one grand books

Roxane Gay’s 10 Favorite Books

Bookseller One Grand Books has asked celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is the list of former Outlander recapper and author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State (favorites of Phoebe Robinson and Gabrielle Union), Roxane Gay.

This is such an elegant novel. I love how Wharton finely details the lives of the New York wealthy, their intrigues, the ways they interact, the ways they indulge and deny themselves. And at the heart of it, passionate, unrequited love, and the quieter, more reserved love borne of duty. I’ll always love this book.

I don’t mind emotional excess, and in addition to being so very readable, with really interesting, complex, at times infuriating characters, A Little Life is full of emotional excess. I so admire how Yanagihara allows the melodrama into this story, and does so unabashedly. This book is unforgettable and heart-wrenching and all I could ever want in a reading experience.

I first read this short-story collection many years ago and it has stayed with me. I was struck by the title, and then the stories, each focused on black girls and women, the worlds of those stories fully realized and held carefully in Johnson’s very talented hands.

Pachinko is the novel I tell anyone who will listen about. It is a multigenerational, sweeping saga of Koreans in Japan. The prose is as edifying as it is absorbing. There are no easy, convenient endings for any of these characters but my goodness, how richly Min Jin Lee renders their lives.

Mary Miller is one of my favorite short-story writers and in Big World, she writes about flawed, boozy women who make bad decisions and live to tell their tales. The writing in this little collection is atmospheric and claustrophobic and illuminating and lovely. In each story, Miller shows us how the world is as big as it is small.

There is a scene in Tampa where Celeste marks her territory, if you will, with her own vaginal moisture. That, in many ways, tells you everything you need to know about Tampa and Alissa Nutting’s immense talents. This novel is disturbing, uncomfortable, irreverent, and compelling. Nutting makes us complicit in Celeste’s crimes and still, she leaves room for empathy where most writers would not.

The level of craft at work in each of the poems in Don’t Call Us Dead is exceptional. These are poems about black men and their imperiled, impassioned bodies, what it means to live with HIV, and so much more. There is pain here but there is so much joy, so much fierce resistance to anything that dares to temper the stories being told here.

I can’t nor do I want to unsee the essays in this collection. Irby is well known as a humorist, and the essays in We Are Never Meeting in Real Life are, indeed, very funny. They are also poignant, and incredibly honest. Humor makes way for vulnerability and by the end of this book you will have cried as much as you laughed about what it means to be a black woman, what it is to live with chronic illness, how poverty marks you, how love always finds a way.

While most people tout The Color Purple, and rightly so, I love, beyond measure, Possessing the Secret of Joy, which is a not quite sequel to The Color Purple, about Tashi, the wife of Celie’s son Adam, and how something that happens to her body at a very young age shapes the rest of her life. This is the novel that taught me how to write fiction with political ambitions. It is searing and wondrous and painful, and every time I read it, the ending wrecks me. And still, I go back for more. That’s how important this novel is.

Marie is very very bad which makes her very very interesting and, in fact, endearing. This slender novel is witty and sharp and sexy. It’s a wild ride from New York to Paris to Mexico as Marie tries to find herself, at any cost. Oh what a ride it is.

Roxane Gay’s 10 Favorite Books