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Our summer recommended reading list

August 20, 2020

We hope you’ll enjoy these featured selections from 2020 chosen by our readers and staff. If you missed the pieces in the magazine or want to read them again, just click the links below. Our thanks to everyone who took the time to let us know about the stories, poems, or essays they loved. (To send your own letter to the editor, click here.)

Sparrow’s Guide To Meditation
By Sparrow, January 2020

Meditation teaches that change is constant. You fool yourself into believing that you are a fixed entity, but you are not. You are a river of transforming whims.

Waiting For The Coywolf
By Devin Murphy, January 2020
Read our profile on Murphy here.

I’ve read about a new creature called a “coywolf” — the offspring of a coyote and a timber wolf. That must have been what I saw. Waiting for it to reappear gives me something to do.

Parade Day
By Robert Lopez, February 2020

Today is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. I am watching it on television in Brooklyn while the Puerto Ricans are parading up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Train Songs
By Erin McReynolds, February 2020
Listen to a playlist based on McReynolds’s essay here.

The breakfast rush was hitting its peak when we learned about the dead woman lying not far from Table Four.

How It Ends
By Louise A. Blum, March 2020

It begins like this: You drop your son off at kindergarten. His first day of school. You think that nothing in your life will be as big as this: the moment he drops your hand, he who has clung to you since birth, since that first breath of air, first scream, first frantic rooting for the breast.

The Orange Appreciation Award
By Mark Gozonsky, March 2020

I keep a few backyard oranges mixed in with the baseballs in the bucket I take to practice. Every time one of my teammates peeks in, he’s like, “Oranges?” question mark, when it really ought to be “Oranges!” EXCLAMATION POINT!

Inheritance
By Shuly Xóchitl Cawood, May 2020

My great-aunt was not the type of lady to smoke
out on the porch. No, she lit up in her living room, and up
and down the stairs, and in her bedroom on hot
Mississippi nights with the windows thrown open.

Maryam And Yeshua
By Kate Osterloh, May 2020

Maryam: And then the soldiers — oh, the soldiers. I’d take my time with them. I’d do to them everything they did to you. Maybe I’d leave one or two alive so they could learn how life can be a long nightmare.

Yeshua: I tried to make people see that all we have to do is turn around, leave that whining precious self behind, let it go and see the wholeness of God’s Name, but people want magic and miracles and kings—

Two Weeks After A Silent Retreat
By Heather Kirn Lanier, May 2020

How quickly I lose my love
of all things. I nearly flick an ant
off the cliff of an armchair.

But remember, Self,
the week you spent
enveloped in psalms

intoned by monks?

The Ramshackle Garden Of Affection
By Ross Gay & Noah Davis, June 2020

Dear Ross: How can you miss on purpose? If I’m late getting back on defense, you’ll bounce the ball off the bottom of the rim and catch the “rebound” for a point. Alone under the basket. Missing.

Dear Noah: Bouncing the ball off the bottom of the rim is, as you say, a poorly missed shot, but also a perfectly missed one, because it results in a point in our game, which means it’s a way for me to stay on the court. If there were a way I could stay on the court without cheating — without those perfectly, beautifully missed shots — believe me, I would do it.

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