It’s an honor to interview all of these incredible writers for our Sundays With Writers series. Each interview, I gather a list of their favorite reads and today I’m sharing four of these author’s favorite reads with you today. If you have enjoyed these author’s books, chances are you are going to LOVE their recommendations!
Since our book stacks can never be too high, here are a few more to add to your stack. Be sure to check out my monthly reviews on my favorite reads over here!
Brad Watson’s Favorite Reads
Author: Brad Watson
Book We Featured: Miss Jane
My Antonia by Will Cather
After I read My Antonia, in graduate school, I read all of Cather’s other novels. It’s such a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary person, and to a place, a land. And the language is not flamboyant, but deeply beautiful with a poetic simplicity that is deceptively simple, as they say. It’s a book that seems as if it must have just come out easily, but it didn’t. You learn how much care and attention a “simple” story must receive from its writer.
Stoner by John Williams
Stoner is one of only four novels published by John Williams, and the books are all very different, and are all excellent. Stoner is a quiet book about a quiet man who lives a disappointing life, thwarted at just about every turn by some very unpleasant people. But his love for what he does (he’s a teacher at The University of Missouri in the early 20th century) seeps deeply into the book’s marrow and into the reader’s, as well. It is not a cheerful story, but it is one of the most beautiful accounts of a life I know of.
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
So Long, See You Tomorrow won the National Book Award in I think 1981, but it was never a big hit. It’s slowly and steadily gained a strong following, especially among writers, as being one of the most emotionally powerful novels in the second half of the twentieth century. And it’s only 130 pages long. And it’s an odd hybrid of apparent memoir and quasi-novel. But it will break your heart. At 130 pages, it’s novella length, but it has the power of a great novel, distilled into not so many words.
The Death of a Beekeeper by Lars Gustafsson
The Death of A Beekeeper is also brief, and presented to the reader as fragments from three “found notebooks” kept by a dying Swedish beekeeper living alone in the country. And it’s astonishing how moving and even entertaining it is. While we have darkly droll accounts of the beekeeper’s trials with the Swedish health care system, we also have a hilarious account of him attempting to introduce his wife to his mistress, hoping to hurt his wife, and ending up the butt of both women’s jokes and jocular derision. Also, a most astounding chapter in which (in order to entertain a couple of neighbor boys who are reading what he considers to be inferior science fiction) he presents a theory of the nature of God that will blow your head off. More readers ought to know of this one, too.
Affinity Konar’s Favorite Reads
Author: Affinity Konar
Book We Featured: Mischling
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s stories are memorable in this very specific way, in that I don’t have to dwell on them much at all before a line or scene presents itself, unbidden. Life within and around the Spokane Indian reservation is approached through characters that feel like they’re reinventing your capacity to feel. Whenever I read Alexie, I just get flustered because what he’s written should be impossible–there’s just startling poetry matched by startling humanity.
Grace Paley was my first literary heroine. She focuses on the lives of women, and pulls a complexity out of the background hum of daily life that so often goes unnoticed. Her stories are tragicomic, but strangely warm and welcoming, with spare sentences and gut-punches that confuse my heart a little, so I don’t know whether to laugh or cry first. Whenever I’ve spent a day being too-silent, just writing and being totally non-verbal, I love to go visit one of the conversations between her characters, and just linger between her lines for a bit.
The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz
Some of Schulz’s work was lost in the Holocaust, and what remains feels very precious. His writing is dreamlike and hazy, and when I first found it as a teenager I was just awed by the fact that this was a world known only to the author, an intensely private landscape that he took care to piece into words. It’s a mythologized rendering of a merchant family, with its own language and eccentricities and sense of reality; it feels like a coded thing that you are deeply fortunate to experience.
Abby Fabiaschi’s Favorite Reads
Author: Abby Fabiaschi
Book We Featured: I Liked My Life
Is it possible to highlight three writers instead?
I love how Lisa See brings history to life to learn from. Her next book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, comes out 3/21, which is the day I plan to read it.
Every sentence Elizabeth Strout has penned is worth at least two reads. Her next book, Anything Is Possible, comes out 4/25. I always reserve a quiet weekend for her work.
A slice of Adrienne Rich’s poetry inspired and influenced I Liked My Life: “If we could learn to learn from pain even as it grasps us.” Isn’t that a powerful thought?
Laurie Frankel’s Favorite Reads
Author: Laurie Frankel
Book We Featured: This is How it Always Is
This is a nearly impossible question because I have so, so many favorite books. How about one a year?
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Last year, I loved Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. It’s hard to think a book that hyped isn’t overhyped, but it’s not. It’s exactly as good and heartbreaking and important as everyone said it would be.
Euphoria by Lily King
The year before, I loved Lily King’s Euphoria. It’s gorgeous, brilliant, with great characters and great relationships, at once exotic and familiar, and the ending just slayed me.
A Tale for Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
And the year before that, I loved Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and inventive novel writing and characters you cannot get enough of.
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