Snowstorm: Winter Reading Recommendations

21 December 2018 on Blog  

If you'd like to curl up with a good book this winter (or you need a last-minute gift) look no further than our winter reading recommendation list. From memoir to fiction to poetry, the Barnstorm editors have you covered. We'll be back in February with our regular publication schedule, but in the meantime, happy reading, and see you in 2019!

Kelly Sennott, Nonfiction Editor

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I love this book for its youthful, funny voice, but the fact that the narrator is an aspiring writer helps, too. I can’t help but root for Jeannette and her siblings as they survive their unconventional childhood and make peace with their radical, free-thinking, irresponsible parents.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett’s mostly known for her fiction and the fact that she opened a bookstore in Nashville, but I’m equally moved by her nonfiction. Maybe it’s because she writes about being a writer, and I'm a writer, or that she loves dogs and I love dogs (or at least, I love my dog), but I also love the candid tone and ease of her essays. Whatever it is, I absorb everything she says like a sponge and take it as advice for my life as a writer and a human.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Oh how I love this book … if you don’t like it, don’t tell me, it will make me like you slightly less. The writing is smart and funny (really funny; Semple used to write for Arrested Development and Mad About You) and so full of heart.

Alexandra Grimm, Fiction Editor

Florida by Lauren Groff

This is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read.  Each of the stories is infused with a rich sense of place, and Groff’s language is (in my opinion) never better than when she is distilling it into gemlike stories such as these.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

In light of Atwood’s recent announcement that she will be publishing a sequel to her classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, I want to recommend one of Atwood’s lesser-known novels. Alias Grace is based on the life of Grace Marks, an Irish-born indentured servant in Ontario, who was accused in 1843 of murdering her employer and his housekeeper.  Atwood’s poetic prowess is on full display in this novel, a devastating exploration of the murky world in between innocence and guilt.

Rachel Bullock, Fiction Editor

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

I love this collection for so many reasons, but most of all I love that each story moved me emotionally. Machado expertly weaves issues of sex, love, and womanhood with magical realism.  "The Husband Stitch" and "Real Women Have Bodies," are my favorite stories from the collection.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn

Paper Girls is a graphic novel that will please anyone who likes female empowerment and science fiction. I have only read the first two volumes but the artwork is absolutely beautiful. The dialog is nuanced and witty. It's a great "mindless" read.

Something That Needs Nothing by Miranda July

Okay, this is just a single short story, BUT at the moment it's my all time favorite! Not only does this story deal with complex emotion but it's just enjoyable to read on the basis of how bizarre it is--if bizarre is your thing I would also recommend anything by Miranda July.

Lily Greenberg, Arts Editor

Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield

This is a stunning collection of poems stemming from the zen-buddhist tradition. Hirshfield was one of the first poets I fell in love with.

Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I cannot recommend this one enough—Dr. Estes retells ancient myths and then offers a Jungian explication of how each one deals with the feminine psyche.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I first heard Dr. Kimmerer on the On Being podcast, and was immediately drawn to how she engages her environment. A native american botanist, she beautifully draws together science and indigenous ways of knowing in this collection of essays.

Ben Reinhardt, Managing Editor

The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Aside from being one of funniest books I've read--Death must take over the holiday duties when the jolly man in red is "uninhumed", the book has spectacular insights into the origins and evolution of belief. A Christmas must.

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl

A collection of Roald Dahl's short fiction for adults, jam-packed with dastardly, dastardly people. A little weird, a little sweet, quick to read and delightful to explain to others.

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

For fans of history, true crime, and all things taboo, this nonfiction book manages gritty detail and huge scope simultaneously. The figures are memorable, the plots wonderfully knotty, the issues topical, and we finally get an answer to the question: Why is Paris called the city of lights?

Charlotte Gross, Arts Editor

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Returning home to family for the holidays can be wonderful at first, but often you can feel stuck in the too-familiar places and tight quarters. Escaping to the surreality of Europe on the eve of WWII  with the hugely charming and erudite Patrick Leigh Fermor is my idea of the perfect antidote. In the first volume chronicling his walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, Paddy describes with infectious enthusiasm the noble houses, remote villages, and open fields of a world on the brink of erasure.

There There by Tommy Orange

Speaking of erasure, Tommy Orange's debut novel was the book that most moved me this year through its symphony of voices rarely heard--those of the urban Indian. In their swell to brilliant climax at a powwow, the entwined perspectives come to unique, urgent life. Thanks to Orange, the "there" of Oakland, California becomes as real and present as any character.

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane

Finally, as one of the visual arts editors, I would be remiss to not mention a book that celebrates observing the world with the deep attention and precision of a painter. Word nerds and environmentalists, too, will love the glossaries throughout that comb the natural world with the finest teeth of specificity. Through his journeys over varied terrain, MacFarland shows the vital connection between naming, loving, and protecting the land and its inhabitants.

Anna Ohara, Poetry Editor

Bad Boats by Laura Jensen

This is a first book of poems but you would never know with the way it moves; there is freshness alongside craft, as well as real, steady assurance in the language. Published in 1968, the poems are absolutely alive and well today. It’s a treat, I swear.

Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson

About as good as it gets. If you haven’t yet discovered the moomins, it is my total honor to introduce you; these Finnish trolls are so full of life and humor and what the Portuguese might call ‘saudade’ that I dare you not to love them. The translation is also excellent—full of light and poetry.

The Measure of Her Powers by M.F.K. Fisher

This is a ‘reader’ of MFK Fisher stories, which makes it a nice entryway (it was mine) to Fisher’s work. She is known for her food writing (truly the best ever), but in all honesty this is some of the best writing around, period. The stories range from childhood memories in California to married life in France. All of it is full of ‘truth’— you know, the kind that we’re all trying to get into our work!

Kristen Melamed, Editor-in-Chief

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

A fun collection of poignant, serious, and at times, very funny essays. Fennelly is the master of the micro memoir and proves that you can pack a lot of meaning in to few words; some of her essays are one sentence, and some are several pages. This is an addictive book that ends far too quickly.

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl

If you want to read a food memoir, look no further than Reichl’s work. In this book, we learn about her early years, her family’s relationship to food (for example, the first chapter, about her mother, is called “Queen of Mold”) and how cooking and baking became an integral part of her life. Plus, there are recipes!












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