Haley Tanner

The novelist recommends three vital works of American fiction.

Haley Tanner’s debut novel, Vaclav & Lena, is a love story set in the Russian immigrant community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. What starts as a professional relationship between aspiring magician and lovely assistant blossoms into something deeper and messier in a narrative characterized by a whimsical voice that never settles for sentimentality. This week, Tanner offers us a peek at her shelves and recommends three works of fiction that pulse with a vibrant energy much like that of her own work.

Books by Haley Tanner


Another Roadside Attraction

By Tom Robbins

“Full of writing as magical, raw, and luscious as the best Rock and Roll. Like songs that make you want to dance naked in the rain, this book always reminds me to live just a little wilder, and to love with complete and reckless abandon. Amanda, this book’s untamed goddess-prophetess, was the first female character I can remember reading who I wanted to emulate. She’ll make you throw down your Jane Austen, take off your shoes, walk out into the storm, and let the lighting strike.”


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz

“I love reading a book that unhinges language and expectations. This book is everything all at once–beautiful, magical, heartbreaking and hilarious. I’d follow Junot Díaz to the ends of the earth just to listen quietly to him tell, in his fantastic voice, stories that leap across time and space. Fortunately, this book (which I wanted so badly to never, ever end) does just that–exploring the inheritance of identity, and language, the power of fantasy, masculinity, the fukú, the zafa, the insane power of love at first sight, and the Dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, all while intertwining complicated stories of lust and love, sacrifice and loss.”


Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

By J. D. Salinger

“Everyone reads Catcher in the Rye, and everyone overlooks this deceptively slim slip of a book. Like our narrator, we find ourselves suddenly in the middle of a wedding, in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of the hot, sticky New York summer, and everything has already gone awry. From there, everything unravels slowly, and in his perfect way, Salinger reveals to us, piece by piece, a man trying to unwind the big hairy knots of existence–of family, and love, and the meaning of our time on earth. It’s gorgeously written and perfectly suited for a day of questioning the foundation of everything over a perfect Tom Collins and a good, solid ashtray.”