Best-selling author Nora McInerny is the host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, which tackles stories of grief and loss. Her new book of essays, Bad Vibes Only, offers a humorous look at the pitfalls of relentless positivity.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940)
I pulled this novel off my parents' shelf in the summer after fifth grade and was immediately enchanted with the world Carson McCullers created in 1930s Georgia — and all the lonely, longing people within it. Buy it here.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (1990)
This book was assigned reading in my ninth-grade Honors English class. O'Brien's sometimes gruesome and always devastating interconnected stories about young men in combat helped me to see my own father, a Vietnam veteran, for what he was: a traumatized man carrying the weight of a war he fought when he was just a boy. Buy it here.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (2004)
I have my parents' love of NPR to thank for introducing me to the world of David Sedaris, who is the first writer to ever make me howl with laughter. In this book, he writes about his childhood and his relationships with his adult siblings. As always, the essays read like stories told by a close friend. Buy it here.
There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald (2018)
Americans love a rags-to-riches story that inspires a reach for the stars. But Texas native Casey Gerald, who could recount such a story, instead tells the truth about his struggles with faith, class, race, and sexual identity. His prose is witty, insightful, and razor-sharp. Not a word is wasted. Buy it here.
Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
A bookish little girl with monstrous parents is nurtured by a loving schoolteacher who is under the thumb of a monstrous headmistress. Few people can write childhood, with all its terror and tumult, like Roald Dahl, and he does so while making even a hopeless situation outrageously funny. Buy it here.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (2019)
I knew nothing about this book before I cracked it open, and I don't want to spoil the delight for anyone else. So let me say this: spontaneous combustion, high-school drama, adult drama, political drama. The premise is wacky, but the writing: It's so funny and delightful and tender that even the unrealistic feels absolutely real. Buy it here.
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