We asked a range of authors and creative types to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. More than two dozen responded. Here are picks from the critically acclaimed memoirist Wendy C. Ortiz.
Latest book: Bruja
Also known for: Excavation: A Memoir
Reading recommendations: Handwriting, by Michael Ondaatje, lives in the drawer of my night table—it’s my antidote to despair of all kinds. The fragmentary nature and white space allow for breaths. I’ve memorized lines from this book over the years and consider it an influence on my prose, poetry, and my psyche.
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen: I’m currently inhaling Gessen’s work, having begun with The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy. The current political climate has awakened the dormant political-economy student in me—in 1993 this student only had books, but in 2017 she has Twitter, e-books, and close friends who are trained as historians and journalists. The Man Without a Face is an absolutely chilling and a foreboding playbook for the destruction of democracy and its ideals, making it required reading for everyone in this country who values democracy.
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
The complete series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Mohsin Hamid, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Joe Romm, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet Waldman, Jesmyn Ward, and Gene Luen Yang.