Books by Friends: 2021 Edition (just in time for the Icelandic Book Flood!)

Happy Winter, Friends!

Thanks for virtually traveling with me to Iceland last month for our Fire and Ice Flash Fiction retreat! It was a magical time with Kathy Fish and nine incredible writers in the gorgeous, never-ending twilight and eerie beauty (and hot springs!) of Iceland. If you didn’t follow along on social media, check out some of our favorite pictures here!

Speaking of Iceland, you might already know that every December, Icelanders celebrate Jolabokaflod, the Annual Icelandic “Book Flood” and book gifting holiday!

And, in the spirit of Jolabokaflod, every December I share my list of Books by Friends from the previous year. Because if you’re going to gift books, why not gift books by friends?

Reykjavik last month

Books By Friends 2021 Edition:

(I’ve provided the publisher or author’s direct link if available)

(in no particular order)
Len Kuntz: This Is Me Being Brave 
What does it mean to be fully present in the moment? What does it mean to grieve? To confront your failings? Or to love like it’s the only love you’ll ever have? In THIS IS ME, BEING BRAVE, Len Kuntz addresses these issues and dozens more by splaying himself wide open for the reader. Full of wisdom and humanity, deeply personal and universally relevant, Kuntz turns bravery on its very head. And defies you not to be moved.

Chelsea Stickle: Breaking Points
In thirteen slick, innovative, and gut-wrenching flashes, the young women and girls in Breaking Points, the debut chapbook from Chelsea Stickle, hit the walls around them—walls constructed by family, friends, significant others, and insidious cultural perils. 

Grant Faulkner: All the Comfort Sin Can Provide
With raw, lyrical ferocity, All the Comfort Sin Can Provide delves into the beguiling salve that sin can promise—tracing those hidden places most of us are afraid to acknowledge. In this collection of brutally unsentimental short stories, Grant Faulkner chronicles dreamers, addicts, and lost souls who have trusted too much in wayward love, the perilous balm of substances, or the unchecked hungers of others, but who are determined to find salvation in their odd definitions of transcendence.

Twice Not Shy: One Hundred Short Short Stories. Laura Keenan and Linda Martin (eds)
A contemporary collection of 100 flash, micro and hybrid stories, each 500 words or less, by rising and established writers. Building on the success of Night Parrot Press’s first collection, Once, Twice Not Shy showcases the best of Western Australian authors writing in this exciting, challenging and condensed genre. Small but mighty, the stories linger long after reading them.

Bryan Jansing and Paul Vismara: Italy Beer Country updated 2021 edition
In 1996, a handful of men inspired a crusade—the Italian craft beer movement. Italy: Beer Country presents the movement’s humble roots and the passionate brewers whose persistent, dogged determination allowed them to overcome cultural bias, low expectations, and Italy’s infuriating taxes, to forge what has become Europe’s most vibrant beer scene. From less than 20 microbreweries in 2001, the movement has grown to over 1000 in 2021. Italy: Beer Country is the first, and only, written history of this evolving, creative craft beer scene.

Sylvia Petter: All the Beautiful Liars
As a child in Australia in the Fifties, Katrina Klain is taunted in the playground as a Nazi, long before she knows what the word means…Told in a thrillingly inventive narrative style, Sylvia Petter’s debut novel is a powerful, pacy tale about making peace with the past, which also paints a richly evocative picture of Central Europe in the early decades after the war.

Beth Gilstrap: Deadheading and Other Stories
Irrevocably tied to the Carolinas, these stories tell tales of the woebegone, their obsessions with decay, and the haunting ache of the region itself—the land of the dwindling pines, the isolation inherent in the mountains and foothills, and the loneliness of boomtowns. Gilstrap’s prose teems with wildness and lyricism, showing the Southern gothic tradition of storytelling is alive and feverishly unwell in the twenty-first century.

Selah Saterstrom: Rancher
To heal is to be changed, to be, potentially, revolutionized by the fracture whose initial presence signals as a wound. For all of its pain, the fracture sends out new lay lines – new paths of inquiry that necessitate new modes of knowing and being-with. Rancher follows such paths into the uncanny territories of life after rape: What happens when a lie becomes the truth? What happens when the ghost haunting your house turns out to be you? 

Cheryl Pappas: The Clarity of Hunger
“This is a sharp, wise, aching beauty of a collection. In these pages, Cheryl Pappas gifts us with afterflowers, an old woman frozen in place, beasts and witches lying in wait, a king who blithely dreams of tulips, volcanoes on Mars, and so much more. These stories are daring, daunting, desire-filled. Pappas brings tremendous skill and range to this captivating debut, landing it with truly one of the most beautiful and profound flash pieces I have ever read.”— Kathy Fish

Sarah Freligh: We
This me-too guide to We takes a deep dive into golf greens, mom & pops, cornfields, & figure salons to rescue the wreck eons of Kingship has wrought on everyone from the school shooter to Cassiopeia & the holy roller girl. Freligh’s voice is fresh & flagrant, tender as it is Olympic, the curse that works its own godspell—& this book broke my heart open.—Jane Springer

Francine Witte: The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon
Francine Witte’s precise economy of words and rich employment of voice, scene and imagery create such vibrant evocations in the extraordinary The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon. She is, without a doubt, a modern-day Chekhov, and one of the most luminous stars in the flash and micro world.—Nathan Leslie

This is What America Looks Like: Caroline Bock, Kathleen Wheaton, Jona Colson (eds):
Following an open call for submissions in February, 2020, the press received over 500 creative pieces, including new poetry and fiction from past WWPH winners. The ensuing pandemic and the nationwide protests for racial justice later that spring are reflected in the work reviewed and the pieces ultimately chosen to represent this extraordinary historical moment. 

Debbi Voisey: Only About Love
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. A perfect life. A perfect man. Frank is proof of this. He’s everyman and yet as unique as a fingerprint. With a wonderful wife and children who are the loves of his life, he couldn’t ask for anything more. But time and time again he keeps risking it all. In snapshots through time, Only About Love takes a sweeping loop around Frank’s life as he navigates courtship, marriage, fatherhood and illness. Told through the perspectives of Frank and his family, this story is one of intense honesty about the things we do to those closest to us.

Maddie Anthes: Beautiful Violent Things
“Drunk ghosts, feral mothers…riveting obsessions and unbelongings and captivities—the fragmented texts in Beautiful, Violent Things seethe and grip and fluoresce without apology. In these eleven dispatches, Madeline Anthes carefully weaves desire and estrangement, reimagines power as a woman’s capacity for hollowing a man, the ability to deliver impossibilities from her misappropriated body. ”— Tara Stillions Whitehead

Nod Ghosh: Toy Train
Toy Train is brutal, compassionate, sincere, mysterious, uplifting and devastating. Nod Ghosh is a flash master. Every sentence is significant. These are stories crammed with truth told in poetic language, rife with symbolism and brimming over with emotion. Make space for yourself to read this collection — it’ll leave you breathless.~ Epiphany Ferrell

Meg Pokrass: Spinning to Mars
“Meg Pokrass has written an exquisite collection of linked stories. As I read Spinning to Mars, I felt plunged, soaked, immersed … into a life both deep and wide. This book will spin you off to Mars with its exacting language and biting insight. Here is the kind of compressed writing that I long for and rarely find.” ~ Sherrie Flick

Stephanie Carty: Inside Fictional Minds
‘An invaluable guide to creating authentic characters by peeling back the layers and searching for the ‘why’ that lies behind all our actions. I have really enjoyed applying psychological theory to creative intuition, led by Stephanie’s accessible approach to creating believable, motivated characters.’
~Sarah Steele,

Michelle Elvy: The Other Side of Better
Fresh: yes! Authentic: yes! Poetic: yes! Brilliant: yes!! Here, with Michelle Elvy’s the other side of better, are wise reflections cast through refracted light. Here is the scent of the sea, the rift and grit of childhood. Here is an absorbing cinematic poetry in the telling – breathtakingly honest and elegant stories (personal, yet universal) about how we live, how we struggle and, most enduringly, how we thrive. A wondrous collection!~ Robert Scotellaro,

Jonathan Bluebird Montgomery: Nine Books
Nine Books is a book about the number nine. There are nine different books covering nine themes of my recent work with nine pieces each, which will be posted regularly over the next nine months. By subscribing you’ll get access to the content of each book (a new one posted over the course of each month) along with exciting multimedia content such as photography, audio recordings, video, and invites to exclusive events.

Diane Klammer: Love, Love
Love, Love is a book of poetry about love sports and relationships, their intersections and juxtapositions. It takes the reader on a journey of the body, mind, heart and spirit. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes sad, like love itself, but it is always about the human condition. Written in part from life and in part from the imagination, it allows the reader to be simultaneously vulnerable and strong. 

Diane Simmons: An Inheritance 
An Inheritance is a gem of a novella. It succeeds in spanning seventy years and four generations of one family, exquisitely capturing their relationships, secrets and divided loyalties. The historical changes wrought by each decade are delicately interwoven throughout the twists and turns within the family’s life. This captivating narrative will make you weep and smile.”–Joanna Campbell

Charmaine Wilkerson: Black Cake (coming 2022!)
PRE-ORDER US EditionPRE-ORDER UK Edition
In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past—a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake.  This is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history.


Damhnait Monaghan: New Girl in Little Cove
It’s 1985. Rachel O’Brien arrives in Little Cove seeking a fresh start after her father dies and her relationship ends. As a new teacher at the local Catholic high school, Rachel chafes against the small community, where everyone seems to know her business. The anonymous notes that keep appearing on her car, telling her to go home, don’t make her feel welcome either. 

Nuala O’Conner: Nora
Dublin, 1904. Nora Joseph Barnacle is a twenty-year-old from Galway working as a maid at Finn’s Hotel. She enjoys the liveliness of her adopted city and on June 16—Bloomsday—her life is changed when she meets Dubliner James Joyce, a fateful encounter that turns into a lifelong love. 

P.S. This is an ever-evolving list, and I’m bound to have forgotten someone! If there’s someone you think should be on this list, please let me know! xoxo

Be Icelandic for a day and give books this holiday season!
Happy Jolabokaflod, everyone!
(me in Iceland below)

Top 10 Books By Friends 2014

It’s time!

TOP 10 BOOKS BY FRIENDS 2014bookfriend

(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.