2014 Longlist for Poetry/Fiction/NonFiction/YA Fiction

Hello Opus readers, I am Anna Gazmarian, one of the poetry editors here at Opus. The National Book Awards released the 2014 Longlist for Poetry/Fiction/Nonfiction/YA Fiction this week.  While we desire for you to read Opus and enjoy work by your fellow students, we also are passionate about creating a literary community outside of our literary magazine through promoting fine works of literature. In the spirit of book awards, I’m offering you a list of recommended reads. Gazmarian Awards? Does that sound catchy? Come up with a name for this list and I’ll make you a pie.

1.The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
So far this semester, I’ve read this collection of essays three times. It’s brilliant and continues to push me in venturing into writing nonfiction.  The first essay opens with Jamison playing patients for medical students as they are accessed by how well they respond to her pain. The topics are wide ranging and intriguing. In everything she writes, she explores how and why we relate to someone else’s suffering.  These essays are raw, honest, and will stay with you.  Hey, it didn’t win Greywolf Nonfiction Prize for nothing.  Here’s two of the essays featured in the collection: The Devils Bait and Great Unified Theory of Female Pain.  

Have writers block? Want to develop more as a poet? Buy this book. At least once a week I use it. With a compilation of over ninety writing exercises and examples, you gain better skills as both a poet and reader. Even if you are doing just one exercise a week, it will help you develop a better routine as a writer.

4. “Three Spheres” by Lauren Slater
Here’s another essay. As a college student, classes take up a lot of time and reading essays is one way of gaining more knowledge as a reader while not being tied down to reading a four hundred-page novel. Cut back on a few lattes and sign up for a literary subscription instead. It’s worth your time.
Basic premise of this piece: Slate is a psychologist who meets with a patient at a hospital in Boston where she was confined on five separate occasions with her own mental illness. Read it here. (If you’re a fan of this…pick up The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.)

5. A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra
Was fifty percent of the reason I picked up this book because of the cool cover? Perhaps. But my judgment was right. The story takes place in Chechnya, moving back and forth through time. Immediately, readers are introduced to Havaa, a young girl hiding in the woods where her father is abducted by Russian forces. Fleeing with her neighbor Akhmed, a failed physician, they end up at a bombed-out hospital where they meet Sonja, the one remaining doctor who treats refugees while mourning sister.  Marra’s writing is character based, the language is beautiful, and this continues to be one of the best books that I’ve read during my time at college.

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