Yes, 2020 is going to go down in history as one of the suckiest years of complete suckitude ever to suck sucks. But there have been a few precious high points among the many lows: democracy in action, some happy days home with family and friends that would have otherwise been spent at work, and these ten books that still somehow got published in our long, sick wartime of a year. So thanks and congratulations go to these ten Colorado authors, who managed to put out work that kept us company and filled our hours with worthwhile reading — and could serve as some kick-ass local gifts for your socially distanced holidays.
As you check out this list, notice that several are available from one specific outlet only. For the rest, please remember that all our local bookstores — that’s Tattered Cover, BookBar, Boulder Book Store, Cap Hill Books, Mutiny Information Cafe and more — happily take and ship orders. Support these books, their authors and local retailers; it’s a way to make your holidays a little brighter and bring a literary smile to someone’s face. Merry reading!
Winter Counts, David Heska Wanbli Weiden
This novel has already been recommended by literary voices from all over the spectrum, from Buzzfeed to Publisher’s Weekly, so I’m not breaking any new ground here by saying you gotta read this book. David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s debut novel is, according to fellow author Tommy Orange (There, There), “a marvel…a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth…a brilliant meditation on power and violence and a testament to what a crime novel can achieve.” If you’re thinking of this as a gift for someone, do yourself a favor and buy two: You’ll want to keep one for your own shelf.
Colorado’s Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000 Peaks, John Fielder and Jeri L. Norgren
Any new John Fielder book is going to garner some attention, especially here in Colorado during the holiday season. And this one, Colorado Highest, is no exception. Fielder’s fantastic photography of the natural world and Jeri L. Norgren's writing portray the stories and the history behind the names of the 58 highest mountains in the state.
A Gospel of Bones, Suzi Q Smith
It might be sneaking under the 2020 wire as a pre-order, but Denver poet and performer Suzi Q. Smith’s much-anticipated collection of poetry, A Gospel of Bones, is worth getting in line for. According to Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre, the collection is “how survival transfigures into testament” and “how cultural memory never forgotten is remembered.” Reserve a copy for a poetry-loving friend (or you!) at the Alternating Current Press website.
Consumed: Tales Inspired by the Wendigo, Denver Horror Collective
In the grand tradition of murderous blade-wielding psychopaths who just keep coming, the Denver Horror Collective is back with a followup to its smash hit Colorado horror fiction anthology Terror at 5280’. Consumed: Tales Inspired by the Wendigo contains stories of the Wendigo, a half-human, all-monster beast that instigates acts of chaos, greed and cannibalism. The legend of the Wendigo is said to originate in the oral tradition of First Nation Algonquin tribes, and 20 percent of all book profits will go toward Southern Ute Indian Tribe coronavirus relief.
Longmont: The First 150 Years, Erik Mason
The coming year of 2021 will mark the sesquicentennial of Longmont, and who better to write up its long and storied history than Longmont Museum Curator of History Erik Mason? Through text and over 300 historic photographs, the book explores the origins, people, places and stories of Longmont. It's currently only available through the Longmont Museum website.
Bite Size, BookBar/DCPA
The first book launched from BookBar Press is Bite Size: An Anthology of Micro Theatre. We go into more depth on the book — exclusive, as you might expect, to BookBar — in our interview with the shop's owner, Nicole Sullivan, about her hopes for the new small press. But to keep it brief: If you need a gift for someone who loves theater, loves independent presses, loves to support local bookstores, authors and culture in general, this little book of ten collected short plays by Colorado playwrights is a can’t-miss.
The Gringa, Andrew Altschul
The Gringa tells a story about the telling of a story — specifically, by a young disillusioned writer who’s tasked with a biographical article on an American who became a Peruvian activist…or was she a terrorist? That question is at the core of CSU Director of Creative Writing Andrew Altschul’s third novel, and the way his main character wrestles with how to tell the story of “La Leo” is both engrossing and illuminating for the state of America in the world today. The Booklist Starred Review says the novel “…challenges the boundaries between activism and insurrection, fiction and reality ... a captivating depiction of passion, disenchantment, and hope gone violently awry.”
Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, John Gierach
If you have someone in your life who’s an aficionado of the piscatory arts, then you probably already know the work of Lyons, Colorado writer, philosopher and master fly fisherman John Gierach. His newest book, Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, is Gierach’s latest entry in his Fly Fishing Library, and is an easy catch for that angler who always just asks for a box of fish hooks.
A Nomadic Art Museum: Black Cube, 2015-2020, Hannah James & Cortney Lane Stell
Looking for a book that isn’t just about contemporary art, but supports it as well? Maybe something that looks as good on a coffee table as the art it proudly displays in its sewn case-bound cover? Maybe something that’s limited in its run, so it will itself be a collectible someday? This gorgeous production from Black Cube ticks all the boxes above and then some, including over eighty artists from 35 situational art projects stretching from 2015 to 2020. It's stunning — and something to inspire a love of art and art itself in the coming years. Order and find out more on the Black Cube website.
Quarantine: Week by Weak, Susannah and Chloe McLeod
And what would a 2020 list be without a mention of the pandemic? This coffee-table book is the brainchild of Colorado photographer Susannah McLeod and her wife, Chloe, and includes over 35 pairs of photographs cleverly comparing the beginning of the outbreak to how we all learned to assimilate to our new stay-at-home reality. You can buy this little local gem online; all proceeds from sales go to support the Denver Actors Fund. If you want to embrace the dumpster fire that was 2020 with a smile instead of a deep and lingering depression? Here's the way to do it, Denver-style.
What Denver books do you think make worthy gifts in 2020? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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