CJ Hauser suggests 6 reads that will leave you mesmerized

The writing professor recommends works by Raven Leilani, Andrea Lawlor and more

CJ Hauser
(Image credit: Courtesy Image)

When you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission

Novelist and Colgate University writing professor CJ Hauser is the author of "The Crane Wife," a memoir that expands on a viral 2019 essay about choosing to call off a wedding. "The Crane Wife" is now available in paperback.

Inciting Joy by Ross Gay (2022)

This book will get you through a funk. It will also make you dance, start a garden, and move through the world with a little more compassion and grace. It's a brilliant collection of essays with all the pleasures of poetry blooming inside it. For peak joy, listen to the audiobook, which Ross Gay reads himself. Buy it here.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Raving by McKenzie Wark (2023)

Thank god for this book, I love it so. Wark, a professor at the New School in New York City, documents her return to the rave scene after a cool couple decades away, and shows how raving, as she practices it, is love, healing, rebellion, community care, queer and trans joy, and also just a gorgeous good time. Buy it here.

Luster by Raven Leilani (2020)

You are not ready for this novel, which is why you should read it right now. It's ferociously smart and heartbreaking about art, race, sex, power, and money. Every move Leilani makes is a perfectly inevitable surprise: Are we at a fancy party thrown by a lover's wife? An illegal metal concert? Comic-Con? A morgue? Give yourself over — every place Leilani takes you is electric. Buy it here.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor (2017)

If you'd told young CJ they would someday experience a novel that read like the love child of Woolf's "Orlando" and Maupin's "Tales of the City," young CJ would have died of happiness. This book is sexy, hilarious, and picaresque, with an ending so perfect I cried for ages. Buy it here.

I Do Everything I'm Told by Megan Fernandes (2023)

These poems will kiss you on the mouth, slap you across the face, make you a cup of tea, and tell you their secrets. The language is energetic and ecstatic, and the drops into grief, discovery, and profundity are unparalleled. Buy it here.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (1983)

I am devoted to Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" comics, and I won't apologize. The art is exquisite, and the eco-commentary is so prescient, it feels like it was written today. Also, in my opinion, it's the greatest love story ever told. Trust me: This is a universe you want to visit. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.