Reading List

List of Influential Texts, in No Particular Order:

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (postmodern mystery) + Gravity’s Rainbow (WWII era mashup [written in early 70s] of comics, heroic journey, magic realism, musicals)

Joy Williams, Taking Care + Breaking and Entering + The Quick and the Dead + Honored Guest (dark humor, wry characterization)

Thomas Bernhard, Correction and The Loser (rants that unfold like long unbroken paragraphs)

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (in her own words, a “play poem,” a work of stunning and hypnotic beauty)

Junot Diaz, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (about comic books, Dominican history, geeking out)

Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow (story told in reverse, like a guy lives his whole life in reverse… example, he’s a doctor, and so healthy people come to him and he makes them worse)

Jean Toomer, Cane (Harlem renaissance era mashup of poetry and prose)

Percival Everett, Erasure (how should black lives be written?)

George Saunders, In Persuasion Nation (or just look up the story “Jon”)

Daniel Orozco, Orientation (short stories, one of which unfolds in the form of a police blotter)

Donald Antrim, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World (a futuristic tale that takes place in an era where people built moats around their houses and draw and quarter criminals with Toyotas)

Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine (takes place entirely during a ride down an escalator) + The Fermata (narrator can stop time)

Padgett Powell, Interrogative Mood: A Novel? (this book is made entirely of questions. no joke)

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (y’all know this one)

Stephen Dixon, pretty much anything (this guy has published over 600 stories)

Toni Morrison, Beloved (haunted by ghost baby)

Robert Coover, pretty much anything (a writer who inhabits and rewrites myths)

Mary Ruefle, everything (remember “My Pet, My Clock”? there’s more)

Werner Herzog, Conquest of the Useless (a mad diary about making a movie in the Amazon)

Stanley Crawford, Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine (narrated by the wife of a captain on a floating barge that travels the seas) + Some Instructions (megalomaniac father, who tries to sound reasonable, gives instructions to his wife and children about how best to live)

David Shields, Reality Hunger (literary collage about art making)

Renata Adler, Speedboat (literary collage about life)

Emmanuelle Carrere, The Mustache (a man shaves his mustache and not only does nobody notice, nobody can even agree that the guy ever had a mustache, and it drives him slowly MAD)

Clarice Lispector, everything (magical goddess of the universe, a literary sorceress)

Atticus Lish, Preparation for the Next Life (Iraq vet meets Chinese woman in NYC, falls in love)

John Brandon, Citrus County (a young girl is kidnapped in Florida, what ensues is this book)

Adam Levin, The Instructions (a kid who thinks he’s the Messiah)

Helen Phillips, And Yet They Were Happy (short two page stories)

Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor (a housekeeper and her relationship with her son and the professor she works for, whose memory only lasts ten minutes, then he forgets everything)

 Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (amazingly written book about a woman acquiring English while she falls in love)

Bernard Malamud, God’s Grace (monkeys)

Gary Shtyngart, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (hilarious satire of Russian immigrant experience)

Maurice Manning, Bucolics (poetry)

Arda Collins, It Is Daylight (poetry)

Mark Levine, Enola Gay (poetry)

Daniel Clowes, everything, especially Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron (super weird graphic novel)

Sam Lipsyte, Homeland (each chapter is a guy writing to his fellow high school alums, and begins by addressing them with the word “Catamounts”)

David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (graphic novel)

Larry Brown, Dirty Work (two Vietnam vets in a hospital)

Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (journalist in Iraq)

Ron Rash, The World Made Straight (western North Carolina)

Graham Romieu, Bigfoot: I Not Dead (graphic novel)

Elizabeth McCracken, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination (harrowing story of surviving a stillbirth)

Jose Saramago, Blindness + The Double (Portuguese master)

J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (South Africa)

Trish Wood, What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It (self explanatory)

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (literary sci fi)

Richard Price, Lush Life (gritty urban story, ala The Wire)

Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (graphic novel)

Daniel Pinchbeck, Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (what it says)

William Gay, Twilight: A Novel (southern gothic)

Joe Wenderoth, Letters to Wendy’s (a collection of letters to the fast food restaurant)

James Hynes, The Lecturer’s Tale (magic realism on college campus)

Susan Sontag, On Photography (smart person meditating on photography)

James Lasdun, The Horned Man (horror lit)

John Williams, Stoner (literary realism that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself)

Sesshu Foster, Atomik Aztex (what if the Aztecs ruled over Western culture?)

Jenny Offill, Dept of Speculation (creative writing professor/mom negotiates modern world)

Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq (Iraq lit)

Edward Lewis Wallant, The Tenants of Moonbloom (New York City tenement)

Alan Moore, Watchmen (gritty superhero graphic novel)

Richard Farina, Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me (this writer died on a motorcycle after leaving a party celebrating this, his one and only book)

Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You (quirky werido chic lit)

James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime + Light Years (an American master)

Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater (a puppeteer has an affair) + Portnoy’s Complaint (a Jewish kid jerks off a lot)

Stewart O’Nan, A Prayer for the Dying (second person western about a sheriff attempting to rescue his town from sickness)

Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons (amazing nonfiction, “Hand Carved Coffins” is worth the price of admission alone)

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women (smart short stories about women)

J. Robert Lennon, Pieces for the Left Hand (short pieces that reverberate with mystery)

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book One (Scandanavian author begins first part of six part novel series based on his life)

Eliot Weinberger, An Elemental Thing (essays that meditate on a variety of things, often ancient cultures)

Tarjei Versaas, The Ice Palace (a lovely and warmly dark tale about two girls who meet and then one disappears)

Evan Lavender-Smith, From Old Notebooks (a book about writing and being a writer, a catalog of story ideas)

Annie Dillard, For the Time Being (meditation on chaos, belief, death)

Bennett Sims, A Questionable Shape (a book about a zombie apocalypse in which hardly any zombies actually appear)

Susan Steinberg, Spectacle (short, jagged stories about what it means to be a woman)

Bernard Cooper, Maps to Anywhere (memoir collection, short CNF)

Dawn Raffel, The Secret Life of Objects (series of meditations on objects)

Kevin Moffett, Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events (hilarious and smart short stories)

Georg Christoph Lifhtenberg, The Waste Books (aphorisms)

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (a book about what the title says, basically an investigation into culture and how everything humans do is predicated on pretending we aren’t going to die)

Alan Watts, The Book (Buddhism, made digestible)

Rebecca Lindenberg, Love: An Index (poetry)

Joe Brainerd, I Remember (Every section of this book begins with “I remember,” a hypnotic catalog/collage)

Matthew Zapruder, Come on All You Ghosts (poetry)

Chris Bachelder, Abbott Awaits (domestic vignettes)

Leonard Michaels, I Would Have Saved Them If I Could (master storyteller)

Charles Duff, A Handbook on Hanging (and that’s what it is)

Chris Offutt, Kentucky Straight (short stories about rural Kentucky)

The Granta Book of the American Short Story

Renee Gladman, Calamities (oddly beautiful and mysterious meditations)

Brian Blanchfield, Proxies (same)

Alejandro Zambra, Multiple Choice (book in the form of multiple choice tests)

Julio Cortazar, Cronopios and Famas (fabulist wonders)

Clarice Lispector, Selected Cronicas (for years, Lispector wrote newspaper articles for a Brazilian newspaper… they were called “Chronicles” or “Cronicas” and western culture has no analogue for this genre, which can be anything: meditations, stories, fragments… these are some of the many CL wrote. marvelous!)

Suzanne Scanlon, Her 37th Year (memoir written in the form of an index)

Maggie Nelson, Bluets (a meditation on the color blue)

Bernard Cooper, Maps to Anywhere (short essays)

Jenny Zhang, Sour Heart (long-ass voice-driven stories narrated by first generation Chinese immigrant girls)

Gerald Murnane, Border Districts (I don’t even know how to describe this except to say it’s totally immersive and voice-driven and meta)

Juan Pablo Villalobos, Down the Rabbit Hole (short novel narrated by son of a drug lord who demands a pygmy hippo)

Javier Marias, The Infatuations (woman obsessed with couple becomes entwined in their lives after an unfortunate event)

Durga Chew-Bose, Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays (the first and best essay in here is called “The Heart Museum” and it’s like 93 pages long and very associatively driven)

Lily Hoang, A Bestiary (a braided book-length essay about death, myth, family, drugs, sex, writing)

Weike Wang, Chemistry (about chemistry in all its permutations, also about love and deciding not to be a scientist)

Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (one of the most beautiful graphic novels about a young girl growing up in Chicago who idolizes her artist brother and imagines herself as a monster)

Barry Hannah (any and everything)

Michael Bible, Sophia (short lil novel highly influenced by Barry Hannah, which is a very good thing)

Haruki Murakami, Wild Sheep Chase (a postmodern detective story with a touch of magic realism that takes place in Japan and involves searching for a mysterious [yes] sheep)

Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son (short novel? prose poems? short stories? whatever you want to call what’s inside this book, it’s magical)

Patrik Ourednik, Europeana: A Brief History of the 20th Century (P.O. I think has described this book as if the village idiot was telling the story of the 20th century… basically a book that sounds like a textbook that went off the rails)

Khadijah Queen, I’m So Fine (a list of what famous men have said to the narrator)

Christos Ikonomou, Good Will Come from the Sea (unapologetically voice-driven stories set in contemporary Greece)

Ben Lerner, 10:04 (writer with potentially fatal disease is asked to help friend conceive child in superstorm-battered New York City)

Brad Phillips, Essays and Fictions (what it says)

David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives (gay man in 80s writes about sexuality and HIV: an unleashing)

Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (writer addresses dead friend and writer after inheriting his dog)

Lars Iyer, Spurious (two dudes arguing)

Jeanne Vanasco, The Glass Eye (meditation on writing, being a daughter, losing a father)

Amy Fusselman, Idiophone (art-making and risk in the context of motherhood)

W. G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn + Austerlitz (guy walking around old places and talking to random people and thinking)

Manuel Vila, Ordesa (father in Spain remembering dead parents in lyrical fashion)

Patricia Lockwood, Nobody Is Talking about This (collage-like book about navigating internet and life)

Jeny Slate, Little Weirds (comedian and actor writes quirky + charming stories)

Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist (an exploration of a once-beloved 19th century explorer and a meditation on why fish do not, in fact, exist)

Bernadette Mayer, Midwinter Day (poem written over the span of a single day in winter)

Amy Hempel, Sing to It (novella in this book, “Cloudland,” worth price of admission)

Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (queer Vietnamese author writes collage-like letter to his mother, who will never read the book because she doesn’t speak English, about his life growing up and what he remembers about what his mother has told about hers)

Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (celebratory, effusive, joyous poems about New York in the 1950s)

Ross Gay, The Book of Delights (essay collection written over the course of a year; each essay zooms in on a particular thing, idea, or person that the author delights in)

John Ehle, The Land Breakers (classic novel about settlers in Appalachia, super immersive)

Nic Brown, Floodmarkers (novel-in-stories set during a hurricane in the late ’80s in Greensboro, NC)

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Autumn + Winter + Spring Summer (books in which the author explains objects and animals related to seasons to his daughter)

James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime (voyeuristic narrator obsessed with couple)

Jesse Ball, Autoportrait

Eduaord Levee, Autoportrait

Catherine Lacey, The Answers

Sally Rooney, Normal People

James Salter, Light Work