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5 Wyoming Writers On Their Pandemic Reads

Looking for a pandemic read? Craig Johnson, Nina McConigley, and others have plenty of recommendations.

Alyson Hagy, Laramie author of Scribe : Re-reading The Wind in the Willows has been comforting to the author. Otherwise, she has "a real craving for poetry. It's regenerative, restorative, and inspirational to really look at language working in great ways like that." In particular, she said Montana poet Melissa Kwasny "writes about the outdoor world and birds better than anybody ever, and there's something about being in the company of birds right now who are unaffected that seems really powerful to me." Also, she's returning to Adrienne Rich and Seamus Heaney. "These are writers who have faced enormous political or social or health challenges," she said. "I'm just kind of using them as guides right now."

Jessica Brauer, Laramie freelancer and creator of the Dear Laramie Letters Project: She's reading a lot of memoirs from strong women. "Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a really incredible book," she said.

Matt Daly, Wilson poet: "I'm reading things that I don't normally read," Daly said. An experimental Japanese novel, for example. And "I'm not a nonfiction reader, it's not my thing," but currently on his nightstand is a book about the U.S. ambassador to Germany in the early 1930s.

Nina McConigley, Laramie author of Cowboys and East Indians: Over email, McConigley said because of her newborn baby and pandemic anxieties, she's preferring to focus on concrete tasks like baking bread. As such, she's been drawn toward books about food. "Maybe because going to the grocery store feels hard, and I miss eating out?" she wrote. "So I have been reading a lot of food writing. MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating and Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. There is something about reading about fresh oysters and how to make fried chicken that I love. I also have been reading Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. It feels fitting when there has been a surge in Asian-American assaults, harassment, and hate crimes due to COVID-19."

Craig Johnson, Ucross author of the Longmire series: For research on his forthcoming book, he's recently read just about every nonfiction book on Custer there is, so if that's your interest, he recommends Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand. And for recreational reading, "in times like this I reach out to writers who I know are marvelous writers, and maybe also have a sense of humor," he said. He's re-reading John Jay Osborn's back catalog, and spending time with George MacDonald Fraser, who wrote the Flashman series. Johnson is enjoying his war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Erin Jones, at ejones29@uwyo.edu.

Erin Jones is Wyoming Public Radio's cultural affairs producer, as well as the host and senior producer of HumaNature. She began her audio career as an intern in the Wyoming Public Radio newsroom, and has reported on issues ranging from wild horse euthanization programs to the future of liberal arts in universities. Her audio work has been featured on WHYY Philadelphia’s The Pulse and the podcast Out There.

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