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Nouns & VerbsNouns & Verbs by Campbell McGrath

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Campbell McGrath's poetry is full of images of the American landscape - from Florida coastline to august Western mountains as well as long stretches of highway, gas stations, convenience stores, diners at midnight and even the most minute, mundane detritus of everyday (e.g., a crushed beer can, a dead fly). But his poetry also considers what it all means, not just how it looks, from our obsession with money and capitalism to the place of poetry in it all. A stirring, vibrant collection surveying his career. Highly recommended.



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Thoreau's MicroscopeThoreau's Microscope by Michael Blumlein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A short collection of short pieces by a medical doctor and science fiction author. The title piece is definitely the strongest, an essay in which the author discusses Thoreau's philosophy of science while contemplating his own mortality and battle with lung cancer. The stories focus on the idea of what it means to be alive and what defines that. The book concludes with an interview by fellow science fiction author Terry Bisson. A good introduction to a smart author whose background only strengthens his authority.



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The NeedThe Need by Helen Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An intense novel about the fears that come with becoming a mother. When Molly is home alone with her two young children, an intruder enters the house and the intruder knows more about Molly and the kids than can be possible. Creepy and terrifying, this is a sharp, tightly written novel about a mother's worst fears for herself and her children.



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I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading LifeI'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Serious readers will recognize a lot of what Bogel discusses in this brief book of short essays about reading. For a while, Bogel lived next door to a public library and, while she was already a reader, this experience shaped her profoundly. She discusses bonding over books, the joys and lessons of keeping a reader journal, and the powerful role books play in people's lives.



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FenFen by Daisy Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A collection of short stories about women in rural areas dealing with life, love, men, sex, and parenthood. Living a bit removed from civilization, these women often interact with animals in strange, almost magical ways. Beautifully written.



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100 Poems100 Poems by Seamus Heaney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Seamus Heaney wanted to publish a collection of 100 poems that would represent his vast body of poetry, but he did not complete it in his lifetime. His family took over the project which has become this book, a beautiful collection of poems to celebrate a life dedicated to the craft. It can serve as an introduction to this great beloved poet.



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The Escape RoomThe Escape Room by Megan Goldin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Four high-powered Wall Street workers are summoned to an "escape room," an elevator in an incomplete office building. There, they are faced with clues about some reprehensible things from the past. The structure of the storytelling gives away a lot of the suspense and the action drags. The characters are all unlikeable (terrible, greedy one-percenters) and, while that's not a dealbreaker, I need them at least to be interesting. The premise was enough for me to finish it but I found it tedious and disappointing.

{I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher.]



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The Witches Are ComingThe Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Lindy West follows up her excellent book Shrill, which inspired a Hulu show of the same name, with an equally strong collection that examines and excoriates the current political and social climate - Trump and toxic masculinity, climate change, racism, privilege, and our popular culture's messages.
She writes powerfully about the need to truly face the challenges we face and not merely hide behind the lies of those who want to exploit us. Highly recommended.

[I received an advanced e-galley of this book through Netgalley. It is due to be published November 5, 2019.]



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Zen: The Art of Simple LivingZen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyō Masuno

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A short simple book in which a Zen monk gives 100 pieces of advice for bringing more Zen calm and joy into your life. Each tip takes up a single short page paired with a simple line drawing. I was pleased by how many of the tips were practical, not just focused on mindset, but on simple things you can do to make life a little better. A useful, worthwhile book.



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Tales from the Inner CityTales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A collection of short stories in which animals and their interactions with people in cities play a vital role, each story punctuated by a piece of Tan's gorgeous surreal art. The stories challenge our perceptions of reality and our place in the natural order. Beautiful and brilliant. Highly recommended.



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