** denotes favorite book(s) of the month
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – Lucy Knisley : A graphic novel/memoir about growing up as the daughter of food lovers/cooks, this book is sweetly engaging as well as educational, as she includes interstitial recipes in pictoral form (making me think that if all recipes were hand-drawn, I would cook more).
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie : This locked room murder mystery is classic Poirot with memorable characters and a memorable ending, yet I found the ending a bit too tidy and convenient.
Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman’s Life – Nancy Mairs : Mairs writes with vulnerability and honesty about the layers of her life as a woman who is also a mother, a lover, a cripple (her word), an intellectual, an agoraphobe, and more.
**The Name of the Wind – Patrick J. Rothfuss : The length of this fantasy novel intimidated me, but once I got into the rich and beautiful world of clever, musical, magical, brave, flawed Kvothe, the pages flew by (way too fast)!
Wonder – R.J. Palacio : While this book falls into some of the tropes of the “exceptional other” and resolves painful things too cleanly for my cynical/adult tastes, it is still a compassionate look at the nature of empathy and the importance of difference in communities.
Manatees – National Geographic Kids : Did you know manatees have no natural predators and also sleep for 15 minutes at a time before they have to go to the surface to breathe?
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed – Philip Paul Hallie : Hallie’s book about Le Chambon, a village in South France that — led by a charismatic Protestant pastor and his wife — took in hundreds of Jewish refugees (mostly children) during WWII, wanders a bit, overutilizes metaphors, and blurs the lines between the author’s interpretation and the facts, and yet its exploration of ethics, nonviolence, and resistance in violent times are still valuable today.
**Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies – Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch : Royster and Kirsch develop a new framework for feminist rhetorical studies that identifies the unique needs of researching women rhetors, a framework that values critical imagination, strategic contemplation, social circulation, and a wider, more global point of view.
Phaedrus – Plato : This dialogue reveals how Plato’s views of rhetoric have shifted, though his perspective on good and bad, the nature of education, and the importance of seeking after Truth remain solid, particularly in his distaste for the sophists.
**Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman : This novel is a barrel of hilarious fun, even though it’s about the Apocalypse (or rather, the possibility of the end of the world), an event which is much opposed by an angel and a demon–both of whom have gotten used to this old world–, a prophet/witch carrying on the family name, an unprepared witchfinder, and maybe even the Antichrist himself, who just wants to hang out with his friends.
Roman Rhetoric: Revolution and the Greek Influence – Richard Leo Enos : Enos identifies the influences on Roman rhetoric from the surrounding cultures, and how the Romans created a rhetorical tradition that built upon the Greek tradition but focused on rhetoric’s civic function.
Gorgias – Plato : This was the first Platonic dialogue I’ve ever read, and Plato’s views on education, morality, philosophy, logic, and rhetoric still affect how rhetoricians approach the field today.
**Greek Rhetoric Before Aristotle – Richard Leo Enos : Enos looks at rhetoric in Greece before Aristotle, marking the development of the literate mind, the historical events that created the conditions for the advancement of rhetoric, the art of rhetoric, and the conflict between the sophists and the Platonists.
**Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance – Cheryl Glenn : Glenn revisits rhetorical history, identifying the silent and muted women in classical, medieval, and renaissance rhetoric and advocating for new rhetorical strategies to recover more women like them.
Preface to Plato – Eric A. Havelock : Havelock argues that rhetorical history starts before Plato, as Homeric poems and educational culture structured “pre-literate” Greek thought and paved the way for the development of classical rhetoric.
The Courage to Teach – Parker J. Palmer : Palmer writes about teaching as a vocation that involves the minds, hearts, and spirits of both students and their instructors, which is why teachers must tap into their personal identity and integrity in order to teach effectively.
**Voice Lessons: On (Becoming) a Woman Writer – Nancy Mairs : Mairs writes about disability, academia, feminist theory, autobiography, and writing in a way that is personal, vulnerable, thoughtful, and engaging, and I love this book very, very much.
**Born a Crime: Tales from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah : Noah’s memoir about growing up during the waning years of apartheid and the diverse culture of South Africa is masterfully constructed, beautifully written, and equally informative and entertaining.
Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 2 (issues 10-20) – John Layman and Rob Guillory : In these ten issues, we meet the extended Chu family and the web of intrigue grows wider in super fun ways.
**The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas : I haven’t quite found the words to express how truly fantastic this novel is, but Thomas’s complex depiction of a young black woman dealing with the realities of loss, anger, injustice, family (both blood and created), change, and community is incredibly powerful and compelling, particularly in the current sociopolitical climate.
Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson : Samuelsson’s engaging memoir chronicles his adoption from Ethiopia, his childhood in Sweden, and his path through the culinary world as he becomes a world-renowned chef and opens his dream restaurant in Harlem (tip: do not read while hungry).
**Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay : Gay’s memoir is brutally, painfully, and at times beautifully honest as she examines how her body functions as (among other things) a site of trauma, protection, strength, shame, and failure, and through this examination, Gay interrogates our society’s disgust for “unruly bodies,” particularly those of women, that do not fit (both physically and metaphorically) in our ideal social hierarchy.
When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon : While this YA novel felt very YA-y in tone/effervescence/drama, I appreciated its depiction of the various ways that first-generation Indian-American teens engage with the roles of tradition and the culture of “home,” particularly in regards to marriage and familial roles.
**The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture – Glen Weldon : Weldon is on my favorite NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, and this book sounds just like him in all the best ways: snarky yet loving, reserved yet passionate, honest and insightful (p.s. it’s not just about Batman; it’s about nerds, culture, and the changes to both over the last 80 years).
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert : Gilbert’s book doesn’t say anything original about creativity (she’d probably agree with that), but it is both no-nonsense about the work of creativity while also being mystical about creative energy, which can be (at various points) jarring or refreshing and sometimes both.
Dept. H – Matt Kindt and Sharlene Kindt : This beautiful underwater comic is just beginning and it provides a great mystery, interesting characters, and just lovely artistic renderings of the undersea settings.
**Bellweather Rhapsody – Kate Racculia : Racculia’s novel — which is a mystery set in a hotel during an annual all-state band/chorus event — came highly recommended from some of my favorite internet kindred spirits, and it is delightfully full of complex characters, twists and turns, and a sweet mix of melancholy and joy.
Hallelujah Anyway – Anne Lamott : I love Annie with all of my heart, and while this book isn’t my most favorite of hers (no book can compare with Traveling Mercies), it is a lovely little chat with Annie about mercy, apologies, and moving forward into mercy.
Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell : This book — a novella about those people who waited in line for the recent Star Wars reboot — is charming, nerdy, and very Rowell-ian in all the best ways.
I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections – Nora Ephron : Can I just say, I just absolutely adore Nora Ephron and her sharp humor and engaging writing, may she forever rest in peace (and yeah, I totally forgot that I read this book two years ago, but it is worth re-reading)?
Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel : Bechdel’s follow up to her memoir about her father is a meta-text about the writing and publication of Fun Home that focuses on her relationships with her mother, her girlfriends, and her therapists, and while it is psychologically interesting, it lacked (for me) the authentic searching and pedantic simplicity of the first book.
March: Book 3 – John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell : Even more poignant in today’s political climate, the final volume in the March trilogy depicts the divisions within the civil rights movement, the dangerous work done to register voters, the march in Selma, and the behind-the-scenes politics.
Chew, Vol. 2: International Flavor – John Layman and Rob Guillory : Still good bordering on great, still very weird, still very entertaining.
**The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion : Honestly, this book, about the sudden loss of Didion’s husband and her daughter’s concurrent brushes with death, is a super bummer, but it is truly beautiful and heartbreaking, a treatise on grief, survival, and what we do, cling to, and remember after devastating loss.
Going Public – Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser, editors : This compilation looks at how a variety of institutions have brought their writing programs into the public sphere through different methods and in different contexts.
**Unflattening – Nick Sousanis : Sousanis’s comics dissertation is somehow both esoteric and accessible — and above everything else, beautiful — as he explores the nature of education, image/text, knowledge, and being.
Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice – John Layman and Rob Guillory : This comic is just plain fun, as it combines a cop procedural with dystopian science fiction, set in a world post-bird flu pandemic and peopled by individuals with odd abilities of consumption.
Rhizcomics – Jason Helms : This digital book is interactive and rich with content that identifies connections between classical rhetoric and newer modes of composition while demonstrating (by its very form) what is possible in academic writing.
Bitch Planet: Book One – Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro : This comic narrative is loud and in your face in the best possible way, as it celebrates the diversity of women’s bodies, experiences, and abilities… by way of a dystopian futuristic fight club.
**A Room of One’s Own– Virginia Woolf : Man, this little book is very good, as Woolf discusses the trials and travails of being a woman and a writer in a time when neither is very sustainable, and the combination was nearly impossible.
Very Like a Whale – Edward M. White, Norbert Elliot, and Irvin Peckham : This book is very much about assessment and I very much did not understand it (but will definitely keep it as a resource for when I inevitably am asked to do assessment in the future).
Articulating Dissent: Protest and the Public Sphere – Pollyanna Ruiz : Ruiz’s book looks at how different protest groups communicate their protest both internally and externally, and while her analysis is apt, the composition of the book leaves something to be desired.
Here – Richard McGuire : McGuire’s book is indescribable but incredibly beautiful, as it explores the history and lifespans of places and the people who inhabit them.
Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies – Asao B. Inoue : Inoue argues that we need to work to create classrooms and writing assessments that are intentionally and explicitely antiracist, which he does by crafting a classroom that is collaborative and negotiated by the students.
A Rhetoric for Writing Program Administrators – Rita Malenczyk, editor : Composed of chapters written by those who know their particular subjects well, this book discusses the various components of a writing program from the roles of students and placement tests, to departmental politics, to assessment and research, making this a valuable resource for anyone in WPA work.
Violence: A New Approach – Michel Wieviorka : Wieviorka outlines new theories of violence centered on the varied meanings that violence provides (or does not provide) for the actor, and how those meanings dovetail with the actor’s construction of his own subjectivity.
**Building Stories – Chris Ware : A truly astounding piece of storytelling, this compelling/funny/devastating narrative comes in ten literal pieces of different sizes and lengths, meaning the path through the story/ies is circuitous and undefined rather than linear.
The Managerial Unconscious in the History of Composition Studies – Donna Strickland : Strickland explores the infrequently discussed administrative aspect to writing program administration, looking at the job as one of middle management in a hierarchical workplace.
The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration – Theresa Enos and Scott Borrowman, editors : This book is heavy on the perils and light on the promise, but glimmers of hope can be found (if you squint your eyes and cross your fingers) throughout these real-life reflections on WPA work, written by those who lived through it.
A Torch Against the Night – Sabaa Tahir : The second book in Tahir’s series is slightly less engaging than the first, but she compellingly deepens the ramifications of the complicated relationships between those resisting the Empire and those bound to protect it.
The System of Comics – Thierry Groensteen : Groensteen’s book takes the analysis of comics even further, delineating concepts like general and restrained arthrology, the spatio-topical system, and, y’know, other things that would be confusing even if this hadn’t first been written in French.
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel : Bechdel’s memoir is just as good the second time through, as I was able to identify the various ways Bechdel weaves her narrative together through a combination of repeated images, stylistic components, and literary references (Groensteen would call this general arthrology…I think?).
Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters – Mallory Ortberg : Mallory Ortberg (of the now defunct website The Toast [edit: she’s back on Twitter!]) knows how to be both funny and smart, and this book is basically the hugest literary inside joke ever published.
A Communion of Friendship: Literacy, Spiritual Practice, and Women in Recovery – Beth Daniell : Daniell’s study of the literacy practices of a group of women in Al-Anon reveals the spiritual component embedded in reading and writing, as the group learns about themselves and their community through texts both read and composed.
Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson : Robinson’s first novel reads like a daydream: quiet, hazy, focused on the feeling of places rather than what happens in those places.
An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir : This compelling YA novel is Hunger Games-esque but expands its dystopian world beyond brutal challenges to show how culture, magic, and family all impact resistance.
**My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer – Christian Wiman : Wiman’s poetic meditation on faith, suffering, and hope is unflinchingly honest and beautiful about the pains and joys of being an artist, a human, and a lover of Christ.
The Wretched of the Earth – Frantz Fanon : Fanon talks about the cycle of violence perpetuated by oppressors and inherited by the oppressed in the process of colonization/decolonization.
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art – Scott McCloud : McCloud’s book provides a way and a vocabulary (however limited) with which to discuss and critique the art of comics, and he also draws himself in a t-shirt with a lightning bolt on it.
On Violence – Hannah Arendt : About the nature of violence and power, Arendt’s work is somewhat outdated and yet still foundational in the study of violence and protest.
Krazy and Ignatz, 1935-1936: A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy – George Herriman : Herriman’s distinctive style and ambiguous depictions of gender and race provide significant fodder for critical discussions of comics in general, and Herriman’s comics in particular.