Literary Gratitude: An Arts & Letters Live Reading List

Arts & Letters Live Director Carolyn Bess and Program Manager Carolee Klimchock compiled a list of book recommendations and musings focused on gratitude from acclaimed authors, many of whom have been featured in the DMA’s signature literary series. Arts & Letters Live will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021; explore upcoming programs here.

Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential  
Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers 
Maria Shriver, I’ve Been Thinking . . . Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life  
Oliver Sacks, Gratitude  
Books for children: 
Oge Mora, Thank You, Omu!, a tale of generosity, sharing, community, and gratitude; a Caldecott Honor Book 
The Five Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids

What are you thankful for? 
Arts & Letters Live authors share their insights:

Gratitude for the Ancestors 
Alice Randall, in her recent Arts & Letters Live virtual talk, described how her novel Black Bottom Saints grew from the wisdom she gained about radical joy and resilience from the ancestors.  The African American musicians and artists profiled in her book, who she terms the “saints” of the historic Detroit neighborhood Black Bottom, movingly transform past traumas into transcendent art.  Among the multimedia elements created for the book, one is a quiz to determine which ancestor or saint you need at any given time.  Right now, could you use a boost of resilience, joy, or help through a difficult time?  Take the “Who’s Your Saint” quiz to see whose inspiration can guide you.  

Gratitude for Words 
Avid readers might all be deemed logophiles (lovers of words), but Louise Erdrich intones an impassioned appreciation for the written words saved in archives which made her latest research-driven novel possible.  From the National Archives and other libraries, she found letters her own grandfather had written and documents that helped her create the captivating fictional characters in The Night Watchman , who capture the true historical triumph of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and who saved their tribe from termination.   

Gratitude for Family Quirks  
Every family has them: unconventional traditions, eccentric relatives, and even family feuds.  Poet Richard Blanco shows gratitude for all the charming, quirky traits that make his family singularly endearing. Betting on who will win the Miss America pageant each year was a heated and time-honored tradition for his Cuban American family in Miami—even though no one quite knew where Ohio was—a tale he humorously recounts in his poem “Betting on America” from How to Love a Country. The DMA commissioned Blanco to write a new poem inspired by works of art and themes in the current My|gration exhibition. Listen to him read it. 


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