Hey y’all. Lori here. As many of our readers know, today is American Thanksgiving. Many families take a turn going around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for. Fortunately, my family does not do this because I find the answers typical, saccharine, and not very sincere when you compare them to words and actions throughout the rest of the year. But that’s a different rant altogether.
Anyway, this year, I thought we could go around the DIY MFA family table and share something genuine—what book we are most thankful for. When I set this assignment, I didn’t give any parameters to guide their answers. This is off the cuff what some of our Team Awesome members had to say about the book they are most thankful for.
Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat by Bill Watterson
The Calvin and Hobbes comics were game-changing for me. They made me realize that I wasn’t weird for talking to the weird characters inside my head or imagining epic space battles while walking around the neighborhood. While all the books in the collection are excellent, I love this one in particular because it includes the sequence in which Stupendous Man goes to school and also the storyline where Hobbes sends Calvin encoded messages with a cool skull and crossbones insignia for the return address.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Talk about coming down to the wire! I kept putting off scheduling this post, in part, because I had no idea what to say. Really, I put it off until the last responsible moment. Fortunately, a throwaway comment last night when talking with a friend led me to my answer. This collection of stories and essays opened so many doors for me. It introduced me to one of my favorite writers. It introduced me to a genre that I love and have decided to devote my time to writing. This, in turn, led me to many other writers and books that have become favorites. So I’d say this slim little volume, which I reread every year, has had a pretty big impact on me.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
There’s a reason it’s one of the top 10 most checked-out books from the NYC Public Library. Carnegie presents story after story to illustrate his basic principles; principles that remain true and timeless in both business and personal life. I think even the best of us can learn from this book. I can certainly say it has influenced my life for the better.
“Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are so many books that have come along at just the right time for me. But for sheer, overall, long-term helpfulness, it would be “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’ve read it in all my low points and have internalized a lot of what he had to say. One of my favorites is “Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it is none.” To me, this means in order to make real change my voice has to be heard. And I can’t do that by mumbling in a corner. Also, that it is alright that I love you when I meet you, but if you mess with my friends, it is also okay to kick you off the island.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne changed my life and gave me hope. She is a best friend and guide. I never grow tired of rereading her adventures and learning more about her and her creator L.M. Montgomery.
No Turning Back by Sgt. Bryan Anderson
I’m thankful for this memoir by a Purple Heart decorated soldier. In it, he documents his life after being “blown up” by an IED in Iraq. I’m grateful for his generosity as a sensitivity reader for my work, which is inspired by combat-wounded veterans. #veteransday
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The plot is a multi-layered fantasy mystery, but the heart of the story is trauma and recovery. It’s a gentle hug, a nod. It says, “I understand what you’re going through.” Also, I found this article in The Guardian, in which Clarke discusses her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, and this lovely 5 X 15 Stories conversation between Neil Gaiman and Clarke. Both enhance the experience of reading the novel.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
I’ve loved this book for many years. The older I get, the stronger it resonates. A book about selflessness, purity of heart and character, true love, finding love in unexpected places, perseverance, and hope, I absolutely adore The Host. It’s been a comfort book for me to reread time and again in dry spells, to break out of book slumps, or when my heart is just heavy. I first read it as a young teenager, and till this day as an adult, it’s still one of my favorite novels ever written.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to live out his days at the Metropol Hotel, but in spite of being confined, he develops a rich life with the staff and guests of the hotel who bring the outside world to him. One of my favorite scenes is the dark night of the soul, when he is convinced to keep going after handyman Abram shares honey from the rooftop that tastes of the apples Count Rostov fondly recalls from childhood. It perfectly captures how these connections with nature ground us with our local history.
As I read through these responses, I loved how varied the responses were in terms of the books chosen and the reasons for choosing them. Books are such a personal experience, yet they have such an impact on our writing and on how we relate to the world. Before I get too sentimental, I’m going to sign off.
But before I go…