Five Contemporary Books I’ve Given to Other Writers as Gifts More Than Once

by a contributor

from Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, author of Said the Fly Killing Itself Trying to Escape thru a Closed Window, Completely Ignoring the Open Door:

  1. The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing edited by Kevin Young
    I have given more Kevin Young books out as gifts than any other writer (I LOVE HIM), but this anthology of grief he edited is a true masterwork. Stunning poems from a diverse selection of writers that cover so much of the complicated landscape of grief. It has brought me comfort during tough times, and I hope it does the same for the writer pals of mine to whom I gift it.
  2. A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell
    Portland-based writer Kevin Sampsell’s stun gun of a memoir is striking because of its form: the story is told through numerous, extremely short chapters (often just 1 – 3 pages long), frequently based on one memory or event. But isn’t that what memory is really like? Memory fragments which when stacked together form the picture of our lives? The effect is startling and fresh and goddamn inspiring.
  3. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
    Sometimes poets can’t help but fixate on a person with their writing—an old flame, a parent, a child, etc…—and while writing about that person is something they find creatively stimulating, they can’t help but wonder if all the obsession will look embarrassing when shared with the world. Enter this book, Ted Hughes’s decades-long catalogue of poems about a beautiful, harrowing and tragic relationship with Sylvia Plath. Gorgeous, specific and reassuring to anyone who can’t shake a muse.
  4. Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
    Klosterman’s love letter to—no joke—heavy metal. Klosterman’s smart, studied and most importantly sincere meditation on the importance of this genre (which is more often than not derisively seen as joke) in American pop culture and in his own life. Whenever a writer tells me, “I love to write about this topic, but I worry that I’ll look like a dork / no one will care” I give them this book.
  5. Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! by Peter Davis
    Sometimes a writer is in a good place and a gifted book is just there to help explode more joy bombs. Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! is such a wonderful, absurd and honest look at a writer’s brain. Poetry about poetry about poets about life. So funny. So true. So wonderful.
  6. Runners Up: I Love Science by Shanny Jean Maney, Candy Freak by Steve Almond, Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly, Mother Said by Hal Sirowitz, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and In The Small of My Backyard by Matt Cook