E.B. Bartels

Nonfiction mafia.

Category: Books

“How I Stopped Being Afraid of My Own Brain” on Electric Lit

For the full piece, see it on Electric Literature.
Published on May 8, 2019.

My grandmother, Genevieve Beckers Bartels.

Writing nonfiction is always personal, in my opinion. You are putting your thoughts, feelings, and point of view out there, even if you are hiding behind the safety of research or criticism. This essay that I published today on Electric Literature is, at its core, a book review, but it is also the most personal thing I have published to date.

Thank you for reading it, and for your thoughtfulness and your care with this subject matter. A special thank you to my editor, Jess Zimmerman, who helped me so much with shaping this piece and clarifying my ideas, and, of course, thank you to my dad who helped me with this essay, and with so many other things, more than he realizes.

But if you only take one thing away from this piece, it better be that you need to go out and buy and read Marin Sardy‘s book The Edge of Every Day ASAP!

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GOOD GRIEF!

It’s official!!!

On January 30, I sold my book Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! My editor is the wonderful Naomi Gibbs, known for editing many incredible books, including some of my favorites from the past couple years: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee, Tango Lessons: A Memoir by Meghan Flaherty, and After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, a Daughter’s Search by Sarah Perry. A publication date is not set yet (likely sometime in 2021) but the one thing I know for certain now is I have to turn in a complete draft of the book by the end of January 2020. HERE WE GO!

2018 Reading Round-Up

Happy first day of 2019, everyone! You know what that means: time for my annual reading tally for the past year. So, as is tradition, here is the breakdown of what I read in 2018, my top 18 books that were published 2018, plus some of my reading resolutions for 2019.

Thanks for the graphics and stats, GoodReads. Shocking that no one else has read “My Pet Died” by Rachel Biale.

 

WHAT I READ:

THE GENRE BREAKDOWN:

  • Fiction: 19
  • Nonfiction: 43
  • Graphic novels/comics: 9
  • Graphic memoirs/nonfiction: 7
  • Poetry: 15
  • Drama: 1
  • Young adult/middle grade: 6
  • Picture books: 37*
  • Books that I had already previously read: 6**

*Most of these were for research. I swear.

**Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood, Black Mass by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

THE DEMOGRAPHIC BREAKDOWN:

  • Books by women of color: 39
  • Books by white women: 50
  • Books by men of color: 14
  • Books by white men: 26
  • Books by non-binary people of color: 1
  • Books by non-binary white people: 1
  • Books by LGBTQ folks: ~26

THE REASON-FOR-READING BREAKDOWN:

  • Books for research purposes: 30
  • Books by Non-Fiction by Non-Men authors: 14
  • Books for the Nobles English curriculum: 9
  • Books for my true crime book club: 10
  • Books for fun/other reasons/just for the hell of it: 74

E.B.’s TOP 18 BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2018:

I am really glad that I am doing this tradition of my top [xx] books published in 20[xx] because it means I get to add one more book to my list each year. HOWEVER: narrowing my list of books read this year down to only 18 was still brutal, so please appreciate the pain I went through to bring you this blog post. Now, without further ado, my top 18 books published in 2018, organized alphabetically by author’s last name.

  1. Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (October 23, 2018)
  2. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (April 17, 2018)
  3. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (October 2, 2018)
  4. How To Sit by Tyrese Coleman (September 1, 2018)
  5. My Own Devices by Dessa (September 8, 2018)
  6. Freshwater by Awaeke Emezi (February 13, 2018)
  7. Movers and Shakers by Hope Ewing (October 9, 2018)
  8. Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty (June 19, 2018)
  9. This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (January 30, 2018)
  10. Sick by Porochista Khakpour (June 5, 2018)
  11. If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (August 7, 2018)
  12. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (February 27, 2018)
  13. How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery (September 25, 2018)
  14. Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray (July 24, 2018)
  15. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (February 6, 2018)
  16. There There by Tommy Orange (June 5, 2018)
  17. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister (October 2, 2018)
  18. My Dead Parents by Anya Yurchyshyn (March 27, 2018)

E.B.’s READING RESOLUTIONS for 2018:

  • I want to continue reading more and more books by people of color, and my goal for 2019 is to read a majority books by people of color. (This year, of 137 books, 80 were by white people and 57 were by people of color.)
  • I also want to keep reading more and more books by nonbinary people and LGBTQ folks. This year I read work by two nonbinary individuals and 20% of the authors I read were LGBTQ, which is okay, I guess, but could definitely be better.
  • I want to make sure my true crime book club reads more diverse writers as well! (So many white people love to write about true crime.)
  • Like last year, I need to keep paying attention to who is writing the books I am reading for research and diversify the voices I am quoting in my own writing.
  • And, as always, I want to continue to remind myself that if I don’t love something I am reading… I don’t have to finish it!!!! This is a reminder for you, too!

Here’s to more amazing books in 2019!

“‘Good and Mad’ Helped Me Understand The Woman Who Makes Me Angriest” on Electric Lit!

For the full piece, see it on Electric Literature.
Published on October 24, 2018.

I am proud to have another piece up on Electric Literature today, but especially this essay because EVERYONE should read Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. Not only is the book inspiring, it also helped me figure out some of my issues with my grandmother.

A big thank you to Jess Zimmerman, for publishing me again, and to Jaime Green, for all her editorial support/feedback/encouragement on this essay!

“Sy Montgomery Wants Us to Embrace Our Inner Animal” on The Millions!

For the full piece, see it on The Millions.
Published on September 18, 2018.

I am really excited to have this essay up today on The Millions because I am absolutely obsessed with Sy Montgomery’s new memoir. Her book, How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, comes out on September 25th, and everyone should buy it, read it, and follow its advice. (Don’t worry, there will be plenty of copies available at Newtonville Books, where How to Be a Good Creature also happens to be my most recent staff pick!)

 

2017 Reading Round-Up

Happy new year, devoted blog readers! While 2017 was a total disaster in a lot of ways, it was, at least for me, a great year for books. Here’s the breakdown of what I read this past year, my top 17 books that were published 2017, plus some of my reading resolutions for 2018.

WHAT I READ:

THE GENRE BREAKDOWN:

  • Fiction: 11
  • Nonfiction: 29
  • Graphic novels/comics: 5
  • Graphic memoirs: 9
  • Poetry: 8
  • Drama: 2
  • Young adult/middle grade: 6
  • Picture books: 40*

*Most of these were for research purposes. There are a lot of kids’ books out there about how to cope with pet death, FYI.

THE DEMOGRAPHIC BREAKDOWN:

  • Books by women of color: 22
  • Books by white women: 56
  • Books by men of color: 4
  • Books by white men: 28
  • Books by LGBTQ folks: 18

THE REASON-FOR-READING BREAKDOWN:

  • Books for research purposes: 52
  • Books for the Nobles 9th grade English curriculum: 4
  • Books for fun: 54

E.B.’s TOP 17 BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2017:

I would just like to say that a lot of really great books were published in 2017. Narrowing it down to 17 was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. This list could have easily been twice as long, but “34 books published in 2017” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. But, ugh! Making choices is so hard! Sigh. Anyway, let me present to you, my top 17 books published in 2017, in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

  1. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  2. How To Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron
  3. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
  4. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
  5. Hunger by Roxane Gay
  6. Fetch by Nicole J. Georges
  7. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
  8. Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
  9. Alfie (The Turtle that Disappeared) by Thyra Heder
  10. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
  11. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
  12. Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo
  13. Yawn: Adventures in Boredom by Mary Mann
  14. A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise by Paula Merlán
  15. Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
  16. A Girl Walks into a Book by Miranda K. Pennington
  17. After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

E.B.’s READING RESOLUTIONS for 2018:

  • I need to pay more attention to who is writing the books I am reading for research and try to diversify the voices I am quoting in my own writing. (Turns out there are a lot of white ladies who like to write picture books about pets dying.)
  • I need to continue to read more books by people of color and LGBTQ folks. (Especially men of color. That 2017 statistic was shameful.)
  • I didn’t tally the exact numbers, but I know that most of the books I read this year were by American writers (Scaachi Koul was one of the most “exotic” as she is, gasp, Canadian) and I want to try to read more work by international authors.
  • And I want to continue to remind myself that if I don’t love something I am reading… I don’t have to finish it. I’m going to die before I get to read everything on my To Read list on GoodReads, so, live it up. Life is short. Read what you want to be reading.

Here’s to a 2018 full of even more great books!

 

Review of Fen by Daisy Johnson

For the full essay, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on May 9, 2017.

I woke up at 3 a.m. to pee the other night. This was not unusual. I like to drink tea before bed, and I usually wake up at least once in the night to relieve myself. What was unusual was that before falling asleep, I read a story by Daisy Johnson. I dreamt of deep pools thick with eels, of lips dripping with human blood, of an albatross standing on the kitchen table. This time, when I got up to use the bathroom, I was not fully awake, so heavy pressed the dreams. My shadow seemed to move on its own; the walls of my apartment appeared to be breathing. And when I heard a rustling on the other side of the bedroom door, never did it occur to me that it was just my boyfriend, puttering around the apartment after a late bartending shift. I stared at the door certain that a pack of violent foxes was clawing at the other side. I gasped and screamed and, finally, woke myself from the dreams.

Happy New Year! Read more books!

Is your New Year’s resolution to read more books? Are you currently trapped inside due to a blizzard and looking for something good to curl up with?

Check out this great list of recommendations (that I was asked to contribute to! I’m so flattered!) on Fiction Advocate:

“The Best Books to Distract You From the Dumpster Fire That Was 2016”

dumpster-fire

Happy 2017! Happy reading!

Writers You Should Know: Kea Krause

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Kea Krause is a brilliantly talented writer, a genius editor, and definitely one of the best people I know. Her writing is smart and poetic in every subject she takes on––from Great White Sharks to family alcoholism.

I feel so lucky to know her as both a writer and as a friend, and today I am super excited to brag on her behalf: Kea’s essay “What’s Left Behind”––about the largest contaminated body of water in the United States, a flooded copper mine in Butte, Montana––was published in The Believer last fall (read an excerpt here). Her essay was subsequently picked up by the Best American series, and today is the big day––the Best American series 2016 is out now on your favorite local bookstore’s bookshelves!

So go out and buy The Best American Science Writing 2016 right now and read Kea’s essay! Oh, I’m sorry, you’re not really into science writing? That’s okay, because Kea’s essay is also featured in The Best American Travel Writing 2016. No big deal.

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Here is Kea in The Best American Science Writing 2016…

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… and here she is in The Best American Travel Writing 2016!

Congratulations, Kea! So proud of you!

Review of So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

For the full essay, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on May 23, 2016.

So-Sad-Today-175x250

I used a prayer card from a wake as my bookmark while reading So Sad Today by Melissa Broder. It happened accidentally—I went to a memorial service for someone I cared about, and, in wanting to keep her close, slid her prayer card into the book I was carrying with me at the time, which happened to be So Sad Today. But it feels fitting.

2016 has been a bad year for people dying. A lot of people whom I love and admire have left this planet, and we are only one-third into the year. It makes me sad, and it makes my heart beat too fast at night as I think about who will go next. I try deep yoga breathing, I try counting backwards from a hundred, I try taking a swig of NyQuil, and, when none of that works, I get up and read So Sad Today. Reading about Broder’s own anxiety and depression makes me feel better and less alone. I’m writing this review in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking too much about death. That also feels fitting.

AllisonandAJontheAT

Together hiking the Appalachian Trail from April to October, 2015!

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