Ayana Mathis

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie has proven a whirlwind success, as an evocative story richly depicting 1920s Georgia and one working-class mother’s remarkable journey in raising nine children after the death of firstborn twins. A selection for both Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, the book has found an admiring audience for its unique approach to a universal story. This week, Hattie‘s author Ayana Mathis selects five books that share her work’s evocative sense of loss and wonder in a collection Mathis dubs “The Great Beyond: Books about souls (and bodies) in otherworldly terrain.”

City of God
By E. L. Doctorow

“Set in New York City at the end of the twentieth century, this novel begins with a single mystery — how did a cross stolen from an Episcopal church end up on the roof of a synagogue — and expands into all mysteries: what are we doing here, why does evil exist, what is the modern conception of God.”

By Marilynne Robinson

“The most achingly beautiful novel you’ll ever read. Read this story of transience and loss to understand the ranging, undomesticated parts of yourself, those insistent bits that tug at you on insomniac nights when you are alone at 4 a.m. and filled with longing and questions.”


Go Tell It on the Mountain
By James Baldwin

“Baldwin’s fourteen-year-old protagonist is at the center of this novel about the role of the Christian church in the lives of a Harlem family in 1936. Wrenching and alive and unflinching, it is the best portrait of a childhood in the church, and the nature of salvation, that I’ve ever read.”

The Children’s Hospital
By Chris Adrian

“What if there were a novel about a second great flood and the only surviving humans were floating in a hospital full of sick children? And what if one of the medical students there was suddenly gifted with miraculous and terrifying powers to heal?  Just read it, you won’t be sorry.”

Beyond Black
By Hilary Mantel

“Unlike anything I’ve ever read, Mantel takes as her subject a psychic who, by virtue (or bane) of her gifts, is ever in the company of the spirits of the dead. That the novel is utterly believable is a testament to her gifts, and that it is also funny is icing on the cake.”