What Are You Reading? NaNoWriMo Edition.

On Facebook today, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender (of the excellent Refund, among many others), suggested that during National Novel Writing Month, every participant buy a novel as well as write one. If each one of the estimated 300,000 NaNoWriMo writers bought a novel as well as wrote one, that would be awesome. “Just a thought,” Karen said.

A great thought, I say. NaBoReMo I will call it, because short story collections are my obsession right now. Also, I like to spice it up with some nonfiction once in a while too. With reading, I flail around.

To get your book buying show on the road, I present a novel, a nonfiction book and a short story collection that I’ve read and loved recently that you might like to discover as well. I only review books I like, and I read widely across genre and style. In other words, welcome to my reading mosh pit of delight.

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The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin by Kim Ban croft

This inspiring book is not just a history of Malcolm Margolin and his independent publishing company Heyday Books. It’s the story of the development of the greater world of independent publishing, of California, of increased awareness of Native California concerns and history. This is the story of energetic and talented people doing some of the most important work publishing can do in our culture. I found this an uplifting read about an approach to publishing that seeks to ask what one can give rather than what one can get. As Malcolm Margolin retires, I highly recommend reading this account of the Heyday story from its beginnings.

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The Best Horror of the Year Volume 3 Edited by Ellen Datlow

I read this collection in one long road trip between Utah and Sacramento, which was an enjoyable reading experience if there ever was one. I read a story about two scientists running into an ancient evil in the desert while in the actual desert. I read another about a small town’s response to a post-apocalyptic demon invasion while traveling through actual small towns. It freaked me out. Each story is unique, all amazing writing. Not for the squeamish or the tender-hearted. I’m just glad there are 6 more volumes I haven’t read yet because I am seriously addicted.

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The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer

The Children’s Crusade begins with a doctor buying land in what will become the Silicon Valley in the mid-fifties after returning from the Korean War. Bill is traumatized, driven and yet kind-hearted as he and his young wife Penny build a home and a family. The drama of the novel lies in the ways even good people can injure one another behind the facade of the admirable family. I recognized in Penny a narcissist with insufficient sense of her own identity to have the generosity necessary to mother four kids, especially one as troubled and active as the youngest. I was fascinated by the pages when Bill and Penny and the kids spend Thanksgiving with Penny’s aging parents and we glimpse the sterility of her own upbringing. This is a complex, purposeful story about characters that feel very real.

Reading is the most important thing. Then writing. That’s what I think. Otherwise, there is no point. What are your suggestions for book buys for NaNoWriMo?

Maureen O’Leary Wanket is the author of How to Be Manly and The Arrow, and has a story featured in The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women.

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