Books We’re Thankful For


“I spent a good long while trying to come up with an answer that wasn’t so obvious, but when it comes down to it, I will forever be most thankful for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I remember first seeing it there in the bookstore–alongside books 2 and 3, which had been released by the time I got with the program–and being entranced even before I cracked the cover. From the moment I encountered Dumbledore and McGonagall on Privet Drive to the last page of the Prisoner of Azkaban, I don’t think I stopped to take a breath. (Full disclosure: I missed at least one choir audition entirely because I was reading.) Then I starred in the periodic revivals of “Waiting on Rowling” with each subsequent installment. There were midnight book premieres, followed by midnight movie premieres. And there were tears­—oh, so many tears. Through it all, Harry Potter was the Chosen One who turned me into a full-on reader, and I love him, even after all this time. Always.” —Nicole Hill

“Where would I be without Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family? Reading that book taught me so much about the possibilities of non-fiction. Random Family follows several characters over a decade of their lives in the Bronx, as they fight to keep afloat amid the crush of poverty. LeBlanc lived with her characters for years, observing the moments, big and small, that made up their lives. She pays constant attention to both the structural conditions in which her characters live, and also their humanity as they navigate within them. What results is soaring empathy, and a book that made me feel, physically, the characters’ emotions. I’m so glad I can return to it again and again.” —Amelia Schonbek

“Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold gives me new things to be thankful for each time I read it. From poetic descriptions (“the weather was funereal”) to quick yet informative characterizations (“she had an eighty-proof hangover”), Marquez packs a ton of beautiful prose into each and every page of this short novel, while at the same time using every sentence to examine the murder of Santiago Nasar. What keeps me coming back to this book, though, is the feeling that comes near the end—surprise. Within the first few pages, we learn how and why Santiago Nasar dies, as well as the names of his assailants. Nasar’s death is no mystery (it was, after all, foretold), yet Marquez manages to create a kind of suspense that makes me forget that I already knew what was going to happen. And I’m thankful every time!” —Hanna McGrath

“There have been multiple occasions in my life when I’ve been thankful Tiny Beautiful Things, the collection of Dear Sugar columns penned by Cheryl Strayed, was written. Nobody writes like Cheryl Strayed—her advice is honest and tough and just so real. There have been times I’ve had to make decisions or clear hurdles in my life, and I feel a little stronger imagining her words entering my head, like she’s been on my shoulder the whole time, offering the best advice I could ever need. (Plus: it’s just beautiful, fearless writing.) And from what I understand, the fact that Strayed started writing as Sugar in the first place was a total fluke—she was asked during a super-brief lull in her writing career to answer the column for free. Had she been asked thirty seconds later, Strayed has said, she never would have accepted the challenge. She told The New Yorker“I decided to give it a try [because] Sugar always tells people to trust their gut, so you could say from the very beginning, I was taking my own advice. I’m glad I did.” Me, too.” —Lauren Passell

“I’m thankful for Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance (they tell one story, so I’m counting them as one book). Murakami’s eternally cool narrator has taught me the art and appreciation of being alone, the beauty of coincidence, and how to deal with whatever the universe throws at you, even if it’s girls with magical ears, haunted hotels, and a shattered veteran in a sheep suit. I read these books again and again, and every time I do it’s like slipping into a cool swimming pool: the slight shock of entering a new element, coupled with the total comfort of moving through a familiar but enduringly strange world. There’s nothing like a favorite book that never stops surprising you.” –Melissa Albert 

“For the 2000 holiday season I asked my family of mixed Chanukah and Christmas celebrators for the biggest dictionary they could find. I don’t know if they coordinated or if it was pure luck that I didn’t get five dictionaries that year, but the one I opened (Christmas morning, as it turned out), The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition, was a new release, boasted “a stunning new color format” and fresh terms like: domain name, erectile dysfunction and poetry slam. The American Heritage Dictionary is a “family dictionary” and it includes illustrative photos—nearly thirteen years later, they’re the gifts that keep on giving. This depiction of a “flattop” hairstyle is the one I’m most thankful for. I love my dictionary—as both a powerful weapon against ignorance and an enduring source of unintentional comedy.” —Alexandra Silverman

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“I tend to give the side-eye to anyone who raises the question of whether or not women are funny, as though there is a debate to be had on the subject. As someone who discovered Erma Bombeck at a young and impressionable age, I never doubted for a moment that yes, Virginia, women are funny. Like many children who loved to read almost as much as they loved to snoop around, I discovered one of Bombeck’s hilarious books, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? on my parents’ bookshelf fairly early in life, and was immediately enamored. Although as a ten-year-old living in Manhattan in the early 90s I was pretty far removed from the life of a suburban stay-at-home Mom in the 60s, I still knew that in Bombeck I had found a fantastically funny writer whose books I would continue to read and reread throughout my life. Reading Bombeck helped teach me how to appreciate a well-crafted joke, how to be self-deprecating, and how to laugh at the mundane, the tragic, and the ridiculous. It also instilled in me a love of humor writing that led me to find other wonderful authors like Jean Kerr, Woody Allen, and Cynthia Heimel. I will always be grateful for that first Erma Bombeck book I snuck from my parents. I still haven’t given it back.” —Molly Shoemann-McCann

“OK, I narrowed it down to books from 2013, then winnowed it further to nonfiction, and I still came up with three. First: This particular year, I’m grateful to have discovered Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior. Say what you will about blog-books, I found her messages of vulnerability and acceptance soothing and uplifting, not to mention funny and honest. Second: I’m thankful for my own book, Poetic Justice—Legal Humor In Verse. (And I swear I mean that in a grateful way, not a shameless book-hustling way.) I learned so much while working with my coauthor, JD DuPuy; we’ve heard from so many readers who said it just nailed their experiences in law school and the courtroom; and we’ve met some really fun people through the process. Last: I couldn’t be more delighted that Ann Patchett has published her book of personal essays, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. That’s the book I’m giving everyone for the holidays this year, because it truly has something for everyone: clever musings on work and writing, plus beautifully crafted meditations on love, friendship, obstacles, etc. It’s one to read and reread.” —M.L. Philpott

  • foxyfifty

    This is hard as I think I was born with a book in my hand. But S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders has always stayed with me. Ponyboy and Johnny–I swear I fell in love. This was back in the 70’s

  • Stefanie Amboree

    I am thankful to read and reread books from Amy Tan and Lisa See. In their stories from the old China and what people over there went through to survive, it makes me realize how wonderful my life has been and is now. Women suffer in other countries while we bake pies in our wonderful new world.

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