12 Famous Writers Told Us About The Book They're Most Thankful For
Celebrate Thanksgiving with the books Junot Díaz, R. L. Stine, John Green, Colum McCann, Rainbow Rowell, and more of your favorite authors are grateful for.
In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked writers we love to tell us about the book they're most thankful for. Here's what they had to say:
1. Junot Díaz: Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
"To Octavia Butler's Dawn always I give thanks. Dawn turns one of the hoariest science fiction tropes — the alien invasion story — upside down and inside out by putting a black woman at its heart and in the process creating one of the realest neo-slave-narratives ever. Few novels better dramatize the impossible odds and impossible sacrifices that African diasporic women overcame to make the survival of an entire people, my people, possible. I am grateful for Dawn because it is a brilliant novel, because it transformed the genre, because it gave me hope for African diasporic science fiction and because, ultimately, it awakened in me a profound gratitude for all the ancestor women I will never meet but to whose pretenatural resilience I owe everything."
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey and is the author of Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
2. R. L. Stine: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Why he's thankful for Dandelion Wine: "Beautiful writing, poetry on every page, and an amazing depiction of a wonderful world of childhood that probably never really existed."
R. L. Stine is the bestselling author of more than three hundred books, including the phenomenally bestselling Goosebumps series.
3. Rainbow Rowell: Among Others by Jo Walton
"I think the book I'm most thankful for this year is Among Others by Jo Walton. I've spent the last five years writing and editing so furiously, it kind of ruined my ability to read. Like, I couldn't get through a book without taking the sentences apart the way I would one of my own books; I wasn't able to disappear into reading. (Which up until recently was my No. 1 superpower.) I read Among Others this summer on an airplane and slipped into it like it was water. It's a fantasy book about a girl who saves her life with science fiction. And it's so beautifully written, it just keeps punching you in the brain on every other page. It leapt onto my all-time favorites shelf, and beyond that, I think it helped me relax. I've enjoyed a number of books I've read since this one."
Rainbow Rowell is an award-winning author whose books include Eleanor & Park, Landline, and this fall's Carry On — a novel about love and magic and what to do when you're the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen.
4. Celeste Ng: The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
"I've been thankful for countless books over the years, but if I have to pick just one? Anne Sexton's The Complete Poems. It was one of the first books I bought myself — I stumbled across it in the bookstore in high school and immediately felt a kinship to it. It's been a major literary influence — few can make a metaphor as unexpected, yet apt, as Sexton — but it also offered me tremendous solace through years of adolescent depression. Sexton wrote fearlessly about womanhood, about pain, about sex, about the body: in short, about the struggle of surviving everyday life as a woman."
Celeste Ng is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Everything I Never Told You. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, One Story, Five Chapters, Gulf Coast, The Millions, and elsewhere, and has won the Pushcart Prize and the Massachusetts Book Award. To learn more about her, visit celesteng.com.
5. Colum McCann: Fup by Jim Dodge
"The book that seems perfect for Thanksgiving is Fup, a wonderfully off-kilter little fable by the Californian writer Jim Dodge. It's the story of a 20-pound mallard duck (think 'Fup Duck') and a cantankerous grandfather who finds the secret to life in a whiskey called 'Ol' Death Whisper.' Fup refuses classification, but it's almost as if Richard Brautigan and Mark Twain got together and decided to lay a further claim on American eccentricity. A good book to read when the world grows too dark around you."
Colum McCann is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honours, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination.
6. Alexander Chee: Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz
"The book I'm most grateful for is a signed copy I own of David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives, his memoir/polemic of his life during the first years of the AIDS epidemic. It's one of the most important books to me for the way it radicalized me, the writing rewiring me somehow, in a way I'd never want to undo, and what's incredible is that I don't remember getting it signed.
One day I flipped it open and saw his signature, the date and 'For Alex' and my heart skipped a beat.
Somehow the young me who hasn't read it got it and knew to do this for future me. So grateful to that wild kid I somehow was and the wisdom he didn't know he had."
Alexander Chee's new novel, The Queen of the Night, is forthcoming in February of 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
7. Angela Flournoy: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha
"To my surprise, the bible is the first book that comes to mind, specifically the New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha. I grew up with bibles in my home, but it wasn't until taking classes in graduate school that I actually read a significant portion of it. I read the Old Testament over one semester, and the New Testament over the next. Reading the book in a secular setting gave me an appreciation for it as a historical text, and as a collection of narratives. It's full of flawed, interesting characters, salacious tales, and all manner of high and low drama. I finally understood why the book has had such an influence (for better or worse) on Western literature."
Angela Flournoy is the author of The Turner House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and is shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. She is a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree.
8. Porochista Khakpour: The Shahnameh by Abolqasem Ferdowsi and translated by Dick Davis
"The book I am most thankful for is The Shahnameh (or 'The Persian Book of Kings'). It's over a thousand years old, with over 50,000 couplets, but Dick Davis's 2007 translation of Ferdowsi's literary masterpiece makes it just accessible enough for nearly anyone to pick up and enjoy. It's even a great introduction to contemporary Iranian psyche, via Persian myth and history. Within its pages lies the story of Zal, a feral child who grows into a great warrior — in my second novel The Last Illusion (I'm also thankful for this book — getting published, that is!) I updated Zal for a modern retelling set in Y2K-to-9/11 era New York City. But without my father reading me its many, many, many tales as a child, not only would I not have had my second novel, I sometimes wonder if I would have even become a writer! Maybe not.
Let me add that lately I've also been very thankful for the poetry of Richard Brautigan, the stories of Can Xue, and the essays of Anatole Broyard."
Porochista Khakpour is the author of the novels The Last Illusion and Sons and Other Flammable Objects, which was named a New York Times Editor's Choice, one of the Chicago Tribune's Fall's Best, and was the 2007 California Book Award winner in "First Fiction." Her nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Harper's, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Elle, Slate, Spin, and many others. She is the Writer-in-Residence at Bard College.
9. James Hannaham: Workshops of Empire by Eric Bennett
"Eric Bennett's Workshops of Empire confirms for me a lot of nagging suspicions I've held about American MFA programs in writing: that the encouragement of certain sensibilities and rules over others has always reflected a particular ideology, not an objective view of good writing. Why did it always seem that they encouraged and rewarded work that was either apolitical, domestic, conventional, and/or genteel, or as close to a white dude's war memoir as possible? I dismissed it as a wash of America's typical racism, sexism, and homophobia. Bennett, however, pulls all those negatives under the umbrella of Cold War reactionary politics and uncovers the reason behind the rhyme. And he has the facts on his side. His critical — sometimes almost bitchy — dual biography of Paul Engle at the University of Iowa and Wallace Stegner at Stanford as they built their programs chronicles how postwar academia domesticated American poets and novelists, de-fanged modernism, and sucked up to the Rockefeller Foundation (and at least once, the CIA) among other institutions, funneling creativity into the fight against communism."
James Hannaham is the author of the novels Delicious Foods and God Says No, which was honored by the American Library Association. He holds an MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches creative writing at the Pratt Institute.
10. John Green: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
To learn more about Between the World and Me, click here.
John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. He is also the coauthor, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
11. Saeed Jones: Sula by Toni Morrison
"I'm grateful for my mother's paperback copy of Sula by Toni Morrison. She bought the book when she was taking college classes years before I was born. She didn't graduate, but kept all the books from that part of her life. I started reading her copy of Sula in the 10th grade, I think. Terms like 'magical realism' and 'anti-heroes' weren't a part of my vocabulary then, but Morrison's writing — and the life of Sula Peace in the book in particular — set me on fire. The first time I got to the part of the book where Sula boldly says 'I sure did live in this world,' I knew I was really onto something with this Toni Morrison lady and wanted to know more. That moment changed the entire course of my life and my gratitude for the author, the character, my mother and the yellow-colored paperback book are all one and the same."
Saeed Jones' debut poetry collection Prelude To Bruise (Coffee House Press) was the winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award For Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award and a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award. He is BuzzFeed's Executive Editor of Culture.
12. Curtis Sittenfeld: Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
"In all seriousness, I'm thankful for Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki. I found this book to be clearly written, extremely practical, and different in its recommendations from all other toilet-training wisdom I'd seen. The tone can be excessively chatty at times, but if the tips work, who cares?"
Curtis Sittenfeld's fifth novel, Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, will be published in April 2016. Her other novels include Prep, American Wife, and Sisterland.