Everyone likes recommendations, so here are mine.
- Andre Dubus & Roxane Gay
- I suggest Dubus’ Meditations from a Moveable Chair and Gay’s Bad Feminist. These two books of essays are the most honest work you’ll ever read. I turn to them when I need to clear my head, stop thinking so much about what I’m writing, and just move forward.
- Tom Perrotta
- You probably know Mr. Perrotta’s work because two books became movies (Election and Little Children) and a third is now an HBO series (The Leftovers). I was drawn to his work early in his career because his ability to write dialogue is just fucking amazing. You read through it quickly and effortlessly. I often trip over dialogue in fiction, but he just rolls through it. I often take a moment to read a short story or a chapter of his when I need some clarity writing dialogue. Plus, Mr. Perrotta has a singular talent for poking fun at modern middle-class American life without being rude or condescending. I once heard him described as the Steinbeck of Suburbia, and I think it makes sense. Want to see what I mean? Read The Abstinence Teacher.
- Jill McCorkle
- I want every woman out there to read The Cheer Leader. Ms. McCorkle’s prose is just saturated with the most gorgeous details. And they aren’t just details for the sake of showing and not telling. She knows how to pick just the right pieces that make the story whole. Her novel Ferris Beach received attention, but my recommendation turns her eye towards the painfully enlightening time of modern female adolescence. She puts words to experiences that need a voice but are challenging to speak for.
- Ha Jin
- I read Waiting, once, about 12 years ago, and it haunts me to this day. The longing and discipline transcends the characters’ situation and made me anxious as a reader. I still feel just as strongly now. Mr. Jin’s ability to sustain such force is enviable.
- Isabel Allende
- If you’ve heard of Ms. Allende, then you’ve heard of her most famous work The House of the Spirits. So read it already. Go get lost in her worlds.
- Richard Russo
- I have not read any of his more famous work, the ones turned into movies, but I’ve read Straight Man several times. This one may be just about me, but having worked on college campuses for a decade, I can tell you his parody of one is outstanding. I often struggle with how to show this atmosphere without coming across as bitter or angry, and Russo is a great guide.