We Asked 10 Wise People to Choose 10 Wise Books


Working with the curated bookstore, One Grand Books, with branches at BlackBarn in Chelsea Market, NYC, at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood, as well as in the Catskills town of Narrowsburg in upstate New York, we put together a list of ten books selected by ten luminaries to help us all find meaning into today’s scrambled world.


1. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Selected by Michael Pollan)
“Sentence by sentence, some of the most stimulating thoughts anywhere.”
2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
(Selected by Gabrielle Union)
“The first book I read as a young adult that truly spoke to me about egocentric beauty ideals and white supremacy. I saw myself clearly in these pages as Pecola searched to be seen. A powerful, powerful book.”


Books selected by Michael Pollan, Gabrielle Union, and Greta Gerwig


3. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
(Selected by Greta Gerwig)
This book doesn’t fit neatly into a category. It’s personal but also global. It doesn’t prescribe anything; it raises questions. It allows the reader to feel as if they are watching this brilliant woman think in real time. It seems as if you are inside her mind with her. It’s funny and sexy and made me cry. And it is one of the best books on being a stepmother I’ve ever encountered.”
4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
(Selected by Rose McGowan)
“The hopelessness of character assassination and being trapped by evil people’s lies is something I know a little about. I fell in love with Dàntes and his quest for justice long ago. Dumas’ writing helped form me. I wish I could thank him in person, but this’ll have to do.”
5. What Are People For? by Wendell Berry
(Selected by Alice Waters)
“Berry puts that stake in the ground. He’s a poet as well as a wonderful writer, and his message is simple: Nature is our teacher. We just need to listen and feel it, and try not to get in its way.”


Books chosen by Rose McGowan, Alice Waters, and Roxane Gay

6. We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
(Selected by Roxane Gay)
“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.”
7. My Prizes: An Accounting by Thomas Bernhard
(Selected by John Waters)
“Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth! The Austrian intellectual sourpuss hilariously rejects every literary award he was ever given. Refusal as an art form.”
8. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
(Selected by Chelsea Handler)
“Rebecca Solnit goes deep with statistics, personal stories, and others’ accounts of how brutal this world can be for women, the history of how we’ve been treated, and what it will take to change the conversation: MEN. We need them to be as outraged as we are and join our fight.”


Books selected by Chelsea Handler, John Waters, and Dev Hynes


9. The Last Interviews: James Baldwin
(Selected by Dev Hynes/Blood Orange)
“I’m a sucker for this morbid yet informative series which chronologically prints interviews from deceased artists ending with their last interview. Baldwin’s words could be applicable today.”
10. But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman
(Selected by Trevor Noah)
“A question the architects of apartheid should have stopped and asked themselves at the start, and a question I try to ask about my own deeply held convictions every day.”