Books We Are Most Thankful For: Practicing Gratitude | Arts

Books We Are Most Thankful For: Practicing Gratitude |  Arts

Just as we show gratitude for the human connections in our lives, it is equally important to recognize the connections we form through literature; A great book allows us to connect with complex characters, meet the fascinating authors behind the work, and even interrogate our relationship with ourselves. As Thanksgiving approaches, we celebrate this holiday season by sharing the books we are most grateful for.

“The Year of Magical Thinking” By Joan Didion


There is something special about her voice, her tone, her nonchalance, her intelligence, and her keen awareness that makes Joan Didion such an amazing writer. No book speaks to me more clearly than her 2005 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. I read this book for the first time last fall for a course on the subject of loss, and found beauty and strength in its raw truth, integrity, frank sadness, and power. Didion neither sugarcoats nor attempts to charm readers. Her words capture her life in all its tragedy, elegance, and clarity. Didion lived her words, and I aspire to that.

– Author Thomas A. can be reached at Vero on

“Ulysses” By James Joyce

Although reading Ulysses is often viewed as a harsh, even cruel, obstacle to thriving English majors, it is without a doubt the book for which I am most grateful. This novel represents a lot to me and marked a turning point in my life when I started university. But even more poignant is Joyce’s view of memory. Reading this text has permanently shaped my attitudes toward life and experience. By skillfully understanding the mental threads that bind life’s events together, even the most mundane aspects of the world can take on mythical significance. With this book, the sound of billiard balls conjures warm memories of late-night friendship while the scent of flowing wisteria blossoms brings back fond memories of a lover once close to him.

—John M. Weaver

“The Brown Girl’s Dream” By Jacqueline Woodson

The book I am most grateful for is “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson. In fifth grade, my aunt gave me a book for Christmas, and I was immediately amazed and frustrated when I saw a book written entirely in poetry. It was too confusing, too technical, and too exhausting to write, so I put it on my shelf collecting dust. My aunt logged me back in and encouraged me to try again.

To say that “Brown Girl Dreaming” changed my life would be an understatement. Woodson’s words have never made me feel this much before. After reading her story, I decided to dedicate myself to making sure Black girls’ stories were represented in classrooms and curricula. I have collected and donated over 15,000 books since 2015. Brown Girl Dreaming has helped me become the main character in my life.

—Staff writer Marley E. Dias can be reached at

“secret Garden” By Frances Hodgson Burnett

A sprawling mansion on the misty English moors. A bright red robin that reveals the key to a mysterious garden. A neglected little boy discovers the power of nature and loves to warm the hardest of hearts. “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is an enchanting children’s story, filled with beautiful images and timeless in its powerful themes of love and nature to heal all. The novel follows an ailing young orphan as she explores the country estate that gradually becomes her home and discovers the treasures and secrets hidden on its grounds. “The Secret Garden” is one of my favorite stories from my childhood, a magical story that instilled in me a deep appreciation for nature and an insatiable love of mystery. I will forever be grateful to this book for transporting me into a world of beautiful gardens and secret treasures, and I know I can always return to this beautiful and moving tale to remember the magic of childhood.

—Staff writer Arielle C. Frommer can be reached at

“Dublin people” By James Joyce

Political unrest, the state’s quest for self-identity, and dormant consciousness can be difficult concepts to write about in an accessible way. I am grateful for Joyce’s ability to accurately portray a society paralyzed by the simple lives of its residents. Despite the great diversity of characters represented, their entire lives are united by recurring themes and the cyclical nature of the work. While the intentional lack of action in the stories is often claustrophobic, each piece still manages to evoke powerful and lasting emotions. I wrote Dubliners more than a hundred years ago, and it resonates deeply with me by constantly offering moments of reflection, one story at a time.

– Erlisa Demineri

“Where the mountain meets the moon” By Grace Lin

As I frantically book my train tickets home this Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of a novel I cherished growing up: “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lynn. In my blended family, my mother bore the burden of passing on Chinese culture to my sister and me. A children’s book filled with fantasy adventures and interspersed with Chinese folklore has lifted some of that weight off her shoulders. For many pivotal years, more often than not, I would fall asleep with this book under my pillow. Lin’s depictions of the jade dragon’s shimmering scales and the sparkling rice fields of Fruitless Mountain clarified my dreams, while the Old Man of the Moon’s dialogue echoed in my mind. When my grandmother lived too far away to cook homemade dinner, Lin’s characters showed me what traditional Chinese cooking looked like. When I was struggling to remember every animal in the Chinese zodiac, Lin reminded me of the mythical origin of these characters. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon did more than just show me the beautiful story of a strong heroine – it brought home my own stories that were almost lost, and for that I am grateful.

-Writer Stella A. can be reached at Gilbert on

“The Glass Throne” By Sarah J. Diamonds

“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Mas is always there for me. Every time my academic reading gets too confusing, I feel frustrated, or reality starts to seem boring, I open Maas’s debut fantasy novel. When I first read Maas’s book—full of duels, romance, and spunky heroines—about eight years ago, this novel opened my eyes to how far storytelling can convey to readers. Since reading Maas’s book, I’ve cycled through everything fantasy has to offer, reading Sanderson, Tolkien, Martin, Gaiman, and more. However, I will always be grateful to Throne of Glass for sucking me into this fantasy world in the first place and being there for me when I needed it most.

-Writer Hannah E. Gadway can be reached at

“Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come.” By Jessica Pan

I first read this book during my first semester in college – or maybe this book read me. This work has taught me more about myself and my oscillation between extroversion and introversion than any daily exercise or online personality test. This non-fiction book covers a year in Pan’s life as she breaks away from her introverted tendencies to ask simple questions without shame, performs live comedy sets, travels alone, and discovers the beauty of talking to strangers. Ban specifically delves into the topic of pluralistic ignorance—the idea that we all seek connection but are collectively ignorant of this truth. Although I read this book almost two years ago, Pan’s funny and brutally honest writing has changed the way I build relationships and interact with the world. Pan’s willingness to step out of her comfort zone is the motivation I need to wave to that person I’ve only met once, text an old friend, and accept that embracing the awkwardness of life leads to the purest form of self-expression.

—Staff writer Sarah M. Rojas can be reached at

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