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Steeped in Michigan history, Russell Brakefield uses folk music and sounds of rural Michigan as a guide to create a poetry collection that explores the intensely personal as well as the naturalistic. To me, reading poetry is like listening to a conversation. Here, Brakefield acts as both listener and poet: He describes not just the notes around us, but like any good conversationalist, the silences, the buzzes, the cicadas, the nearby lone trout stalking a mayfly. When Russ worked here at Literati, I was an avid "Russ Reader" -- I devoured his staff picks. Reading his own work in Field Recordings, I'm delighted to listen to his own words, his song ringing in my mind long after finishing.
I started this book a while ago, but I waited until I had a few quiet afternoons to savor and finish it. It was the perfect book to read with my newborn daughter sleeping away on my chest. This has such heart, ache, soul. It made me reflect on the kind of father I want to be, aim to be, hope to be. This week, as I stood in my front yard, sun setting, watering my lilacs and planting a new sugar maple, I heard my neighbor’s three daughters play in the field by our house and their laughter made me pause and think of this book, its characters, and these words by Fatima Farheen Mirza. Few books affect me so much, but this book enchanted and moved me, and it made me feel so aware of family, identity, religion, Home.
My best friend was once an uchideshi: a live-in student who trains and assists a sensei 24/7. He tried to dive to the heart of zen. He would embark on weekend-long meditation sessions and describe that feeling as suddenly realizing everything was vibrant, connected, in the moment. A Tale for the Time Being doesn't necessarily dive to the heart of zen, but it did make me feel more connected, more in the moment. This book is easily one of my favorite books I've read. There is some magical realism, some zen undercurrents, but mostly, it is about learning to be happy in the here and in the now, learning how to find home. A delightful read.
“when I was small and wanted to look at the sun / he said if you want to stare at the sun / and not go blind you look not at its light / but what it illuminates the world the moon / never the thing itself and always its reflection.”
I love this collection from staff-favorite poet, Raymond McDaniel. I devoured this in two days. Its pitch-perfect blend of colloquial language interwoven with beautiful prose and imagery is a dream-like meditation on sight and light (and its existential opposites). McDaniel wonderfully threads narrative throughout this collection, giving it substance with its immense, thought-provoking style and philosophical explorations. A must-read for those unafraid to delve into the reflections all around.
“The desert, like the past, can be a thorny and sometimes serpentine place for people to live; in the interweaving stories throughout Desert Boys, debut author Chris McCormick offers a stirring examination of those who live, leave, and—in the case of protagonist Daley Kushner—return. With McCormick’s smart, witty prose and equally gratifying storytelling, we are offered a refreshing, nuanced, and much more complicated take on the stereotypical male coming-of-age tale. It is an unforgettable kaleidoscope of not just childhood friendship and the small-town American West, but, seemingly, anyone’s nostalgic, binary star quandary of simultaneously loathing and longing for the past. Desert Boys is an unforgettable, startling debut by the talented and skilled McCormick — one that will surely gain him a loyal and career-long mainstream following. It will resonate with those who have sought identity in far-away places, only to find it lurking in one’s own rattlesnake-filled childhood backyard.”
Winter, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, is the second book in a four-part series written to Karl Ove’s unborn daughter. The first book, Autumn, was a beautiful meditation on the season of autumn, parenthood, and life and objects all around. This follow-up, Winter, continues with that meditation. Broken into short, digestible two or three page essays, Karl Ove describes the world as he sees it. Some essays are better than others. But as a whole, this series has been such a pleasurable experience, I highly recommend to anyone seeking short, easy-to-read, philosophical meanderings about the natural world and family life.
I tried to tackle Knausgaard's six-volume memoir, My Struggle, but the struggle of six-volumes proved too difficult. But I love this little book. It reminds me of a more memoir-ish, modern A Sand County Almanac. Knaasgard has a unique way of seeing the world; these short essays written to his unborn daughter immerse you in both the changing seasons and fatherhood. A perfect fall read for new parents who appreciate nature (and don’t have time to tackle a six-volume memoir).
Imaginative, original, and simply delightful. This is a new and wonderful work of art from Philip and Erin Stead, and -- oh yeah! -- Mark Twain. After several pages of an incomplete Mark Twain fairy tale were discovered a few years ago, the publisher approached the Steads to finish it. What Phil and Erin ended up doing is something truly remarkable -- the illustrations are gorgeous, and the story itself borrows notes from Kurt Vonnegut and Charlie Kaufman. It is a book that has meaning, speaks to present day, will become a classic, and moved me.
This book not only teaches us about our own backyards, but how to see them. How to interact with them. How to appreciate them. When Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers of conservation, takes a walk in the woods, it's an adventure with infinite storylines and observations. A fallen tree is not just some broken wood with growth lines, but a one-hundred year-old diary that Leopold dissects and analyzes. Reading this book taught me to look closer, dig deeper, and view my own backyard with an increased awareness and appreciation. A must read for any Midwesterner who takes walks outside.
This is a book for aquaphiles. You know who you are: The kind of person who abandons family and friends at every beach excursion and voyages out alone into the open waters, freestyling for endless minutes and miles. All my life, I have had a love affair with water: Rivers, lakes, oceans, chlorinated indoor pools. As a former NCAA swimmer, I have searched wide and far for books about swimming. There are only a few, and this is the best. And if you’re like me, and you have relatives who often ask, “Where’s Mike?” only to see a small speck in the horizon splashing around in far-distant waters, you’ll enjoy this read.