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The Medium is the Message

Stories need to have a beginning, middle, and an end, right? Not always. Whether the writers below chose letters, white space, drawings, or verse the medium is very much a part of the message.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Lacking the words to describe love, Levithan writes the dictionary of a relationship, one entry at a time. A perfect valentine.

A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg

You’ve always wanted to spy on your neighbors with binoculars, right? Hallberg gives you a field guide to help you identify and type the characteristics of the North American family.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Witness college professor Jason Fitger fall apart, hilariously, through a series of letters of recommendation that he is required to write.

Charlotte by David Foenkinos

The story of the life and death of artist Charlotte Solomon, murdered by Nazis in Auschwitz is so difficult to tell, says Foenkinos, that it can only be told in short sentences or it would be too painful. The white space in Charlotte speaks as loudly as the words.


The protagonist is obsessed with her ex-husband’s new wife, and she tells her story in a series of short, impressionistic vignettes. Tuck creates moments and then strings them together into a perfect, cohesive whole.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

The last work of the late David Rakoff, known more for his acerbic essays than his fiction. This is a novel in verse whose characters carry you across decades. A read aloud book for grown-ups. Moving and lovely.

Was She Pretty? Leanne Shapton

Short vignettes and line drawings take you through the love lives of the protagonist’s friends and neighbors. Not quite a graphic novel and not quite an illustrated one, Shapton creates something that is uniquely her own, yet we can still find ourselves in. She also “wrote” the wonderful Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry which is the story of a romance from the blush of first love through the break-up told through an auction catalog of the items they shared over the course of their years together. You’ll have to borrow my copy, though, because no BCCLS libraries own it (seriously, just ask).

Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

52 micro memoirs. If you think the story of a life can only be told in 500 pages with 20 pages of endnotes, think again. I learned more about who Fennelly is through this slim volume than I ever could have if it was told in traditional memoir form.



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