Women and Black Beauty. I just asked her which ones are her favorites and she is still listing, “Wizard of OzLittle HouseThe MoffatsMary Poppins…”

For My Teens
Yes, it is a religious self-help book so I am completely aware it isn’t for everyone. The book is meant to be read a chapter-a-day for 40 days. We read it together to begin our school day during the first quarter of the school year so it was it wasn’t exactly that. Rather it was a jumping off point for some serious discussion. The subtitle of the book  is “What on Earth Am I Here For?” and I can’t think of a more important time in your life to seriously contemplate that question! It gave me such insight into the way their brains/hearts process life. In addition to encouraging service to others and truly knowing yourself, it was filled with affirmations: You are valuable. You have unique gifts and abilities. You are necessary.  

For My Husband 
I read this book for the first time this year as I was trying to finish up last year’s goal of reading all of Steinbeck. (((Sigh.)))  I LOVED IT. I forced myself to read only a little each day so that this thin, little book would last me longer. Pretty much all I want right now is a camper…and to retire and travel. Since that isn’t going to happen for “a while” (see above mention of the 3 high schoolers and the 1st-grader!), he can read it and dream along with me until that time.


About today's reader:

Laura Robey is a homeschool mom of four who lives in central Illinois. Her two oldest daughters joined the family through international adoption as teenagers, whose native language is Russian. (Hence the interest in Russian Lit.) In her spare time she reads, works part-time, taxies her children, and sings to her cat. She casually and rarely blogs at


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Polly Buckingham

Book Your Stocking: December 28

As New Year's Eve draws nearer, you might be mulling over the you of 2017 and the you 2018 could bring--from resolutions to recharging, from musings to wanderings--and how much control you actually have over the transformations. 

Because I've returned to reading this year, I look forward to all the change the books this coming year will bring. --How all of these writers sharing their words, thoughts, wishes, fears, and ideas will affect my own. It's slightly exhilarating. 

And joining us today is another reader who is sharing her own book lists, to-give, and to-read, which are also lists of stillness and change, I think. 

Please welcome today's reader, Polly Buckingham.


Giving List

(When you read something and say, "wow, there's nothing else like this"--and also you're delighted and moved)

Love’s Last Number is a stunning, all encompassing collection, shiny and sad, wise and generous: think owls, King Arthur, and Mahler in a clef-shaped canoe. This is Howell's 10th collection.

Despite the darkness, these stories, linked by an earthquake, are ultimately not so much hopeful as they are spirituality enlightening. 

Wishing List

The master who claimed two adjectives must be hard earned--these stories were long hidden since the the Nazi Pogrom after Babel's unfortunate early death. I've read a handful of the stories: tight and weird and vivid and dark. I look forward to reading them all.

I've read four of five Crace novels, all spectacular, fable-like, weird and beautifully rendered. This one looks more speculative than the others.


About today's reader:

Polly Buckingham
Polly Buckingham is the author of The Expense of a View (Katherine Anne Porter Award winner) and A Year of Silence (Jeanne Lieby Award winner). She teaches creative writing at Eastern Washington University and is the editor of Willow Springs and founding editor of StringTown Press.


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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Shawn Vestal

Book Your Stocking: December 27

Every day of December, readers have been sharing their giving and/or wishing lists. Although it may be after the official day of unwrapping, these days are often the best for the warm-quiet of reading and removing oneself from the crowds. And should you prepare a New Year's reading list, or gift books for that day, if not all year long, here is another wonderful list of possibilities for you and yours.

Please welcome today's reader, Shawn Vestal.


 This is a list of the books I enjoyed most this year. Whether that makes any of them a good gift is another question.

1 – Ill Will, Dan Chaon – This is for the person on your list who yearns to be wrapped in a brilliant and relentless straightjacket of dread and mystery. Beautifully plotted and written, Ill Will invades your idle thoughts and haunts your dreams. Merry Christmas!

2 – Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead – A wrenching story about American slavery, with an ingenuous and deftly managed conceit: What if the Underground Railroad were really an actual underground railroad? 

3 – Don Quixote – I’m in the middle of reading this now, and while there is much to admire, it’s also a great value because it might take six or seven years to finish.

4 – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood – I somehow never got around to reading this until lately. A potent futuristic parable about patriarchy and the sexual purity brigade that’s well-suited for the political moment. I love Atwood, and this one just bristles – from the individual lines to the social commentary.

5 – Norwood, Charles Portis – This is for the person on your list who loved True Grit. If there is a person on your list who hasn’t yet learned to love True Grit, I’d give them True Grit
6 – Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis – Formally, Lydia Davis just beats the living hell out of the short story: She stretches it, squeezes it, flattens it, drains it of drama and injects it with a new modes of drama. This book is a delight for those who relish that sort of thing. 

7 – Zero K, by Don DeLillo – I stopped reading DeLillo for a few years, and this was a welcome return to those metallic DeLillo sentences coldly navigating the global catastrophes.

8 – Breaking and Entering, Joy Williams – The next book on my to-read list. I don’t know anything about it, except that Joy Williams wrote it. Which is enough.


About today's reader: 

Shawn Vestal
photograph used with permission
Shawn Vestal is the author of Daredevils, a novel that won the Washington State Book Award in 2017, and Godforsaken Idaho, a collection of short stories that won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award for debut fiction in 2014. His short fiction has appeared in Tin House, McSweeney’s, Ecotone, The Southern Review, Cutbank and other journals. His essays and non-fiction have appeared in The Guardian, The New Yorker web site and other publications, and he writes a column for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., where he lives with his wife and son. He is a graduate of the MFA program at Eastern Washington University, where he now teaches.


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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Your Stocking with April Cypher

Book Your Stocking: December 26

After a day's break so that you could find what books appeared in your stocking, we return with more books that readers are giving and wishing for this holiday season. So, if you find yourself wandering the bookstore aisles soon, here are a few more titles to add to your winter reading list.

Please welcome today's reader, April Cypher.


To Give:
The Book of Bones, Gabrielle Balkan
Euphoria, Lily King
The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass
The Beggar Maid, Alice Munro


To Get:


About today's reader:
April Cypher
photograph used with permission

April Cypher grew up in Southwest Montana. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives in Missoula, Montana, where she is at work on her first novel.


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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Maya Jewell Zeller

Book Your Stocking: December 24

Christmas Eve!! That's what today is, and Book Your Stocking sweeps in again to save your day, especially if you're a last-minute book-buyer and this is your last minute.

Please welcome Maya Jewell Zeller who is sharing her reading wishlists and giving lists.



Giving list 

Patterns and In Between, both by Mita Mahato


Maya Jewell Zeller,
photograph by Ellie Kozlowski
(used with permission)
About today's reader:

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (a collaboration with visual artist Carrie DeBacker); Yesterday, the Bees; and Rust Fish. She teaches poetry and poetics for Central Washington University, and lives in the Inland Northwest with her family.


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