'Tis the season to be shopping — and if you're going to indulge in a bit of seasonal commerce, you might as well do some good while you're at it. Supporting the Denver literary scene isn't just about keeping the dollars you spend local — it's also a way to encourage that scene's continued existence.
And everyone loves a good book, especially when it's chosen with some insight into the recipient and what they'll happily devour on a snowy Denver day, curled up in the comfiest of chairs with a hot beverage of their choice and just enough light by which to read. In fact, that's what you're really giving someone when you give them a book: the quiet ambience of that moment. The opportunity to go anywhere without having to take off their fuzzy socks.
While you're doing some good by choosing books over whatever the big corporate monoliths are pushing this season, double down on that positive karma by spending your cash at local bookstores. Tattered Cover had to close several of its stores recently, in part because of a downturn in sales courtesy of Amazon. And Tattered is by no means the only store that can use the business. We're suggesting a local bookstore for each book below, so get out and get shopping!
The Last Ranger, by Peter Heller
Available at Tattered Cover Colfax, 2526 East Colfax Avenue
Best-selling author Peter Heller is one of our state's best tale spinners, rooted as he is in both the literary and environmental worlds — the perfect match, one might argue, for a Colorado author. His latest novel, The Last Ranger, might take place in Yellowstone National Park, but the spirit of the story — an enforcement park agent who likes wolves more than most people — is all colorful Colorado.
A Journey to St. Thomas: Tales for Our Times, by Josiah Hatch III
Available at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder
Here's a holiday treat that can last well into January and beyond. Denver author Josiah Hatch III, currently an adjunct professor at the University of Denver, brings all the acumen of his impressive past — from an Oxford scholar to a Smithsonian Museum administrator to a Georgetown lawyer, speechwriter and political aide — to one of his first loves: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. His new book takes after that classic tome; A Journey to St. Thomas: Tales for Our Time carries with it all the same whimsy and wisdom. Hatch recommends the experience for a couple reading the book aloud to each other — the perfect literary way to spend a long winter's nap.
Adoption Unfiltered, by Sara Easterly, Kelsey Ranyard and Lori Holden
Available at the Bookies, 4315 East Mississippi Avenue
This important work of adoption-support nonfiction launched in early December; it's available at many venues around Denver, but it was the Bookies (which will still be at its original location at 4315 East Mississippi through the holidays) that was on hand to sell copies at that widely attended launch event, so chances are good that the store still has copies on the shelf — maybe even signed by the accomplished authors, all adept in the adoption arena.
Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, by David Slayton
Available (with some autographed!) at Tattered Cover locations
Denver author David Slayton loves him some fantasy fiction — but he never saw himself in those stories. So like any writer worth his pen and ink, Slayton wrote the story he wanted to see in the world. Westword profiled that novel, Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, upon its All-Saints-Day release at Tattered Cover, and talked with Slayton at length about LGBTQ+ representation in a genre well loved by many in, and allied with, that community. So yes, it's an important cultural touchstone — but just as important, it's a great story of heroism and sacrifice.
Fourth Wing or Iron Flame, by Rebecca Yarros
Available at West Side Books, 3434 West 32nd Avenue
Speaking of fantasy fiction, Colorado author Rebecca Yarros has hit the tops of the TikTok with acclaim for her first novel in the Empyrean series, Fourth Wing, propelling it up the charts to hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The second in that series, Iron Flame, has just hit shelves and is causing a similar fan-favorite stir online. Check out why, whether you're on TikTok or not: The series has already been picked up for adaptation for Netflix, and it just might be the next big thing.
For anyone who really, really, really loves their bike:
Mountain Biking the Colorado Trail, by Michael Henry
Available at bookshop.org
Michael Henry isn't just an avid cyclist — he's also half of the one-two powerhouse punch of Denver literary leadership that founded Lighthouse Writers Workshop (the other half is his wife, the equally awesome Andrea Dupree). Henry took a break from writing poetry and providing a place for all things prosaic to write this friendly read on bike-packing the Colorado Trail. It includes bike-specific information missed by other Colorado Trail guidebooks, and is also an experiential resource for unready riders. The publisher, Bower Books, suggests purchasing a copy at bookshop.org, a cool online vendor that allows you to name a local bookstore to support with your buying dollars. Pretty cool.
For goths or local history buffs (and especially for goth history buffs):
The Scenic History of Denver Cemeteries, by Phil Goodstein
Available at Capitol Hill Books, 300 East Colfax Avenue
Notorious local historian Phil Goodstein — he who walks the streets of Denver giving tours of the spooky and the sordid and telling stories of the city — already has a number of books under his belt. This latest collection is the first of three Goodstein has planned; we spoke with him about the vision for the series this past October, the season most conducive to graveyard gab-fests. But hell, it's always a good time for a graveyard gab-fest, isn't it?
Twenty Acres: A Seventies Childhood in the Woods, by Sarah Neidhardt
Available at the Bookies, 4135 East Mississippi Avenue
The memoir Twenty Acres from Colorado-born author Sarah Neidhardt recounts her family's move from Colorado Springs to the isolated wilds of the Arkansas Ozarks, where they pioneered a homestead in bohemian counterculture style. Whether you lived in a yurt or just had to trade chocolate for carob now and then, any child of the ’70s will recognize themselves in this book.
The Me You Love in the Dark, by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona
Available at Time Warp Comics, 3105 28th Street, Boulder
Colorado comic book lovers know there is a strong, growing force in the good ol' four-color medium that's right in our own backyard. Local artist Jorge Corona (also responsible for the gorgeous visuals on the highly acclaimed series Middlewest) returns to a partnership with Skottie Young for The Me You Love in the Dark, a gothic romance between an artist and the mysterious haunted-house muse with which she shares a bond. It's indie comics at its best, and lots of stores in the area — Time Warp perhaps most of all — have signed copies available.
Barely Half in an Awkward Line, by Jay Halsey
Available at Agape Editions website
Note to all local bookstores: Carry the work of local authors like Jay Halsey. If stores expect community support, they have an obligation to support that community, as well, and that means stocking copies of books like Halsey's Barely Half in an Awkward Line. Halsey is one-half of the local literary power couple rounded out by Hillary Leftwich, who earlier this year created the first annual Indie Author and Small Press Book Fair at Counterpath. The new edition of Halsey's book, which Westword contributor Susan Froyd previewed in 2022, is available through Agape Editions. Buy it there for anyone who loves impressionism, lived experiences and a deep dive into the psyche.