Annie Proulx once wrote, “Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write." And if you couldn't already tell from our many book reviews, seemingly infinite recommendations (some even based off of your zodiac sign), and ongoing book club, we, here at NYLON, hold both reading and writing in high regard.
And though we celebrate our love for books, new and old, all year round, what better time to share our personal favorites with you, our beloved readers, than today on National Book Lover's Day? In observation of this glorious occasion, five of our editors came together to share the novels, poems, and short stories that impacted them at one point in their lives and/or continue to, to this day.
From Nella Larsen to Sylvia Plath, see how our favorite books shaped our lives—and hopefully, if you haven't read them yet, will shape yours, too.
Angela Lashbrook, Social Media Editor
Book: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Let me start with this: Roberto Bolaño is my favorite author. It's incredibly difficult to describe 2666. It was the Chilean-Mexican-Spanish writer's last novel and had yet to go through final edits before Bolaño's untimely death from liver failure in 2003 when he was only 50 years old. I can only describe it as a tragic ode to death; Bolaño knew he was dying as he wrote the 900-page novel, and you can feel his terror, anger, and defeated resignation in every sentence. The book can be loosely described as an investigation into the femicides in a fictional Mexican city called Santa Teresa, which is based on the border town of Ciudad Juárez. As with most of his books, the novel uses the premise of an elusive, mysterious writer as a way into the story.
Who would you recommend this book to? Fans of Roberto Bolaño. Don't start with 2666, though. Start with The Savage Detectives.
Hafeezah Nazim, Digital Assistant
Book: Passing by Nella Larsen
I read this novella in a literature class I took in college, and instantly connected to it after digesting the first few pages. Growing up as a mixed-race WOC, I constantly struggled to find a place where I could belong. James Baldwin famously said, "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive." For me, Passing awakened the loneliness I felt while struggling with my identity, and I still use this work as a reminder that I'm not and never will be alone.
Who would you recommend this book to? Those who feel like an outsider in their own skin.
Austen Tosone, Assistant Editor
Book: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I was wandering around one day at the Strand and came across this book. I'd read some of Didion's essays in college and was curious to read more. While the subject matter is incredibly dark and details the loss of Didion's husband, John, she shares her thoughts and doubts in the intimate and powerful way that only she can do. At this time in my life, I haven't experienced a great deal of loss, but this book reminded me to live in the moment and that it's okay to let feelings wash over you and really feel them so that somehow, you can move on. As soon as I finished, I flipped back to the beginning and read it again.
Who would you recommend this book to? Lovers of Didion, anyone who has ever dealt with loss, anyone who loves beautiful writing.
Irina Grechko, Digital Managing Editor
Book: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Genre: Semi-autobiographical novel
If I were to be fair, the first book that impacted me was Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. A tale of unrequited love, sexual and asexual awakenings, and early experiences that shape us as adults, I reread this masterpiece of speculative fiction, if only to marvel at the level of detail that can go into describing a woman's ears. But if we are to talk about impactful books, it would have to be The Bell Jar, which I read freshman year of high school. As cliche as this pick is for someone who ended up making a career working for magazines, The Bell Jar was my first view, for better or worse, into the world of publishing. But more than that, as an anxious teen (and later in life, adult), it gave me a glimpse into the depression and mental struggles that young girls go through, often times in silence and with no sympathy from the ones who surround them. The feeling of sometimes feeling trapped under the bell jar is also one that most women can relate to, as they go through life as, they are told, "they are supposed to," only to feel suffocated and mentally at odds with their needs and wants.
Who would you recommend this book to? Any young woman.
Taylor Bryant, Web Editor
Book: Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
It sounds so cliche, but I think I found Milk and Honey on Instagram. I came across this book when I was going through a very annoying breakup. I'm not the biggest poetry person but had been wanting to get into it for awhile. Not only did it help me understand the importance of knowing your self-worth but also the value of self-love. I'm actually thinking of getting a tattoo inspired by one of the poems, so, yeah, I guess you could say it had a pretty strong impact.
Who would you recommend this book to? Anyone going through a breakup and in need of a good cathartic cry.