Just in time to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood, I was forced to expand my annual Top 10 Books by Friends to the Top 15 Books by Friends List! This is a good problem to have.
Did you know: In Iceland new books are exchanged and read on Christmas Eve with a cup of hot chocolate? Did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country?
My Top 15 List is in no particular order and the books were only read by me in 2015, not necessarily published in 2015 (though this year most of them were).
TOP 15 BOOKS BY FRIENDS 2015
Slab by Selah Saterstrom
From my Amazon review: “Selah Saterstrom is a visionary and her latest book, Slab, takes us to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where our narrator, Tiger, waits to be rescued from the concrete slab where a house might have once stood.”
Peek by Paul Beckman
From my Amazon review: “It’s as if Woody Allen and Charles Bukowski got your favorite uncle hammered all weekend and made him spill the family dirt in perfect, flash fiction sized bites.”
Dark Sunshine by Len Kuntz
From my Goodreads review: “Dark Sunshine is the perfect name for Len Kuntz’ haunting collection of flash fiction. Equal parts despair and hope, this combination creates a cocktail that will leave you heartsick and Kuntz is the kind of writer who knows how to break your heart gently.”
Flash Fiction International by eds James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill
From my Boston Literary Magazine review: “The writers and stories included come from diverse corners of the globe, and the Table of Contents reads like a meeting of the United Nations”
*I will be joining James Thomas, Robert Shapard, Tom Hazuka and Lynn Mundell on an AWP Panel in 2016 entitled: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re going: Five Editors Talk about the History and Future of Flash Fiction Anthologies. Friday April 1 at 3 pm. Join us! Buy it now
Addicts and Basements by Robert Vaughan
The front yard screams at you.
And the car.
And the buttons on your shirt.
Leaving: Yes, I am leaving.
Still, you might have the chance to get there before me.
What We Know So Far by Robert Scotellaro
From my Amazon review: “…writers such as Robert Scotellero learn to say more with less, no longer needing the extra foliage. His work takes the leap into true maturity, mastering the silences, zooming in on the subtle moment at hand and letting that one drop of water tell the story of the entire world.”
Grace Notes by Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff
From Unknown Press: “A stunning collaboration from Meg Tuite (prose), David Tomaloff (poetry), and Keith Higginbotham (collages), who’ve blended their work together in a powerful display that is all of these things: crushing, mind altering, odd in the ways that shine.”
Hamburgers and Berliners by Matt Potter
From my Amazon review: “Generously peppered with dry wit and historical tidbits, Hamburgers and Berliners is less a guidebook and more a window into both the loneliness and celebrations of following one’s heart.”
Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish
From my Goodreads review: “Her stories are elegant, atmospheric, nostalgic, but never trite or sentimental. She shows the irony of childhood as deftly as the confusion and difficult beauty of adulthood: loving, losing, longing, and breathing the daily poetry that is the ordinary, but always extraordinary, life.”
All Points Radiant by Brian Dickson
From my Amazon review: “A thumbprint, a pulse, a sunflower, a missing sock, Dickson is able to imply large meaning in small details; these moments acknowledge grief, certainly, but more importantly create a mosaic of a life. A beautiful eulogy in poetry, a poignant but radiant celebration of relationships passed but never forgotten.”
The Secret Games of Words by Karen Stefano
From my Amazon review: “The stories in Karen Stefano’s debut collection are vulnerable to the point of making me blush with recognition. Like reading someone’s emails, I, too, feel the madness and unraveling of her character(s) as I eavesdrop on her most raw and intimate thoughts. Like a voyeur, I can’t look away.”
I Saw a Zulu Woman Once by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers
Until Their Bellies Bulge and Shine by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers
Companion books of poems on living in Apartheid South Africa
Harrison by Nate Jordon
From Arcadia’s website: “Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks of north central Arkansas, Harrison is a small city that embodies an intriguing history within the state…Nate Jordon worked extensively with the genealogy department of the Boone County Library to bring Harrison’s early history to life.”
Two Truths and a Lie by Leah Rogin-Roper
Leah Rogin-Roper’s chapbook Two Truths and a Lie was the winner of Horseless Press’s Poetry and a Pint chapbook series in 2015 and was released in September.
A Very F**cked Up Christmas Tale by J.A. Kazimer
From my Amazon review: “Even while giving the heimlich to the Ghost of Villainous Presents, Kazimer does what she does best—swipes her finger through the too-perfect frosting of our childhood stories and redelivers them with just the right touch of raunch, humor and irony.”
GlassMusic by Rebecca Snow
From Conundrum Press’ website: “Glassmusic explores the sometimes devastating realities of loyalty and jealousy, with philosophy, music, and love serving as guides.”
Shortlisted for the International Rubery Award!
Were you counting?? I know that’s 16…sue me!
Happy Jólabókaflóð Everyone!
(These books may or may not have been published prior to 2014–only read by me in 2014.)
In no particular order:
1. Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
I love that this book is set in Denver. It’s a gritty, glorious, romanticized bloodfest, a modern day crime and outlaw story alternating between the dive bars and meth houses of the city to the highways that escape out of town but never from the past.
2. Bound by Blue by Meg Tuite
From my Amazon review: These thirteen stories are funny but not funny… Tuite takes us into living rooms that are as disturbing as they are familiar, and repaints them with an artist’s sensitivity and an oddly appropriate sense of wonder. Her characters are raw, flawed, broken, charming, tragic, adorable, hateful, hopeful, and authentically human.
3. Pizzas and Mermaid by Jonathan Montgomery
From my Amazon review: From the epic battle with National Pizza Chain and the “Estimated Delivery Time” saga to stand-alones such as “Placenta” , “Things Left in the Back of My Cab”, late night lottery ticket encounters and strippers with unicorn horns, Jonathan Montgomery combines sharp insight and deadpan humor with magical adventures for grown ups!
4. Maybe This is How Tides Work by Brian Dickson
Brian Dickson has a soft, vulnerable lens that he uses to filter his world, and his newest book of poetry is a bittersweet and beautiful view of people, the heart, and all things New Mexico.
5. She Bears a King by Lynn Brewer
From my Amazon review: “I just finished reading Lynn Brewer’s first novel, “She Bears A King”–a hilarious pop culture romp into the life of a modern woman who is impregnated by Jesus. Loved it!”
6. Patriarch Run by Benjamin Dancer
From my Amazon review: I’ve always been a fan of Benjamin Dancer’s prose—but his new book, called a “literary thriller” combines both the prose and depth of character that I’ve come to expect from Dancer with honest to god high-energy page-turning tension of a classic thriller!
7. Italy: Beer Country by Bryan Jansing and Paul Vismata
Bryan Jansing and Paul Vismata researched this book for years, from their decade + experience working with craft beers to their multiple trips to Italy. If you thought Italy was just about vineyards–you are wrong. Perfect for beer connoisseurs and Italy fans alike.
8. Wild Life by Kathy Fish
Sophisticated, smart, and powerfully understated, they don’t call her the Queen of flash fiction for nothing! I’m looking forward to reading her newest collection, Together We Can Bury It in 2015!
9. They Only Eat Their Husbands by Cara Lopez Lee
Re-released by Conundrum Press this year, the author of the blog Girls Trek Too takes us on her adventures of the world and the heart in equal measures. Both armchair traveling and introspection with Cara’s signature clever observations and humor.
10. Diddle by Daniel Staniforth
With a poet’s sensibility, Daniel Staniforth weaves lush sentences as intricate as lace doilies, telling the immigrant story with an oddly unexpected and delightful fairy tale flair.
And just one more for the road…
11. Either Way I’m Celebrating by Sommer Browning
This is my kind of poetry! Irreverent, hilarious and highly intelligent, Sommer breaks poetry taboos, draws naughty comics and leaves you alternating between humorous shock and poignant recognition.