Notable books by local authors in 2017 | Book Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Notable books by local authors in 2017 

Fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics

  • Photo courtesy of Brooke Wyatt
  • Jenny Johnson

Some notable 2017 releases by local authors:

Syrian-born Osama Alomar got national press for The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories (New Directions Press), his collection of very short, often parable-like stories. Geeta Kothari, well known as an editor (The Kenyon Review) and educator (University of Pittsburgh), released I Brake for Moose (Alleyway Books), her debut collection of sharply observed stories. Novelist Jacob Bacharach followed his memorable debut The Bend of the World with The Doorposts of Your House and On Your Gates (Liveright), which pungently blended Old Testament themes with a contemporary Western Pennsylvania family entangled in a real-estate scheme. And J.D. Barker, the thriller writer who lives in Pittsburgh part time, earned strong reviews for his second novel, The Fourth Monkey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), about a detective tracking the last victim of a deceased serial killer. 

In nonfiction, Matthew Newton added to Bloomsbury Press’s Object Lessons series of short books about the secret lives of ordinary things with Shopping Mall, a smart and empathetic look at this waning icon of 20th-century American consumer culture. In 30 Days a Black Man (Lyon Press), veteran author Bill Steigerwald told the story of legendary Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ray Sprigle’s risky exposé of Jim Crow: In the late 1940s, Sprigle, who was white, went undercover as a black man in the Deep South. And Pitt history professor Marcus Rediker offered the self-explanatorily yet surprisingly titled The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (Beacon Press). 

In poetry, Cameron Barnett’s anticipated debut collection, The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water (Autumn House Press) showcased a writer “who’s found his own voice,” wrote CP critic Fred Shaw. And Jenny Johnson’s own debut collection, In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books), Shaw enthused, “beautifully presents Johnson as a poet fulfilling big expectations.” Meanwhile, one of Pittsburgh’s most lauded poets, Robert Gibb, released not one but two prize-winning collections: After (winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize) and Among Ruins (Notre Dame Press), which won the Ernest Sandeen Prize.

Still, arguably no resident Pittsburgher had a bigger year in his or her chosen field than did Ed Piskor. The Munhall native was already famed for his Hip Hop Family Tree series of graphic histories; in July, Marvel Comics announced the Munhall native would create “The Grand Design,” an unprecedented epic, single-artist, multi-publication retelling of the X-Men saga. The first comic hit earlier this month.



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