My Recommended Reads
I love storytelling in all its forms, and I try to consume as much as I possibly can. However, my to-read list contains nearly three thousand works, and I am not immortal (yet). There will be so many books in our lives that we ache to read but never do, and there is something beautiful in that never-ending expanse of knowledge and story. "This is an ocean, and in your finite lifetime you will only be able to swim across a bay or two," as writer Ferrett Steinmetz phrased it in his insightful article "You Don’t Need To Feel Guilty About Books You Haven’t Read Yet."
So, without further ado, here are my recommended reads across different genres and forms to further grow your to-read stack. My tastes might not match yours, of course, and I wholly understand if you dislike a book that I love. Nonetheless, these are the books that have left an impression on me, finding me at the right time in my life to change my perception of the world and of myself.
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Why you should read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien:
A true masterpiece in storytelling, emotional depth, and prose that explores the consequences of war. This book is fiction. It’s also nonfiction. It’s a novel, but also a short story collection. The Things They Carried is paradoxically visceral and heartwarming, funny and haunting—my all-time favorite book.
Why you should read When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka:
A poignant portrayal of the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II—an event in history that’s not discussed often enough in American classrooms. After I turned the final page, I just stared at a wall for a while, which is how I know it's a fantastic book. I adore Otsuka’s straightforward-yet-powerful prose.
Why you should read The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud:
A childhood favorite that I reread as an adult, and it was even better than I remembered. The story is set in an alternate London wherein magicians have no abilities of their own and derive their power from enslaving demons. Here, the writing is skillful, the magic system unique, and the characters intriguing—you need only read the first chapter to see that. The main character Nathaniel is one of my favorite figures in fiction because of his antihero qualities and character arc.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Why you should read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl:
Part Holocaust memoir, part psychological exploration—a truly moving work of nonfiction that describes a psychiatrist's experience in a Nazi death camp. This book made me step back and reexamine my own priorities in life and the meaning of existence for humanity across history.
Nonfiction and Memoirs
Why you should read The First 50 Pages
by Jeff Gerke:
An eye-opening guide for beginner writers that gives you exactly what it says on the tin: ways to engage literary agents, editors, and readers within the first fifty pages of your novel. Written in clear prose, it’s a quick read that will nonetheless have you reaching for a highlighter to capture nuggets of good advice.
Writing Craft Books
Why you should read Good Bones
by Maggie Smith:
With beautiful imagery and creative phrasings, Maggie Smith paints the scenes of her life in each of her poems. They’re raw and contemplative, yet she never loses sight of the beauty in life, whether it exists in parenting or nature or simply in paying attention to the world. If you’ve never been into poetry, Good Bones is a wonderful place to start your journey into verse.
Why you should read Stitches
by David Small:
An incredible graphic memoir about the author’s difficult childhood growing up with narcissistic parents, health struggles, and self-esteem issues. Every panel feels carefully arranged, like a storyboard of a black-and-white film, and reading the narrative itself is like sitting across from the author as he recounts his family history.
Graphic Novels/Memoirs and Manga
Why you should read Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire:
In this stage play, the story blossoms petal by petal, revealing the questions posed: Is there a “correct” way to grieve? How can we communicate with our loved ones if our methods of coping differ dramatically? Every line of dialogue fizzles with tension. Rabbit Hole presents no easy answers—only the hard questions we may someday face ourselves.