When you are away, most of what happens to me happens in the supermarket. I like it. I wouldn't like it all the time, but sometimes I love to let myself go to seed, live unwashed, uncombed. I read in the sun on our unmade bed, eavesdrop, go to the Grand Union several times a day.
— Martha Bergland, from An Embarrassment of Ordinary Riches, a story appearing in the anthology Love Stories for the Rest of Us.
I've grown to love anthologies — collections of essays, stories or poems by a variety of writers, typically organized around a theme. I like to taste the flavors of many writers in one place without the commitment to just one. An anthology is an appetizer.
For example, in Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave I found Caroline Leavitt and Kaui Hart Hemmings. I liked their short stories so much, I raced to find their novels. The Descendants, by Hemmings, turned out to be one of my favorite books.
And The Pacific Northwest Reader is a wonderful surprise of essays about the upper left corner of the United States. The collection is reminscent of the Federal Writers' Project of the 1930s, and each essay is crafted not by professional writers but by independent booksellers and librarians. As a bonus, a portion of book sales go to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. The Great Lakes Reader is also available now, and other regional volumes are in the works.
In Feed Me: Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Weight, and Body Image, I discovered Lisa Romeo. I now faithfully read her blog each week.
Poetry, too, produces some great anthologies. I'm loving The Poets Guide to the Birds, both for its unique theme and for its breadth of writers. The collection includes work from 137 poets, and includes big names (Ted Kooser, Naomi Shihab Nye) and lesser known but no less talented poets (Linda Zimmerman, Keith Ratzlaff).
Anthologies are the first taste of a reader's feast. In fact, while reading Winter Wren by Sally Green, I wondered, before I had even finished the poem, how I could get more.