back to top

22 Famous Writers Told Us About The Book They're Most Thankful For

Celebrate Thanksgiving with the books Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, R.L. Stine, James Patterson, Rainbow Rowell, Michael Chabon, Lemony Snicket, Chuck Palahniuk, and more of your favorite authors are grateful for.

Originally posted on
Updated on

1. James Patterson: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

David Burnett, Scholastic

"I’m thankful for the Harry Potter series for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it has gotten many, many kids reading — and continues to do so. To me that's the greatest thing any book can do. Reading saves lives, and that series saved thousands of them. It’s why I write children's books myself."

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over $40 million to support education, and endowed over 5,000 college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family. Learn more at jamespatterson.com.

Advertisement

2. Celeste Ng: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Kevin Day Photography, Milkweed Editions

"This year has been terrible — but if there's one thing I'm thankful for, it's that many people are using their voices to say, 'This is not normal, this is not okay, this has to change.' Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things was one such voice that buoyed me in this dismal year. I'm thankful for this collection, for its wisdom and generosity, for its insistence on holding tight to beauty even as we face disintegration and destruction. And it reminds me how thankful I am for poets, who distill many of the feelings that have flooded me in the past months, and speak directly to me in words I didn't know I needed to hear."

Celeste Ng is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Her writing has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors. She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about her, visit celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter (@pronounced_ing).

3. Stephen King: Sleeping Beauties by Owen King and Stephen King

Shane Leonard, Scribner

"The book I’m most grateful for this year is Sleeping Beauties. I ordinarily wouldn’t say that about a book I had a part in creating, but a man doesn’t get a chance to collaborate with one of his children very often, or to find himself hardly able to keep up with that grown child’s brilliant work. We also had a chance to go on tour together, and since we both have our own families and concerns, that was a rare opportunity."

Stephen King has published over 50 books and has become one of the world's most successful writers. King is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to the American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts.

4. Jonathan Franzen: The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Watter Al-Bahry, W. W. Norton & Company

"Right now I'm feeling grateful to Michael Lewis. Last week I was at Heathrow Airport, facing a 12-hour flight with nothing good in hand to read, and the Terminal 3 'bookstore' was terrible: exclusively crap titles, except, miraculously, The Undoing Project. I'm grateful to Lewis for making 5,000 miles disappear with a compelling story and not one sentence that was flabby or uninteresting."

Jonathan Franzen is the author of Purity and four other novels, most recently The Corrections and Freedom, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including Farther Away and The Kraus Project, all published by FSG. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

5. Joyce Carol Oates: Ulysses by James Joyce

Charles Gross, Vintage

"Last year I chose a book for its immediacy, one just published and filled with brilliant insights into our contemporary condition — The Best American Essays 2016 edited by Jonathan Franzen; this year I am choosing a timeless work of art, James Joyce’s Ulysses. I once spent a thrilling six weeks teaching this novel at the University of Windsor, to graduate students — though ‘teaching’ is probably not the most adequate term — and can attest to the power of Ulysses to bring an incalculable richness to one’s life. Such virtuosity, such dazzling voices, such intelligence, and such a great sense of humor, in a masterly, sustained work that immerses us in the lives of others, in Dublin, Ireland, June 16, 1904 — subsequently immortalized as Bloomsday. Ulysses is a true celebration of life, as it is a celebration of the art of the novel. Just read it slowly — one chapter at a time. No need to hurry. A great novel is like a journey — by the time you get to your destination, you will have absorbed it into your life."

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.

6. R.L. Stine: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

David Livingston / Getty Images, Vintage

"I needed some laughs this year, and Carl Hiaasen's Razor Girl provided a lot. A fast-moving, skillful caper, the book captured the edges of Florida insanity, as only Hiaasen can. No kidding — it had me laughing from beginning to end."

R.L. Stine is the bestselling author of more than 300 books, including the phenomenally bestselling Goosebumps series.

Advertisement

7. Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket): Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Meredith Heuer, Crown Books for Young Readers

"What I wanted this year was hope — not just optimism or some visionary schemes for the future, but real live hope, solid and built to last and sustain. Nic Stone’s Dear Martin gave me hope in all directions. It’s a hopeful novel — a bracing and harrowing story, in a fierce and unsparing voice, but it takes us, steadily and triumphantly, to a genuinely hopeful place. It’s not a flashy book but it’s a stylish one, with the sort of zaggy sentences that give me hope just seeing them on the page. It’s a book for young people, at a time when so much young people’s literature is mired up, and when my kid read it he asked if we could buy an extra copy for his school library and the library of the school he used to go to, so more people would find it and read it and get hopeful. And — maybe this is a conflict of interest or something — I palled around with the author at a couple of literary festivals, and raising a glass of bourbon to a terrific and serious debut novel appearing on the New York Times bestseller list is my new definition of hope and it’s springing goddamn eternal."

Daniel Handler’s most recent books are All The Dirty Parts and, as Lemony Snicket, The Bad Mood and the Stick.

Tor Books, Puffin Books

"I'm so glad I found the Wayfarers books by Becky Chambers. (I keep saying they're like a really good Star Trek series, but with even more focus on character and identity.) They remind me of the books that made me fall in love with sci-fiction as a teenager. A Closed and Common Orbit, about clones and artificial intelligence, is especially great.

I'm always looking for books that let me turn off my writing and editing brain. So I'm ever thankful for Jo Walton. I'm in the middle of the Small Change series right now, a terrifying alternate history where the United Kingdom bails on World War II and slides into fascism. WWII alternate histories are extremely not my jam, but Jo Walton extremely is. I can't put it down.

The book that's meant the most to me this year is A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner. I'd tried to read it to my older kid when he was 6, and he was pretty meh about it. (Parents, we're giving our children Pooh Bear before they're ready). My younger son took an interest at 10, and Pooh Corner blew us both away. It's hilarious. And beautiful. Poetic. You sort of take Pooh for granted because he's everywhere, but this book... It didn't take me out of my writer brain though. I kept thinking about how I could never write something this perfect."

Rainbow Rowell is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On. She is currently writing the monthly Runaways series for Marvel Comics.

9. Michael Chabon: the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle

courtesy of Michael Chabon's agent, Bantam Classics

"I'm thankful for many books but I guess I'd have to say the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes stories. That's the first literature I fell in love with, and the first short story I ever wrote was a Sherlock Holmes story, and I still read and reread them every few years. I go back to them and still get just as much pleasure out of them as I did when I first read them."

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Summerland, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, Telegraph Avenue, and the picture book The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

10. Chuck Palahniuk: Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson

Allan Amato, Picador

"Since his death in May, Denis Johnson's story collection Jesus' Son has always been within my reach. It combines prose and poetry the way the Doors combined jazz and rock. The book is a marvel."

Chuck Palahniuk is the author of 14 novels — Beautiful You, Doomed, Damned, Tell-All, Pygmy, Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Diary, Lullaby, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and Fight Clubwhich together have sold more than 5 million copies in the United States. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, published as part of the Crown Journeys Series; the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction; the short story collection Make Something Up; the short story collection and coloring book Bait: Stories for You to Color, the coloring book and novella Legacy and the New York Times best-selling graphic novel Fight Club 2. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Visit him on the web at ChuckPalahniuk.net.

Advertisement
curtissittenfeld.com, Harper Perennial

"I'm so thankful for Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser. This novel has been in my to-read stack since it was published in 2015, but I only just got to it last month. It's about the intense friendship and quasi-love-affair between two young women at an art school. It's so funny and real and vivid, and its details are just spectacular. It's basically exploding with magnificent observations and scenes.

"On the nonfiction front, I'm profoundly grateful for the meticulous research and fearless reporting that went into Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer. Dark Money helped me understand how our country has arrived at this surreal and scary political moment and how it reflects the will not of the American people but of a few fringe-y billionaires."

Curtis Sittenfeld's books include the novels Eligible, American Wife, and Prep and the story collection You Think It, I'll Say It, which will be published in April 2018.

12. Tom Perrotta: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ben King, Dover Publications

"In this bewildering, depressing, and sometimes cathartic moment of sexual upheaval, when every day brings new revelations about the predations and misbehavior of powerful men, I’m grateful for The Scarlet Letter, that most prophetic of classic American novels. Hawthorne saw it all — the explosive intersection of power and desire, the punishment of the victim, the hypocrisy of the perpetrator, and the complicity of the culture. But he was also writing about a different time, when people still believed in sin, and were capable of shame. Dimmesdale literally dies of a guilty conscience; we’re living in the age of scripted apologies and defiant denials, led by a proud pussy-grabbing president who is incapable of shame and revels in his own hypocrisy. For all of its darkness, though, The Scarlet Letter is about Hester’s resilience and ultimate triumph; it’s a true survivor’s story."

Tom Perrotta is the author of the New York Times bestseller Mrs. Fletcher, and eight other works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His other books include Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher, and Nine Inches. His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.

13. Sloane Crosley: Transit by Rachel Cusk

Caitlin Mitchell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"This year, I gravitated toward anything that could be classified as escapism. Escapism can go one of two ways — the flashy way that involves other galaxies and haunted gardens or the quiet way that involves imagining a life not focused on our nation's broken moral compass. The novel that most seamlessly put me into the mind of another person (albeit in a country with an uncertain future of its own) was Rachel Cusk's Transit. I love her writing in general. It's so clean and stylish. Transit was a perfect follow-up to Outline. But if I had to pinpoint the moment it really got me, I'd say it's the chapter at the hair salon. Every bit of dialogue and description is executed to the fullest without being tedious. I have total recall for that scene and the book came out in January, meaning there were lots of novels that got read between then and now. But I can still see it getting dark outside the salon window. I can still smell the ammonia from the hair dye."

Sloane Crosley is the author of the bestselling essay collections I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, as well as the novel The Clasp. Her new book of essays, Look Alive Out There, will be released in April. She is a contributing editor and books columnist at Vanity Fair.

14. Porochista Khakpour: Hunger by Roxane Gay

porochistakhakpour.com, Harper

"I'm very thankful for Roxane Gay's Hunger, which should be and should have been on every award list if people were really reading. This is her best book, in my opinion. I've known and read Roxane for a while but I did not know most of what was in this book. I love that it takes an unconventional road to storytelling and that the structure often spirals within itself in interesting ways. I also love that it is a story about sexual assault and the ways in which that can change your life. It's a deeply moving, somewhat experimental, gorgeously written and brilliantly thought-out memoir. And it's one of those books that no matter what your relationship to the body, this book is for you, all of you."

Porochista Khakpour is the author of the forthcoming memoir Sick (Harper Perennial, June 2018) and the novels The Last Illusion (2014) and Sons & Other Flammable Objects (2017). Her writing appears in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, Elle, Spin, Slate, Conjunctions, and many other publications around the world.

15. Colum McCann: Rice by Nikky Finney

Brendan Bourke, Triquarterly

"There comes a time — especially around Thanksgiving — when we all need a book that gracefully complicates our idea of America and its history. I like the Whitmanesque idea that we are large and contain multitudes. When chasing this idea of healthy contradiction, I inevitably end up turning to my poetry shelf. Give me any number of poets — Rankin and Muldoon and Darwish have been among my go-to writers recently for no reason that I can discern except that in these times of ugly simplicity I wanted my world to become a little more nuanced. Among the books I found on my shelf alongside these poets was Nikky Finney's Rice, which is a book I hadn't read in a couple of years. Opening it up was like returning to a friend. I used to know many of the lines off by heart. I'm a little rusty now but it was so nice to explore it again. Nikky hails from South Carolina and she writes about so powerfully about landscape and family, and their intersection with history and commerce. In these poems she explores the way a single grain of rice might contain everything, not least our ancestors and eventually ourselves. She is so open to the world and she illustrates, for me at least, a history that we need to know more about at this time of year."

Colum McCann, originally from Dublin, Ireland, is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. He has won numerous international literary awards for his work, including the Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Hennessy Award for Irish Literature, the Irish Independent Hughes and Hughes/Sunday Independent Novel of the Year 2003, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. Additionally, his fiction has been published in over 30 languages and has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Paris Review, among others, and he has written for numerous publications including the Irish Times, the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Independent. His novel Let The Great World Spin was the winner of the National Book Award in 2009 and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His most recent book is Letters to a Young Writer.

Advertisement

16. Chang-rae Lee: The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies

Annika Lee, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

"I was very thankful for Peter Ho Davies’ panoramic novel The Fortunes, a moving, often funny, and deeply provocative novel about the lives of four very different Chinese Americans as they encounter the myriad opportunities and clear limits of American life. An essential tale gorgeously told."

Chang-rae Lee is the author of five novels, most recently On Such a Full Sea. He was recently awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and teaches creative writing and literature at Stanford.

17. Lauren Groff: Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

Kristin Kozelsky, NYRB Classics

"This has been a year of rupture and dread, days of paralyzing anxiety and nights during which I pace the house, unable to sleep. I'm most grateful for Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights, which has kept me company through many months of insomnia. I couldn't write and could hardly read at all in the beginning of the year, and I picked the book up to reread for the nth time out of last-ditch desperation (as well as the private joke of the title). I fell into Hardwick's spiny and brilliant prose and insanely sharp characterizations with almost shaky relief; the surface plotlessness of the book allowed me to come and go from it without worrying that I'd forgotten something important. With so much being ripped from us, day to day, it felt good to surrender myself to a ringing voice of authority I that I trusted and loved."

Lauren Groff is the New York Times bestselling author of three novels, The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, and Fates and Furies, and the celebrated short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. She has won the PEN/O. Henry Award, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work has been featured in the New Yorker, along with several Best American Short Stories anthologies, and she was named one of Granta's 2017 Best Young American Novelists. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and sons.

18. Alexander Chee: The End by Anders Nilsen

M. Sharkey, Fantagraphics

"This Thanksgiving, the book I'm most thankful for, after a year when I lost so many loved ones, is Anders Nilsen’s The End, his extraordinary graphic memoir conducted in a series of meditations on love, grief, and mortality after the death of his fiancée. It picks from and includes some of the territory of his first book on this loss, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow — the first book I ever cried to while reading it standing in a bookstore — and moves into new terrain, creating something between a sequel and a revisitation. Moving on here like a sequel to grief, and a continuation of it."

Alexander Chee is most recently the author of The Queen of the Night. His collection of essays, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, is forthcoming in 2018.

Riverhead Books, Graywolf Press

"I'm thankful always for The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I have read it many times over the years and am always lifted up by its soaring writing and then made depressed and insane by the injustice it lays out. I love its politics, structure, philosophy, characters, how everything in it matters so much, and for that one section which follows a turtle around, just because. It's a radical book that feels scarily relevant no matter when I pick it up. I read it most recently before this awful election cycle. I wish everyone had.

"I'm thankful this year for What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, two long-titled, kickass story collections, and Hunger by Roxane Gay, a short-titled, essential memoir that managed to show me shadowy parts of myself through her story."

Diane Cook is the author of the story collection Man V. Nature. She is the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn.

20. Alexandra Kleeman: The Second Body by Daisy Hildyard

Graham Webster, Fitzcarraldo Editions

"I'm thankful for The Second Body by Daisy Hildyard, a moving, book-length essay that examines the different ways in which human and animal bodies are linked, both at a physical and visceral level and at the most difficult-to-picture planetary level. Hildyard's writing stretches the mind, pushes you to not just acknowledge but feel the connection between a piece of meat at the butcher's shop and the flight path of a pigeon. An expanded view is always, I think, something to be grateful for."

Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine and Intimations (Harper, 2016), a short story collection, and the 2016 winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. Her work has been published in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Harper's, Vogue, and n+1. She lives in Staten Island and teaches at Columbia University.

21. Jessica Knoll: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Leslie Hassler, Penguin Classics

"In this moment of cultural reckoning, I feel a cosmic connection to brilliant women whose brilliance was not recognized while they were alive. Dismissed by critics as a middlebrow genre writer, Shirley Jackson took on themes of domestic oppression, mental illness, and the occult as a means for women to harness power in a time when they had very little opportunity for power. The Haunting of Hill House is a frightening, funny, and at times, sad tale about a lonely young woman who joins an occult scholar and his team seeking evidence of psychic activity in a grand old house that, over the course of a summer, seems to turn on everyone inside it, a metaphor for the way housewifery smothers women’s creativity and ambition. Published in 1959, the book enjoyed commercial success but not critical acclaim — that was reserved for Jackson’s philandering husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman.

"Jackson has been on my mind recently, as people are already asking how soon we can forgive men in power who abused their power. They’re so talented! Surely our culture will suffer without their unparalleled genius. Instead, let’s focus on stocking their void with new talent — women, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LBGTQ community, etc. People who have been overlooked the way Jackson was, 60 years ago, in favor of a man who sure, had talent, but no less and certainly no more than his extraordinary wife."

Jessica Knoll is the New York Times best-selling author of Luckiest Girl Alive and the forthcoming novel The Favorite Sister.

22. T.C. Boyle: Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall

Jamieson Fry, Mariner Books

"A book I am most thankful for in this autumnal season of the earth’s annual trip around the sun and my own gathering years is Donald Hall’s Essays After Eighty. These are witty and moving dispatches from old age, seasoned with Mr. Hall’s lyrical observations of nature and life in the farmhouse his great-grandfather once inhabited. A lovely, lively, sustaining book that resuscitates the world over and over again."

T.C. Boyle is the author of 27 books, the most recent of which, The Relive Box, was published last month.

Promoted

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss