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. Angela Flournoy: Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan
"This Thanksgiving, Native Americans in North Dakota are withstanding abuse from police as they try to protect their sacred land, and many of us watch with knots in our stomachs as Donald Trump fills his cabinet positions with men who want to return us to an oppressive, bigoted past. Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan has been on my mind as I try to find ways to write and love and think through all of this. Jordan's poetry — sharp, expansive, and warm — reminds me that there is power in using our art to express our resistance, and that there is no shame in claiming joy when it finds us, even in the midst of struggle."
Angela Flournoy is the author of The Turner House. She is currently the Rona Jaffe Foundation fellow at the New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
2. Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket): All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
"A book that buoyed me during this grim year is All The Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, which some people might have missed because some bookstores, despite my efforts to display the novel in the front window, keep it on the sci-fi shelf instead. It’s a magical, cross-genre sort of book, reminding us that childhood friendships can be just as magical and mysterious as, say, the ability to talk to the animals of the forest, and that we might get older but we’ll never leave behind what truly haunts us. It’s a funny and generous novel, a sad and wise one too. And it carries a torch, as I do, for San Francisco, my hometown and Anders’s too, from whence my hope and and help doth rise."
Daniel Handler is the author of six novels, including the forthcoming All the Dirty Parts, and far too many books as Lemony Snicket.
3. Joyce Carol Oates: The Best American Essays 2016 edited by Jonathan Franzen
"In this time of crisis I prefer to think small — or rather, not small but immediate, as in right now. So my choice of a book for all to rush out & buy & read with mounting excitement (yes & dread) is one I’ve just read myself, The Best American Essays 2016 edited by Jonathan Franzen, & the essay I hope you will all rush to read is by Justin Phillip Reed (of whom you have probably not — yet — heard) titled “Killing Like They Do in the Movies” originally published in a literary magazine called Catapult. There is sorrow here, in that this profoundly disturbing memoirist essay had to be written at all, but also great satisfaction & (yes) some (measured, muted) joy, that it was written, published, & selected by Jonathan Franzen (of contemporary white male writers surely the most hammered-at, vilified & stoic) as one of the memorable essays of 2016. Read it, & see."
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national bestsellers as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys. Her other titles for The Mysterious Press include High Crime Area and The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares, which won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Short Horror Fiction. She is also the recipient of the National Book Award for Them and the 2010 President's Medal for the Humanities. In June 2017, The Mysterious Press will be publishing her latest collection of stories titled, DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense.
4. Rainbow Rowell: The Sellout by Paul Beatty
"The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a satire about race in America — and it's so smart and funny and gorgeous, I actually felt more alive while reading it. (Also forever thankful for Jo Walton, whose books I save for desperate reading slumps, and who hasn't let me down yet. My latest favorite is My Real Children.)"
Rainbow Rowell tries to put Thanksgiving scenes (or at the very least, gravy) in all her books, including Carry On and Eleanor & Park. This is what makes them bestsellers.
5. R. L. Stine: The Nix by Nathan Hill and Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
"This year, I'm thankful for two novels that absolutely entranced me — The Nix by Nathan Hill, and Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. Both are endlessly brilliant, original, and entertaining — just what a novel should be!"
R. L. Stine is the bestselling author of more than three hundred books, including the phenomenally bestselling Goosebumps series.
6. Mira Jacob: In Mad Love and War by Joy Harjo
"This year has been a rupture. I know I'm not alone in this feeling, and I know it's not limited to blue states. The country is in the kind of divide that feels like divorce — personal and damning. I find when I'm in this state, the only things that make sense to me are poetry and music. In truth, I have a funny relationship to poetry — I get frustrated, I feel locked away from the meaning, I want more. When I'm broken, though, it's like I've finally been given the right set of glasses to read through.
Joy Harjo's In Mad Love and War is a book I've turned to for decades. A member of the Creek (Muskogee) tribe, Harjo's poems about dispossession and revolution are so full, so clear, they feel like the only map I can read right now. I believe her when she writes, 'There are no words, only sounds/ that lead us into the darkest nights/ where stars burn into ice/ where the dead arise again/ to walk in shoes of fire.'"
Mira Jacob is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick, shortlisted for India’s Tata First Literature Award, and longlisted for the Brooklyn Literary Eagles Prize. She is currently drawing a graphic memoir, GOOD TALK: Conversations I'm Still Confused About (Random House 2018), which you can read a bit of here.
7. Colum McCann: The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems by Jim Harrison
"This year I'm most thankful for all the poems and novels of a good friend who passed away in March. I want to write 'Jim Harrison Lives' in the flyleaf of every book that gets published in this country because he has an essential, underlying voice for years. If we get our voices from the voices of others, then we all have the deep Jim Harrison drawl. If I was to take one book of his this Thanksgiving I'd take out his Collected Poems and even though the long poem 'Letters to Yesenin' is an examination of suicide and its ramifications, Harrison finishes it off with the notion that it does not come to him like a burning bush or a pillar but he has decided to stay. That was written sometime in the '70's, but even in his final passing this year, Jim Harrison has decided to stay."
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. His work has been published in over 35 languages. He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their three children. His next book, Letters to a Young Writer, will be published by Random House in April 2017.
8. Chuck Palahniuk: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
"This year all of Portland, Oregon should be grateful to Katherine Dunn and thankful for her novel Geek Love. She once told me that she'd lived in the 'Rose City' for so long that every street corner held a story. The local International Rose Test Gardens, where hybrid roses are displayed, was her inspiration for this strange, retrospective story about misshapen sideshow freaks. Her death this year highlights the novel's overall sense of mourning the past."
Chuck Palahniuk’s ten previous novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by David Fincher; Survivor; Invisible Monsters; Choke, which was made into a film by director Clark Gregg; Lullaby; Diary; Haunted; Rant; Snuff; and Pygmy. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, a nonfiction profile of Portland, Oregon, published as part of the Crown Journeys series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He is also the author of the graphic novels Fight Club 2 and BAIT. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.
9. Sloane Crosley: My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
"I would be thankful for a guidebook that helped me answer this question. As a kid, I fell hopelessly in love with Joyce’s Dubliners. Maupassant’s short story, 'The Necklace,' gave me my first novel. Gogol’s Dead Souls taught me about Russian tax law. But those guys are all too dead to benefit from a plug. You know who’s quite alive? Meghan Daum. Her first book, My Misspent Youth, came out the year after I graduated from college and I still find myself idly thinking of lines from it. It was just so smart without being irritating, which sounds like a low bar for narrative nonfiction and yet so few clear it with such grace, wit and insight. Her confidence was contagious, her sharpness inspiring. Granted, I read these essays at the exact right time in my life, but they hold up and then some. I am also thankful for My Misspent Youth because one should always be aware of whose shoulders one is wobbling on. And, if nothing else, it elegantly affirmed my own horror of wall-to-wall carpeting. Dayenu, Daum."
Sloane Crosley is the author of two books of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. Her debut novel, The Clasp, is now out in paperback. She is the books columnist and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.
10. Alexander Chee: Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
"This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for a children's book that gave me courage as a child: Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan, about Dutch children who risked their lives to smuggle Nazi gold bullion hidden on their sleds to the Dutch resistance. It is a complete fiction, but the example of it helped me feel brave as a child surrounded by racists in the white town I grew up in, and it has come back to me over the years at times that surprise me, even as recently as this fall. I recommend it to anyone."
Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night.
11. James Hannaham: Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk
"In 1906, the Bronx Zoo put a small forest man from Central Africa named Ota Benga on display in their monkey house. Pamela Newkirk's Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga chronicles that debacle as well as Ota Benga's life in the US afterward, debunking the subsequent whitewashing of the incident with an incredible command of a vast amount of archival material, threaded through with unflinching insights. Prepare to be outraged, but ultimately grateful that Newkirk has set the record straight on the disrespect and injustice that plagued Ota Benga long after his stint in the zoo."
James Hannaham’s most recent novel is Delicious Foods, winner of the 2016 PEN/Faulkner and Hurston/Wright Awards and New York Times Notable Book.
12. T. C. Boyle: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
"The books I'm most thankful for are my own, because they've allowed me to speak to the world and, no small consideration, pay the bills. Every time the orthodontist threatens to rip off my daughter's braces, a little check arrives and all is well. Now, as far as books by other authors go, I am deeply thankful for thousands of them. For this year's answer to your question, I'm going to choose Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book I've returned to several times over the years. Why? I love it for its lyricism, its close attention to nature and, above all, for its ability to reach beyond observation of natural effects to discover their mystical underpinnings."
T.C. Boyle is the author of 26 books, including his latest, The Terranauts.
13. Porochista Khakpour: Look by Solmaz Sharif, Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Blackacre by Monica Youn, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, and Citizen by Claudia Rankine
"This was very much a poetry year for me, especially as I was deep in the work of my own prose. This year I am most grateful for contemporary poetry, particularly the work of some surreally talented POC poets. Solmaz Sharif's Look and Ocean Vuong's Night Sky With Exit Wounds, and Monica Youn's Blackacre were hard rough diamonds, made under all the pressure in the world and shining bright for miles and ages. They felt life-saving to me. Add to it the forthcoming stunner by Layli Long Soldier, Whereas (coming in March from Graywolf) — and a 2014 book I never stop feeling grateful for and I'm sure I never will: Claudia Rankine's Citizen, as fresh and urgent now as ever. It's worth pointing out too that almost all of these are from Graywolf Press (all but Vuong's) — and I didn't do that on purpose! — so I'm definitely overdue in thanking Graywolf too for all they do for us readers."
Porochista Khakpour is the author of the forthcoming memoir Sick: A Life of Lyme, Love, Illness and Addiction (Harper Perennial, August 2017) and the novels The Last Illusion and Sons and Other Flammable Objects. Her nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Harper’s, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Elle, Bookforum, Slate, Spin, and many others. She is the Writer-in-Residence at Bard College.
14. Curtis Sittenfeld: Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam and The Other Side of Impossible by Susannah Meadows
"The two books I'm most thankful for this year will both be published in 2017, but, having read early copies, I'm getting a jumpstart on my gratitude. The novel Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam will come out in July, and it's terrific. I was a graduate student when I read Klam's story collection Sam the Cat in 2000, and I just loved how bawdy, wise, and alive his writing was. I've been waiting all this time for his first (!) novel, and the wait was worth it — it's a brutally honest, hilariously entertaining, surprisingly compassionate depiction of class, lust, marriage, and what it's really like to be an artist. A tonally very different book I also feel incredibly thankful for is The Other Side of Impossible: Ordinary People Who Faced Daunting Medical Challenges and Refused to Give Up by Susannah Meadows, which will be published in May. The book contains very moving, intimate portraits of people with various auto-immune disorders who pursue unconventional paths toward better health. It's really inspiring and interesting, and I think it will give hope to many readers."
Curtis Sittenfeld's novels include Prep, American Wife, and Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
15. Jessica Knoll: Alice in Rapture, Sort Of by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
"As someone who went through puberty at an all-girls Catholic school, I have never been so grateful for a series in my life. The Alice books taught me everything from how to remove make-up (with Ponds cold cream) to the pencil test, the results of which confirmed that I was ready for that training bra, mom! More than that, the books normalized my growing curiosity about sex and my anxiety around my changing body at a time when the messaging was that sex was bad and boobs were slutty. They validated my experiences with sexual harassment by adult men, which happened often and early, starting at the age of 11. Alice is one of the most frequently banned books of all times, and I'm more grateful to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor than ever given the current milieu and the continued attempts to censor, shame, and silence women who speak up about reproductive rights and sexual assault. As an author, the Alice books are an important reminder to tell stories that speak to my truth, even if that truth makes people uncomfortable."
Jessica Knoll is the New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Girl Alive.
16. Alexandra Kleeman: Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
"If I had to choose just one, I think it would be Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an experimental novel/essay/something-else that acts out issues of diaspora, identity, and communication, that makes every reader feel like they're reading in a foreign language. Growing up with a mixed ethnicity, I've often felt the discomfort of straddling different cultures and languages — and the discomfort of reading this book feels just like home, a strange home. I read it every year or so and it never normalizes, it is always strange and disfluent and moving and makes me feel as though I've been turned inside out. There's something so comforting about that stubbornness: I work at the text, erode it, and then it regenerates when I put it down. I'm grateful this book that I can return to like a place, a mountain that I'll climb over and over again."
Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine and the short story collection Intimations. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Paris Review, Zoetrope, Tin House, VOGUE, and n+1. She was the 2016 winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, and lives in Staten Island.