Posted by: patriciamar | March 3, 2016

The Alternative Book

Today I want to talk about chapbooks, books of poetry and short, possibly odd, and definitely unique books.

I’ve read a couple of good ones lately, two in  particular that I’d like to recommend.  The first is “Girl Coming in for a Landing,” a novel in poems by April Halprin Wayland.  The second is “Glaciers,” by Alexis M. Smith.

In a way, the two are quite similar, though really, they are completely different.  Both served a very interesting, somewhat dual, purpose for me.  Firstly, they are writing fuel.  You can pick them up and set them down and they aren’t intimidating, at least not in the “Sarum” sense, and they are quick, memorable, and chock-full of ideas. “Glaciers” is a short novel with rough edged pages that you can read in an hour.  “Girl Coming in for a Landing” is a book of poems written through one year as a high school student.  I didn’t think that writing a novel of poems would work, but it certainly does.   Every page is illustrated with random art, sketches, clippings, fabric art and all sorts of funny things to look at.

Girl Coming in for a LandingTen Thousand Stories

I love to read, and this has clearly been a part of what made me a writer.  As a writer, the book(s) that I’m reading can be either a help or a hindrance.  A new post-apocalyptic dystopian series, for example, is a bit of a hindrance.  Once I pick it up, I’m pretty much checked out for the weekend or week, depending on how long the series is.

Short and odd books like these two, however, oftentimes serve as an excellent muse.  They are full of thoughts that make you think, if you know what I mean.  You read a page and then you take a sip of coffee, pondering, before pulling out your notebook or turning on your computer to tap away, full of new ideas.

Some small publishers, or perhaps I should say Independent publishers (Does that work?), Chronicle Books, for one, are busting open a whole new genre of books.  The first time I went on their website, I ended up with 10 books in my Shopping Bag.  What was interesting about these books was that every one of them was a different size.  I mean literally a different size.  “Meanwhile in San Francisco” was 6 x 8. There was a small coffee table book, 4 1/2 x 6, “I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats,” and “Ten Thousand Stories,” one of the coolest books I’ve seen in a long time, is large – 9 x 11.

Are you picturing all this on a typical bookshelf?  It’s not the norm and it does something very interesting to the brick and mortar bookstore idea, in my opinion.

It also seems to parallel the situation in the rest of the reading world.  What’s the last thing that you read?  For many people, I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t a book- paperback, hardcover, or trade paperback sized (4 1/4 x 7 1/4).

Was it buzzfeed?  That’s not a book, nor is it an article.  What is it exactly?  It is words on a page.  Was it a feed?  Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest?  I hope you’re not thinking that this isn’t reading, because it is.  In fact, in the ESL world some of the first reading skills that you teach in a Reading class are skimming and scanning.  We use newspaper headlines, grocery ads, phone books and oh!  Facebook.  Identifying how and where to look for information is probably one of the most important literacy skills that a person possesses.  Of course, I think we should all read long works as well, for a multitude of reasons- vocabulary, focus, grammar and language constructions, all in addition to the obvious benefits from the contents of a book.

These new book styles and sizes and shapes and genres are right in line with the new types of reading that can be found on the internet.  Plus, they are quick.  When I’m in a Goodreads slump, and I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve marked a book as “Read,” I pull one of these books from the library shelf and finish that evening, all to start the next day fresh–reading, and likely writing too!




  1. […] and I mentioned a few especially creative illustrators and/or creators in an earlier post on Alternative Books.  The lovable, “Pecos Bill,” by  Steven Kellogg was brought up in my post on The […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: