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Discover: The Books We’re Giving Thanks For

The whole “giving thanks” part of Thanksgiving rarely gets the attention it deserves. Too often it’s wedged into an already overlong family meal by your aunt Maude, who insists on putting everyone around the table on the spot, or it’s co-opted by jewelry commercials that are prematurely, maddeningly, already hustling Christmas gifts. Under those circumstances, it can be hard to get into the thankful spirit. But in a holiday based on a questionable colonial history and a remarkably unhealthy binge-and-gorge cycle, the reminder to take full stock of all you’ve got going for you is pretty special, and worth observing.

Books are something we are always, always thankful for. Over the years, we have found books that have changed our worldview, opened doors and reminded us that no matter what we’re going through, we’re not alone. When you have a moment to yourself this week, maybe while traveling to the aforementioned family meal or while reveling in the quiet afterward, queue up a book and try exercising some gratitude. Need some inspiration? This year, we’re giving thanks for:

A New Silver Age of Reason

Ambitious Parents

Happy Endings

  • On the one hand, Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt (first published pseudonymously in 1952) has all the trappings of a pre-Stonewall lesbian pulp novel. There's plenty of abjection, discrimination, and closeted identity to go around, as ingenue shopgirl Therese falls head over heels for wealthy, married Carol. Twenty-first-century queer readers can be grateful that, today, we can assign names to our desires and speak those names out loud, and that coming... out might not result in being spurned (or worse) by our loved ones. Here's the other thing, though, and it comes with a spoiler alert: The Price of Salt actually has a happy ending. At a time when the gay protagonists in most novels ended up alone or dead, Highsmith's choice to end her novel with Therese and Carol together and in love was a brave and radical act. And that's something to be really grateful for. —Sara Jaffe

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Heroines Without Borders

Quiet Acts of Humanity

  • Whenever I read George Eliot, I come away feeling refreshed and improved as a person. She has helped me reckon with issues that have loomed large in my life, as well as spiritual quandaries that I scarcely recognized before her penetrating insights brought them into view. Give this outstanding audio recording of her most complete, accessible book an hour of your time and you will be hooked by the naive, youthful Dorothea's... foolish decision to marry the aging Casaubon. Contrasting this ill-fated marriage, Eliot gives us the upwardly mobile Lydgate and his attempt to make a wife out of the beautiful but utterly materialistic Rosamond. Rounding out the cast of main characters is the plucky Will Ladislaw, whose maturation over the course of the book must be one of the most satisfying coming-of-age stories ever told.
    What Middlemarch makes me most grateful for is its willingness to find the value in the most prosaic of lives – the title isn't Middlemarchfor nothing. Eliot's ability to make their reckonings feel substantial despite the smallness of their town and the anonymity of their struggles drives home the book's core insight: that the battle to live a good life is important, no matter who wages it. —Scott Esposito

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Families, Real and Adopted

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