Roxane Gay is a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind. Whether through her pieces on The Rumpus or one of the many other outlets for which she writes, or in the pages of her collected essays in Bad Feminist , she has never shied away from sharing her opinions.
And, with regards to literature, Gay doesn't hold back her opinions, either. She has been outspoken about the whitewashing in mainstream publishing, and she's called attention to the gender divide and underrepresentation of women in publishing and review outlets.
Aside from addressing the problems that exist in the book world, Roxane Gay also isn't afraid to tell you what books she likes and what books she thinks you (and everybody else) should read. Plenty of people have asked, and Gay has been gracious enough to share her favorite books, and those that have influenced her life and writing. Even if no one asks, like in the case of a particular sexist author and professor, Gay will unabashedly share her thoughts on her idea of required reading. She's a fierce, well-read book-lover and she seems happy to show it — thankfully for us.
Interested in seeing what she's into? Here are 11 (of the many!) books Roxane Gay thinks you should read:
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roxane Gay knows everyone is itching to know what books have hit her hardest, so she shared "The Books That Make Me Who I Am" on BuzzFeed Books, and included on her list was Little House on the Prairie. One of the first books the author read, Little House on the Prairie was particularly enjoyable to Gay, who grew up in Nebraska, and found comfort in knowing that there were "interesting stories to be told about life on the plains." Not to mention, the books kicked Gay's imagination into high gear, for which her readers are surely grateful.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
There are books in everybody's life that shows them something special about themselves, and for Roxane Gay, that was I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings , which uncovered the strength the author said she always secretly had. "I learned how to write what I could not speak," she said in her BuzzFeed piece, and it is easy to understand how the powerful prose of Maya Angelou could elicit that kind of emotion.
Sweet Valley High Series by Francine Pascal
Oh, Jessica and Elizabeth — what young girl who read any of the Sweet Valley High books didn't want to be — or be friends with — them? The books, which total 181 in the primary series (that's right, not counting the multiple spin-offs), all brim with youthful optimism, perfect kisses, and happy endings — in other words, the opposite of real life. Roxane Gay explained her sentimental attachment to the series in Bad Feminist, which is something many of us just totally get.
Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter
When Salon asked author's to share their favorite books of 2014, Roxane Gay chose Ugly Girls, a novel about two working class girls struggling with friendship, womanhood, class, and so much more. "This is a bleak but gorgeous and necessary book," Gay said of the novel. In other words, get the tissues ready.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
There are about a million reasons to love Kevin Kwan's excessive, lavish, hysterical novel, but Roxane Gay summed it up beautifully in six. Everything about Crazy Rich Asians , especially its characters, is larger than life and an utter delight, or, as Gay puts it, a "pile of glitter."
Dispatch from the Future : Poems by Leigh Stein
Roxane Gay doesn't just love fiction. One of her favorite poetry collections, according to her Goodreads "Good Minds Suggest" interview, is Leigh Stein's narrative poems. Fun, lyrical, and laden with pop culture references, Dispatch from the Future has the kind of poems that even people who say they "don't like poetry" can get into.
Heat by Bill Burford
Open any page of this book, and you can practically smell the pasta water and sauce simmering. Bill Burford's account of leaving his job to become a cook in Mario Batali's famed Babbo is a culinary delight and an exciting romp through busy kitchens and Italian streets that Roxane Gay says "reveals why food can be so beautiful, so powerful." Are you hungry yet?
Meeting the Master: Stories about Mastery, Slavery and the Darker Side of Desire by Elissa Wald
If any book has the power to make a reader cry and get turned on, that's a book worthy of recognizing, but when that reader is Roxane Gay, then it's a book you should read immediately. Meeting the Master , a dark erotic collection of dominance of submission is sexy, emotional, and expertly crafted. It will delight your literary-driven mind and get you hot and bothered all at once, and how may books can do that?
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Gay has gushed over Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings , saying "the writer had my attention, and more importantly, the story of these people, these vainglorious, somewhat hopeless people, also kept bringing me back to the same, thrilled place, over and over and over." Does anything else really have to be said?
Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman
A wonderful and moving collection of stories, Birds of a Lesser Paradise is on Gay's recommended reading list. With smart, sharp prose, Megan Mayhew Bergman explores the intersection of the natural world and our own, and how that overlap effects relationships, decision making, and our lives. Poignant and enchanting, Birds of a Lesser Paradise is short story writing at its finest.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Though Gay calls Alissa Nutting a close friend, her relationship with the author has nothing to do with her love for Tampa , a bold and engrossing novel about a teacher's dark sexual obsession. Carefully crafted and beautifully written, we can't blame Gay for loving her friend's book because it's outstanding. Disturbing, sure, but outstanding.
Image: Ted Conference/flickr