Hello, Daaahlings. Enough people have asked me for book recommendations that I think a page is in order—otherwise I will slowly be driven crazy by too frequently thinking of too many beautiful things at once…
Literary Fiction (Contemporary)
Written on the Body and The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Beloved by Toni Morrison; really anything by Toni Morrison. If you’re easily triggered, please tread lightly with her writing, especially with Beloved.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Again, very risky for people with triggers.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. Anticipated by her other fiction, but unlike it. Gorgeous, harrowing, amazing. Historical fiction leading up to a mass suicide in a Jewish outpost under siege. It follows the intertwining stories of four astonishing women.
The Probable Future by Anne Hoffman, and Practical Magic. She writes beautiful, gentle things, though Here on Earth is one of the best inside looks at the slide into an abusive relationship I’ve ever read.
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. (Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Dream-like.)
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee. (A beautiful blend of poetry, fiction, and memoir.)
Fantasy (lots of crossover with other categories)
For younger folk:
Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, Wind in the Door, and Swiftly Tilting Planet, in that order.
The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis (my favorite is The Magician’s Nephew).
For young adults, but as good as anything else:
Madeleine L’Engle’s The Young Unicorns (no unicorns, though!) and A Ring of Endless Light.
Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns and Song of the Wanderer.
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Song and Dragon Singer.
Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl.
Beauty by Robin McKinley.
For older teens and adults, more or less:
Stardust by Neil Gaiman.
For adults, and with trigger warnings:
Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Deerskin by Robin McKinley.
For those who like violence and smut:
Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, as well as her Merry Gentry series.
Not sure where it goes:
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones—I haven’t actually read it yet, but my sister recommends it.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. (I always thought it should be called La Esmeralda.)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Emma by Jane Austen.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. (Rough stuff.)
Anything by Shakespeare.
Madeleine L’Engle’s books: House like a Lotus, A Ring of Endless Light, The Young Unicorns. For a little bit younger, her Time Trilogy: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
Brigit Pegeen Kelly, because her work is dark and dense and sweet and intense. Her command of imagery and language is difficult to compare to anyone else’s. I especially love Song and The Orchard.
Li-Young Lee. His writing is quiet, he uses simple (but beautiful and melodic) language, and his imagery tends to be natural or to circle around his family. He and Kelly are probably the writers who have most influenced my own poetry. My favorite of his books is Rose.
Adrienne Rich’s poetry is sorrowful, complex, and inclusive of the world. Her romantic and political poetry—sometimes mixed together—are wonderfully emotional and thoughtful. She was my first poet to write about love between women. My favorite book of hers so far is Dream of a Common Language.
William Butler Yeats is the man who made me realize I’m a Romantic. How on Earth I missed that, I have no idea. His poetry changes with “Easter, 1916”, so you might look at poems written before and after.
Elizabeth Bishop is wonderful. She is also a lesbian poet, although I didn’t know that for some time after I’d begun reading her. She is almost a narrative poet, meaning she tends to tell stories with her poems. Younger readers find her very easy to love, but everyone might love her language and her compassion and her way of looking at the world.
Emily Dickinson is my honey. She shut herself into a room and made poetry her very own invention. Much of what here-and-now poetry has become is because of the freedom she created in her poems.
Sylvia Plath is wild, dark, sharp, musical and painful. Her Ariel (look for the version in which she chose and ordered the poems herself—it has an introduction by her daughter, Frieda Hughes) is fierce and was written tremendously quickly (sometimes 3 or 4 poems a day) at the end of her life.
There are a lot of others. Carl Phillips, Marianne Boruch, H.D., William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Mary Leader, Joy Manesiotis, Rainier Maria Rilke, Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda in a good (grittier) translation, and many more who aren’t coming to mind…
Song and The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly.
Rose by Li-Young Lee. His other books, also.
Poetry (Romantic and Modern)
William Butler Yeats
Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery. I like these even more than her Anne of Green Gables—though those are lovely, too.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.