Happy Holidays from Columbia Journal!

This holiday season, we’re snuggling up with good books and dreams for the new decade. In case you’re as much a fan of nostalgia as we are, we’ve gathered up our favorite books of the year, as well as some of the best of Columbia Journal Online.


All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg

Reflecting on the books I read this year, not many of them were published in 2019! That said, I truly loved reading this new novel by Attenberg. It was a page-turner, thought-provoking, immersive, and all about generational family drama. It also hit upon a topic that I find particularly interesting, which is how family drama continues to unfold when a person is unwell or dying. Attenberg also has a knack for being simultaneously funny, easy-to-read, and incredibly deep. I recommend this read! — Elena Sheppard, Columns Editor

Anyone Will Tell You, by Wendy Chin-Tanner

I’m glad I stumbled upon Wendy Chin-Tanner’s second full-length poetry collection Anyone Will Tell You (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) this summer. I felt captivated by her candid and imagistically lush verse. I was so enchanted by this collection, I read it in one evening and then found myself reading it again right after I finished it. 

Often, Chin-Tanner concentrates her conceits through short lines so her readers can have a full-bodied and authentic experience of the poem’s emotions. In my favorite poem of this collection “Sol, Octo-Gravida,” she creates a central image of a mother as a sun, as a stabilizing force for her children. The poem’s last two stanzas drive home the adult speaker’s remembrance and yearning for that presence: 


apron strings

tether just

tight enough

to hold us


Chin-Tanner is always in the act of reflection throughout the collection, whether it be the past or present, an abstract emotion or a grounded event. As a result, her work is a tangible and original delight. — Emma Ginader, Online Poetry Editor

Speedboat, by Renata Adler

My favorite book I read in 2019 was originally published in 1976: Speedboat, by Renata Adler. The book was re-released by New York Review of Books in 2013 and I can see why—the disjointed narrative of a young globe-trotting writer, Jen Fain, living in New York feels timely and relevant. Fain is a sharp observer of humanity and the sentences race forward, connecting the otherwise scattered vignettes with their rhythm and intensity. The final sentence is one I find myself thinking of over and over again, hoping someday I, too, can write a final sentence so perfect it just snaps on the page. — Rachel Keranen, Print Nonfiction Editor

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo

The Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other is a complex, piecemeal story of twelve black womxn living in modern England, whose paths intersect at the opening of a revolutionary new play. Lyrical prose carries you through each of the character’s stories which exemplify the complexities of female relationships in 2019, and how we might realize when struggling to have our voices heard that what we are trying to say is not so different from the person next to us. — Rachel Gilman, Editor-in-Chief

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli

— recommended by Vera Carothers, Online Nonfiction Editor

Deaf Republic, by Ilya Kaminsky

— recommended by Stephanie Philp, Online Translation Editor

Favorite posts from Columbia Journal Online:

Fall 2019 Contest Fiction Winner: Between the Meat World and the Real World by Angie Sijun Lou. — Shalvi Shah, Online Fiction Editor

The Great Chimera by Iselin Gambert, Review: Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz by Jared Jackson, and my interview with Emily Bernard, Pain You Can’t Resist. — Vera Carothers, Online Nonfiction Editor

Four Moon Bo Young Poems Translated from Korean, translated from the Korean by Hedgie Choi. — Stephanie Philp, Online Translation Editor

What Place Does Beauty Hold: An Interview with Jericho Brown, by Peter Witzig and Shyanne Figueroa Bennett, From “Aletheia” by Sasha Smith, and poems by Callie Siskel. — Emma Ginader, Online Poetry Editor

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