This year was a great year for our collective bookshelf—we talked about new exciting fiction, old favorites, touching memoirs, and hilarious essay collections. However, there were a couple of books that remained near and dear to our hearts. As is Thanksgiving tradition, we’re taking a break from family dinner to share the books we’re most thankful for.
I had hit a trend of beautiful but emotionally draining books in the first half of this year. There were so many wonderful works coming out about war-torn countries and tragic family sagas that I felt I couldn’t let pass me by. However, they left me in quite a lurch when it came to something to take on my beach house vacation for the Fourth of July. Then a friend passed me LESS by Andrew Sean Greer, and it felt like such a welcome warm breeze into my stuffy mind. The story of an English professor who sets off on a journey to accept every speaking invitation he can find in order to skip town for his ex-lover’s imminent wedding had me seated in my lounge chair with a smile on my face, and my fellow housemates properly ignored me for hours. The language and quick with of LESS will charm any reader who is both young and young at heart. It gave me hope, laughter, and certainly lifted me from the funk of the world for the short time that we were together. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. —Stu
A gorgeous graphic novel that explores the interconnectedness of loss, impermanence, and ruin, IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS is a book that makes me stop in my tracks and regard the current moment (that elusive thing) and savor it for the fleeting vessel it is, and consider: imagine wanting only this. —Nikki
This year, I was blown away by this wrenching, brave, important memoir. Chessy Prout shares the story of her sexual assault by a classmate during her freshman year at a prestigious boarding school, her fight for justice, and the decision, in the face of backlash from the community, to shed her anonymity in the hopes of helping other survivors. I am so thankful for her strong, courageous voice that holds a magnifying glass up to our society, and her advocacy gives me hope for the future. —Sarah Jane
There’s an incorrect stereotype that science fiction appeals only to boys. That never made sense to me, since our modern conception of sci-fi was all but invented by a teenage girl. I shudder to think how colorless the world would be without Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, FRANKENSTEIN. I’ll always be thankful that Lord Byron came up with a ghost story challenge to pass the time in 1816 and that Mary thoroughly won with her unforgettable tale of death, science, and morality. Ever since I was a little girl, I have found Mary Shelley and her classic novel inspirational, and it has encouraged me and countless others to fall in love with the science fiction and horror genres. —Kerry
One of my favorite things about the Jurassic Park franchise is that it raises such provocative questions about the ethics of science and creation, a la Dr. Ian Malcolm’s observation that “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could [create dinosaurs] that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Mary Shelley’s masterpiece of scientific horror also explores this moral quandary.
The first book I read this year was Gabrielle Union's WE'RE GOING TO NEED MORE WINE, and 11 months later, I'm still referencing the life lessons I gleaned from her essays. Reading WINE is like catching up with an old friend—sharing our thoughts on the pop culture or the political climate; comparing notes on microaggressions and natural hair woes; and delving into nitty-gritty details of our past loves, hurts, and joys. A big sister in book form, WE'RE GOING TO NEED MORE WINE is one of those books I can always turn to when life gets confusing and I need some perspective. —Tolani
This year has been, well, a lot—and I’ve found that the best way to deal with it is to confront it through books. As a reader of nonfiction, I’m always thankful for smart and incisive writers who are doing up-to-the-minute work that comments on the way we’re living now. No one does that better than Rebecca Traister. GOOD AND MAD is both a history and commentary, surveying the radical and revolutionary power of women’s anger in America, from suffrage and civil rights to Title IX and the 2016 election. No matter your political position, it’s a vital, thought-provoking, and perspective-shifting work that I think people will be looking to for years to come, and I’m so grateful it exists. —Julianna
I don’t think it’s too outlandish to say I’ve never connected with a book in the same way I have with THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa. His framing of daily life, infused with poignant observations and equally blunt realities, has shown me that it’s okay to think or state or feel without having answers. Even better is the fact that it’s not a book that has to be read from cover to cover; you can dig into it whenever you need, skipping to the sections that most speak to you in that moment. —Sarah
I can’t explain the path this small piece of philosophy has led me down without telling you the tiniest bit about me. Here it goes: I am a people pleaser. I know this. Everyone knows this. It’s fine. But my biggest problem is that the people pleasing makes me feel small, and Adler’s philosophies somehow emboldened me to not only feel big but to ask to be seen and treated that way. I keep telling myself that I need to reread this book, but honestly, it’s kind of like THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP—you don’t remember why you’re supposed to feel joy, or that thing about donating, but you do remember that you’re supposed to clean one room at a time, and that changes your life in a substantial enough way. Thanks, COURAGE TO BE DISLIKED. I will attempt to keep having courage, but will more likely just continue to be slightly disliked, which I am totally okay with. Kind of. —Leora
I read THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS earlier this year, and it is the first novel that made me realize the power and importance of representation in literature. I’ve read plenty and have never come across characters that were so much like me: Panamanian, immigrants, and even had one of my last names. This story spoke to a large portion of an identity I’d never explored through fiction or seen presented for others to experience and understand. It’s a truly remarkable book that contains multitudes to show the extraordinary lengths families endure for a better life. I read it in one day, not intending to, but because the world within these pages was familiar, comforting, and emotionally gratifying. —Ana
THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS centers around the Rivera family as they journey to America from Mexico after their daughter, Maribel, is injured and in need of care. Once they arrive, Maribel attracts the attention (and affection) of one of their new neighbors. The love story that follows, intertwined with the stories of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America, has profound repercussions for everyone involved.