Roald Dahl was, for many years, only known to me as the author of children’s books I read in grade school. It was not until much later—college, in fact—that I learned he also wrote short stories. And not just any short stories, but wonderfully twisted, mature, chilling stories. Stories that had me checking the cover more than once to make absolutely certain they were by the very same Roald Dahl of James and the Giant Peach renown.
Greatness often breeds controversy, and this has certainly been the case for acclaimed books throughout history. Harry Potter has been banned for its glorification of witchcraft, Go Ask Alice for its depiction of harrowing teen drug use, and Brave New World for its unsettling vision of the future—but we love them anyway. In honor of Banned Books Week, here is our staff’s list of favorite banned books, thorns and all.
The delicious scent of a heaping apple tart, baking in my oven, is beginning to waft toward me as I write this. And I have Molly Wizenberg’s memoir Delancey to thank.
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My relationship with Mitch Rapp is unique, to say the least. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this incredible character until the day his creator, author Vince Flynn, passed away in 2013. For reasons that can only be attributed to fate, I sat at my desk that morning and Googled him. I was so intrigued that I ordered the first novel Rapp is featured in, American Assassin.
With a movie based on the book being released next month, I’ve been inspired to share one of my favorite novels, Room, by Emma Donoghue. When watching an adaptation from a book, I will be the first to critique it. In the case of Room, I will be sitting in a theater in a few weeks prepared for a gripping, beautiful tale, and I will be furious if it does not meet the very high expectations this novel sets.
Literature has long allowed us to travel to distant corners of the world without leaving our own beds. Some books, however, bring you to two worlds at once. Their pages illuminate how disparate cultures can reveal the mystery and beauty in each other and make us aware of the hardships, dreams, and hidden scars of those we share space with.
I had a transformative moment on the rooftop of my aunt’s Lagos home at nineteen. I was getting my hair braided, as the sleepy Nigerian town below me slowly awakened, and reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Hosseini’s soulful writing evoked in me a new appreciation of storytelling. But it was his follow-up, A Thousand Splendid Suns, that has been anointed as my favorite book—a book I always revisit with a fresh pair of eyes.
Voracious reader and late-night funnyman Seth Meyers gets his book recommendations from someone pretty special—his mom! So for today’s list we asked our mothers to recommend some of their favorite books. As expected, our moms did not disappoint.
About a month ago, there were two things that I considered to be steadfastly and unavoidably true. The first was that I loved Matt Damon. The second was that I had a feeling significantly less than love for science fiction. Which is why, when I saw the trailer for the upcoming film The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s bestselling novel and starring my beloved Will Hunting, my heart sank. I make it a rule to read the book before seeing the movie—but was I ready to venture into the unknown territories of genre and space? I decided to put on my big-girl space pants and try.
The epigraph to Emily Gould’s debut novel, Friendship, opens with a quote from David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King: “If I wanted to matter—even just to myself, I would have to be less free, by deciding to choose in some kind of definite way. Even if it was nothing more than an act of will.” The narrator, a reluctant nihilist, realizes the price of her careless freedom came at a cost—her own self-respect. The passage reminded me of Joan Didion’s essay on self-respect, one of my coming-of-age gospels. Self-respect necessitates a certain discipline, a knowingness of one’s own worth, “a private reconciliation,” she writes. It’s a choice. An act of will.