Here at Bookish, we are reminded each and every day of the life-changing power of a good book. In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked eight authors to share a book that they’re grateful for. Check out what they had to say about the book they’re most thankful for, and then share your pick in the comments!
“As a writer, I’m grateful for every book I read, because they each have something to teach me. Sometimes it’s big and important—a lesson on character development, for instance. Other times, it’s a small mechanical issue, such as an elegant way to handle a time transition. But the one book I’m most grateful for is Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. Perhaps I was just the exact right age when I read it, but it was the first book that lit a writing fire inside me. In particular, it was Salinger’s pitch-perfect ear for dialogue that felt transcendent, the very thing I had always aspired to… only I hadn’t realized it until that exact moment.” —Ellen Meister, author of Dorothy Parker Drank Here
“I’m indebted to Lois Lowry for her incredible book, The Giver. She taught me so much about getting inside the mind of young heroes—how they feel when they’re alone against family, society, and the world as they know it. I learned it’s crucial to create characters who take enormous risks, even when I’m not sure how I’ll write them out of the consequences that follow. Even when I don’t know if they can or will survive the chances they take. Thank you, Lois, for teaching me to be brave in my writing.” —Lisa McMann, author of The Unwanteds series
“From the lives of the last dinosaurs to an examination of existence before light and matter, Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino was one of those formative books that I stumbled on by accident (admittedly because the title married two things that interested me: space and comic books). In my early days of writing, Calvino’s reimagined geographies and histories exposed me to the possibilities of genre and form, and helped me consider the role of myth in the stories we tell today, as well as the presence of humanity in the fantastic. This is one of a few books that are always with me.” —Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone
“Once in the late 1990s, I sprawled in Prospect Park and read Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body to a lover. ‘Time that withers you will wither me,’ Winterson wrote. ‘We will fall like ripe fruit.’ I moved in with that lover eventually, but I was never in love with her. Not really. Not as much as I was with that book. She is long gone now, but Written on the Body is still with me—still mine. I am grateful to this day for each and every page.” —MB Caschetta, author of Pretend I’m Your Friend
“Not gonna lie, I’m absolutely grateful for the book I’m reading now, The Shining by Stephen King. I read it before, in middle school, and didn’t understand the allegory of it, the mournful siren song of alcohol as a kind of balm for being an adult. I also compared it unfairly to the Stanley Kubrick film, and I can see now that they’re barely companion pieces, with completely different agendas. I can see the beauty of the father and child in the book now, and the way that King plays isolation and the feen for a drink against one another with equal fervor. The Shining is haunting, but always human.” —Nadine Darling, author of She Came From Beyond!
“Often when I’m asked questions along these lines I’ll go to the books that inspired me to write in the first place when I was young. This bleak year, the writer I am most grateful for is Kiese Laymon. Choosing between his two books is a bit of a Sophie’s choice, but his essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is one that I believe should be required reading right now. Laymon’s perspective is one I can’t get enough of. As much as the work is deeply personal, perhaps for that very reason, it also calls upon me to look at my own view of the world and see where it needs revision. Laymon does this with a balance of hard truths, humor, and love that I am truly grateful for.” —Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things
“Just one book? Impossible. Narrowing it down to just one shelf of my nearly 40 shelves? Next to impossible. Maybe I could pick just one author out of the dozens who’ve held sway over my imagination for 50 years? Doable, but still difficult. Okay, okay, okay… (takes deep breath, stares long and hard at his library) I’ll choose… David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I could have easily picked ten others from my Dickens shelf (one of the longest in my library), but I’ll settle on this bursting-at-the-seams bildungsroman about a thinly-disguised C.D. as D.C. who makes his way from abused waif to accomplished author over the course of three inches of pressed and bound pages. I am particularly thankful for Dickens’ masterful marriage of plot and character whose happy union always sharpens both my imagination and my pen—never more so than in the personages of Betsey Trotwood, Steerforth, all the Peggotties, Mr. Micawber, Dora, David and, oh, the shudder-worthy Uriah Heep. David Copperfield is a triumph! And God bless us, everyone! Oh wait, that’s from another favorite of mine.” —David Abrams, author of Fobbit
“I admit it: I am an indiscriminate reader, having grown up in a home with a grandfather who consumed mystery novels like chocolate, a mother who wallowed in romance and science fiction, and a father who only read how-to manuals. Our library was small and I read everything on its shelves. Along the way, I stumbled onto Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. It was the first novel I ever truly wept over, and the first book that taught me how a work of fiction can transcend genres, continents, and generations to touch our hearts and teach us important truths about racism, violence, and the importance of working together toward a better tomorrow.” —Holly Robinson, author of Folly Cove