Roxane Gay photographed by Eva Blue

Roxane Gay is a professor and the bestselling author of “Hunger,” and “Bad Feminist,” and “Difficult Women.” Her work deals with facets of her own identity (her race, weight and sexuality), that are rarely discussed as bluntly as they are under Gay’s lead. She also wrote the Marvel comic series World of Wakanda, a spinoff from the Black Panther franchise. For Gay, feminism belongs to all women, and it should embrace all types. She says, “It’s OK to believe in your voice, and to use it.” Her latest venture is an online magazine, Gay Magazine, for which she partnered with the website Medium.

Below are Roxane Gay’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.


The Age of Innocence

Edith Wharton
This is such an elegant novel. I love how Wharton finely details the lives of the New York wealthy, their intrigues, the ways they interact, the ways they indulge and deny themselves. And at the heart of it, passionate, unrequited love, and the quieter, more reserved love borne of duty. I'll always love this book.
Add to cart

A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara
I don't mind emotional excess and in addition to being so very readable, with really interesting, complex, at times infuriating characters, “A Little Life” is full of emotional excess. I so admire how Yanagihara allows the melodrama into this story, and does so unabashedly. This book is unforgettable and heart wrenching and all I could ever want in a reading experience.
Add to cart

Break Any Woman Down

Dana Johnson
I first read this short story collection many years ago and it has stayed with me. I was struck by the title, and then the stories, each focused on black girls and women, the worlds of those stories fully realized and held carefully in Johnson's very talented hands.
Add to cart


Min Jin Lee
“Pachinko” is the novel I tell anyone who will listen about. It is a multigenerational, sweeping saga of Koreans in Japan. The prose is as edifying as it is absorbing. There are no easy, convenient endings for any of these characters but my goodness, how richly Min Jin Lee renders their lives.
Add to cart

Big World

Mary Miller
Mary Miller is one of my favorite short story writers and in “Big World,” she writes about flawed, boozy women who make bad decisions and live to tell their tales. The writing in this little collection is atmospheric and claustrophobic and illuminating and lovely. In each story, Miller shows us how the world is as big as it is small.
Currently unavailable


Alissa Nutting
There is a scene in “Tampa” where Celeste marks her territory, if you will, with her own vaginal moisture. That, in many ways, tells you everything you need to know about “Tampa” and Alissa Nutting's immense talents. This novel is disturbing, uncomfortable, irreverent, and compelling. Nutting makes us complicit in Celeste's crimes and still, she leaves room for empathy where most writers would not.
Add to cart

Don't Call Us Dead

Danez Smith
The level of craft at work in each of the poems in “Don't Call Us Dead” is exceptional. These are poems about black men and their imperiled, impassioned bodies, what it means to live with HIV, and so much more. There is pain here but there is so much joy, so much fierce resistance to anything that dares to temper the stories being told here.
Add to cart

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

Samantha Irby
I can't nor do I want to unsee the essays in this collection. Irby is well known as a humorist, and the essays in “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” are, indeed, very funny. They are also poignant, and incredibly honest. Humor makes way for vulnerability and by the end of this book you will have cried as much as you laughed about what it means to be a black woman, what it is to live with chronic illness, how poverty marks you, how love always finds a way.
Add to cart

Possessing the Secret of Joy

Alice Walker
While most people tout “The Color Purple,” and rightly so, I love, beyond measure, “Possessing the Secret of Joy,” which is a not quite sequel to “The Color Purple” about Tashi, the wife of Celie's son Adam, and how something that happens to her body at a very young age shapes the rest of her life. This is the novel that taught me how to write fiction with political ambitions. It is searing and wondrous and painful and every time I read it, the ending wrecks me. And still, I go back for more. That's how important this novel is.
Add to cart

Bad Marie

Marcy Dermansky
Marie is very very bad which makes her very very interesting and, in fact, endearing. This slender novel is witty and sharp and sexy. It's a wild ride from New York to Paris to Mexico as Marie tries to find herself, at any cost. Oh what ride it is.
Add to cart