As 2018 draws to a close, we remember the literary luminaries we lost this year. They include novelists, playwrights, and poets who were at the top of their fields and created beloved classics, as well as public figures from a chef to a physicist to a politician, who shared their wisdom and experiences through their written works. What better way to honor their accomplishments and legacies than to read their enduring works?
In 2016, the New York Times described Ursula K. Le Guin as, “America’s greatest living science fiction writer” and writers like Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks site her as a major influence on their work. She authored many beloved novels and short stories and brought literary quality and feminist ideas to her sicence fiction and fantasy works. She is perhaps best known for her Earthsea series, collected here in one volume for the first time, with enchanting new illustrations.
Novelist and short story writer Philip Roth was one of the most awarded American writers of his generation. His books received two National Book Awards and National Book Critics Circle Awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize for this novel. It features Seymour “Swede” Levov, a man who seems to have it all until his daughter commits a savage act of political terrorism. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, AMERICAN PASTORAL is Philip Roth at the height of his powers.
In postwar America, Swede Levov watches his seemingly perfect life fall apart when his daughter’s new political affiliation leads to a savage act of political terrorism. Nearly twenty years after its publication, AMERICAN PASTORAL remains extremely relevant and well worth reading. The film stars Ewan McGregor, Dakota Fanning, and Jennifer Connelly. RELEASE DATE: 2016
Author and journalist Tom Wolfe was known for his critically acclaimed novel THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, for being a snappy dresser who often wore a crisp white suit, and for helping to develop “New Journalism,” a style of journalism that incorporated literary techniques. This style was exemplified in nonfiction works like this iconic and unflinching portrait of Ken Kesey, his Merry Pranksters, LSD, and the 1960s.
Tom Wolfe set the standard for modern immersive journalism (called “New Journalism”) with his astonishing, technicolor portrait of Ken Kesey (author of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) and his Merry Pranksters. As they take psychedelic drugs, encounter infamous figures of the 1960s, and travel across the country in a painted school bus, Wolfe captures not only a moment in time but an entire generation’s feelings of uncertainty, angst, and hope.
Book club favorite Anita Shreve explored themes of romance, grief, and betrayal in her 18 novels, including this bestselling Oprah Book Club selection. It follows Kathryn Lyons, whose life as a teacher, wife, and mother has been peaceful but unextraordinary until she gets the news that her pilot husband has died in a crash. Amidst her grief, media scrutiny into the tragedy and her husband’s life brings an alarming question to light: could he have had a secret life she knew nothing about?
The legendary former editor in chief, publisher, and chariman of Marvel Comics co-created many iconic and beloved characters, from Spider-Man to X-Men to Daredevil, Black Panther, the Hulk, and more. In this funny, moving, honest graphic memoir, Stan Lee tells the story of his life, from an impoverished childhood in Manhattan to his military training films during World War II to the rise of the Marvel empire.
Kate Dopirak was a picture book writer whose works were full of playfulness, humor, warmth, and genuine kid appeal. YOU’RE MY BOO is a sweet, rhyming ode to unconditional love that humorously explores the ups and downs of sibling relationships and life with a toddler.
Celebrity chef, journalist, food expert, and social activist Anthony Bourdain traveled far and wide highlighting international cuisine on his television shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown. But his career truly took off with the publication of this honest, acerbic, and unflinching memoir about life in the restaurant business, which went on to sell over one million copies.
There are food memoirs, and then there is KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL. Anthony Bourdain arguably kicked off the celebrity chef phenomenon with this wickedly funny memoir/expose that revealed the “sex, drugs, and bad behavior of haute cuisine.”
Brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking made many groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the universe. This landmark work explores profound questions about the nature of time, the beginning of the universe, and the possibility of other dimensions, in language that is as accessible as it is fascinating.
Told in language we all can understand, A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME explores such questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Are there other dimensions in space? With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the secrets at the heart of creation.
Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman penned the scripts for iconic movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, but is perhaps most beloved for this novel (which he also adapted into a movie). THE PRINCESS BRIDE is an ingenious and hilarious send-up of the fantasy genre featuring madcap antics, quests, revenge, true love, and “Rodents of Unusual Size.”
If Your Favorite Character is Dustin Henderson
In the mind of “Toothless,” his best friend didn’t almost die. His comrade was captured by a monster, thus his band of merry adventurers went on a quest to rescue him. For more eccentric goofballs in perilous situations, try the book that preceded the classic movie “The Princess Bride.”
John McCain was a senator, Vietnam War veteran, and author of half a dozen books, including this inspiring, frank, and deeply personal memoir that looks back on his years in the Senate, his 2008 campaign for the presidency against Barack Obama, and his crusades on behalf of democracy and human rights in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Dubbed by the Los Angeles Times as “the 20th-century Lewis Carroll,” Harlan Ellison was incredibly prolific, penning 70 books, 400 short stories, dozens of screenplays, and over 1000 essays. This collection of seven inventive, groundbreaking short stories is an important and memorable work of speculative fiction.
A lauded playwright, poet, and feminist, Ntozake Shange is best remembered for this revolutionary, award-winning work that combines poetry, drama, and music in its exploration of the experiences of women on color in the twentieth century. It is a dramatic prose poem written in vivid and powerful language that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.
Appointed US Poet Laureate in 2006, Donald Hall is the author of over 50 books, including 22 volumes of poetry and this richly detailed, intimate memoir about this life. It takes readers from his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut through his painful formative days at Exeter and his career in poetry. He also details his encounters with figures like Edward Gorey, Frank O’Hara, and Adrienne Rich.
Billy Graham was an evangelist and minister who served as a spiritual advisor to US presidents from the 33rd, Harry S. Truman, to the 44th, Barack Obama, and spent six decades preaching on television and radio. This compilation of articles spans his minstry and shares his wisdom and legacy.
George H. W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States, as well as a veteran and former vice president and Director of Central Intelligence. Though reticent in public, George Bush openly shared his private thoughts in correspondence throughout his life. This collection of letters, diary entries, and memos gives insight into his life from his service as the youngest commissioned pilot in the Navy during WWII, his terms in Congress, and the presidency, as well as personal correspondence with his family.
First Lady, presidential mother, and champion of literacy Barbara Bush penned this heartfelt and wise memoir telling of everything from growing up in Rye, NY, to her fateful union with George H.W. Bush, to the world of Washington politics and the famous figures she’s met.
Filled with entertaining anecdotes, dozens of personal photos, and a healthy dose of humor, this memoir is as compelling and honest as the former First Lady herself.