I’ve spent the past eight years working in some capacity as a Professional Book Person, and one question I always hate getting asked is: What is your favorite book? My eyes are rolling just thinking about it. I always want to respond by saying something along the lines of: Really, Gretchen, why did you decide to wake up this morning and choose violence? It’s a really invasive question to just throw in someone’s face.
After all, there are infinite reasons why one person loves a book while another person hates it. It’s subjective. It’s about taste. It’s about someone’s cultural background and how it’s shaped their life experiences. It’s about their class status, money, and power. It’s about the way(s) in which people conceptualize God, their spirituality, and the After. It’s about the intersection of identities that determines the amount of social capital a person wields. It’s about race, language, and citizenship status. It’s the difference between who is considered an immigrant and who’s considered an expatriate. It’s about (dis)ability and access to basic social services. It’s about where everyone fits in the big soupy melting pot of humanity. Plus, there’s the whole issue surrounding which works get canonized and which works fall (are pushed) into obscurity, and how the reason for that most often corresponds to the ways the author’s identity(ies) are either marginalized or elevated.
I said all that as a preface to my own (subjective) list, which is always changing, because *I* am always changing. Without further ado, here it is:
- The Hunger Games (trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
- The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
- Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
- Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
- Truth & Beauty: [A Friendship] by Ann Patchett
- Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
- Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith
- Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith
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