July 3, 2016

As a writer, I’m often asked what my favorite book is, and I used to have a go-to answer. But lately, I’ve been replying, “That’s not the right question.” Ask me instead which books live perpetually on my desk, and I will tell you: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & The Sonnets to Orpheus, Sigrid Nunez’s A Feather on the Breath of God, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, and C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain. Now ask me why. I keep these four books within reaching distance because each has something profound to say about heartbreak and suffering and pain—complex, yet simple; raw, open, honest, yet wholly unashamed. And in the wreckage I’ve spent these past years writing through—coming up, only to be sucked back under again—I need at the ready someone who understands. Someone, like Nunez, who writes, “Two can play that game, but for men and women the stakes are not equal.”

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