“An Author I’m Thankful For”

  • November 22, 2021

Meet some of the writers who make us grateful to be readers...

“An Author I’m Thankful For”

Kurt Vonnegut. “As I sit here at my desk, drinking coffee from a mug decorated with assorted quotes from Vonnegut, I will always be thankful for the words and thoughts he put into this world. Of course, some of those books will once again serve as banned-book fodder because they sometimes swear and sometimes make us confront unpleasant situations like the WWII destruction of Dresden and the killing of thousands of innocent civilians. But Vonnegut’s genius, like all great literature, was asking readers to consider the world and our place in it, especially at moments when humanity fails. He wanted us all to be better people: ‘I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool.’” ~Drew Gallagher

Eudora Welty. “I’m especially thankful for the work of Welty, who is one of the finest writers in the English language.” ~David Bruce Smith

Charles McCarry. “For a guaranteed good read by a first-class writer, McCarry fulfills the search every time. A former official at the CIA and later a National Geographic editor and the author of many books, he’s my go-to author. I miss him now that he’s gone.” ~Ronald Goldfarb

Toni Morrison. “I am always a little smarter after I have read Morrison’s work. I think everyone is.” ~John P. Loonam

Carolyn Forché. “This award-winning poet and memoirist stands on holy ground. Her work is luminous, transcendent, brave, beautiful but always — always — in service to the human struggle. But my thankfulness extends beyond her writing. For the past two years, I’ve worked with her closely, organizing her archive and library. What haven’t we talked about? From travel and translation, teaching, politics, and human rights to poets and poetry, reading and writing, we’ve covered it all, and our conversations never run dry. My cup runneth over!” ~Amanda Holmes Duffy

Elizabeth Strout. “Her psychological portraits of difficult people are astonishing in their ability to expand the reader’s empathy. I especially loved her linked story collection Olive Kitteridge. When the second cycle, Olive, Again, came out, I doubted Strout would be able to achieve a perfect second take, but she did.” ~Dorothy Reno

Alice Stephens. “I’m thankful for her continuing efforts to change the narrative of adoption (and race) in the U.S. and around the world. I often compare her to Toni Morrison in my mind because she is brilliant in her language and characterizations, unrelenting in her vision, and strong like the oak.” ~Y.S. Fing

John Grisham. “Fellow Independent reviewer and podcaster Talmage Boston calls Grisham’s books ‘delicious distractions,’ and he’s so right! In this second year of covid restrictions, I’m especially grateful for Grisham and his pile of character-driven, cleverly plotted stories. Some are downright riveting. Others are somewhat less so, but I’ve never put one down at the end and thought, ‘Maybe I should take up crochet.’” ~Salley Shannon

Thanhhà Lai. “I revisited her books during the pandemic, including my forever favorite, Butterfly Yellow, and so appreciate the ways her stories present resilience and optimism even for characters facing intense challenges. Her books show that even if things are hard, there is still space to dream and hopefully thrive.” ~Emma Carbone

Georgette Heyer. “I’m incredibly grateful for this 20th-century novelist, who pioneered the Georgian and Regency historical romance subgenre. Her books succored my difficult teenage years and brought me glimmers of joy and peace. Her attention to minute period details is astonishing, and her light, deft hand with wit, language, and characterization makes for tales that are just as fascinating today as they were decades ago.” ~Keira Soleore

Oscar Wilde. “He put words together in a way so memorable, the phrase ‘Wildean epigram’ had to be coined. There are novels as haunting and unforgettable as The Picture of Dorian Gray (and plays as hilarious and unforgettable as The Importance of Being Earnest), but none more so.” ~Heidi Mastrogiovanni

Robb Forman Dew. “When Dew died, I felt a personal loss although I’d only known her books. I read Dale Loves Sophie to Death after my first child was born, absorbing the story of family, parenting — the abiding themes of her subsequent novels and memoirs. Recently, I reread her last, Being Polite to Hitler, studying her way with time and history. Gail Godwin said Dew left a book in progress, a memoir she’d decided to fictionalize. If only she’d had time! I just ordered Dew’s A Southern Thanksgiving: Recipes and Musings for a Manageable Feast and am thankful she’s on the way.” ~Ellen Prentiss Campbell

Haruki Murakami. “I am a recent convert to Murakami, but I've been betting on him for the Nobel the last few years. Mystical, sparse, yet somehow fully in touch with humanity. Just by immersing yourself in his prose, you find yourself calmer and more connected with the world.” ~Chris Rutledge

Carolyn Keene. “In actuality, this ‘author’ of the Nancy Drew mystery books is the pseudonym of a writing team introduced 91 years ago by Edward L. Stratemeyer. The Clue in the Old Album, Nancy Drew #24, was my first chapter book and the springboard to a lifelong obsession with reading and books (preferably mysteries). I plowed through the series to follow Nancy herself, a teenage girl with brains, courage, talent, resourcefulness, compassion, and humor who enjoyed the respect of adults around her, had a boyfriend but didn’t need him (!), and drove her own roadster! Thank you, Carolyn Keene, for giving this real girl a fictional hero(ine) and a glimpse of life beyond the back yard, wide-open with possibilities, unfettered by age or gender.” ~Liz Robelen

Alice McDermott. “Though I have what I call my ‘A List’ of favorite authors — Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx, Anthony Marra, and Alice McDermott — the one for whom I truly give thanks is McDermott. Her fiction most closely reflects what I attempt to achieve with my own, and her body of work — quiet stories of everyday lives in working- and middle-class worlds that illustrate the transcendence possible for all — offers an endless master class on what fiction can and should be.” ~Jenny Yacovissi

Robert B. Parker. “This was a close call, but his early Spenser private-eye novels changed the genre! But more than that, Parker was a literate and descriptive writer whose best works (such as Early Autumn and Looking for Rachel Wallace) plumbed the depths of societal changes without being preachy.” ~Lawrence de Maria

John le Carré. “There’s something immensely comforting about falling into one of the late spymaster’s Cold War-era novels, even though I’m always hopelessly lost for the first 50 pages or so. In le Carré’s world — as in ours — the good guys aren’t always good and the bad guys aren’t always bad, but there’s generally a little honor (if not reward) in trying to do the right thing.” ~Holly Smith

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