Go Tell It On The Mountain
By James Baldwin
The background: This is one of the great debut novels in American literature. It's the story of family, movement, and change, and it follows a number of Southern blacks who migrate to the North. A lot of the books that touch me have been autobiographical fiction. I was shattered by the section in the church when the narrative suddenly shifts among the characters' minds, showing how they each see the family's history differently.
Why he chose it: The great power of literature is to expand our vision. Go Tell It on the Mountain is a case in point. You feel as if Baldwin bled over this book, that this book hurt to write. It's not a memoir; it's somebody taking very real feelings and turning them into art. He writes evocatively, but you don't need to have a graduate degree to understand his books—you just need to have a heart.
Hawke's love affair with Danny Deck