Reading List

What I'm Reading "Write" Now 

June 2012
The Pen/O.Henry Prize Stories 2012
Edited by Laura Furman
YiYun Li's "Kindness." I am so in love; in love with words, the true art form known as storytelling. 

No Nature
Gary Snyder
Purchased this collection of poems for $3.50 on the way up to the Sierra at one of my favorite used/new bookstores, Sustenance Books on Main Street. But wait until you get to Plymouth, CA to try the best salads and sandwiches at Amador Vintage Market. Organic, fresh, made while you wait, reasonably priced. 

May 2012
Interpreter of Maladies
Jhumpa Lahiri
A Pulitzer Prize winning collection of  short stories. I read this entire collection three times. The very last story gave me breath, love for life. 

April 2012
Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country
William Finnegan
My first copy of this book is in storage, so I bought a used copy for $3. I did this only once before, with another incredible book called The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. I own three copies of that. Anyway, I digress.  The first time that I read Cold New World was in college, and it changed my life. I had not read much non-fiction before this book, and when I did I could not "get into it."  But with Finnegan's book, I felt that I was right there with his writing subjects, in New Haven selling drugs, or in a non-racist skinhead gang fighting a racist white power gang. Get this book, read it, and get transported to worlds so deeply investigated that you will swear that what he's written about happened to you, too.
The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
 Sherman Alexie
Now I am obsessed with Sherman Alexie. Some call this a young-adult book, but I call it a revelation. I read this in one sitting. One sitting! I have the scars to prove it. I cried exactly eleven times, I laughed so much that it made my crying feel like a relief. 

March 2012

The Toughest Indian in the World
 Sherman Alexie
I borrowed this book from my writer friend, John Philipp.  He said that it would inspire me. He was right.  I read this book and saw my family, history, culture in a new light. Sherman Alexie is Native American, and I am Chinese American--but the way he wrote about the social life and customs of a culture that is not wholly any one thing made me feel like I could do the same. I will try.

The Best American Short Stories: 2010
Edited by Richard Russo
One of the stories, All Boy, hit me in a way that I didn't expect. It was when the author, Lori Ostlund wrote, "When Simon came over to his house to play, however, he announced to Harold that his mother had a lustful look."  (page 267). Brilliant and so, so was the rest of this dynamite story. I bought this edition used. Less than $5. So worth it.  If you can, if you are considering publishing in journals and want to know what type of work they're looking for, but have yet to subscribe and pay the hefty subscription fees, then go to used book stores and find old editions. Book Passage in Corte Madera is a fantastic resource. So is Green Apple Books in SF.  

February 2012

The Reader
Bernhard Schlink
This novel, translated by Carol Brown Janeway, is a  long-time favorite of mine. I read it several times in college in a German literature course. It changed my life. This novel forced me to ask myself questions that I'd never before considered. And these questions don't truly have answers. Just instinctual reactions, facial expressions, a gut-feeling. I know that when I read this novel again, that I will experience it differently each time. I will learn something new each time. You will too!

January 2012

Creative NonFiction: Number 28
"Essays From The Edge."  In this volume, the essays are by Gay Talese, Meredith Hall, D. Winston Brown, Megan Foss, Craig Bernier, and Margaret Price.  "Fourteen years in the Making" by  Megan Foss, broke my heart. If you can find a copy of this anthology, make sure that you are seat belted in before you read Foss' story.

Chris Bohjalian
Startling fiction told from the perspective of a daughter of a midwife accused of accidentally killing her client. I think that this book was an incredible way to start the new year. Many of m y friends are having babies now and I've always wondered what it would be like if they did not have to go to a hospital to give birth. After reading this novel, I think that if I were to ever have a child, I'd want a midwife to deliver it. There is such artistry and connection that a midwife is making with each delivery. Read this book. It will change your mind forever. 

December 2011

High Country News: For people who care about the West
Volume 43, No. 18
I love this publication. HCN features articles about enviro-cultural issues that impact the American West. Articles are incredibly well written. But it is their "Writers on Range," book reviews, and essays that make this publication stand out from so many others. Check out page 23, Water Thick As Blood.  John Bennion writes:
"...something always seemed wrong, because the pitch changed with every breath of air between me and the engine. Sometimes it sounded like a muffled drumbeat; sometimes it clattered as if shaking itself to pieces. I never slept well...the rush of drug through desert veins."

November 2011

Fragmentation and Other Stories (2011)
Edited by Jana Waring and Ryan Rivas
ISBN 978-0-578-07746-8
This anthology is printed by Burrow Press, an independent publisher based out of Orlando, FL. The title story, Fragmentation, is written by my mentor and teacher, Peg Alford Pursell. Fragmentation is a flash fiction masterpiece. I am not biased. I am not sugary. This story is spectacular. I first heard Peg read this at a panel on flash fiction at Book Passage. And for months (it has seriously been months), I have been thinking about the story. What about it makes it so powerful? Why can't I shake it? Why would I want to? In order for you to understand, you must buy this anthology. The authors featured in it are biting, funny, dry (but in the best way!), candid, and everything that you would want in a short story anthology. To give you another taste: the introduction begins with these words...."A clusterfuck."

The Haunting (1959)
Shirley jackson
ISBN 0-14-02.87434
Maybe it is because it has gotten so much colder, but I feel changes coming on. I am slathering chili sauce on everything I eat. I wear at least four layers of clothes to bed. And I have rekindled my "love affair" with the author Shirley Jackson. This month, I read The Haunting.  I actually own nearly all of the books and short story collections that Shirley Jackson has published, but this and We Have Always Lived In A Castle, hold a special place in my heart because they are the first full length novels of hers that I read. My first exposure to the late, great SJ, was the short story, The Lottery. Every high school kid is given the gift of being "required" to read her famous short story...and I remember distinctly being absolutely terrified after reading it. Now, reading SJ's work is like putting a big dose of chili paste in my soup. I love it! It bites me back! I need to keep going back for more.....

October 2011

Miranda July
ISBN 978-0-743-299398 (224 pages)
I purchased this book because of one story in particular, Swim Team, which I first heard read by Parker Posey on PRI's Selected Shorts (podcast).  This story was so deeply funny, perhaps the funniest thing I've ever heard. I have started reading through this stunning collection, but I make myself put it away after each story. I want to savor this book.  You will, too!

Jerome Stern
ISBN 978-0-393-32124-1 (288 pages)
A comprehensive craft book with hilarious examples and meditations on writing, that is thoroughly readable.  This book is almost three-hundred pages, but I actually read it all the way through in two days, after purchasing it at Book Passage in Corte Madera (special ordered).  Two days.  This is a no-brainer.  Buy it.  Every writer needs this in their reference library.

"The Writer's Chronicle" published by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)
October/November  2011, Volume 44, Number 2
Mind-blowing essay: A Case Against Courage in Creative Nonfiction

September 2011

My favorite piece in this issue is by....well, me!  :0)  I'm biased, of course. Check out my story, Bug Dot Milk.
Prick of the Spindle "embraces the fabric of diverse voices who have something to say, say it well, and say it originally." The publication includes some of the most intense and darkly funny poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, and literary reviews I've read. The unique and candid voices of the authors ring true, something that every new writer aspires to. 

This has been such a roller coaster of happy feelings. The surprise, the walking-on-air, the breathlessness. I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about it. Nothing compares to seeing your words, your story in print. :0) Thank you, again, to the fabulous, incomparable Peg Alford Pursell (author, mentor, and teacher), for having faith in my "voice." 

ISBN 978-0-307-47747-7 (340 pages)
Egan writes as someone speaks (someone with intelligence and an acid tongue). I have just started the book, but already devoured 50 pages. I knew by the first page, when the protagonist (Sasha) contemplated whether to steal a woman's wallet in the next bathroom stall, that I was dealing with something different. Get this book. Read it. You won't regret it. 

"The Writer's Chronicle" published by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)
September  2011, Volume 44, Number 1
Brand new format for The Writer's Chornicle!  It resembles the style and size of a more traditional magazine (i.e. smaller, sturdier paper, and traditional (i.e. non-staple) binding). I personally really like it much more than before.  
A sample list of the fabulous articles this issue: 
1.) An Interview with Mark Doty (my favorite in this issue!)
2.) Homage to May Swenson
3.) Art, Faith, Mystery: An Interview with Greg Wolfe
A funny note: Check out page 78. Tony Hoagland looks like the twin of the actor, Ed Harris. I can't get over the resemblance!

August 2011

"A Good Man is Hard To Find" by Flannery O'Connor (1977)
ISBN 0-1563-6465-4 (276 pages)
Favorite pieces in this publication:
1.) The River
2.) Artificial Nigger
3.) The Displaced Person
This is my first time reading "The Flan" (my nickname for Flannery O'Connor)...and it won't be my last. I was dumbfounded, breathless, when I first read The River. The darkness, the humor, the rawness of her characters and narrator's voice...well, nothing I've read compares. 
Ms. O'Connor and Shirley Jackson (i.e. The Lottery), were contemporaries of one another, and must have also been kindred spirits.

"A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: Stories" by Yiyun, Li (2005)
ISBN 1-4000-6312-4 (203 pages)
Favorite pieces in this publication (although I LOVED them all):  
1.) Extra
2.) Son
Is it possible to find your doppelganger in literature? We do not look alike, Ms. Li is much more adorable, but her writing style is such an inspiration. In the same way that the celebrated author, Peg Alford Pursell is able to bring intensity, depth, color, and life to her short-short-fiction pieces, Ms. Li creates stories and worlds that exist in the most sparest of forms. I am a great fan, albeit a new fan, of this incredible collection of short stories.

July 2011

"Runaway: Stories" by Alice Munro (2004)
ISBN 1-4000-4281-x  (335 pages)
Memorable piece in this publication: Runaway.
A collection of fictional short stories exploring the "infinite betrayals and surprises of love--between men and women, between friends, between parents and children...". (-excerpt taken from book jacket)
Alice Munro is a superb storyteller. She writes with purpose, each sentence crafted with precision. She is my female Ernest Hemingway.

A memorable piece in this issue: The Flood by Ryan Rivas.
Prick of the Spindle "embraces the fabric of diverse voices who have something to say, say it well, and say it originally." The publication includes some of the most intense and darkly funny poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, and literary reviews I've read. The unique and candid voices of the authors ring true, something that every new writer aspires to. 

"The Writer's Chronicle" published by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)
Summer 2011, Volume 43, Number 6
A memorable article in this issue: Self-Awareness & Self-Deception: Beyond the Unreliable Narrator by Sarah Stone (page 54)

A memorable piece in the April 2011 issue (from their Archive): 
The Third Daughter by Vanessa Hua (April 27, 2011).
"Zyzzyva publishes the best prose, poetry, and visual art produced by West Coast writers and artists...".  Created in 1985, and located in San Francisco, California, Zyzzyva has published amazing writers, both known and unknown. Mollie Giles, Sherman Alexie, and Wayne Thiebaud are just a few examples of the high caliber of work that has made Zyzzyva one of the most sought-after publications.