Zadie Smith's Bookshelf
By Zora Neale Hurston
This is a deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don't know how to live properly. Hurston is a lyrical writer, and lyricism is not usually my cup of tea, but there are talents that go beyond genre and taste. Her greatest claim over me is that she never was ashamed of the novel as a form—she believed in the transformative power of storytelling, and she took risks with sentiment that few contemporary writers are prepared to make. This book is a part of my character now—that's how many times I've read it. I don't look to fiction to find heroes, but I have to admit that Janie has meant more to me than any other character. She's singing my song, somehow. And you realize the breadth of Hurston's talent when you find out how many other people feel exactly the same way.