The PEN Book Report is a weekly series that challenges the notion of “best of,” “top,” and “seasonal must read” lists and the default books and authors that regularly appear on them. We simply asked contributors to share with us a list of books they turn to over and over again, ones that both inspire and challenge how they engage with the world.

Founded by Hafizah Geter and Antonio Aiello, participants include Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Melissa Febos, Kelly Forsythe, Nathalie Handal, Abeer Hoque, Gene Luen Yang, Loma, Lisa Lucas, Joseph Mains, Colum McCann, Rick Moody, Darnell Moore, Celeste Ng, Gregory Pardlo, Khadijah Queen, Camille Rankine, Jeff Shotts, and many more. 

Sometimes I wonder if I read so much that I don’t actually end up living in the world. Particularly at this moment in history that, to me, requires constant vigilance and commitment in the fight against injustice. I’ve been attempting to break down the borders of my reading life as I also attempt to think about my own complicity in the continued struggles of so many living beings on this planet. Here’s a list of books that taught me, questioned me, and also thrilled me with their virtuosity, compassion, and depth of vision. -Gabrielle Calvocoressi

The Way Things Were, by Aatish Taseer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This rigorous novel may be my very favorite of the year. A history of modern India that is also one of the most intimate family dramas I’ve encountered in recent memory.

Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008, by Hoa Nguyen (Wave Books)

I come back to Hoa Nguyen’s poems all the time and every single time I find a new world of meaning. This is an essential book that should be in every poetry lover’s collection.

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books)

I know I’m not alone in having made this the textbook for my poetry classes this year. Brilliant poems that breathe life into the mausoleum of the American Poetry Anthology.

White Blight, by Athena Farrokhzad; Translated by Jennifer Hayashida (Argos Books)

One of the most ravishing and timely books of poems I’ve read. These startlingly intimate poems about migration, racism, and war stunned me. I cannot stop reading this book.

Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal, by Wendy S. Walters (Sarabande Books)

I’m not sure anyone teaches me more about this country that Wendy Walters.  I’ll be reading this book forever.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi is the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart and Apocalyptic Swing, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including a Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship from Stanford University, a Rona Jaffe Woman Writers Award, and residences from Civitella di Ranieri and the Lannan Foundation. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The New York Times, Boston Review and New England Review, among others. She is Senior Poetry Editor at Los Angeles Review of Books and Founder and Senior Curator at Voluble, a forthcoming channel of Los Angeles Review of Books. She teaches in the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She makes new economies with those who wish to. She tweets at @rocketfantastic and is on Instagram as gabbat. Her third book of poems, Rocket Fantastic is forthcoming. She is at work on a memoir entitled The Year I Didn’t Kill Myself.