Stefanie Brook Trout

Author Page with Resources for Writers

Tag: nonfiction

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.”

*

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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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.

*

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?

I prefer to get fat on honey

How cool is this? A visual artist created this collage etagami featuring a quotation from “Letters After Achilles,” my essay in Prairie Gold.

fatonhoneyLARGE

Here’s a post about it on the artist’s website.

“Letters After Achilles” Anthologized Again

IMG_0126I’m very excited that excerpts from “Letters After Achilles” was reprinted in Safe to Chew: An Anthology.

You can order a copy on the Wicwas Press website.

 

Fun in the Twin Cities: AWP Events

Are you attending AWP 2015 in Minneapolis?

Please stop by the Ice Cube Press booth at the book fair,  Exhibit Space 119. Also, consider checking out the following featured events.

Wednesday, April 8

AWP Festival of Language 2015
Brit’s Pub Vault, 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

The seventh annual celebration of language and literary arts will feature established and emerging writers in three sets of rapid-fire readings with over 60 participants reading for a maximum of five minutes each.

The festival starts at 4:00 and ends at 11:00. I’ll be reading in the 8:30-10:30 set.

Event details

My Festival Writer publications

ThursdayPG

Prairie Gold Contributor Signings
Ice Cube Press Exhibit Space 119

Two Prairie Gold contributors, Matthew Fogarty and Sarah Turner, will sign books at the Ice Cube Press booth, Exhibit Space 119.

Catch Fogarty from 12:00-1:30 and Turner from 4:30-6:00.

Prairie Gold Reading and Celebration of Midwestern Writing
Subtext Books, 165 Western Ave N, St. Paul

Readings from contributors to Prairie Gold, a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that delves into the nuances of Midwestern identity. The event starts at 6:30 and ends at 9:00. Here’s the line-up:

  1. Lindsay Tigue (poetry)
  2. Matthew Fogarty (fiction)
  3. Sandy Marchetti (poetry)
  4. John Linstrom (nonfiction)
  5. Nancy Cook (poetry)
  6. Stephanie Schultz (poetry)
  7. Sarah Turner (nonfiction)
  8. Michelle Menting (poetry)
  9. Molly Rideout (fiction)

(H/T to John Linstrom for finding links to everyone’s author pages.)

Friday

Prairie Gold Editor Signings
Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment Exhibit Space 1314

All three Prairie Gold contributors, Lance M. Sacknoff, Xavier Cavazos, and I, Stefanie Brook Trout, will sign books from 10:00-11:00 a.m. at the Flyway/Iowa State MFA program table, Exhibit Space 1314.

More about Prairie Gold.

More about ISU’s MFA program in Creative Writing & Environment

Fracture Poster *

Also, Taylor Brorby and I will be spreading the word throughout the conference:

We are still taking submissions for Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. The deadline for submissions is June 1.

Read our submission guidelines and our call for visual art.

Download a larger version of our flier.

“Anthology Delivers Fine Offerings”: A Review of Prairie Gold in the Wapsipinicon Almanac

IMG_0015 2This volume was no doubt a massive undertaking, and the effort has paid off. It will interest anyone who sees who they are as a product of where they are, and will especially appeal to those who sometimes feel that, in the words of Bakopolous, it is “almost too beautiful to bear that rolling countryside without a notebook and pen in hand.”

Pick up a copy of the latest Wapsipinicon Almanac (No. 21) to read more of what Tad Boehmer had to say in his review of Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland.

Also in that issue, check out Robert Leonard’s essay, “Iowa: ‘Land of Enchantment’ – A Literary Manifesto,” in which he discusses Iowa’s cultural narratives and how Ice Cube Press “has done more than any in the past couple of decades in publishing books about Iowa, many of them by Iowans.”

Reading in Ames

Thursday, December 11, 2014, at 7:00 pm
Design on Main, 203 Main Street, Ames, Iowa

Bid a fond farewell to fall semester and celebrate our community of writers at Iowa State with the final Emerging Writers Series event of 2014, hosted by Adam Wright. I will be reading nonfiction about my experiences teaching before coming to ISU. Camille Luera-De-Meyers will read poetry, and Audrey McCombs with special guest Michelle Donahue will read fiction.

Bring a cup of something warm, check out the new artwork in the gallery and settle in for a cozy winter evening of storytelling. Free and open to the public.

Fracture: A Forthcoming Anthology on Fracking

I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am working with Taylor Brorby on a new Ice Cube Press anthology, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America.

Taylor and I are currently seeking new writing that considers the implications of fracking. Submissions are open until June 1, 2015.

Guidelines on the publisher’s website.

You can follow Fracture on Facebook and Twitter.

New Pubs, Upcoming PG Readings, & More

It’s October now. Leaves are changing, the temperature is cooling, my wind chime is getting noisier. At the same time, there have been developments in my personal and professional life. Here are some updates from the latter:

New Pubs

I’m honored to have had not just one, not even two, but three pieces published in the October 2014 issue of Festival Writer. Check out the issue here and then click on my name to view all three of my contributions. These pieces tend to resist easy genre classification. This is how I would describe them:

“Baconer” is a prose poem (with formatting) about factory farming, from the perspective of a pig in a CAFO. Please note that this poem uses plenty of profanity and unpleasant imagery. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, but I think it’s important to know what you’re getting into.

“First Beard” is a nonfiction vignette about my dad, and “Performance Review” is micro fiction. They are so short, I better not say anything else about them (Spoilers!) except that I hope you enjoy reading them.

Upcoming Prairie Gold Readings

As mentioned in a previous post, our Midwestern book tour of Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland will include two October events: one at the Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, Illinois, (Quad Cites area) on October 9 and one at Prairie Lights in Iowa City on October 16. Details:

Thursday, October 9, 2014 – SPECTRA Reading

8:00 pm – Rozz-Tox – Rock Island, Illinois

Our Quad Cities reading will feature fiction by T.C. Jones and Barbara Harroun as well as poetry by Esteban Colon, Salvatore Marici, and Ryan Collins. Part of the Midwest Writing Center’s SPECTRA Reading Series, the event will also include readings by featured poets Lauren Haldeman and Erin Keane. Check out the Facebook event page for more details.

Thursday, October 16, 2014 – Reading

7:00 pm – Prairie Lights – Iowa City, Iowa

Our Iowa City reading will feature nonfiction by Will Jennings and Meghan Brown, fiction by Barbara Harroun, and poetry by Salvatore Marici. Check out the event page for more details.

Video Debut

Since I switched from teaching English 150/250 at Iowa State University to my current position as a communications research assistant at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (also at ISU), I have been involved in a lot of cool multimedia projects. My job includes writing news releases and articles, updating the Center’s website, managing our social media, publication design, and video production. That last piece is such new and exciting territory for me, and I’m thrilled to share the final version of “STRIPS the Movie” (not the official title), a 13-minute video on the conservation practice of prairie strips that was four months in the making. It premiered at the 2014 Extension Energy and Environment conference in Ames and was followed by a Q & A with the researchers. Now that the feature documentary is done, we are in the process of using the extra interview footage to make a series of video shorts that will, among other things, help introduce a broader audience to the STRIPS project.

Goodreads

Our Goodreads Giveaway is still going on. Five free copies of Prairie Gold are up for grabs! The contest closes October 31. Details here.

If you already own the book and are on Goodreads, please take a moment to add it to your shelf, which you can do here. It helps us out when, after reading the book, our fans take the time to rate it, review it, and vote for it on relevant lists. (Contributors: Goodreads recommends that authors write a brief note on the inspiration for the piece in lieu of a review.)

Also, as part of having a book out, I’ve converted my personal Goodreads page into an author profile. It’s the same as before but with a few extra features, like the ability to have “fans” in addition to friends. I only have two fans so far! If you are on Goodreads and a fan of my work, please visit my author profile to make it official. (Lance needs more fans too. Here’s his author profile.)


I have lots of other exciting news I’d love to share, but I’m going to keep my beak buttoned for just a little while longer until details are finalized. So that’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Ames Release Party

Writers’ Voices

First of all, I want to say thank you to Monica Hadley and Caroline Kilbourn at 100.1 FM, KRUU-LP in Fairfield, Iowa, for having Lance and me on the show this past Friday. It was both of our first time on talk radio, and we had a lot of fun talking about Prairie Gold with the mother/daughter duo. Thanks also to Monica for mentioning us on her blog.

If you missed the live broadcast, which also included me reading an excerpt from my nonfiction essay “Letters After Achilles,” they’ll be re-airing it Monday (tomorrow) morning at 8:00 CST. You can listen live on their website.

If that’s just not going to work for you (because you’ll be at work, say, and you’re a responsible employee who stays on task), they’ll be archiving it on Writers’ Voices, so check back there at a later date.

I do want to take the opportunity to make a couple minor corrections to my bio, which has changed since the final draft of Prairie Gold was sent to the printers. While I very much enjoyed my two years as an undergraduate English instructor at ISU, as of May 2014 I’ve (temporarily) hung up my teaching hat and have been trying my hand in a new field: multimedia communications. As the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture‘s communications assistant, I write news releases and feature stories, manage their social media, post updates on their website, design publications like their quarterly newsletter, and other fun stuff like helping produce a video for STRIPS, a cutting edge sustainable agriculture practice.

Likewise, I am no longer the nonfiction or social media editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. In order to give all of ISU’s Creative Writing and Environment graduate students the opportunity to serve on the editorial staff, Flyway positions are one-year appointments. I want to make sure credit for all of the wonderful work Flyway is currently doing goes to the right people: Adam Wright is now the nonfiction editor, and Erin Schmiel has taken over social media.

Of course, you can always find the most up-to-date information about what I’m up to on my Bio/Home page.

Prairie Gold Events

I am pleased to announce three exciting pieces of Prairie Gold news: an upcoming radio interview, our Midwestern book tour, and a Goodreads Giveaway.

Live On the Air

Today, editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will discuss Prairie Gold on KRUU 100.1 FM, the Voice of Fairfield. Stefanie will read an excerpt from her essay “Letters After Achilles.” Listen live from 1:00-2:00 pm to catch the Writers’ Voices talk radio show.

Midwestern Book Tour

Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland is hitting the road! A 2014 Local Wonders Grant from AgArts (Iowa Chapter) is helping to support a book release party in Ames and several readings in cities throughout Iowa. See the list below for all of the event details we’ve nailed down so far. (Download a news release.)

Friday, August 29, 2014 – Book Release Party & Reading

7:00 pm – Design on Main – Ames, Iowa

  • Featuring fiction by Michelle Donahue and Rachel Lopez, nonfiction by Meghan Brown, and poetry by Claire Kruesel
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project
  • Copies of Prairie Gold will be for sale at a special Ames Release Party discount of 15% off
  • Download our Release Party Flier

Thursday, October 9, 2014 – SPECTRA Reading

8:00 pm – Rozz-Tox – Rock Island, Illinois

  • Featuring fiction by T.C. Jones and Barbara Harroun and poetry by Esteban Colon, Salvatore Marici, and Ryan Collins
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will attend and can answer questions about the project
  • Part of the Midwest Writing Center’s SPECTRA Reading Series, the event will also include readings by Lauren Haldeman, Erin Keane, and one more TBA

Thursday, October 16, 2014 – Reading

7:00 pm – Prairie Lights – Iowa City, Iowa

  • Featuring nonfiction by Will Jennings and Meghan Brown, fiction by Barbara Harroun, and poetry by Salvatore Marici
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project

Thursday, January 29, 2015 – Final Thursday Reading

7:00 pm – Hearst Center for the Arts – Cedar Falls, Iowa

  • Part of the Heart Center’s Final Thursday Reading Series
  • More details to come!

Thursday, April 9, 2015 – AWP Reception and Reading

7:00 pm – Subtext Books – St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Featuring poetry by Lindsay Tigue, Sandra Marchetti, Nancy Cook, Stephanie Schultz, and Michelle Menting; fiction by Matthew Fogarty and Molly Rideout; and nonfiction by John Linstrom and Sarah Elizabeth Turner.
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project
  • In addition to the off-site reading, we will also have a table at AWP, so come see us at Booth #119!

We expect to add one more Iowa reading in Des Moines and a few more outside of Iowa, so follow Prairie Gold on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any additional developments.

Goodreads Giveaway

Prairie Gold is on Goodreads, which means you can now add it to your shelf. Have you already read it? Please take a minute to rate and review the book. Don’t have a copy yet? Enter our Goodreads Giveaway contest by October 31, and you could win one of five copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Prairie Gold by Lance M. Sacknoff

Prairie Gold

by Lance M. Sacknoff

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter to win

Book Review on Bryson’s “One Summer”

Bryson

Me and Bill (October 28, 2013)

Last fall, Bill Bryson visited Ames, Iowa, for a reading. As a nonfiction writer, this was a dream come true. If nonfiction writing was baseball, Bill Bryson would be Babe Ruth. As far as I’m concerned, Bryson is a living legend. I contained my over-enthusiasm about meeting him long enough to lob him a question in the Q&A session and to have him sign my copy of his latest book, One Summer: America, 1927. At the time, I hadn’t actually read the book yet–it’s over 500 pages, and I’m in graduate school–but this winter, I finally sat down with One Summer, and I hardly came up for air until that “one hell of a summer” had ended.

In short, it was fantastic. For the long version, check my book review for Flight Patterns, the Flyway blog.