The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017

Editor: Sarah Vowell (introduction) Type: Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, essays, comics, poetry, memoir Published: 2017 I read it: November 2017 If 2016 was the volume that felt like a last big inhale before American politics crashed down at the end of that year, then this year’s BANR collection is the painful exhale, reading like a…

The Song of Roland

Translator: Robert Harrison Type: Fiction, poetry Published: 1115 (original); 1970 (this version) I read it: July 2016 Ka is a wheel, and the wheel’s spin has come around. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is materializing on the silver screen this summer, for better or worse. I’ll subscribe to the stock phrase “mildly optimistic” and give…

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014

Author: Daniel Handler (series editor), Lemony Snicket (introduction) Type: Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, essays, comics, poetry (anthology) Published: 2014 I read it: February 2015 The times they have a-changed for The Best American Nonrequired Reading series. Dave Eggers has stepped down as captain, and Daniel Handler is filling his shoes. It was a bit of…

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013

Author: Dave Eggers (series editor), Walter Mosley (introduction) Type: Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, essays, comics, poetry, humor (anthology) Published: 2013 I read it: August 2014 Nonrequired reading. You know I love this series. Let’s get to the good stuff: Right out the gate, the first entry in the front section is the Best American American…

Lyrics and Poems

Author: John K. Samson Type: Fiction, poetry Full title: Lyrics and Poems: 1997-2012 Published: 2012 I read it: December 2012 This nifty little volume compiles all of John K. Samson’s lyrics from The Weakerthans plus his solo outing (though the “Little Pictures” EP is curiously missing). As a fan, it is a lot of fun…

I Am Very Far

Author: Will Sheff Type: Fiction, poetry Full title: I Am Very Far: The Lyrics Published: 2011 I read it: May 2011 Up front: this is an actual book, not just the liner notes to the Okkervil River album. Sheff’s book is a beautiful hardcover, with a golden inlay of Will Schaff’s dog duo from the…

Come On All You Ghosts

Author: Matthew Zapruder Type: Fiction, poetry Published: 2010 I read it: March 2013 Zapruder uses a flowing, circling, just-dancing-away style to contribute to poetry’s primary aim: connect the biggest ideas with the tiniest of moments. This poet’s odd corridors sometimes stray a bit past the accessible, but then stunners like “Dobby’s Sweatshirt” or “Automated Regret…

Ballistics

Author: Billy Collins Type: Fiction, poetry Published: 2008 I read it: July 2011 It’s clear why Billy Collins is comfortable wearing the helm of the common man’s poet. He toes that line between sly and weighty, clever and conversational. A lot in Ballistics is a bit reflexive, with many poems inspired by books or paintings…