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.


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: