Nathan Englander: TOP TEN BOOKS


Nathan Englander courtesy of Joshua Meier

“I spend all day being other people,” Nathan Englander told NPR last year. The Brooklyn-based short story writer and novelist was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank with its celebrated title story in which two Jewish couples tentatively bond over pot, dance in the rain, and debate the lengths they’d go to protect their spouses in a second Holocaust. The collection went on to win the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, confirming the promise of his 1999 debut, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges which scored a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. Englander changed direction last year with his second novel (now out in paperback), the political thriller, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, in which a Mossad recruit flips for the other side. 

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


The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Gogol
Simply, “The Nose” is a master class in voice. A man chasing his runaway honker around town trying to talk it back onto his face is, to me, perfection.
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Marilynne Robinson
If you’re only going to read one book this year about an aging Iowa pastor being quietly reflective, then this is the one for you! No one builds a sentence like Marilynne Robinson.
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The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead
This goes on my short list of gigantical bestsellers that, when I read it way back in galleys, made me think, “This is going to be a gigantical bestseller—and truly deserves to be.” It’s just fantastically imagined and extraordinarily powerful.
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Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel
Feeling like your world is currently imploding? Here’s an I-couldn’t-put-it-down dystopian novel that makes the end of days kind of cheery (in the end). I just finished reading it, and am glad to have a place to sing its praises.
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George Orwell
As for dystopian, I’m not putting this on the list because we live in a time when those wielding power say things like, “Truth isn’t truth.” (Fun fact: it is!) I’m adding it because, when I was too young to grasp its cautionary aspects, this book showed me what a novel could do.
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When The Emperor Was Divine

Julie Otsuka
I love this poem of a novel. It’s a stunningly rendered exploration of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
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A Fine Balance

Rohinton Mistry
This book killed me dead. A sprawling, character-driven epic set in India in the 1970s. It’s surely a modern masterpiece.
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Brother, I’m Dying

Edwidge Danticat
If there’s any nonfiction book that I wish had lost its relevance, this is it. But Danticat’s very personal 2007 account of her family’s differing journeys seems even more urgent today, dealing as it does with emigration and asylum and political upheaval.
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Barbara the Slut and Other People

Lauren Holmes
This one is a gem—smart, funny, and just what a debut collection should be. Also, of every story I know of that’s narrated by a dog (really), “My Humans,” is the joyous best.
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The Collected Stories of Grace Paley

Grace Paley
I’m singling out a single story once again. “Goodbye and Good Luck,” leaves me in tears every time I read it—every time. Also, Paley musters her neighborhood so vividly that I hardly ever walk up Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village without thinking about her.
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