Sunday, December 17, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Melissa Stephenson

Book Your Stocking: December 17

Welcome back, book lover. Book Your Stocking is a month-long reading series in which an array of readers share their Reading GiveLists/WishLists. 

Please welcome today's featured reader, Melissa Stephenson.



1) The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac : A Novel (Sharma Shields)
My son and I have a thing about Sasquatches. Since he was four and watched a TV show about sasquatch-hunting at a friend's house, he's believed peanut butter is the perfect bait. But mostly, I hear great things about this book and Sharma Shields, and I am in dire need of escaping into a novel.

2) A Home in the World: A Memoir (Joyce Maynard)
As a memoirist myself, I've had some words ascribed to Joyce Maynard pinned over my desk, on a notecard, for the past two years: "Write like you're an orphan." Recently, while speaking in front of a group of people, I referenced these words and referred to Joyce Maynard as J.D. Salinger's former girlfriend. A kind poet laureate in the audience approached me afterwards and said she knew Joyce, and that Joyce was not Salinger's "girlfriend." He was well into his 50's during their relationship, and she was only 18. She was groomed. So, I think it's about time I dig into the real story, Joyce Maynard's story.

3) Whereas: Poems (Layli Long Soldier) 
I'm a poet, too, but I don't read enough poetry. This book is one I've heard about so often that I must get my hands on it. It was also a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award.

4) On Homesickness: A Plea (In Place) (Jesse Donaldson)
I won't lie--the author of this book is a friend, but I am lucky to have a lot of friends who write books, and I am a slow reader, and I don't get to them all. But this narrative explores every county in the state of Kentucky, a state just across the Ohio River from Indiana, where I was born and raised. My son was born in Kentucky, and I have a feeling this book is going to hit home on several levels-- from place, to mid-life changes, to parenting, to my deep affection for lyrical sentences.

5) The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Phillip Pullman)
Because I read the entire "His Dark Materials" trilogy while my first child took long nursing naps, and these characters are imprinted in some of my nearest and dearest animal memories, so I am not going to stop following them now.


Melissa Stephenson,
photo used with permission
About today's reader:

Melissa Stephenson’s writing has appeared in publications such as The Rumpus, The Washington Post, ZYZZYVA, and New Letters. Her memoir, Driven, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2018. She lives in Missoula, Montana with her two kids.


Enjoy more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors, here:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Amelia Gray

Book Your Stocking: December 16

Welcome back to Book Your Stocking, a new holiday series in which all sorts of readers share their GiveLists and/or Wishlists.

Please welcome today's reader, Amelia Gray.


Here's a short list of books that inspired and absorbed me this year:

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting
Eat Only when You're Hungry by Lindsay Hunter
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
The Mothers Brit Bennett
The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette (out Jan 2018)
Valparaiso Round the Horn by Madeline ffitch
Nicotine by Nell Zink


Amelia Gray,
photo used with permission
About today's reader:

Amelia Gray is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2's Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.


Enjoy more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors, here:

Friday, December 15, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Regi Claire

Book Your Stocking: December 15

Every day of December, readers of all stripes and literary inclinations are sharing their To-Give and To-Read lists. Please welcome today's reader, Regi Claire.


My Reading Wish-List

Bark by Lorrie Moore (stories) 
Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales by Margaret Atwood
The Girls by Emma Cline
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Dalila by Jason Donald
Robicheaux: You Know My Name by James Lee Burke


My Reading Give-List 

I hardly ever read non-fiction, but The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee held me spellbound. Life truly is stranger than fiction, almost unbelievably so in Hyeonseo’s case. I have bought a stocking copy for my mother.

Nora Chassler’s Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview is the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates reading between the lines: a near-poetic sequence of fragments and aperΓ§us – witty, moving and searingly intelligent. I purchased an extra copy for just such a friend.

T. C. Boyle's The Relive Box and Other Stories is a wild, funny and deadly serious collection of futuristic fictions I got for my husband, with an ulterior motive (I’ve already made room for it on one of my bookshelves…).

Talking of my husband (Ron Butlin), his new YA novel Steve and FranDan Take on the World appeals to all those who can’t help indulging their inner child. I have set aside a copy for an eighty-seven-year-old lady with a sense of fun and adventure.


About today's reader:

Regi Claire, photo by Dawn Marie Jones,
used with permission
Regi Claire is a Swiss-born novelist (The Waiting, The Beauty Room) and short story writer (Fighting It, Inside~Outside) based in Scotland. Her work has twice been shortlisted for a Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award and longlisted for MIND Book of the Year and the Edge Hill Prize (for best collection). She is the recipient of several writers’ bursaries and a UBS Cultural Foundation Award.
Her work has appeared in Best British Short Stories and numerous other anthologies and literary journals in the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA.
Regi is an alumna of ChΓ’teau de Lavigny International Writers’ Residence in Switzerland and a former Royal Literary Fund Fellow and RLF Lector for Reading Round Scotland.
She is an experienced creative writing tutor (eg National Galleries of Scotland, Universities Scotland, Zurich University for Teacher Training) and runs her own writing and reading groups in Edinburgh, where she lives with her husband and their golden retriever.
She is currently completing her third collection of stories.


Want to grow your own reading wish-list? More recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors, here:

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WSJ reviews The Whole World at Once: Words with the "strength of tempered steel"

So, here's some good news that all of us missed in May: The Whole World at Once received a write-up in The Wall Street Journal. And a good write-up, to boot:

The dangers of childhood are central to Erin Pringle's story collection "The Whole World at Once" (Vandalia Press, 243 pages, $17.99) and Tessa Hadley's "Bad Dreams and Other Stories" (Harper, 224 pages, $26.99). Ms. Pringle casts a somber gaze at the formative traumas that beset blue-collar America. In "The Wandering House," a young woman is disfigured in a meth-lab explosion. The subtly disquieting tale "The Boy Who Walks" depicts a child's personality change after he nearly freezes to death while wandering through the snow. "After that day, the boy's different. Like his own ghost thinks he died, though he didn't, but now tags him everywhere he goes." You can feel that Ms. Pringle has labored over her sentences, giving them the strength of tempered steel. She has a knack for the cinematic image as well. In "When the Frost Comes," when a girl discovers her mother dead of a brain aneurysm, she notices a tire outside "swinging from the tree in large sweeps." Hours later they are still alone in the house and the tire swing has stopped.
(excerpt from "Shelf Help" 
by Sam Sacks, 5/19/17)


Book Your Stocking with Christie Grimes

Book Your Stocking: December 14

Welcome back today's Book Your Stocking, a new holiday series this December, in which readers share their Reading Wish-lists or Give-Lists. 

Please welcome today's reader, Christie Grimes.


To Give and To Read
To Give:
To Read:

To Give:
To Give:
To Read:

Short Story Collections
To Give:
To Read:

To Give:

YA to read: Warcross by Marie Lu


About today's reader:

Christie Grimes,
used with permission
Christie Grimes writes fiction and poetry. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been a noted finalist in contests held by Gulf Coast, Glimmer Train, and the Cincinnati Review. Her poems have been published in journals, as well as in two anthologies. Her narrative poetry collection, Finding Fruit Among Thorns, was published in 2016 by Jane’s Boy Press. Find out more at


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Your Stocking with Stephanie Noll

Book Your Stocking: December 13

All month long, readers are sharing their Book Lists: To Give, To Read. We're over halfway to Christmas, and my own reading list has doubled, if not tripled, in size thanks to all the wonderful discoveries. And here's another day of additions, thanks to today's reader, Stephanie Noll.


Giving List

  1.  Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. National Book Award winner. Stunning sentences and a story that is a page-turner. 
  2. The Mothers by Brit Bennet. I loved this book so much that I only allowed myself to read a little bit at at time because it was so good and I didn't want it to end.
  3. Hollow by Owen Egerton. An incredible book that asks:  how do you live a life when the unthinkable happens? I thought about this book for a long, long while after finishing it--I'm thinking about it still.
  4. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Damn, this woman can write. This book takes the "coming of age" story to a whole new level. Gorgeous, gorgeous book and compelling story.
  5. Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth. An incredible collection of stories that will delight those who enjoy more experimental fiction and those who appreciate more traditional form--Unferth masters both, sometimes at the same time. 


About today's reader:
Stephanie Noll,
used by permission

Stephanie Noll is a writer, teacher, and storyteller living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in Modern Loss, Motherwell, and is forthcoming in The Ocotillo Review.


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: