Summer Reading List

The Dipper - September 2019

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

September News

Welcome to September! We hope you all had a good August, read some books, attended a reading or two, and maybe even wrote a thing or two. Although we took August off from writing The Dipper, that doesn’t mean we were lazing in our hammocks. Oh no. We’ve been up to stuff…

Our first Poetry & Pie in 2017 was just our third event and it was a major leap for this fledgling organization. We learned a lot that first time out and Poetry & Pie II was even better. But, you know, we think that this year’s Poetry & Pie was our best one yet! We owe much of the day’s success to the many talented, patient, and energetic people who help make our literary dreams come true. Our grateful thanks to all of you for making this event not only possible but perfect. We can’t wait to do it all again with you next summer!

As if Poetry & Pie weren’t amazing enough on its own, the day also marked the release of our first Little Dipper chapbook, Half-Fabulous Whales, by Rena J. Mosteirin. Little Dippers are produced as limited editions of 25, numbered and signed. They have letterpressed covers and are hand-stitched with linen thread that matches the cover’s ink color. Creating these books has been a dream of ours for some time and we’re thrilled with how they’ve turned out. We’re busy working on the second edition, an essay by Ben Cosgrove, which we intend to release by the end of the year. Although Edition 1 is sold out, you can visit the Little Dipper page for more information about the Little Dipper series and to download a free digital version of Half-Fabulous Whales.

One of our favorite things about the Slow Club Book Club is that we really are slow… and quiet. Sometimes we hear from members about their thoughts about the current book, but, even when we don’t, we really enjoy knowing you’re all out there, reading along at your own pace. We recently sent a check-in newsletter to members about the current book, Tove Jansson’s The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. We’ll soon be announcing our final book in our year of Women in Translation. Visit our Slow Club Book Club page for more information.

Have you heard about Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann, which has been longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize? The Guardian says this “1000-page monologue of an angst-ridden US homemaker fretting about love, loss and the state of the nation is an unabashed triumph.” Already released in the UK and coming out on September 10 in the US, this book is really calling to us. In fact, we have a crazy idea: let’s read this behemoth together! We’re still finalizing the plan, but the general idea is to work our way through the book at a steady pace of about 50 pages a week starting on September 20. If you’re up for the challenge, sign up for the Ducks, Newburyport Read Along and we’ll be in touch on September 10 with more details.

September, Schmeptember! It’s still summer in our our hearts, which means you still have time to complete your Adult Summer Reading Bingo card and claim your “Still North, Still Reading” tote bag from Allie Levy of Still North Books & Bar (opening later this year in Hanover, New Hampshire). To play, just download the card, and note the books you’ve read that match the card’s categories. Once you have “bingo,” take a photo of your completed card and email it to hi@stillnorthbooks.com. You’ll win a “Still North, Still Reading” tote!

Speaking of summer, we’ve been busy collecting and sharing summer reading lists on our blog. Check out the lists from Allie Levy of Still North Books & Bar; Becky Karush, creator and host of the READ TO ME podcast; writer and musician Ben Cosgrove; Angela Evancie, host of the Brave Little State podcast; Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard of the So Many Damn Books podcast; reader, writer, and book lover P. T. Smith; and Katherine Forbes Riley, author of The Bobcat. If you can’t find a book in all those lists to carry you into October, we need to know!

Miciah Bay Gault’s debut novel, Goodnight Stranger, came out on July 30 to much acclaim (in fact, The New York Times just included Goodnight Stranger in their The Shortlist column). Miciah, who teaches in the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and coordinates the Vermont Book Award, graciously answered all our questions about her book and her writing process in an interview on our blog.

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When Becky Karush, creator and host of the READ TO ME podcast, asked us to suggest a book for her podcast, we didn't hesitate! Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey is one of our favorites. We love the way Becky found her way into this book, which she initially found challenging. As she put it, “How do you read work that makes you feel... stupid?…It moves faster than I can catch. I get wavery inside. I slap up walls between me and the work to protect myself — and I am lost. This is why Mary Ruefle's MADNESS, RACK, AND HONEY is a gift.” While you’re on the READ TO ME site, check out the other episodes too; you’re sure to find an episode that appeals to your reading tastes.


September’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!

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September Highlights

On Thursday, September 5, a group of New England Poets will gather at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, to read from the recently published Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall. The reading by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Kyle Potvin, Scott T. Hutchison, Jessica Purdy, Andrew Periale, and James Fowler begins at 6:00 pm.

Sydney Lea

Sydney Lea

On Friday, September 6 at 6:00 pm, you have a difficult choice: either catch former Poet Laureate of Vermont Sydney Lea reading from Here, his thirteenth poetry collection, at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, or see award-winning poet Phillip Williams reading at the Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

David Shields, Rita Banerjee, and Frances Cannon kick off the Vermont College of Fine Arts Fall 2019 Reading Series at Cafe Anna on the VCFA campus in Montpelier, Vermont, on Wednesday, September 11. The series continues on Friday, September 27, with readings by Janaka Stucky, Miciah Bay Gault, and Erin Stalcup. All readings begin at 5:30 pm.

Sue Burton

Sue Burton

Also on Wednesday, September 11, Madeline ffitch is reading from her new and widely acclaimed novel, Stay and Fight, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, at 6:00 pm.

Poets Sue Burton and Sara London are reading at the Fleming Museum of Art on Thursday, September 12, in Burlington, Vermont, as part of the Painted Word Poetry Series. The reading begins at 7:00 pm.

Patrick Donnelly ends this year’s Hyla Brook Reading Series with a reading on Thursday, September 12, at 6:30 pm, at The Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire.

Chen Chen. Photo by Jess Chen

Chen Chen. Photo by Jess Chen

The AVA Gallery’s quarterly story-telling series, The Mudroom, returns on Thursday, September 12, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, with the theme “Breaking the Rules.” Food is available for purchase starting at 6:30 pm. The storytelling begins at 7:00 pm. Tickets go quickly for this event, so grab yours soon.

The 5th Annual New Hampshire Poetry Festival is on Saturday, September 14, at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. This year’s festival features headline reader Ilya Kaminsky. Workshop leaders are Chen Chen, Patrick Donnelly, Maudelle Driskell, and Joan Houlihan. Visit the Festival website for more information and to register.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Join a community celebration of Toni Morrison at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro, Vermont, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, September 14. The event will feature local writers and community members reading the work of Ms. Morrison, followed by an open mic for others to share brief statements, quotes and favorite lines by the author.

The Kent’s Corner annual Words Out Loud series begins on Sunday, September 15, with readings by novelist Susan Ritz and poet Sue Burton. The series continues on September 22 with Rick Winston and Elizabeth A. I. Powell, and on September 29 with Daniel Lusk and Janet Pocorobba. All readings take place at the Old West Church in Calais, Vermont, and begin at 3:00 pm.

Best-selling author Emma Donoghue (Room) presents her latest novel, Akin, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, at 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 19.

On Wednesday, September 25, see novelist Rachel Lyon read as part of Bennington College’s Fall Literature Readings. The reading will be held in Franklin House on the Bennington campus from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

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The Burlington Book Festival arrives on the scene September 27 to 29 at various locations in the Queen City including The Fletcher Free Library and Contois Auditorium. Garret Keizer gives the inaugural reading and the festival is dedicated to Governor Madeleine Kunin. Other participating authors include Peter Money, Nancy Richardson, Megan Price, and Emily Bernard. This year’s Festival features “Says You! The Inside Story,” a special benefit event. Please visit the Festival website for the full schedule of events.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

  • Amherst Poetry Festival - September 19 to 22 in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Festival kicks off with a block party and poetry slam on September 19. Workshops, readings by Paisley Rekdal, Adrian Matejka, Paige Lewis, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Melanie Goodreaux, and Alicia Mountain, and more. Plus the annual Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon, a one-day reading of all 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems!

  • BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts - September 25 (also meets November 7 and December 5) - A community book club facilitated by Gwendolyn Van Sant. The book for the September event is Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

 

Worth a Listen

We’ve been saving up podcast episodes since we didn’t have an August Dipper. Here’s a bunch of truly riveting conversations for you!

  • Max Porter discussing his novel, Lanny, with David Naimon on Between the Covers was quite memorable and fantastic.

  • Don’t miss Aimee Nezhukumatathil with Franny Choi and Danez Smith on the VS podcast.

  • Mira Jacob on So Many Damn Books!

  • Local author Peter Orner on KCRW’s Bookworm discusses his latest, Maggie Brown & Others, with Michael Silverblatt. And while you are over at Bookworm, don’t miss the conversation with Ocean Vuong all about proximity.

  • Julia Phillips discusses the inspiration for her debut, Disappearing Earth, with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review.

  • Sarah Broom’s conversation with Paul Holdengraber on A Phone Call From Paul was so inspiring. Her book, The Yellow House, is at the top of our stack.

 

We're Looking Forward to These September Releases


Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

MacDowell Colony Winter/Spring 2020 Residency
Applications open mid July for the Winter/Spring 2020 residency season (February 1 through May 31) in Peterborough, New Hampshire. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. Applications must include a description of your proposed project, a letter of reference, and information about your artistic work such as education, training, and artistic achievements, as well as examples of current work. There is a $30 non-refundable application processing fee.
Deadline: September 15 | Details

Northern Woodlands Conference
Register now to attend this year’s Northern Woodlands Conference (October 18-20) at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont. The conference is a fun, informal weekend and vibrant mix of speakers. This year’s gathering includes natural history talks, readings, writing workshops, and hands-on experiences, from nature journaling to photography to late-season bee lining! Featuring presentations by David Carroll, Chris Maynard, Laurel Symes, Wyatt Oswald, and a special celebration in honor of Northern Woodland’s 25 anniversary. $225 to $425.
Deadline: September 30 | Details

“Poems of New Hampshire” Poetry Contest
This contest, sponsored by the Peterborough Poetry Project, is open to anyone living in, visiting, or intrigued by New Hampshire may enter by writing and submitting up to three original unpublished poems on the theme of "New Hampshire, past, present, future, or fantasy." The writers of the first-, second-, and third-place poems will win $75, $35, and $25, respectively.
Deadline: September 30 | Details

SNHU Mountainview Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction
Applications are open for the January 2020 cohort. You will spend two years honing your skills in a small cohort of students, learning from national best-selling and award-winning authors, and receiving personal consultation from leading agents and editors. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. $40 application fee.
Deadline: October 1 | Details

Hunger Mountain Issue 24: Patterns
General submissions are open in prose and poetry on the theme of patterns. Work must not have been published before, including online.
Deadline: October 15 | Details

Lifelines Magazine
Accepting submissions of original and unpublished short stories, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork for their 2020 issue. While they consider a broad spectrum of subject matter for publication, they are looking for pieces that speak to the experience of medicine in some way.
Deadline: October 31 | Details

Tupleo Press’s Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize
Now accepting submissions for the annual poetry prize for adult writers. This year’s prize is judged by Cornelius Eady. The Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize includes a cash award of $1,000 in addition to publication by Tupelo Press, 25 copies of the winning title, an introductory reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion.
Deadline: October 31 | Details

Bloodroot Literary Magazine
Submissions are open for Bloodroot, Volume 12. Send three to five pages of poetry or 10 to 12 pages of fiction and nonfiction in Microsoft Word format. For other work, like an experimental form or digital project, please send a one-page proposal and they will be in touch if they want to see more. They are looking for new, unpublished work.
Deadline: December 31 | Details

Center for Cartoon Studies, MFA Degree and Certificate Programs
Now accepting applications for the MFA, one- and two-year certificate programs, and low-residency second-year option. Learn all you need to know about making comics and self-publishing in a prolific and dynamic environment and community. $50 application fee.
Deadline: rolling admissions until programs are filled | Details

Junction Magazine
Junction Magazine founder James Napoli has moved to Minneapolis. With his blessing, a local collective has decided to re-launch the magazine, and they invite you to contribute. Pitches and submissions should fit into one or several categories/subject areas: arts and culture, food and farm, people, wild, photo essays, and the calendar.
Deadline: rolling submissions | Details


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop One-Day Craft Classes and Multi-Week Workshops
Starting September 7
The Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop hosts a series of one-day craft classes and multi-week workshops throughout the fall. Class topics include nonfiction writing, fiction character development, writing about the body, writing dialogue, memoir writing, short story writing, poetry revision, and more.
Location: Williamsburg, Massachusetts | Cost: $60-$350 | Details

Igniting Creativity with James Crews
Saturdays starting September 7, 1:00 to 3:30 pm

Many of us have the idea that poetry is some abstract, inaccessible craft reserved for those in obscure academic circles. As this workshop will reveal, however, beautiful and moving poetry can emerge from the details of everyday life. Each week, we will work from examples and prompts that invite us to turn the so-called ordinary objects, images and memories of our lives into fuel for extraordinary art that reaches out and touches others. All skill levels are welcome.
Location: Equinox Village, Manchester, Vermont | Cost: $75 | Details

Writing Intensive: Drafting, Developing, and Revising Your Work with Joni Cole
September 8, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

Writers face a lot of very real challenges, from the intimidation of a blank page, to a sense of staleness during the drafting process, to a dearth of quality feedback. During this interactive workshop, we’ll cover techniques of narrative craft essential to empowering your prose. You’ll find your muse (and likely not where you expected). And you’ll get instructive feedback to help you write forward productively. Open to new and seasoned writers serious about making progress. Space is very limited.
Location: Writer’s Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: $115 | Details

Writing Ecopsychology: Nature Writing and Personal Narrative with Carly Wynn
Sundays, September 8 to 29, 1:00 to 2:30 pm

The natural world provides ample opportunity to connect with our creative selves. Words can be harnessed to capture the essence of our most profound experiences in nature, and to share those experiences with readers. This class is an opportunity to take a deep dive into personal experiences in nature and their link to the emotional currents of our lives. No prior ecopsychology experience necessary, though participants should come prepared to write about their experiences in nature and how these experiences link to personal or universal themes.
Location: Writer’s Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: $145 | Details

OSHER @Dartmouth Fall Term
September 16 to November 15
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Dartmouth is a volunteer, non-profit (501c3) organization that provides educational programs year-round for residents in the greater Upper Valley and North Haverhill. The coming term offers a variety of classes in writing and literature, including classes on James Joyce’s Ulysses, writing and telling the well-told story, reading graphic novels, Shakespeare, John Updike, participating in writing circles, and writing poetry. Classes are open to members only ($70 annual fee).
Location: Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: $40 to $80 | Details

Introduction to Bookbinding: Making a Pamphlet with Deborah Howe
September 9, 5:00 to 6:30 pm

In this workshop you will make single signature, pamphlets with covered boards and possibly double signature pamphlets. Variations of pamphlet binding, tool cleaning, and brush cleaning will also be reviewed.
Location: Dartmouth Book Arts Workshop, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

Practicing Non-Judgement: A Meditation and Writing Retreat with Jeffrey Slayton and Joni Cole
September 20, 5:30 to 8:00 pm

As humans, part of our mind’s natural capacity is to analyze and try to make sense of our experience. When this process is unconscious we can have a tendency for our analysis to turn into habitual judgement of others and ourselves. This workshop offers participants the opportunity to practice ways of letting go of blame and judgment; to shift our minds into a more open, supportive, and tranquil space. During this retreat we will practice sitting and walking meditation. We also will write from a “prompt,” as a means of inspiring a freedom of expression and rich creative flow. Absolutely no meditation or writing experience is required to attend this retreat.
Location: Shambala Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: free but donations are appreciated | Details

Ways of Re-seeing in Words: Ekphrastic Poetry Workshop with Rick Agran and Karla Van Vliet
September 22, 9:00 to 11:00 am

In this workshop participants select a compelling work of art from the reVision exhibit and seek to celebrate and explore it in words.
Location: Kent Museum, Calais, Vermont | Cost: free | Details

Fall Writing Workshop with Robin MacArthur
Tuesdays, September 24 to October 29, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

This supportive, encouraging and semi-formal workshop is for writers of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Both new and established writers are welcome, though we do have an application process for this intimate session. In this six-week workshop, we will get to know one another and our goals. We will do some generative work, talk a lot about process and some about craft, and create a generous circle of (gentle) feedback.
Location: Word House, Brattleboro, Vermont | Cost: $180 | Details

Writing Memoir: A Sense of Memory with Jenny Gelfan
Thursdays, September 24 to November 12

Our lives are full of stories: comedies, dramas, mysteries, the wonders of everyday moments. This class will guide you to dive in and gather images, sounds, fragrances, feelings, and experiences, that you can capture in words. These fragments together tell a story about each life. The class' focus will be on exploration. You will write from prompts, have an opportunity to read what others have written, and enjoy each other’s creativity.
Location: AVA Gallery, Lebanon, New Hampshire | Cost: $25 | Details

Sustenance: A Yoga and Expressive Writing Workshop with Deb Heimann and Joni Cole
September 28, 12:00 to 3:00 pm

In this intimately-sized three-hour “retreat” we welcome all who wish to reap the warmth and sustenance within ourselves, as a means of preparing for the winter ahead. As part of the yoga experience, we will practice breathing exercises, poses to nourish us, and heart-centered intention. We also will write from a “prompt” as a means of exploring and harvesting our thoughts and feelings on the page and aloud. Absolutely no yoga or writing experience is required to attend this retreat.
Location: Upper Valley Yoga, White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: 55 | Details

Letterpress Intensive Informational Meeting: Bilingual Poetry with Won Chung
September 29, 2:00 to 3:00 pm

The Letterpress Intensive workshop is offering an opportunity to explore letterpress typography by typesetting and printing poetry interlined with its translation in a second language and typeface. Participants will learn about historic typefaces and how to hand set and print a short poem of their choice using movable metal type. At the end of this introductory session, attendees can decide if they would like to register to participate in this workshop. Subsequent sessions will be held on Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 5:00 pm through the term.
Location: Dartmouth Book Arts Workshop, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

The Art of Writing: The Power of Visual Media in Storytelling
September 28, 8:30 am to 3:15 pm
The League of Vermont Writers’ fall Gathering. Details are still being finalized. Check their website for more information.
Location: St. Albans Historical Society & Museum, St. Albans, Vermont | Cost: $47 non-members, $32 members | Details

Family, Memory, Place: Writing Family Stories with Maura MacNeil
September 29, 3:00 to 4:00 pm

What family stories do you carry with you? What story do you tell over and over? What landscape do you cherish the most? One of the deepest human instincts is to tell our life stories, to figure out who we are and what it means to be human. This interactive workshop explores how the landscapes of our lives shape the stories that we tell. Participants explore the themes of family, memory, and place through sample narratives and a series of short writing exercises, gaining a deeper awareness of how their stories can preserve personal, generational, and communal history.
Location: Plainfield Town Hall, Plainfield, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

Comics Workshop with Marek Bennett
October 5
Join New Hampshire teaching artist Marek Bennett for a hands-on comics creation lab, featuring basic techniques of cartooning, comics creation, and self-publishing. Learn to create and publish original comics based on primary sources of social justice activism in Vermont and elsewhere. No experience required.
Location: Billings Library at UVM, Burlington, Vermont | Cost: free | Details

Writer’s Workshop with Rick Bass
October 11 to October 13
Writer and activist Rick Bass leads an intensive weekend workshop for up to eight writers who seek to improve their craft. Hands-on group sessions, both mornings and afternoons, will include active workshopping of individual manuscripts and craft-focused discussion. Writers at all levels will find support and challenge for their work. To apply, e-mail up to 15 pages of a manuscript—fiction, poetry or non-fiction—to landskeinfarm@gmail.com. Manuscripts will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. A non-refundable deposit of $375 is due upon acceptance.
Location: Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury Commons, Vermont | Cost: $1,250 | Details

Vermont Humanities Council Fall Conference
November 15 to 16

Registration is open for the 2019 Fall Conference, “Searching for Home: Journeys, Quests and Migrations.” The conference includes talks and breakout sessions on the topic of “the search for home.” This year’s plenary speakers include essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon, clarinetist Kina Azmeh, Dr. Hasia Diner from New York University, and professor Carol Dougherty from Wellesley College.
Location: University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont | Cost: $149; $99 for students | Details

Summer Reading Lists - Allie Levy

Hanover is so lucky to have Allie Levy in town. Allie gave us a little behind-the-scenes tour at Still North Books & Bar, and we can assure you, it’s going to be a fabulous space to gather this fall. In the meantime, we have Allie’s summer reading list for you. We love how Allie gives a nod to rereading old favorites. Don’t forget: you can still play Summer Reading Bingo to win a Still North tote! Thank you, Allie!

 
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I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. Despite the popularly held opinion that summers are for relaxing by a body of water, it often feels like the least relaxing time of year up here. The extra daylight hours and warm weather create a kind of mania—squeeze as much work and play into the summer months or risk devastating regret come September. With so much to do, my reading time and brainpower have been limited, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for rereading. As such, I give you my favorite books of the summer—a few new or new to me, and some I’ve been happy to revisit.

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

A gorgeously written, contemplative post-apocalyptic adventure story. Peter Heller began his career as an outdoor journalist, and his background shines through in his depictions of the natural world. Dog Stars is the first of Heller’s now four novels. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but more hopeful in its devastation.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb

It says a lot that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was published in April and I’ve already begun a second reading. In it, therapist/writer Lori Gottlieb demystifies the therapeutic process by sharing the journeys of several of her patients (fictionalized to protect patient confidentiality), as well as her own experience on both sides of the couch. Part memoir, part self-help, part exploration of the mechanisms through which therapy works, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book for anyone who is currently in therapy, has thought about therapy, or would never even consider going to therapy.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

Originally published 25 years ago, Octavia Butler’s story about a teenage girl who physically feels the pain of others is set in a near-future dystopia. Society has fallen into utter chaos, and the preceding circumstances have many uncomfortable similarities to our current predicament. Tackling climate change, racial violence, retrograde politics, and religion in one fell swoop, Parable of the Sower is the kind of novel that proves the importance of fiction.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Reading Normal People, in some ways, felt to me like re-reading Irish author Sally Rooney’s first, excellent novel Conversations with Friends—in a good way. Once again, Rooney deftly deals with the emotional landscapes of a young couple and the concentric circles of relationships surrounding them. Rooney has an uncanny ability to distill complex emotions and self-contradictory behaviors into crystalline sentences. In Normal People, she follows one couple from their high school almost-romance through their days at Trinity College. An unputdownable romance with substance.

The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo

When it comes to the number of times I’ve read a book, The Body Artist may be second only to the third Harry Potter. An intimate portrait of the ways in which we grieve, DeLillo’s novella tells the story of a performance artist coping with her husband’s suicide. As the grief sets in, her reality begins to fragment. The Body Artist is short and strange, alienating yet familiar.

Summer Reading Lists - Becky Karush

We just discovered Becky Karush’s very fun READ TO ME podcast earlier this summer and we really love the concept: each episode features Becky reading from a different book and then talking about what she loves in the book. She also discusses the Gateless Writing method (which she practices and teaches), and takes listener feedback. Becky is a warm and engaging host, and obviously a lover of books. We were so happy when she agreed to share a summer reading list with us. Thank you, Becky!

p.s. Becky has also asked us to suggest a book for her podcast, so we hope we can soon share a link to the episode where she discusses our choice.

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On READ TO ME, the podcast to listen to what we love, I read short excerpts from all kinds of writing and talk about what I love. It’s a kind of fun and pleasure with the page that predates jobs and school. These four books (plus one) have been or will be featured episodes. They are each a delight.

 
 

Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin

The narrator is a schoolteacher in Harlem. His brother, Sonny, is a jazz pianist just out of jail. This long short-story from 1957 tracks their childhood, the grueling forces grinding down their neighborhood, and the limits of family love. The sentences are pristine, and the last scene breaks open my tired, distracted heart, as it cracked and taught me when I first read it as a teenager.

Figuring, by Maria Popova

I love a writer who shoots for the moon. Maria Popova goes for the biggest questions—what is success, what is love, what is a meaningful life—and she answers them with a set of entwined, literary biographies of extremely cool people. I never thought I’d have a passion to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or learn about astronomer Maria Mitchell. Now I do. The opening chapter is dizzying and gutsy.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

There is a scene in the middle of Tayari Jones’ novel where the entire architecture of the story shifts around you. It’s like being in the middle of a sentient house rebuilding itself! My whole body hummed in that scene, and that was after an earlier scene made me put down the book and cry in the bath with sadness and relief. (I did not put the book in the bath.) The craft is a masterclass, and the story is vast.

The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me, by Suzanne Kingsbury

I use a writing method called Gateless Writing, founded by Suzanne Kingsbury. She published this book, her debut, in 2004. It’s set in a little, rough Mississippi town that’s so hot, the sentences melt across the page. Her control of rhythm seduces me. The way she shows characters in their bodies amazes me. The way she preserves love in the worst of human ugliness saves me. It’s a steamy, unafraid book.

Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart

My son, who is 7, sometimes asks what I’m reading. When he heard about this one, he wanted to know every bit of the plot. I understand why: the idea of a tall, awkward woman sitting in the dead of night outside the farmhouse she doesn’t love with a revolver to protect her family from mobsters is fascinating. Stewart did a ton of research to get the details of early 20th century New York and New Jersey right. But the research doesn’t overwhelm. It serves Constance Kopp and her sisters, and their grumpy, funny triumph.

Summer Reading Lists - Ben Cosgrove

Ben Cosgrove is an amazing composer, musician, and writer. As you might know, we’re big fans of all he does. After he performed at our very first event, the Mud Season Salon, we quickly found out that we share similar taste in books. We love these recommendations that Ben shared in his summer reading list and hope you do too.

p.s. We’ll be announcing a special project with Ben soon. Stay tuned!


Horizon, by Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez has long been one of America's finest and most well-respected living nature writers —Of Wolves and Men was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1978 and the peerlessly wonderful Arctic Dreams won it in 1986 -- and Horizon reads like a sort of capstone to a long career spent poking around the corners of the world, thinking hard about what they are like and how they are connected. Its sweeping, dreamlike narrative follows him nonlinearly across time and space, and we catch versions of Lopez in Africa, Australia, Antarctica, South America at a variety of different ages and stations. Its concerns are ultimately not just ecological but philosophical: what is the relationship between time, place, and experience, particularly in a wounded world?

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Different friends of mine kept recommending this book to me for months, and I finally got my hands on a copy in June. I loved reading it. Rooney's writing isn't soaring or fancy; rather, it articulates with needle-precision the confusing and complicated internal dynamics of the sometimes-romantic-sometimes-not relationship between the novel's two main characters, a boy and a girl from a small village in western Ireland whose friendship grows, shifts, and readjusts as they head off to Dublin for university and then beyond. Her eye for detail is unbelievable, and lends a shattering realness to the novel. I thought it was wrenching and lovely, and frankly, as a fellow millennial, I felt extremely gratified to read about these people and their Byzantine, tortuous romance/nonromance.

Underland, by Robert Macfarlane

Macfarlane writes thoughtfully and beautifully about the natural world, but is especially remarkable for the special attention he pays to how people engage with it. Previous books of his have considered the language we use to talk about the landscape, or described the experience of traveling long distances on foot. His latest project, Underland, is a thrilling and often dark foray into the fictional and actual spaces beneath the ground, and winds up a thoughtful consideration not only of how humans tend to interact with the underground, but of Earth's journey through all-but-unimaginable expanses of time.

The Weather Machine, by Andrew Blum

Andrew Blum's last book, Tubes, was a detailed exploration of the physical structure of the Internet, and similarly, this follow-up is an engaging examination of the machines and methodologies undergirding our surprisingly detailed understanding of how weather works and where and when it will happen. As with Tubes, Blum is able to lend light and humanity to a story about infrastructure, and he elegantly traces the process by which a vast system of models and careful measurements have literally enabled us to predict the future.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Powers's most recent novel, the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize in Literature, tells a sprawling, powerful story about people and trees. It moves an enormous cast of characters through an staggeringly vast timeline, but its narrative momentum never weakens and it grapples meaningfully with the fundamental alienation precipitating human civilization's coming existential crisis along the way. Few books have reoriented my literal view of the world as thoroughly as this one: I have actually found that I look up more often now.

The Favourite Game, by Leonard Cohen

This is Leonard Cohen's first novel (he wrote two), and it was published in the early 1960s, several years before its author found a career as a folk singer. Its lyrical narrative centers around the adventures of an extremely Cohenlike protagonist named Breavman, who ambles around Montreal wracked with internal torment and all but consumed by a broad set of spiritual, existential, artistic, and sexual concerns. Cohen's original Canadian publisher rejected the manuscript outright after finding it "tedious, egotistical, disgusting, and morbid in its preoccupation with sex," and the English house with which he finally placed it required that he cut it in half, but the result is a beautifully written coming of age story and an introspective, uncomfortably honest rendering of what it's like to be an anxious young man trying his best to figure out just how one ought to be in the world.

Summer Reading Lists - Angela Evancie

Continuing down the path of asking our favorite podcasters for their summer reading lists, we knew we must ask Angela Evancie, the host of Vermont Public Radio’s Brave Little State. If you want to learn more about the great state of Vermont, this podcast is a must-listen. Vermonters across the state ask questions and the Brave Little State team digs in to search for the answers. It’s thoughtful and often fascinating look at topics from old growth forests, to issues of race in Vermont to Vermont’s aging hippies. Don’t miss the episode What Draws So Many Writers and Poets to Vermont? Thank you so much, Angela, for sharing your summer reading list with us!

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I work with sound for a living, and as a result do a lot of listening in my free time. Less so in the summer. Come June weekends, I try to recapture the experience I had as a graduate student at the Bread Loaf School of English, in Ripton: me, an Adirondack chair in the shade of a maple, no cell service, and selection of books just fetched from the library. “[W]hat a morning — fresh as if issued to children on a beach,” Virginia Woolf wrote, and that is exactly what a stack of summer reading feels like.

The Story of a New Name, by Elena Ferrante

Halfway through the first installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend, I concluded that the exalting blurbs were hyperbole. By the time I finished the book, I was in a panicked state, so invested in the lives and the piercing friendship of Lenù and Lila that I had my bookstore special order this, the second book in the series, the very next day. It’s even better than the first, and now I’m on to the third.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje

My friend Xander needed to talk about this book with someone, so I picked it up and immediately got lost in it. A narrator, Nathaniel, tries to decipher the odd turns in his childhood in post-war England, after his parents leave his sister and him in the care of a cohort of mysterious drifters. An exquisite rendering of the pain of not knowing, and the canals and switchbacks of memory.

Amy Foster, by Joseph Conrad

A migrant bound for America is shipwrecked, and washes up in a provincial English village that has little tolerance for foreigners. First locked in a shed, and then shunned for singing in his native language, the man Yanko is cast away many times over. Joseph Conrad wrote this short story in 1901, but it demands to be read as a modern parable.

The Far Away Brothers, by Lauren Markham

Also on the theme of migration—this time contemporary, as we follow the epic journey of twin brothers who migrate from El Salvador to California—Lauren Markham’s book is a work of nonfiction that comes to life like the most addictive novels. It’s also the most exacting and sensitive reporting I’ve read on this issue.

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

A story that traces the shifting fortunes of four generations of an ethnic Korean family, and one that taught this reader a great deal about Korea and Japan’s intertwined history. Min Jin Lee comes forth with so many deeply feeling, fully formed characters — even minor ones, who appear late in the novel — that you get the sense she can’t help herself.

Outline, by Rachel Cusk

The prose in this book glitters with sunlight off the Mediterranean. A woman travels to Greece to teach a writing class, and falls into a series of very random and strangely engrossing conversations with strangers. “What is it about life?” I was left wondering.