Stefanie Brook Trout

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Great Reads 2016

With every New Year, I like to call out my favorite books that I read the previous year. (Find my 2014 list here and 2015 list here.) This year, I am compiling another top books list for 2016, but this time, there is one clear standout and a handful of honorable mentions.

Again, the idea is to list the top books that I read in 2016. Most of what I read was not actually published in 2016. All the books on this list received five-star “it was amazing” ratings from me on Goodreads. The runners-up are listed in the order in which I read them, not any kind of ranking.

Book of the Year337907

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I never ended up writing a review about this book, though I had intended to as soon as I recovered from the reading experience. The problem with reviewing House of Leaves is that any formal consideration of the book lends itself to dissertation-level thoughts that would have to be expressed in dissertation length to do it any justice. It took me years of trying to start House of Leaves before I finally committed and gave up my winter break to it. And by it, I mean madness. To read this book is to question your own sanity. It changed my idea of what literature is/does while avoiding gimmick with flawless execution.

Runners Up28282

Election by Tom Perotta

My Goodreads review: “A fun book – great read for a Presidential Election year.”

I don’t know if I would have felt the same sentiment had I read the book in December instead of February, but I’m going to let the comment stand.

15811496Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

My Goodreads review: “So good!”

If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s work before, you must read Cooked. It’s a wonderful exploration of food culture that will challenge you to take your relationship to food to the next level. If you haven’t read Michael Pollan’s work, I don’t know that this is the best place to start. Check out some of his earlier work first, but keep Cooked on your to-read list.

17707989Brown Dog by Jim Harrison

My Goodreads review: “Though each of the six novellas could stand alone, I really enjoyed reading them together as a collection. I had to take breaks to read other books between the novellas because there is a decent amount of recapitulation in each one, but I loved having all of them together in sequence. Harrison is one of my heroes, and I’m glad that we can still learn so much from him through his writing.”

934329The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Achievement Gap for American Children by  E.D. Hirsch Jr.

My Goodreads review: “Anyone with a stake in the American educational system—so, all Americans but especially educators, educational policy makers, parents, and advocates—should read this book. People who haven’t read a lot of pedagogy might find the writing a bit dry, but it’s the best written (and least bogged down in jargon, abstraction, and vagueness) book on education that I’ve ever read, so if you have had to read a lot of pedagogy, The Knowledge Deficit will be a page turner! I want to hand it out to every teacher, administrator, and politician I know.”

13533747The Wake (The Sandman #10) by Neil Gaiman

My Goodreads review: “After ‘really liking but not quite loving’ most of the volumes of this series, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the way Gaiman closed his story. I look forward to rereading the series and have a feeling I’ll appreciate it even more with additional passes.”

If you’re a reader of graphic novels, then I’m sure you’ve already read The Sandman, but if you aren’t, it’s time to check the Dream King out. I was never “into comic books” until the used book store in Ames moved away from downtown and a new comic book store moved in. I wanted to support my Main Street bookstore, even if most of their books are illustrated. For me, The Sandman was a gateway into a whole new type of storytelling. I highly recommend to anyone who likes good literature but isn’t “into comic books” yet.

12502523Breakfast of Champions by  Kurt Vonnegut

My Goodreads review: “Listen: You might not like this book if you have a problem with illustrations of assholes and wide open beavers. The assholes look something like this: *. You’ll have to read the book to see the rest of the illustrations. You might like this book if you have chemicals in your brain that make you like Vonnegut, his illustrations, his characters, and his dark humor. And you might like the way he gives the plot away in Chapter 1 and defines useful terms like legume for the reader. You might like that this book prominently features Kilgore Trout.

“And so on.”

22522808Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

My Goodreads review: “A wonderful collection, mostly short stories with a few narrative poems here and there. As in any collection, there were a few pieces that I didn’t enjoy as much, but there were many more great ones.

“I really enjoyed Gaiman’s introduction, which includes a brief note on each of the pieces. You can certainly appreciate the ‘disturbances’ without any backstory, but as I writer, I always love reading notes like these.”

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What’s missing from this list? Authors who aren’t white men! I do make sure to include women writers and writers-of-color in each year’s reading list, but this year none of the ones I chose made it to five-star status. Looking forward to 2017, I’m planning to devote a lot more of my reading time to these underrepresented authors with the hope that I’ll be able to feature them in next year’s New Year post. Feel free to shoot me any recommendations you might have.

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In addition to tracking my books read and books-I-want-to-read on Goodreads, last year I made a Pinterest board to track them as well, and I’m doing it again this year. Check out my Books Read in 2016 board here and my Books to Read in 2017 board here.

Happy Reading in 2017!

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Fracture on Michigan Radio

Yesterday, Michigan Radio featured an interview with me and Fracture contributor Maryann Lesert on their Stateside program. We discussed fracking, the book, and our upcoming events in northern Lower Michigan. Listen here.

More Michigan Fracture Events

IMG_0495Here are a couple photos from our April event at Lansing’s Everybody Reads. Sorry about the quality; we did have a professional photographer attend our Creston Wellness Center event, and I hope to share the photos from that soon.

Here also are a few more dates for upcoming Fracture readings in Michigan. As always, they are free and open to the public!

Saturday, August 6 – Traverse City, Michigan

Join us at the Horizon Books for a reading and book signing with contributors Stephanie Mills and Maryann Lesert as well as yours truly.

Details on the Horizon’s event page.IMG_0498

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with me as well as contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills.

Details on the UMBS event page.

Tuesday, September 20 – Lansing, Michigan

In partnership with Lansing Community College’s Science Department, Schuler Books (Eastwood) hosts the monthly discussion group Cafe Scientifique, an outreach program to promote public interest in science. This September, the group will discuss fracking and Fracture with contributor Maryann Lesert as their honored guest.

Find a list of Cafe Scientifique’s past events here.


There are still more events in the works, and on Thursday, I’m going into the studio with Maryann Lesert to talk to Lester Graham, host of Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. I’ll post those dates and a link to the interview when I have them!

A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s (newly redesigned!) website. Be sure to follow both the book and the press on Facebook to keep up with the latest news, and tweet at us @icecubepress, @fractureanth, and @brooktrouting.

The Fracture Tour Continues

UWy

Photo by Taylor Brorby at our U Wyoming event

Here’s an update on our Michigan Fracture events, all of which are free and open to the public.

There are a couple more in the works—I’ll let you know when we have the details for you!

 

Tuesday, May 10 – Grand Haven, Michigan

Join us at the Bookman for a reading and book signing with contributors Stephanie Mills and Maryann Lesert as well as yours truly.

Details on the Bookman’s event page.

Tuesday, May 24 – Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Creston Wellness Center will host an evening of music by Sarah Barker and Max Lockwood as well as readings by contributor Maryann Lesert and myself. With just one week left to gather enough signatures to put fracking on Michigan’s 2016 ballot, the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan will be on site with petitions.

Find details about this event here.

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with me as well as contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills.

Details on the UMBS event page.


A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s website.

Fracture on Tour

Since early February, my co-editor, Taylor Brorby, and many of our contributors have been sharing Fracture with audiences across America–from Pennsylvania to Colorado, from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Texas, and all across Ice Cube Press’s home state of Iowa and Taylor’s home state of North Dakota. Though Ice Cube Press is a “Midwest Book Publisher,” fracking and its impacts know no such geographical distinctions.

I’m looking forward to joining the tour in April, traveling throughout my own home state of Michigan and even all the way to Laramie, Wyoming. All events are free and open to the public.

Stay tuned for additional Michigan events (including Harmony Brewing and Creston Wellness Center in Grand Rapids, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and Schuler Books in Lansing) as we finalize dates, but for now, you can plan on the following opportunities:

Tuesday, April 12 – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids Community College‘s School of Arts and Sciences and English Department will host an evening of music by Sarah Barker and readings by contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. Details on our Facebook event page.

Saturday, April 16 – Laramie, Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Creative Writing Program will present an all-day event devoted to Fracture, including readings, presentations, and book signings with contributors Kathleen Dean Moore, Rick Bass, and Antonia Felix as well as both editors. Find details about this event here.

Saturday, April 23 – Lansing, Michigan

Everybody Reads will host a reading with contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. I’ll update this post with a link to the event page soon.

Tuesday, August 9 – Pellston, Michigan

The University of Michigan Biological Station will host a reading and discussion with contributors Maryann Lesert and Stephanie Mills as well as me. Details forthcoming on their event page.


A frequently updated list of past and upcoming readings can be found at the bottom of  our page on the publisher’s website.

Fracture in the News

Fracture officially released February 14, and there has been a lot of great media coverage of the book since then, including a review in Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, an interview in Orion Magazine, and conversations with public radio.

One recent article we’re excited about is an online review by Thomas Fate for the Chicago Tribune. Here’s an excerpt:

Fracture includes a wide variety of voices and thinking, which is what keeps the book from slipping into what anthologies of social critique can become — cycles of guilt-laden lament, where the language of the activist overwhelms the language of the artist. In Fracture these two viewpoints somehow converge rather than compete, resulting in an innovative and compelling weave of writers who both educate and inspire.

Fracture will also be featured in their Sunday edition.

Another recent article worth calling out is by Adam Burke for Little Village magazine. In addition to promoting tomorrow’s reading at Prairie Lights, Burke sought to understand the significance of the book through the experiences of the editors and contributors. He interviewed both Taylor and me, plus three of our contributors, beautifully illustrating the range of perspectives and motivations you’ll find in Fracture.

“Bringing a book like Fracture into the world is important because our society needs to cultivate healthy, productive ways to talk about big contentious issues like hydraulic fracturing,” Trout said, adding, “We have not attempted to represent every side of the issue, but we have aimed to provide context for conversations about fracking and to illustrate just how complicated the issue is.”

Ice Cube Press frequently updates this page with links to reviews and local and national media reporting on the book.

Fracture Trailer: The Sequel

Fracture features the voices of more than fifty writers. Preview two of them—Debra Marquart and Frederick L. Kirschenmann—in our second book trailer.

 

Fracture Trailer

 

We are less than two weeks from our official release date, and those of us who have had the privilege of working on the book are thrilled to share Fracture with the rest of the world.

Enjoy this trailer by videographer extraordinaire Ana Hurtado and my co-editor, Taylor Brorby:

 

And now get yourself over to Ice Cube Press to order yourself a copy!

Great Reads 2015

Last year, I called out the top five books I read in 2014. This year, I am compiling another top books list for 2015, but I’ve thrown in a little twist by selecting a top book in several categories.

Again, the idea is to list the top books that I read in 2015. None of them were actually published in 2015.

vonneBest Short Story Collection

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, I often claim to prefer novels to short stories, but Vonnegut is a master of both. Look no further if you’d like to see just how large a story can be communicated in just a few words.

jcoBest Novel

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

I wrote a six-paragraph review of this one for Goodreads, so I’m just going to share a tiny piece of it here: “It’s blow-your-mind good.”

Find the rest of the review here.

zooBest Essay Collection

Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit
by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Each chapter of this book is an essay exploring a different connection between humans and non-human animals with great insight and expertly precise language, and though there is lamentation, there is also hope.

Read the rest of my review here.

feastBest Memoir

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
(The Restored Edition edited by Seán Hemingway)

Here’s another one that I waxed poetic about in my Goodreads review. Here’s a link if you’re interested in my ramblings.

soulMost Innovative

Soul External: Rediscovering the Great Blue Heron
by Steve Semken

Placing the soul externally is not difficult. Just figure out how and where.

This is the future of nature writing at the intersection of fantasy, myth lore, natural history, personal essay, philosophy, and even theology. It’s pastiche with several quotations celebrating the authors that have influenced Steve the most—from Edward Abbey to Robert Wolf—as well as full-color illustrations and typography by Andrew Driscoll and poetic text formatting that often had me wondering: what is this book I’m reading? Beautiful is what it is. It’s the kind of book that you won’t ever see as a mass market paperback. It’s far too precious for that. It’s a gift to all those who can’t live without wildness.

fracBest Book-That’s-Not-Out-Yet
(or Best Multi-Genre Collection)

Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America
by Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout, editors

I know it’s probably gauche to include my own book on my annual “Tops” list two years in a row. If you’d read Fracture, you’d know why it deserves to make this list, but you haven’t because it’s not out yet! Don’t take my word for it. Ask those who have gotten a sneak peak at the collection, like Mary Evelyn Tucker who says, “This stunning collection of essays, poems, and fiction is gripping and illuminating. […] Indeed, no where else has such a gifted group of writers been assembled for a clarion call to awakening for our future generations.” Preorder your copy here.

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I faced a few dilemmas in coming up with this list.

The first, though these really aren’t in any particular order, is that I really wanted a “Best Graphic Novel” or “Best Sequential Art” category, but I really couldn’t decide. I’ve dabbled in four different series this year, and Neil Gaiman easily wins with the Sandman, but which volume? Number 5, A Game of You? Or #6, Fables and Reflections? I’m really not that concerned about it, but I wanted to acknowledge that I did, in fact, read enough comic books to warrant a subcategory here, but my indecision won out again.

On the other hand, I didn’t read enough poetry collections in 2015 to really have a “Best Book of Poetry” category. This year, my poetry mostly came in small doses: in anthologies, literary journals, and online. So with that in mind and looking toward the future, one of my 2016 goals is to read more poetry, starting with the two books on my to-read shelf. Then I’ll have to go out and actually buy more poetry, which I should be doing anyway.

Likewise, I really didn’t read much Murakami in 2015. How tragic! There’s another 2016 goal: must read more Murakami.

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So what were the best books you read in 2015?

Fracture Galleys

Galley BoxThe Fracture galleys are in!

My co-editor Taylor Brorby, our publisher Steve Semken, and I are hard at work proofing these advanced copies, and we can’t wait to share this powerful book with you. But we’ll have to wait because we want it to be perfect for you. Ice Cube Press will release Fracture on February 14, 2016.

In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @fractureanth.

And while you’re at it, here are some more great pages to follow for Fracture updates:

And, of course, you can find me Tweeting (or sometimes not Tweeting) @brooktrouting.