Editor’s Note: With Thanksgiving two days away, I asked the Writer’s Bone crew what books they were thankful for. Here’s what they came up with. Feel free to add the books you’re the most thankful for in the comments section or tweets us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford
Stephanie Schaefer: Who didn’t love Dr. Seuss as a kid? I remember always reaching for his poetic books with colorful covers when it came time for my mom to read me and my brother a bedtime story. Little did I know that I would appreciate Oh, The Places You’ll Go even more as an adult. My mother gifted me with a shiny new copy of the book after high school graduation. There have been numerous instances in my life when I’ve gone back to read some of the lyrical lines as a pick me up through ups and downs in both my personal and professional lives. After all, when you’re at a crossroads or feeling lonely in a big city, sometimes you just need to hear the words, “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains.”
Alex Tzelnic: I am immensely thankful for Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I read it while living in Saigon as an English teacher. Every afternoon before teaching I'd walk over to my favorite coffee stand, sit in the tropical heat under a green umbrella, suck down Vietnamese iced coffees, and read a book that re-calibrated what I thought literature could be. I am also immensely thankful for George Saunders' essay on Slaughterhouse Five that says everything I could possibly want to say about it way better than I could possibly say it: “Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra.”
Gary Almeter: I had just finished another year teaching English at a high school in New York City and wanted to give myself an end-of-the-year treat. So on the last day of school I stopped at the Barnes and Noble on East 86th Street and, seduced by the simple watercolor cover evocative of the era in which the story is set, bought this book from the New Releases shelf. The story is a simple coming-of-age story set in rural post-Depression era North Carolina about a boy named Jim. Ironically, the story is so simple that it was jarring to realize how rare such simplicity had become. It's simple and spectacular. The writing and the tone are both so pure and heartfelt without being sappy. I loved every word. Then, eager to explore more of Earley's work, I later bought a book of short stories wherein we meet Jim again. Those short stories came first and in an interview I read someplace, Mr. Earley suggested that he just wasn't finished with this character named Jim so felt compelled to write a novel about him. And subsequently write another one called The Blue Star.
I am thankful for this book for a host of reasons. First, a reminder that books—hardcover, expensive, shiny, new smell books—make the best treats and that it's okay to treat yourself. Next, simple stories with contented characters, if they are told well, can still be compelling. Lastly, Mr. Earley's commitment to Jim is a reminder that, as a writer, it’s acceptable to capitulate to compulsion.
Lindsey Wojcik: I am thankful for The AP Stylebook. It was the best investment I made during journalism school—although my copy is nearly a decade old (hint: holiday gift idea). It has been my saving grace during many production cycles, including during my tenure as my college newspaper's editor in chief through my post-collegiate career as a magazine editor. It has been my ace during disagreements about hyphens and capitalizations with colleagues. I'm often referred to as the AP Style nerd in the office.
I am thankful that a former colleague gave me his old copy of the guide, which was published the year I was born. It's a treasured reminder that I grew up wanting so badly to be a journalist, and for better or worse, today I am one. Thank you, AP Stylebook.
Sean Tuohy: The book that launched me into the world of hard-boiled detectives and murder mystery. I, The Jury, the first novel in the long running Mike Hammer detective series, is made up of everything that makes pulp novels great; tough guy dialogue, bullets flying, sexy femme fatales, and bloodthirsty bad guys. I am thankful that I stumbled upon this book in the eighth grade. It set me on a journey through pulp fiction that has taken over my life.
Daniel Ford: This was a harder exercise than I thought it was going to be. Part of me wanted to choose Mark Childress’ Crazy in Alabama because it was the first book my senior English teacher dropped in my hands when she forced me into the AP class. Another wanted to pick Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding because of its elegant depiction of the national pastime and its earthy, earnest characters.
However, I kept coming back to Sully in Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool. What a perfect curmudgeon. While Sully taught me the proper way to cuss and eek through a bad luck-plagued existence, Russo proved to me that plot wasn’t necessarily important when you have the right mix of characters. Sure, the events in Sully’s life make for fine literature, but it’s Russo’s study of the characters inhabiting the world in Nobody’s Fool that makes it art.
Thanks to a personal blog post from a million years ago, I can even remember my favorite line: “Clive Jr.’s fear of Sully was always rewarding. But Sully wanted to be fully awake and not hungover to appreciate it.”
There’s a Writer’s Bone mission statement in there somewhere.