On the Shelf: Pam Houston

The week’s recommended reading and culture from Orion authors and artists.

There are so many terrific books this spring I can hardly believe it. You may already know about Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which deserves every bit of the attention it is getting, but any second now When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams will be out and I think it might be Terry’s wisest book ever. Toni Morrison’s tenth novel Home comes out in a few weeks and it is my ardent belief that every sentence we get from our number one national literary treasure should be, well, treasured.

Possibly the best first novel I’ve ever read will be out in June, but you can preorder already: Christian Kiefer’s The Infinite Tides is glorious writing about space travel, mathematics, and grief. Also in June, Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden is a devastatingly personal reveal of the poisonous secrets surrounding the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. At the risk of undermining my credibility, I’ll also tip my hat to John D’Agata’s The Lifespan of a Fact. Love him or hate him, he’s got people talking about what art is and is not capable of, and about truth, small and capital T.

Finally, I know it probably doesn’t count as media, per se, but I would be remiss, on these opening days of the 2012 Major League Baseball Season without saying that I am super jazzed about 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, earning himself a place on the Colorado Rockies starting rotation and having the opportunity to become the oldest pitcher to ever win a game in the majors.

Pam Houston is the director of creative writing at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of five books, including, most recently, Contents May Have Shifted, out now from W. W. Norton and excerpted in the January/February 2012 issue of Orion.


  1. I second that on the new Terry Tempest Williams book!

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