In the spirit of holiday gifting and celebrating those books we loved spending time with, here’s a collection of what we’ve been reading (other than our own books!) at the CSU Poetry Center:
5 Favorite Books Read in 2018:
1. Analicia Sotelo – “Virgin”
2. Emily Jungmin Yoon – “A Cruelty Special to Our Species”
3. Catherine Barnett – “Human Hours”
4. Courtney Kampa – “Our Lady of Not Asking Why”
5. Rebecca Lindenberg – “Love, an Index”
This year, I am aiming to read 100 books (on book 90 as of today!), so I had quite a lot to choose from! I was stunned by the debut collections of Analicia Sotelo and Emily Jungmin Yoon; these are powerful, sharp books, bold and unflinching. I will be returning to them again and again. Another 2018 collection I thoroughly enjoyed was Catherine Barnett’s “Human Hours.” I read this book while in San Francisco for my best friend’s wedding, and could not help but share poems from it with friends on and offline. It is a brilliant, truly human, book. Courtney Kampa’s debut, which came out last year, is intimate and vulnerable in a way I trusted and admired. I find myself disinterested in books that lack heart; Courtney Kampa’s work has a heart beating loudly at its center. Finally, I was profoundly struck by Rebecca Lindenberg’s 2012 “Love, an Index.” I’m not even sure I can quite articulate my feelings about it. It is a gorgeous and devastating portrayal of a love, a life.
The Biography of Alexander Hamilton—Ron Chernow: I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, great. Another biography of a white man written by a white man.” Well, you’re right. Entirely. But, this one is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve ever read. Forget everything you’ve learned in the Hamilton musical because it’s partially incorrect and doesn’t include a great deal of his greatness as a writer. If you like history and biographies, you’ll like this.
Selected Poems—Colette Bryce: Great poetry. Trust me.
Nature Poem—Tommy Pico: Also great poetry. Think (good) Twitter poetry put in a book.
If We Had Known—Elise Juska: Super topical novel. It’s about a teacher whose student commits a mass shooting. The media then finds an essay that the student wrote in the teacher’s class that may have hinted to his twisted state of mind. Really tense, really real, really good.
The Largess of the Sea Maiden—Denis Johnson: No words. Okay, a few words: mental illness, suspense, heart break, and “Dear Satan, I did not enjoy it at your Jamboree last night.”
American Street by Ibi Zoboi (Fiction, Young Adult)
Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (Poetry)
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Poetry)
The Carrying by Ada Limon (Poetry)
A few of the books I loved spending time with this year:
Rachel Arndt’s Beyond Measure
CA Conrad’s While Standing In Line For Death
Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy
Nick Dybek’s The Verdun Affair
Jenny Erpenbeck’s (tr. Susan Bernofsky) Go Went Gone
Shane McCrae’s In the Language of My Captor
Hilary Plum’s Strawberry Fields
Nicholas Twemlow’s Attributed to the Harrow Painter
Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing