By Elizabeth DiNovella on December 15, 2012

"Blasphemy" by Sherman Alexie (Grove)

This big book of short stories includes some that have been published in previous collections. But there's enough new stuff in here to make it worthwhile. Does anybody else write about longing in such a funny way?

"This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books)

Díaz returns to his first love, short stories, in this latest collection. I had read most of these in The New Yorker, but still couldn't help but to read them again. His prose remains dazzling as ever, and somehow he manages to make despicable characters, such as his alter ego, Yunior, likeable.

"When My Brother was an Aztec" by Natalie Diaz (Copper Canyon)

Dark, sensual, and humorous, Diaz writes poems about her tribe and family. Love, poverty, and addiction duke it out. This is her first collection of poetry and hopefully not her last.

"Crazy Salad" and "Scribble Scribble" by Nora Ephron (Vintage)

Finally, two of Ephron's early works have been reissued, and in one volume, to boot. Despite the essays being forty or so years old, they still seem fresh and relevant. So many good lines. A favorite is the essay "Truth and Consequences," where she admits "I am a writer and I am a feminist, and the two seem to be constantly in conflict." Why? "One of the reoccurring ironies of this movement that there is no way to tell the truth without, in some small way, seeming to hurt it." Reminded me of how I feel about labor reporting. Thanks, Nora, I miss you very much.

"How to Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran (Harper Perennial)

This riotous British columnist writes a profane and funny book about being a woman in a messed up, sexist world. She's a proud feminist and willing to say things out loud that usually remain unspoken.

"A Thousand Mornings" by Mary Oliver (Penguin)

Oliver takes us back to her beloved Massachusetts in her latest book of poems. Bees, moths, mountains, rivers, and hurricanes are her characters, along with the stillness that can be found within.

"How to be Black" by Baratunde Thurston (Harper).

This is a hilarious mix of razor-sharp satire, memoir, and social commentary from one of America's funniest dudes. I read the iBook digital-enhanced edition, which contained links to video interviews, some childhood photos, tweets, and most importantly, audio of Baratunde reading his black power speech he wrote in eighth grade. He admits he's a happy progressive and it shines through in his prose.

"Lizz Free or Die" by Lizz Winstead (Riverhead).

The stand up comedian and "The Daily Show" co-creator writes about her life and how she found her voice. Winstead's book is a reminder that, while we do not live in a post-feminist world -- no matter how much popular culture of politicians try to convince us -- we can still laugh at the hypocrisy of it all.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "While Busting Unions, Michigan Legislature Also Finds Time to Regulate Uteruses."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.



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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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