At Least We Have Books

More than a handful of times over 2020 I said to myself, “At least we have books.” Here are some of the books I read this year that stand out as the gems. A good book is such a gift to the soul.

The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore and Zoe Bossiere: I love reading, writing and teaching flash nonfiction. It consistently astounds me how much life can be conveyed in 750 words or less. This book highlights 84 of Brevity Magazine’s best essays over the last 20 years. My covid work and parenting/online schooling facilitation life leaves minimal time for reading. One stunning flash essay a day brings dignity and beauty. Feels like mercy. Like an exhale. A slice of art. Hope.

Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor: I love supporting local writers, and Sheila O’Conner is a Minnesota treasure. Her book, which is a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, imagines a life of her maternal grandmother who was institutionalized for getting pregnant outside of marriage. It is a compassionate and creative excavation of a cruel society and stunning collage of family secrets.

Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Antiracist Literature Instruction for White Students by Carlin Borsheim-Black and Sophia Tatiana Sargianides: I am thrilled to see so many titles about antiracism on the best seller lists. I found this book to be priceless as a writer and educator. Carlin and Sophia clearly address how to name Whiteness as the under-explored default in famous literature and center Whiteness in race conversations in a way that is helpful for all of us to move toward effective antiracist work. The book is highly accessible and successfully ranges from theory to practice.

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay: Ross Gay sets out to write an essay a day for a year with delight as the lens. The form and voice are indeed delightful. We have access to the mind and heart of an artist who is truly awake to his life. His essays, ranging from playful to profound, invite the reader to look again and see that we are walking through a world brimming with opportunity for delight.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed: Cheryl Strayed, after being brave enough to confront her own pain while living with deep trauma and grief, offers her fierce wisdom to advice-seekers struggling with fear, anxiety and confusion. Her honesty, insight, humor and tough love cut straight to the bone, inviting readers to show up to this wondrous life with the courage, tenacity, vulnerability and levity necessary to remain vibrant and human.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: There is a good reason this book has sold over a million copies. I found Natalie Goldberg’s voice instantly refreshing. She approaches her writing like a Zen practice. Writing is part of my spiritual practice, and this book nourished me and encouraged me as a writer and a teacher of writing.

What were your favorites this year?