Bibliohio: Recommended Reading from the Heart-Shaped State

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories," Rebecca Barry

Why you'll love it:

We've all seen happier-than-thou self-help books that discuss perfection in life. Rebecca Barry's latest, "Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories," is emphatically NOT that. Instead, through tongue-in-cheek "How to" chapters and recipes, Barry offers us vignettes from her personal life that make no attempt to hide chaos or confusion. Funny, self-deprecating and authentic, Barry shares the joys and frustrations of being a writer.

See for yourself:

"I thought of when we first came here, how all we thought we wanted was a simple, beautiful life, but what we ended up with was a rich, messy life - a much more expansive kind of beauty. … I always thought finding a life you love would make things easier, but the truth probably goes something more like, Yes, follow your dreams! But they will kick your ass."

-from "How to Turn Your Bitterness into Something Sweet," page 287

"Poor Anima," Khaty Xiong

Why you'll love it:

In one of her poems, Khaty Xiong sees boxelder bugs trapped in her windowsill, describing their "bodies/ thudding the glass, let me in or let me out." So many of Xiong's poems in "Poor Anima" are concerned with boundaries, fences and interiority versus exteriority. Much of this sensitive collection speaks to the poet's parents or family, grappling with war, immigration and the way languages and cultures bump up against one another. "Poor Anima" is both delicate and deliberate, sparse and strong.

See for yourself:

"The first time/ she told a story/ it was not/ from pages.// That summer/ I picked many/ buckets of chilies.// I became what I heard/ bearing secrets/ because they said// it had to be done-/ it is not sad."

-from "Ballad"