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When I pick up a new book at a reading, conference, indie book store, I add it to the end of the shelf and pull from the beginning, so there is a few years' lag time. Here are some of my favorite recent reads.

Winterkill by Todd Davis

Michigan State University Press 2016

Winterkill by Todd Davis


I read poetry every day to slow my mind from the day's wheeling. I find Todd Davis's collection thrilling in its precision and humanity, its description of nature's strangeness and accidental beauty.

Here, Davis glides through time in "Geodes"

the shuffling dust rises around our legs,


like the blush my mother used to prime her cheeks

before going out with my father on Saturday nights.


350 million years ago all of this was covered in water,

a tidal flat where nodules formed under the seafloor.


My mother still wears the sparkling brooch my father gave her

I hear the soundfulness of shuffling dust, blush, sparkling brooch, the slant rhyme of covered in water and my father gave her. There is familial tenderness and skillful correlation from dressing for a date night to the Carboniferous hiding glittering minerals.

I am reading a lot of nonfiction on climate change and biodiversity loss, and amid the grief, Todd Davis's poems are just what I'm aching for.


Beasts & Children by Amy Parker


True to the title, Amy Parker's stories are thick with animals and kids, but astonishing animals like pangolins and elephant seals, and kids of diplomats, immigrants and other parents who can't seem to look beyond their own torment.

The stories are riveting, rocket-fueled by characters careening along, and occasionally falling from, the precipice. In one story, two bored and ignored girls skip their diplomatic compound and boom! they're racing through Bangkok at night on a crowded tuk tuk, as unprotected as shell-less snails, in a manic city famous for child trafficking. More than once I realized I was holding my breath.

Parker's prose is gorgeous. She has a poet's ear and an anthropologist's insight into the complexity of culture and familial relationships.

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