Ryan's Picks

Ryan started at Malaprop’s in May 2017 after relocating from Wisconsin. He recently completed his MFA in creative writing at Bennington College. 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.

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Tonight I'm Someone Else: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250170194
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Holt Paperbacks - June 5th, 2018

Hodson's writing is so unforgivingly precise, that it makes me nervous. If you read only one book of essays this year, you'd be well to read this one.

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The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316715973
Availability: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - July 2002

This book contains everything Breece D'J Pancake ever wrote during his tragically short career. Pancake writes about West Virginia as someone homesick for a place he cannot return to. His characters have lived in such habitual desperation that success and mobility feel suspect. Read it in parts, or in one sitting. Just be sure to leave time to take a walk afterward to decompress.

The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture Cover Image
ISBN: 9781619025998
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - September 15th, 2015

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.

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 - 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: Not Currently On Our Shelves. Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - 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.

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Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374142742
Availability: Backordered
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.