Here at Fixin’ To Write we often discuss what we are reading, what we want to be reading, and share book recommendations, so now that we are at the end of our first year of writing here in this space it seems only fitting to share our favorite books of 2017 with you. Not all of these books are new, but they are the ones that engrossed and moved us this year. The list includes something for every reader: fiction, memoir, poetry, and books on writing and health. Whether you are looking for something to read over the holiday weekend or looking for a last minute gift for the avid reader on your list we hope you find what you are looking for on our list. Happy New Year from all of us at Fixin’ To Write!
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
A sudden illness strikes a young woman as she returns home from a short trip to Europe. We enter as the author goes from active and vital, to nearly immobilized by severe neurological symptoms caused by a mysterious pathogen. Early in her long convalescence, a friend brings Bailey (a nom de plume) a pot of wild violets with a tiny snail she found in the woods. Through her observations of the snail and the intense research she undertakes, Bailey gives us a quiet, powerful story of unexpected companionship and surprising resilience.
The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch
Following her TED Talk, “The Beauty of Being a Misfit,” (with 2.2 million views and counting), this book reads more like memoir or a personal essay collection than ‘self-help,’ the category in which it’s placed. Each chapter pairs part of Yuknavitch’s journey as a misfit, which is equal parts dark and circuitous, with those of fellow misfit friends and colleagues, whose stories she elevates. Yuknavitch helps non-misfits better understand their loved ones, while lifting her wings to make space for those who have not yet found their people. You may see parts of yourself in this small, dense book, or you may glean some insight on the friend whose choices you have trouble understanding.
Magdalene by Marie Howe
I first fell in love with Marie Howe’s poetry when she read her poem, “Magdalene—The Seven Devils,” (a part of this collection) on the radio program On Being. In this collection she takes up Mary Magdalene’s patriarchal burden as her own and explores what it means to be a forbidden but desired, abused but revered woman in Western culture.
House of Deer by Sasha Steensen
“The family bought a rural plot & planted a garden. / The family formed thoughts. / Within these thoughts, eggs hatched, animals were born, little wars formed. Each thought said unspeakable things to the other thoughts. / As you know, unspoken thoughts rot.” Steensen’s collection of poems is an exploration of the formation of people into families and words into poems. She reflects on her hippy childhood on a farm in rural Ohio and turns those memories into haunting meditations on meaning, memory, time, and truth. Her new collection is Gatherest, and is on my reading list for 2018.
The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo
How to write with children around, how to remain committed to writing as a daily practice, how to organize all those notes you have—it’s all in this book. You’ll find practical advice, inspiration, a bit of butt-kicking real talk, and relief that there is nothing wrong with you if you’re not writing as quickly as everyone else seems to be.
Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives, edited by Holly Gleason
Gleason brought some of the best music and culture writers together to contribute essays about the most epic women in country music, including Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Barbara Mandrell, and Alison Krauss. Even if country music was the soundtrack of your childhood, as it was mine, you’ll still learn plenty about country’s leading ladies here. What’s most sobering (though not surprising) about this collection is learning who contributed to country music but did not receive all the accolades and royalty checks.
Tracy Walker Morales
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing by Jennifer Weiner
After being a fan of Jennifer Weiner’s fiction for 15 years this memoir seems to sew together the life of all the characters created in her novels. She shares family drama, her road to being published, and lots of personal highs and lows in such a relatable way.
Life-Changing Foods by Anthony William
A comprehensive look at fruits and vegetables for their healing properties as well as nutritional benefit. This book details each item by condition, symptom, emotional and spiritual need. And after that, there’s a recipe for its use. Regardless of your feeling on spiritual/medium work this book is a handy little guide to help discover connections between food and healing.
The Whole Intimate Mess by Holly Walker
In this slim volume, Ms. Walker gives us a searing account of her time in New Zealand parliament while becoming a new mother. A must-read for anyone who is trying to juggle an impactful career in public service or any other sector, and motherhood (which could also be considered public service, when done well!).
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Full of humor and amusing anecdotes, Ms. Vowell’s unconventional take on the Revolutionary War general will make you laugh out loud while realizing how close the United States came to just NOT BEING at all. This tale helps you get to know the great men and women who conceived of the United States, and perhaps appreciate (a little bit) how tumultuous ALL times in history are, at least for those who live in them.
Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
A gift for short story lovers, Ms. Berlin’s collection digs deep into the lives of a diverse set of characters. With wit and tenderness, the author observes and conjures the stories of the peripheral people who are never the subjects of Big Stories.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Devastating memoir of the demise of a relationship and the death of a baby that manages to be uplifting and beautiful despite the difficult subject matter. This expands Levy’s New Yorker essay ‘Thanksgiving in Mongolia’ about losing a pregnancy at 19 weeks into a meditation on relationships, addiction, grief and resilience.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Another devastating memoir, in which Gay charts the history of her body. After she was raped at age 12, Gay turned her body into a fortress to ensure nothing like that could ever happen again. In Hunger she outlines with astonishing honesty and pain what that decision has done to her body and her life.