Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Jesse Ball  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1978 in Port Jefferson, New York

-- Website --
-- Jesse Ball on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Ball lives in Chicago and is an Assistant Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago Master of Fine Arts Writing program.

Biographical and Professional Information

Jesse Ball is a novelist, poet, and artist. He received his BA in 2000 from Vassar College and his MFA in 2004 from Columbia University. He has written several novels and works of verse, bestiaries, and sketchbooks. A fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and the Guggenheim Foundation, his verse has also been included in the Best American Poetry series.

Published Works

  • March Book, Grove Press, 2004
  • Vera & Linus, Nyhil, 2006 - written with Thordis Bjornsdottir
  • Samedi the Deafness, Vintage, 2007
  • The Way Through Doors , Vintage, 2009
  • The Curfew, Vintage, 2011
  • Silence Once Begun, Random House, 2014
  • A Cure for Suicide: A Novel, Pantheon, 2015
  • Notes on My Dunce Cap, Pioneer Works Press, 2016
  • How to Start a Fire and Why: A Novel, Pantheon, 2016
  • Sleep, Death's Brother, Pioneer Works Press, 2017

Selected Titles At Your Library

March book /
ISBN: 0802141226. OCLC Number:

Grove Press,. New York :. 2004.

The disastrous tale of Vera & Linus /
ISBN: 9979971568. OCLC Number:

Nýhil,. Reykjavik, Iceland :. ©2006.

Samedi the deafness :
ISBN: 0307278859. OCLC Number:

Vintage Contemporaries,. New York :. 2007.

Witnessing the murder of a man who warns him of a conspiracy led by a man known as "Samedi," James Sim, a mnemonist who possesses a photographic memory, is abducted and taken to a country mansion that houses a sanatorium dedicated to curing chronic liars, where James seeks to uncover the mystery of Samedi.

The way through doors /
ISBN: 0307387461. OCLC Number:

Vintage Books,. New York :. 2009.

When pamphleteer Selah Morse witnesses a taxi run down a young woman, he takes her to the hospital and, in telling the staff that he is her boyfriend and that her name is Mora Klein, is given custody of her. She is amnesiac, and his orders are to reconstruct her memories through story. hroughout, Morse searches out Mora Klein's identity, picking up other travelers along the way, among them a Coney Island mind reader; a doting husband who may or may not have made a deal with the devil; a love interest for Morse fascinated by the pamphleteer's opus; and a fiddle-playing dog.--From Publisher's Weekly.

The curfew /
ISBN: 0307739856. OCLC Number:

Vintage Books,. New York :. 2011.

The author of "The Way Through Doors" and "Samedi the Deafness" returns with this tender, spellbinding novel of a father and daughter living in a city ruled by fear. William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William's wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citizens. But when an old friend seeks William out, claiming to know what happened to his wife, William must risk everything. He ventures out after dark, and young Molly is left to play, reconstructing his dangerous voyage, his past, and their future. An astounding portrait of fierce love within a world of random violence, The Curfew is a mesmerizing feat of literary imagination.

Silence once begun /
ISBN: 0307908488. OCLC Number:

. .

The disappearances of eight people from the same Japanese town baffles authorities until a signed confession appears on the police's doorstep implicating a salesman who refuses to speak, compelling a journalist to interview the subsequently condemned man's friends, family and jailors before his scheduled execution.

A cure for suicide /
ISBN: 1101870125. OCLC Number:

. .

A woman "examiner" and a man, her "claimant," move into a small house where the examiner teaches the claimant the most simple functions and monitors his progress, until an encounter at a party raises doubts about everything he has learned.

Notes on My Dunce Cap /
ISBN: 0990593541. OCLC Number:

. .

"A text for teachers who want to reconsider hierarchy in their classrooms and for those curious about education as a context for creativity and collaboration. Drawn from Ball's experiences teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Notes on my Dunce Cap includes advisory material regarding the role of the teacher, the creation of syllabi, and the manner in which groups may evaluate the work of an individual without harm. Alongside these notes that reflect on his teaching practice, sample SAIC syllabi create contexts in which students develop habits that become the basis for a writing practice. Reading lists cover topics such as child protagonists, the dérive, and fairytales, and classroom procedures encourage students to lucid dream, take long walks without cellphones, and participate in the Franz Kafka Fancier Society of Chicago. Ball describes dynamic ways to ask questions, facilitate discussion, organize exhibitions, and incorporate theatrical elements to draw the most out of students and teachers alike. Ball shakes up classroom habits and breathes new life into reading, questioning, teaching, and learning."--

How to set a fire and why /
ISBN: 1101870575. OCLC Number:

. .

"How to Set a Fire and Why is a blistering, singular, devastating novel by Jesse Ball ("A young genius who hits all of the right notes."--Chicago Tribune) about a teenage girl who has lost everything and will burn anything. Lucia has been kicked out of school, again, this time for stabbing a boy in the neck with a pencil. Her father is dead; her mother is in a mental institute; and she's living in a garage-turned-bedroom with her aunt. Making her way through the world with only a book, a Zippo lighter, and a pocket full of stolen licorice, Lucia spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother in The Home, avoiding the landlord who hates her, and following the only rule that makes any sense: Don't Do Things You Aren't Proud Of. When Lucia starts at Whistler High it seems no different from the schools that came before: girls play field hockey, chasing the ball like dogs, the school psychologist has beanbag chairs in her office, and detention means sitting silently surrounded by stupid people ("I am a veteran of detention"). But when Lucia discovers a secret Arson Club, she will do anything to be a part of it. With a biting wit and striking intelligence that she can't fully hide, Lucia animates her small-town life: the parties at an abandoned water park, visits to the 24-hour donut shop where her friend Lana's cousin works, the little island in the middle of a medical park where kids go to drink. As Lucia's fascination with the Arson Club grows, her chronicle becomes a riveting story of family, loss, misguided friendship, and destruction"--

Sleep, death's brother :
ISBN: 1945711027. OCLC Number:

. .


Body of Work

  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2014
  • Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 2015
  • Finalist, New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, 2015


    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (No)