Ben Lerner, Helen Phillips, Ocean Vuong, Brooklyn College, The Topeka School, The Need, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
l to r: Ben Lerner, Helen Phillips, and Ocean Vuong. Lerner and Vuong photos courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Has Brooklyn College become a wellspring for award-winning authors?

You decide: Most recently, three– Ben Lerner, Helen Phillips and Ocean Vuong– have made the 2019 best books lists in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Time magazine.


English Professor Ben Lerner made all three best books lists with his novel The Topeka School (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019).

Lerner, a 2015 MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, also won the attention of the former U.S. President, as his book was listed among President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019.

The Topeka School is a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century: a tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right.

The Topeka School also is named one of the best books of the year by Esquire, NPR, Vogue, Amazon, Kirkus, The Times (UK), Buzzfeed, Vanity FairThe Telegraph (UK), Financial Times (UK), Lit Hub, The Times Literary Supplement (UK), The New York PostDaily Mail (UK), The AtlanticThe Guardian (UK), Electric Literature, SPY.com, and the New York Public Library

The Topeka School is a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century: a tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right.


Associate professor of English Helen Phillips ’07 M.F.A. was cited in Time magazine’s list for her novel The Need (Simon and Schuster, 2019), which was also longlisted for the National Book Award.

In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. Helen Phillips has been anointed as one of the most exciting fiction writers working today, and The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives.

The Need also was one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019; was one of The Washington Post’s 50 Best Books of 2019; one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019; and one of O Magazine’s Best Books of 2019.


Brooklyn College Alum Ocean Vuong (Class of 2012), a 2019 MacArthur “genius” grant winner, was named to The New Yorker magazine’s Best Books of 2019 list, and included in both The Washington Post and the Time list for his first novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin, 2019), which was also nominated for the 2019 National Book Award and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Award.

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling. With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are.

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Oprah.com, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, Nylon, The Week, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.

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