Now is the perfect time to tackle that reading list you've been putting off for months (or years).
Lucky for us, Arkansas writers have produced a crop of delightful and varied novels, children's books, memoirs and more to keep us entertained during this strange and unpredictable time.
As you embrace your inner introvert, we suggest stocking up at a local bookstore. Wordsworth Books in The Heights is offering advance payment and curbside pickup, or free home delivery for purchases over $25. And the Central Arkansas Library System may be closed, but you can still rent audiobooks or e-books or browse magazines without a subscription.
Here are our picks for what to read by Arkansas authors this spring:
"Watershed" by Mark Barr
Set in 1937 in rural Tennessee, with the construction of a monumental dam serving as a backdrop, "Watershed" is part history, part love story, delivering a gripping story of characters whose ambitions and yearnings threaten to overflow the banks of their time and place. The book was named as one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s “12 Southern Books You’ll Want to Read This Fall” and one of Nashville Lifestyles magazine’s “Four Fall Reads.”
"The Tenderness of Stones" translated by Geoffrey Brock
"The Tenderness of Stones," by the young French artist and author Marion Fayolle, is a beautifully illustrated memoir about the death of her father. Fayolle’s gorgeously drawn fable offers a vision of family illness and grief that is by turns playful and profound, literal and lyrical. She captures the strange swirl of love, resentment, grief, and humor that comes as we watch a loved one transformed before our eyes, and learn to live without them.
"The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories" by Kevin Brockmeier
"In The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories," a spirit who appears in a law firm reliving the exact moment she lost her chance at love, a man haunted by the trees cut down to build his house, nefarious specters that snatch anyone who steps into the shadows in which the specters live, and parakeets that serve as mouthpieces for the dead are just a few of the characters that appear, with their spectral emanations and wildly various purposes in (after) life. The tales in this extraordinary compendium are by turns playful, chilling, and philosophical, paying homage to the genre while audaciously subverting expectations.
"Claire, Wading into the Danube by Night" by Jeffrey Condran
"Claire, Wading into the Danube by Night" is a new story collection that explores American lives both at home and abroad in an age of anxiety — a world gone sour with regret, where only the small intimacies that sometimes blossom between people offer any kind of hope or possibility for redemption. In this intense and sophisticated collection of stories, characters travel the world in search of truths that aren’t always comfortable and companionship that doesn’t always make sense.
"Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters" by Emily Roberson
Greek mythology meets the Kardashians in "Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters," a fresh, fast-paced debut young adult novel about celebrity culture, family dynamics, and finding love amidst it all.
"Mr. Catherine" by Stacey Margaret Jones
Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation — and to shelter his pride. As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together. With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals. Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.
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"102 More Things to Eat in Arkansas Before You Die" by Kat Robinson
The collections "101 (and 102 More) Things to Eat in Arkansas Before You Die" offer diners the chance to consume the best each of Arkansas’s regions has to offer, from Delta tamales to Ozark fried chicken, with nods to singular dishes such as Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches’ “The Garden” sandwich, Franke’s eggplant casserole, and Tacker’s Shake Shack’s Sultana Burger. These well-vetted, regionally diverse travel guides answer the supreme question: “What should I eat in Arkansas?”
"Fugitivism: Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820–1860" by S. Charles Bolton
"Fugitivism: Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820–1860" provides a wealth of new information taken from advertisements, newspaper accounts and court records. It explains how escapees made use of steamboat transportation, how urban runaways differed from their rural counterparts, how enslaved people were victimized by slave stealers, how conflicts between black fugitives and the white people who tried to capture them encouraged a culture of violence in the South, and how runaway slaves from the Lower Mississippi Valley influenced the abolitionist movement in the North.
"School Choice: A Legacy to Keep" by Virginia Walden Ford
On a cold winter night in February 1967, a large rock shattered a bedroom window in Virginia Walden Ford’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas, landing in her baby sister’s crib. Outside, members of the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on her family’s lawn. Faceless bigots were terrorizing a child, her parents, and her sisters — all because her father dared to take a job as the assistant superintendent of personnel for the Little Rock School District. He was more than qualified, but he was black. In Ford’s searing new memoir, "School Choice: A Legacy to Keep," lessons and the legacies are explained.
"Pollen: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction" by Darcy Pattison
In "Pollen: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction," readers learn about Charles Darwin’s fascination with the Madagascar star orchid, which led him to an interesting prediction about a moth that took 130 years before it was proven to be true. In 1992, German entomologist Lutz Thilo Wasserthal traveled to Madagascar. By then, the moths were rare. He managed to capture two moths and released them in a cage with the orchid. He captured the first photo of the moth pollinating the flower, as Darwin had predicted it would do 130 years before. The book, which includes the original photo taken in 1992, has been named a 2020 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a Eureka! NonFiction Children’s Book (California Reading Association).
Book descriptions from CALS.
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