Ryan's Picks

Ryan started at Malaprop’s in May 2017 after relocating from Wisconsin. He is currently studying for an MFA in creative writing at Bennington College (June ‘18). He’s been privately listening to a lot of radio pop music lately, and he finds that curious. His sparse moments of free time are spent hiking and camping with his wife, Lissy, and their scoundrel mutt, Lando.





Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060930479
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - March 19th, 2002

Denis Johnson had that rare ability to bring humor to incredibly depressing situations without trivializing human suffering. Here, he ridicules his own impatience in "An Anarchist's Guide to Somalia." There, he skewers his own shortcomings as a reporter and lampoons the role of foreign journalists in "The Small Boys' Unit." Seek is like Heart of Darkness meets Ian Frazier's Hogs Wild. Or, like travel writing about places you never want to visit, complete with self-deprecation and cultural context.

In the Garden of the North American Martyrs Deluxe Edition: Stories (Art of the Story) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062393845
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - June 23rd, 2015

What I enjoyed most about this collection is the way Tobias Wolff changes your mind without resorting to clever tricks. In almost every story, my sympathies shifted. Take for example the story "Hunters In the Snow" (named for the painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder). The story follows three hunters, Tub, Frank, and Kenny. Throughout, Wolff subverts malicious humor to demonstrate the (spoiler alert) fatal effects of self-absorption.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060915414
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - October 15th, 2013

Dillard's collection of essays addresses many of the same themes as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. What is the meaning of our ceaseless pursuit of sublimity? Is it possible to change how we view the world? Wouldn't it be better if we were all weasels? Ok, ok, I'm being facetious. But there really is an essay in there, it's the first one, called "Living Like Weasels." It's my favorite in the collection.

My Misspent Youth: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250067654
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - November 3rd, 2015

Know what I can't stand? New Yorkers who act like everyone who doesn't live in NYC desperately wants to. Know what else I can't stand? Wall-to-wall carpet, band geeks, air travel, creepy utopian cults, etc. But, somehow, when Daum writes about these things, she manages to transcend pettiness and analyze why she dislikes these things. What does your obsession with hardwood floors say about you and your concept of class? How the heck should I know? I'm just a bookseller.

Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250132154
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - June 13th, 2017

I'm paraphrasing here, but Vivian Gornick once referred to Ted Hoagland as one of the only nature writers that appealed to her NYC sensibility. Well, I'm here to say Ian Frazier is one of the only NY writers who appeals to my midwestern sensibility. (He even has a book called Great Plains all about the Midwest, dontcha know.) Hogs Wild is a collection of Frazier's reportage and nature writing, much of which appeared first in The New Yorker. Frazier is a master of the metaphor, and that's most apparent in his nature writing. His essay “Hogs Wild” isn't really about hogs. His essay about horseshoe crabs isn't really about crabs.

Crossing to Safety (Modern Library Classics) Cover Image
By Wallace Stegner, Terry Tempest Williams (Introduction by), T. H. Watkins (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9780375759314
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Modern Library - April 9th, 2002

This book makes me homesick. Not just because Wallace Stegner describes sledding on my childhood sledding hills in Madison, Wisconsin, but because he describes friendships in a way that's central to who we are as people when we're at our best. There is nothing scandalous in these pages, nothing controversial besides, perhaps, unflinching fidelity. This is a book about lives lived well, fully, and without regret.

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Tenth of December: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812984255
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade - January 7th, 2014

This short story collection explores issues of class by focusing on individuals and their response to cultural challenge and expectation. It's poignant without being preachy. Funny without being trite. In Tenth of December, you'll find an author using hypothetical, fantastic premises to analyze the motivations of Americans. Also, you'll never think of geodes or lawn ornaments the same. Bonus track: there's an interview with David Sedaris in the back!

The White Album (FSG Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374532079
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - November 10th, 2009

If the theme of Didion's 1968 Slouching Toward Bethlehem was "Who are these people and what do they want," then the theme of her 1979 collection, The White Album, was "Where did the social experiment go wrong?" It's not exactly jaded. More like, reflective. Also, "In Bed" is my all-time favorite Joan Didion essay.

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374142742
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus and Giroux - September 5th, 2017

I try to read one book about writing every semester. McPhee's Draft No. 4 has been one of my favorites. What I like most about it is how specific it is to writing nonfiction. This book was not written for broad appeal. But if your goal is writing long-form essays, it's invaluable.