Some books I have enjoyed, in no particular order:
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: Beautiful. Full of sensory details and sentiments that we find hard to express in our day-to-day lives, but Lahiri manages to capture perfectly on the page. Particularly helpful right now, as I’m working on a novel that needs a close third-person narrator that draws the reader in: I’ll be re-reading and taking notes.
The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home by Janice N. Harrington: This collection of poems about nursing home residents and the people who care for them is a beautiful, painful, necessary read.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley: Memory, age, regret, love, and fear all mingle to create a touching story that spans decades and mere moments. The final sentence echoed in my mind throughout the night.
The Last Will and Testament of Ernie Politics by Brad Grusnick: A unique, bizarre, hilarious, sad story. This is the first book I read on an e-reader (which, up to this point, I’d adamantly opposed), but it was so worth compromising my grip on the dead-tree book. A bold debut.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: I read this book six years ago and remembered why I want to be a writer. I then borrowed every other book she’d written from the library and bathed in Butler for two months straight.
A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton: I know I am over a decade behind on this one, but when it came out I was 14, and only interested in all things Terry Pratchett. Now that my reading habits have expanded, this novel was like a blow to my gut. At times, I found myself scared to turn the page for fear of what the Goodheart family would have to face next. A stunning, heart-wrenching page-turner of a character portrait, as riveting as any great thriller or mystery novel out there.
The Passage by Justin Cronin: The best endorsement I can give this book is to say that the minute I read the last syllable of this 784-page odyssey, I wanted to flip it over and start all over again. Thank heavens for sequels.
Changing Planes by Ursula Le Guin: This was my introduction to Le Guin, and I found each story to be inventive and, at times, unnerving. I picked it up because I wanted to check out the work of other female sci-fi writers: I was not disappointed.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuro Ishiguro: Quite possibly the saddest book I’ve ever read. I think about it at least once a week.
On Writing by Stephen King: The master of mystical horror proves that there’s no magic to being a writer–it’s all about the work. Read this, watch him rise from writing in the back of a trailer to being a best-seller, and realize that you have no excuses.
Luminarium by Alex Shakar: Complex, nuanced, challenging and exciting. The narration painted many images so clearly, they remain crisp and bright at the forefront of my mind months after reading.
Discworld #1-infinity by Terry Pratchett: The man can do no wrong. He skewers everything from organized religion to death to DADT to football, with a cast of vampires, trolls, werewolves, wizards, politicians, cops, gnomes and dwarfs that may be more human than the humans you know. When I read Pratchett, I frequently laugh out loud, and I am always jealous that I didn’t think of putting the world flat on it’s back atop four elephants and the Great A’Tuin.
Watership Down by Richard Adams: I read this aloud to my children, and we loved it. A beautiful, harrowing adventure full of courage, daring and rabbits. We laughed, I nearly cried, we went to bed anxious about what would happen in the next chapter. I imagine if I had read this as a child or young adult, I’d be a bit of a different person now.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson: After reading, I felt prepared to colonize Mars myself, and was amazed at Robinson’s ability to make the infighting and challenges in a hypothetical extraterrestrial colony feel immediate, critical, and relevant. The Years of Rice and Salt felt equally urgent, even though the bulk of the story happens in an alternate past.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: Words like “epic,” “sweeping” and “”tour-de-force” come to mind, but they’re insufficient. When I fully recover from my first reading, I’ll read it again. Flight Behavior was equally as powerful, and, like Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, particularly helpful right now, as I’m working on a novel that needs a close third-person narrator that draws the reader in. I’ll be re-reading and taking notes.