Ten Books Chosen by George Saunders
On Grace Paley's wild energy, feeling the absence of Michael Herr, and being transported to his Chicago childhood by reading Toni Morrison.
Bro! This is the Beowulf we’ve been waiting for
A marathon reading of a new translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahavana Headley kicks off on December 1 with Miz Cracker, followed daily through December 25 by an all-star castRead More
Part 25: Maria Dahvana Headley
Maria Dahvana Headley is the translator of this stunning new version of Beowulf, and a number one New York Times-bestselling author and editor. Her books include the novels Magonia, Aerie, and Queen of Kings, as well as the memoir, The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard, she is the author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman, she is co-editor of Unnatural Creatures. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. In 2018 she published the critically-acclaimed novel, The Mere Wife, a contemporary retelling of Beowulf.
Part 24: Bill T Jones
Bill T Jones is a legendary choreographer, director, author and dancer. The co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, the company's home in Manhattan, Jones is a two-time Tony Award recipient for Best Choreography for FELA! and Spring Awakening, and is the recipient of both a MacArthur “Genius” Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. In 2014 he was presented with a National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
Part 23: Brontez Purnell
Brontez Purnell is a zinester, writer, dancer, and musician who lives in Oakland, California. He has written for various publications, including Jigsaw, San Francisco Weekly, and Maximum Rock & Roll. His book, 100 Boyfriends ("a symphony of sex, trouble and wisdom" - Alexander Chee) will be published by MCD x FSG in February 2021.
Part 22: Lucy Taylor
Lucy Taylor is a New York-based theater maker and screen actor best known as a member of the internationally renowned company Elevator Repair Service, where she collaborated on, and performed in, the acclaimed trilogy Gatz, The Sound and the Fury, and The Select: The Sun Also Rises. Most recently she appeared in Clare Barron’s Pulitzer nominated play Dance Nation at Playwright’s Horizons, Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole at Lincoln Center Theater, and in Talene Monahon's How to Load a Musket at 59East59. She has appeared in NBC’S New Amsterdam, CBS's Limitless, Bull, and Madam Secretary, as well as the award-winning web-series Horace and Pete.
Part 21: Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015, and has reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One, among other places, and filed stories from dozens of countries and most of the 50 states. In his spare time he performs with the band Pink Martini.
Part 20: Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Among her many credits, Quincy Tyler Bernstine starred in Jackie Sibblies Drury’s time-jumping biographical play, Mary's Seacole, about the 19th-century Jamaican nurse, for which she won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play. In 2019 she was honored with an Obie for “sustained excellence of performance.” That excellence has encompassed critically-acclaimed theater shows such as Small Mouth Sounds, Our Lady of 121st Street, As You Like it, and Peer Gynt, as well as big screen roles in Manchester by the Sea, Easy Living, Still Alice, and Rachel Getting Married, among many others.
Part 19: David Adger
David Adger is Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London, a Fellow of the British Academy, former President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, inventor of the monsters' language for the ITV series Beowulf. His 25 years of teaching have taken him all over the world, including to the foothills of the Himalayas. His most recent book is Language Unlimited: The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power (Oxford).
Part 18: Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson, the acclaimed translator of The Odyssey (shortlisted for the 2018 National Translation Award), is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow.
Part 17: Esmé Weijun Wang
Esmé Weijun Wang is the author of the New York Times-bestselling essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias, for which she won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, and a debut novel, The Border of Paradise, which was called a Best Book of 2016 by NPR. She was named by Granta as one of the “Best of Young American Novelists” in 2017 and won the Whiting Award in 2018.
Part 16: Robin Sloan
Robin Sloan's first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, was a New York Times Best Seller, translated into more than 20 languages. With his partner Kathryn Tomajan, he produces California extra virgin olive oil under the label Fat Gold. His most recent novel is Sourdough, named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR.
Part 15: Jeff VanderMeer
Jeff VanderMeer’s New York Times-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy has been translated into over 35 languages. The first novel, Annihilation, won the Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award, and was made into a movie by Paramount in 2018. Other works include Dead Astronauts, Borne (a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), and The Strange Bird. Called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker, VanderMeer frequently speaks about issues related to climate change and storytelling.
Part 14: Laurie Anderson
An early exemplar of electronic music, including her 1982 single “O Superman,” Laurie Anderson has long been at the heart of New York’s avant-garde art scene. As well as composing soundtracks for people like Spalding Gray and Robert Wilson, she has created movies, documentaries, and performance pieces such as Songs and Stories from Moby Dick, a musical reimagining of the iconic American novel. Her movie, Heart of a Dog, a moving meditation on life and loss, was shortlisted for the 2016 Academy Awards.
Part 13: Becky Ann Baker
Among her iconic roles, Becky Ann Baker is known for her portrayal of Jean Weir on NBC's Emmy Award-winning Freaks and Geeks and for her role as Loreen Horvath on HBO's Emmy Award-winning Girls, for which she received a Primetime Emmy nomination. She has a long list of credits in such acclaimed Broadway productions as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, All My Sons, Peer Gynt, and Assassins.
Part 12 – Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens has performed for the Obamas at the White House and acted in two seasons of the hit television series Nashville. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Giddens was Grammy-nominated for her acclaimed solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn and her T Bone Burnett–produced EP Factory Girl. Her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group she co-founded, received a Grammy Award in 2010. In 2019, Giddens contributed to and co-produced the album Songs of Our Native Daughters, which tells stories of historic black womanhood and survival, and collaborated with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi on the album There is no Other, later nominated for a Grammy.
Part 11 – Dylan Baker
Dylan Baker has a long and storied movie career, including turns in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Happiness, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road. His role as Colin Sweeney on the long-running CBS show, The Good Wife, earned him three Primetime Emmy Award nominations. He was a series regular in Amazon's critically acclaimed 2019 series, Hunters. In 2013, he made his directorial debut with the film 23 Blast.
Part 10: Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose is best known for voicing Tiana, Disney's first African-American princess, in the 2009 feature, The Princess and the Frog. She was named a Disney Legend in 2011. Rose also starred in the Academy Award-winning film Dreamgirls and received a 2004 Tony for her role as Emmie Thibodeaux in the Broadway production of Caroline, or Change. For the 2014 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Part 9: Felicia Day
Felicia Day co-starred in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which won an Emmy in 2009. She also created and starred in the seminal web series The Guild, which ran for six seasons and won numerous awards for web video excellence. In 2012 Day created a YouTube channel and production company, Geek & Sundry, which has since has garnered over 1.7 million subscribers.
Part 8: John Darnielle
John Darnielle is the writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. Their most recent album is Getting Into Knives. He is also the author of two novels: Wolf in White Van and Universal Harvester.
Part 6 & 7: Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming has performed with Jay Z and Liza with a Z; he has won a Tony, hosted the Tonys, and been nominated for an Emmy for doing so; he has a bar called Club Cumming and a soap called Cumming In A Bar. He has played God, the Devil, Hitler, the Pope, a teleporting superhero, Hamlet, all the parts in Macbeth, General Batista of Cuba, a goat opposite Sean Connery, Dionysus, a Smurf (twice), the EmCee in Cabaret (thrice), and political spinmeister Eli Gold on seven seasons of The Good Wife for which he received multiple Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG award nominations. He is the author of five books including the New York Times best-selling memoir, Not My Father's Son.
Part 5: Sara Quin
Sara Quin, with her sister Tegan, performs as the indie pop act Tegan and Sara. During the course of their career, the duo have released nine studio albums, received three Juno Awards and a Grammy nomination, and published the critically-acclaimed memoir High School. Their Tegan and Sara Foundation fights for health, economic justice, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.
Part 4: Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Norse Mythology, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. Among his numerous literary awards are the Newbery and Carnegie medals, and the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Will Eisner awards. He is a Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
Part 3: Justin Vivian Bond
Mx Justin Vivian Bond has appeared on Broadway and London’s West End, and on the big and small screen, including Shortbus, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Sunset Stories, Difficult People, and High Maintenance. In addition to a decades-long residency at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in NYC, they have performed in such hallowed venues as Carnegie Hall and The Sydney Opera House. Bond's memoir Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels (Feminist Press) won the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction.
Part 2: Diane Cook
Diane Cook is the author of this year's Booker-shortlisted novel, The New Wilderness, and the story collection, Man V. Nature, a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. She is a former producer for the radio program This American Life, and was the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Part 1: Miz Cracker
Miz Cracker is a New York City drag queen best known for her appearance on Rupaul's Drag Race Season Ten, and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season Five, as well as “Review with a Jew” show on YouTube. She may be the only Drag Race alum to be able to speak Old English.
by Maria Dahvana Headley