Author Kathryn Winograd’s top 5 book picks of 2013:
The Tender Land: a family love story by Kathleen Finneran
Simply the most beautiful book I’ve read for a long time for language, structure, and story. The kind that brings the pure love of writing and its possibilities. Finneran weaves a redemptive tapestry of grief and love-past and present-as her family mourns the unexpected suicide of her beloved younger brother: “Turning dark, the yard-the world as far as I could see it from my window-was empty of angels. I could hear my father downstairs, talking softly to someone. Would there be enough flowers for him, he had asked earlier. No. Of course not.”
Descanso For My Father: Fragments of a Life (Winner of the Colorado Book Award) by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher
Fletcher creates a beautiful memoir of his father written in the style of an extended “hermit crab” essay¾through the form of a Descanso, the little makeshift roadside memorials for the dead. Segmented, braided, his memoir resurrects his father through a mosaic of ordinary objects: windows, branch, root, crucifix, broken angels: “For most of my life, my father has been this to me: a silver-haired snapshot, a tarnished ashtray, a broken sword, and a jumble of anecdotes doled out by my mother to the five of us children.”
On Looking: Essays by Lia Purpura
A poet’s poet’s collection of essays on, indeed, “looking.” The ordinary world transformed into an amalgamation of spirit made flesh and flesh made spirit. Only for the true lover of poetry and its associative, metaphoric, sublime language: “The mitral valves sealing like the lids of ice cream cups. And heavy in the doctor’s hands, the spleen, shining as if pulled from a river.
How easily does the body opens.
How with difficulty does the mouth in awe, in praise. For there are words I cannot say.”
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
Science for the layman and the poet. Science writer for the New York Times, Angier takes the difficult concepts of science and illuminates the sublimity of our “ordinary” world: “Glaciers have gripped nearly the entire globe in a snowman’s nelson; and sumptuous tropical forests of towering club mosses and gingko trees, millipedes as long as men are tall, and dragonflies with a falcon’s wingspan. . .”
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Best-seller, named Best Book of the Year by at least 60 media organizations, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an amazing tour de force of investigative journalism that recreates the life of the African American woman whose cancer cells were taken from her and used without her knowledge across the world in medical experiments. The book crisscrosses familial generations, politics, racism, scientific discovery and deception with the warmth and humanity of a good storyteller: “There’s a photo on my wall of a woman I’ve never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape. . .I’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity.”
Kathryn Winograd has been the recipient of a Colorado Book Award in Poetry for Air Into Breath, a Colorado Artist Fellowship, a Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute Associateship, and a Colorado Endowment for the Humanities Grant. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, received a Special Mention for Pushcart Prize XXXVIII, and a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. She is the author of three teacher reference books, including Stepping Sideways Into Poetry (Scholastic). Kathryn’s collection of essays Phantom Canyon: Essays of Reclamation is forthcoming from Conundrum Press in February 2014.Tags: Author Picks, Best of 2013, Kathryn Winograd