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I have learned over the years that not all books are for everyone. Our favorite books become favorites because they came to us at a time when we needed them. That said, as a writer and a reader, I am frequently asked for book recommendations, so here are a handful that have stuck with me over the years and that hold up upon rereading.

writing about writing.

  • How Fiction Works by James Wood

  • On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardener

  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

  • They Say/I Say by Cathy Berkenstein and Gerald Gaff


  • Crossing to Safety and Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (and her Gilead quartet)

  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson

  • Hannah Coulter and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salam Rushdie

  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

  • A Long and Happy Life by Reynolds Price

  • The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obrecht

  • My Brilliant Friend (and the other novels in her Neopolitan series) by Elena Ferrante

  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

  • Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

  • Bel Canto and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

  • The Ninth Hour and After This by Alice McDermott

  • Atonement by Ewan McEwan

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

  • The short stories of Alice Munro

  • The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylvainen

other nonfiction.

  • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

  • One Long River of Song by Brian Doyle

  • Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghrífa

  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

  • Places I've Taken My Body by Molly McCully Brown

  • Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

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