Personal essays meets learning new things meets fruit recipes
Even though these fruits may be difficult, they are worth it. Spokane author, Kate Lebo, will make you want to get your hands on all of the pomegranate to make a molasses or a face mask (or, of course, eat as is).
Looking to have your mind shaken and soothed simultaneously by sheer beauty and complexity and care for every word and sentence? Look no further! Shapland seamlessly explores poisonous toxins, toxic white womanhood, the safety of solitude, motherhood, queerness, capitalism, and her own family's medical misgivings. It's a treatise on being human and being realistically cynical in a world filled with poison, and yet she isn't afraid to point out that there's a beauty within it all despite the sheer shit of things.
I'm a big fan of the entire Very Short Introduction series, but this one is my favorite, by far. The book goes into all the creative choices involved in documentary film (way more than I had ever considered), and gives a detailed history of the genre. It directed me towards some great films I had never heard of and changed the way I watch all movies.
Whether or not one drives a car, parking rules our lives. It determines the shape of our streets, the architecture of our buildings, where housing is available and isn't (or, for that matter, affordable). The seedy undergirdings of the parking-industrial complex are hopelessly entwined with gentrification, institutional racism, shocking violence, and cult-like obsessions from bloggers and Tweeters alike. Henry Grabar is the Jane Jacobs of the sidewalk curb and the asphalt lot. The history and culture of parking is just as awesome, petty, frustrating, and comical as one might think.
Benjamin Lorr fundamentally changed the way I think not only about food as commodity, but about retail, period. (Everything you touch, wear, or eat has spent long hours in the back of a truck!) Lorr isn't disgusted by it all, either; in the author's electric language, top-notch writing that engages every sense, the supermarket is a place of worship (think DeLillo's famous grocery store scenes in 'White Noise'). Lorr dedicates a chapter to each part of the supply chain, in all of its confusion and horror—yet still maintains the belief that retail is a font of meaning-making and community. It’s not just about groceries, but about the way we develop identity through what we buy. I can't stop raving about this book.
If 'My Autobiography of Carson McCullers' didn’t convince you that Shapland is one of the most exciting, subversive, and inventive of American writers, a writer with nerve and wide-ranging interests, then the essays in 'Thin Skin' will surely demand your attention like they demanded mine. Shapland has written more than just essays—these are eruditely-researched works of journalism tangled with deeply personal memoir, connected and cohesive like a mycorrhizal network. These essays about reproductive rights, poison in America, our many failures to out-engineer climate change, and the literal meaning of life will challenge and educate those seeking a way to articulate the discontents of the Anthropocene. 'Thin Skin' is also a masterclass in pandemic-era writing, swimming in the moment without succumbing to it. You’ll find Adrienne Rich, Eula Biss, David Graeber, and Audre Lord in these pages, in-depth frameworks for a subversive queer history, and something that resembles a My Autobiography of Rachel Carson (if we can be so lucky). Shapland grows into her own as a nature writer, and with this new collection, claims her place as a major writer of the Southwest. Not only should this book last; it should be taught.
You know that thing when you learn a new word and then suddenly you see it everywhere? Like it had been there all along you just skipped over it because you didn't know what it meant. That's what this collection was like for me. Explorations and musings on many issues that touch my life: what is love, loss? what is home?, how do we define work as women?, how do we find meaning for our lives?, what can we do to be better stewards of our planet?
Thoughtful, readable and relatable.
A bookseller once told me he stopped on page 190 of this book, so he could claim he was always reading The Peregrine. It's a clear impulse, to want to live within J.A. Baker's fenlands of England, completely void of people—only birds, who "know suffering and joy in simple states not possible for us." There are books that change the way you read, and then there are books that alter the way you want to live, walk, pay attention. The Peregrine is both.
A vivid, hardened tale of the slaughterhouse trade by Brazilian author Ana Paula Maia. In Zoe Perry's translation, Maia reads like Cormac McCarthy with the labor consciousness of George Orwell. Good, haunting, bloody old west stuff with an ethical imperative—if I wasn't already a vegetarian, this would do the trick. I'm keeping "Of Cattle and Men" high on the shelf.