We’re now a month past the solstice, and summer is in full swing. If you’re reaching the end of a book or bottom of your stack, our writers and editors offer you some smart and award-worthy titles to round out and refresh your summer reading selections.
Profiles Editor Rachel Epp Buller recommends, “This is not a new book, but I just finished reading Terry Tempest Williams’ When Women Were Birds. I appreciated the ways that the author interwove a variety of narratives—personal history, mother-daughter relationship, eco-conservation efforts, and reflections on her mother’s death and its aftermath.”
“Birthing the Mother Writer” Columnist Cassie Premo Steele writes, “It’s been an intense month for me. I got married, the shootings in Charleston, SC (only 90 minutes from where I live) happened, my mom and aunt were in the hospital, a cousin died, I went to the funeral in Michigan, the Confederate Flag came down—and there was the Supreme Court decision that made my marriage legal for more than two weeks. In the midst of it, I turned to a novel—I thought it was about the earth, and wisdom, and would be an escape from all this. It turned out to be exactly the dose of reality and history that I needed, as fiction often is—about class and region and politics, coal mining and the legacies of grandfathers, trauma and the way a boy will process it in his own rough and tender way. The writing tastes like Kentucky bourbon after a long day. The book is The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton.”
Literary Reflections Editor Libby Maxey shares, “I’ve recently finished Karen Skolfield’s Frost in the Low Areas, an award-winning collection of poems that’s readable, memorable, and truly likable. Skolfield’s voice is strongly pronounced, realistic with a comfortable familiarity about it that makes room for a good deal of humor. (Her titles tend to be funny even when the poems aren’t.) There’s no pretentiousness here, however cosmic the reach of her musings; she asks many questions and leaves the door open for mystery, but she grounds her poems with defined characters and concrete experiences, in both the natural and the social world. Those characters and experiences tend to be familial, so there is much here that will speak to the mother reader. The title selection is a plain and poignant vignette in which the speaker and her husband make pesto on the eve of an early frost while joking about the gap between their life expectancies. In ‘Last of a Species,’ the speaker remembers the newspaper photograph of a nearly-extinct bird that her father had cut out and put away in a buffet drawer, a gesture utterly unlike him. In ‘The Sound Under the Car Can’t Be Good,’ she is haunted by a relentless automotive thwacking reminiscent of children clamoring for attention, ‘a reminder of a woman trying not to hear.’ My very favorite of all might be ‘After Making a Wrong Turn I Become Stubborn and Pretend to Know These Barns.’ It captures perfectly how we—in life and in poetry—insist on identification, how we manifest our faith in whatever we come from by claiming that it defines the world beyond our particular sphere. Skolfield’s poetry is for those of us who don’t mind owning a bit of that stubbornness, who, like the cows banging their heads through mended fences, ‘live in a state of unlost, hoping / for the rare moments of meander.'”