Welcome back to Off the Shelf, a monthly tasting menu of everything literary the Winning Edits team has been devouring!
In this column, I take you on a literary-culinary tour of the Winning Edits team’s bookshelves.
The New Year brings with it an opportunity to set new goals and habits, to make a fresh start . . . but for us at Winning Edits, some habits never change. Like constantly finding and devouring awesome books, blogs, and other great written content.
Our first Off the Shelf installment of the year is a diverse grab bag of storytelling, from fiction and memoir to biography, short stories, and even some blogging goodies. We hope it inspires you toward your own reading adventures in 2018!
Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language
Wretched Writing, by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras, is a schadenfreude-inducing collection of what Production Editor David Grabowski describes as “the absolute worst writing you’ll ever come across. And this is writing that has actually been published.”
Wretched features a panoply of objectionable writing, sorted into categories including “adjectives, excessive use of” and “zoological sexual encounters, as supplied by politician-writers”—all of which, according to David, actually “made it past the desk of real-life editors and went out to offend the masses.”
Although he was “a little suspect when this surprised me under the Christmas tree this year,” he’s come to revel in the book’s depiction of “the sheer breadth of ways the English language has been mishandled. It’s incredible. I’m shocked there hasn’t been a sequel yet.”
When Breath Becomes Air
Sometimes the best stories are real ones that remind us of our fragility and mortality. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is the memoir of a rock-star neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36, and died before the book was finished. “Wow,” says Managing Editor Karen Beattie succinctly. “This book packs a punch. It’s a beautifully written meditation on finding beauty and meaning in the midst of suffering.”
“The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”
From books to blog posts: Senior Web Producer Mindy Holahan Peters recently immersed herself in Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog post, “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking.” This “incredibly detailed look” at the most recent, delightfully divisive entry in the Star Wars canon “walks us through how the movie takes our expectations of what a Star Wars movie should be, and how it uses those expectations against us.
“Whether you liked the movie or not—both he and I did—it’s an excellent lesson in how to evaluate a piece of fiction.”
And it probably goes without saying, but major spoiler alert.
The Secret Lives of Color
Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Color has entranced our new Project Manager Sara Jane Hess: “This book is so interesting in that it takes an everyday subject—color—that most of us don’t give much thought to, and tells the history and significance of a variety of different shades, hues, and dyes. It’s a surprising page-turner that is educational, wonderfully written, and fun to read.”
Heck, it’s worth checking out merely for the delighfully dotty cover design.
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you don’t have a soft spot in your heart for the Little House on the Prairie series of novels, well, we’re not sure exactly what to tell ya. Karen has also been diving into Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Growing up in Iowa, I loved reading the Little House on the Prairie novels when I was young. This book tells the deeper, more factual story of the Ingalls family, and what really happened on the American frontier in the 1800s.”
The Duke and I
Who’s up for a little romance? Mindy is also reading the Bridgerton series of romance novels by Julia Quinn, starting with the first, The Duke and I, “after encountering a lot of podcasts and essays that argue that reading romance novels is a feminist act—it’s a genre primarily written by women for women and has typically been dismissed as being ‘lesser than.’”
Says Mindy, “They are totally outside what I would usually read. I don’t like the genre generally, but I’m giving it the good old college try in an effort to expand my horizons.”
Does she love the books so far? “No, but I like them—and more importantly, I think I respect their place in the world a whole lot more than I once did.”
Even if he doesn’t end up making a vice presidential run on Oprah’s ticket, Tom Hanks should still have a future in . . . fiction? Uncommon Type is a collection of short stories—and a big one, at that, at nearly 400 pages—by the uber-famous actor, one that’s caught Sara Jane’s attention this month. “Turns out Tom Hanks can write . . . and pretty well!” she tells me. The stories in Uncommon Type feature an array of characters “that are relatable and find themselves in situations that cause even the reader to pause for some self-examination.”
The cutest part? “He gives a little extra Tom Hanks touch by weaving in his love for typewriters into each story.”
And if writing or politics don’t work out? There’s always that acting thing to fall back on.