When I started the Sundays With Writers series, I had no idea how beautifully it would blossom and how happy it would make me. I decided to have one question that I would always end with when interviewing our authors. It was this…
If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be?
Since I started asking that, I have discovered and read books that would have never found their way into my book pile. Of course, browsing through the entire series to find their answers can be a bit tedious so I am putting all of these responses into one post that I encourage you to bookmark, pin, and share with others as this will be updated weekly as we feature the gifted writers in our Sundays With Writers interview series.
If you wanted to read more about each of the authors that have shared their recommendations, a link is provided to our interview about their incredible books. There is a reason they have been featured and you will discover why when you open their books. It has been my honor to interview each of these incredible voices.
What I have discovered is, if I really like a book that they recommend…chances are, that author is going to be a GREAT one to read since there is usually a reason why they are in love with a writer’s words.
Here are the books that the world’s top authors say you should be reading!
Please note, this file will now be updated after each Sundays With Writers. The list will start moving down from now on so the latest book will now be at the top. Keep this bookmarked for your library list!
Please also note, these are affiliate links. A small portion of your sales goes to support the work we do at MomAdvice.com. Please follow me on GoodReads for more great book recommendations! xo
Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
My favorite book in the world is Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. It’s beautifully-written, wonderfully imagined, and completely heart-breaking. In it, terrorists seize the mansion of the vice-president of an unnamed South American country during a party that’s being thrown for a Japanese industrialist lured there with the promise of a performance by his favorite opera singer. The industrialist comes, the opera singer performs, guests from all over the world are in attendance; but the terrorist’s real target, the country’s president, skips the party to stay home and watch his favorite telenovela. As the standoff stretches from days into weeks, the hostages and captors for a community that you know can’t last. I’ve read this book so many times that I still have to keep a box of tissues at my elbow for the end game.
Read It: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It has everything: a spunky heroine, a messed-up sexy hero, a mystery, a dysfunctional family, plus love and madness in the English countryside. And Jane makes Rochester cry. I aim to make all my heroes cry.
One book that really inspired me recently was Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel about Cambodia. It is both dark and radiant at the same time. She finds meaning and beauty within the horror, which makes the book truly transformative.
Read It: Paula by Isabel Allende
This is such a hard question! There are so many books I could list, but I’m going to go with Paula by Isabel Allende. The book tells the true-life story of the author’s daughter’s sudden and unexpected illness, which befalls her when she’s a young adult. That story is interspersed with the history of their family and the story of Isabel Allende’s own extraordinary life. It’s a powerful, heart-wrenching account of a mother’s love for her daughter, and one woman’s path through all of the big moments in life: love, motherhood, work, grief, joy and family. It’s raw and honest, powerful and heart-wrenching, and beautifully told.
Glad to see another author already posted about The Song of Achilles, which is my favorite novelization of Greek myth. I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys The Immortals!
As for non-myth books, I’d have to pick Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that I immediately told everyone in my life to pick up. Set primarily in 1940s New York, it tells the story of two Jewish cousins (one of whom escapes from Nazi Europe) who create superheroes for the Golden Age of Comics. Add in a Harry Houdini subplot, love stories both gay and straight, a wealth of historical New York City detail, and the most sublime prose style I’ve ever encountered, and you get an irresistible work of brilliance.
Read It: Act One by Moss Hart
It’s so hard to pick one! I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and just finished his book David and Goliath so I’m going to go with that. It’s very insightful and made me think differently about the obstacles we face in life and how overcoming them often helps us develop our greatest strengths. I’m also a huge admirer of J.K. Rowling so I have to throw that in there.
I have “Raise High the Roof Beam” tattooed on my forearm. I am unapologetic in my love of J.D. Salinger, specifically the Glass family novellas. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters really struck a chord in me, and of course, the original poem by Sappho is outstanding.
The Howling Man– (TOR 1988) Charles Beaumont. It’s got about 30 of his short stories and for those who don’t know him… hang on tight; you’re about to feel a tidal wave of wonder wash over you.
Read It: Scruples by Judith Krantz
One book! That is really a difficult choice to make. I have a degree in English lit, and I’m sure several of my professors will strongly disapprove of this — it’s very tempting to choose a classic, or at least something “literary” — but I am going to recommend the classic Judith Krantz book, SCRUPLES (and also SCRUPLES II; the first book ends on a real cliffhanger, so be warned). If you are interested in/enjoy popular woman’s fiction, Krantz is truly the master of the genre. Her books always feature strong women who excel at interesting jobs, and the plots are propulsive and highly readable and deliciously soapy. I personally never feel guilty about anything I read, but if you are into so-called “guilty pleasure reading” — or even if you are a person who only reads highly literary intellectual books but who longs to UNDERSTAND the idea of guilty pleasure reading — Scruples one of the most pleasurable, and, by this point, a classic of that genre. (Her autobiography, which is titled, brilliantly, SEX AND SHOPPING, is also a favorite.)
Read It: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (check out her comments below for lots more great suggestions!)
Oh, wow, I can’t pick that either. I think it’s because I would never advise anyone to read only ONE book, and I don’t even know HOW to answer this without considering the context. If it’s someone who never reads, I’d say start with the Harry Potter series, because it will invite you into books and then keep you there. If it’s someone who likes stuff that’s tonally similar to The Royal We — funny, with heart — I would hand them Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham, which I promise is a recommendation I would have made before she ever even picked up our book. If you’re into literature and wordplay and quirk, I’d suggest The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (and then read the whole series; they get goofier but no less imaginative and punny). If you want striking prose, read anything by Kate Atkinson. And if you love wartime and friendship and romance, it’s a tie between The FitzOsbournes trilogy and Code Name: Verity, both of which are wonderful examples of books that are technically considered for teens, but offer so much to anyone of any age.
How’s THAT for a wishy-washy answer?
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I stumbled upon it at the used bookstore attached my library and bought a copy of it for four dollars last December. I have since recommended it to everyone that will listen to me and have bought multiple copies. It is a retelling of the story of Achilles’s life leading up to and through the Trojan War. I can’t tell you what I love most about it because I love everything about it so much. It is stunningly romantic, a pleasure to read, incredibly thought-provoking, and epically tragic, with some of the most wonderful sentences I’ve read in some time. It manages to straddle both classic literature and soap opera in one story. It’s so good (and so juicy) that I would call it a guilty pleasure except that you have nothing to feel guilty about because it’s so very beautiful and keenly smart.
Read It: The Street by Ann Petry
The Street by Anne Petry is brilliant and searing. One of my all time favorites.
Debbie Graber’s short story collection Kevin Kramer Starts On Monday isn’t out yet – it comes out next spring – but it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time. Debbie is just brilliant; her humor, which often sends up the contemporary American workplace, is infused with plenty of heart, pathos, and intelligence. I read it in manuscript form and I can’t wait for it to exist in the world. Please pre-order it the moment it becomes available.
Read It: Swimming by Nicola Keegan
By my lights one of the most brilliant, moving and devastatingly funny stories about growing up alongside, coping with and surviving the people who raise us. The voice is so strong, so piercing and so authentic. I’ve never read anything that conveyed more powerfully how families can be both curse and windfall. I think about that book all the time.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
After I Do By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Lisa says about Wild- She’s a phenomenal writer and this is a memoir you will think about for years after reading it.
Liz says about After I Do- It’s an incredibly insightful and refreshing narrative on the challenges of marriage.
I’m going to stay true to my neck of the woods and give you three recommendations—a novel, a memoir, and a book of poetry—from Appalachia because I think a lot of what comes out of this region is tragically overlooked. As far as a novel, everyone needs to read Robert Gipe’s Trampoline. It’s bar none the best debut released this year and it’s arguably the best debut we’ve seen from this region in decades. With memoir, I was really impressed with Leigh Ann Henion’s book, Phenomenal. I think her storytelling is brave and her insight into our relationship with the natural world is matured and beautiful. Last but certainly not least, everyone needs to be reading Rebecca Gayle Howell, especially the poems in Render: An Apocalypse, which are just gritty and raw and lovely. She’s writing scripture. So there’re three for you to get your hands on!
Read It: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
It is an incredibly intense book about racial inequality in our criminal justice system, but it is beautifully written and powerful, with just enough hopefulness to help you sit with the discomfort of the truth and think hard about how you can help contribute to a solution. I recommend it to everyone I know.
Read It: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Recommended by: Vanessa Lafaye
It’s actually 3 books: The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker. Is that allowed? These books were among the first, along with Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, which opened my eyes to the history of WWI. Before that, like most Americans, I was ignorant of this period, but it’s a huge deal here in England. I finally understood what the veterans had sacrificed in that awful, stupid war.
Read It: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
I suggest people read it because it may freak them out. It’s also what fearless narration looks like. It’s bold and bizarre in all the right ways and full of incredible visual writing. It’s a book that stays with you long after you’ve finished. It’s the book I dream about writing.
My favorite book is almost always the book I’ve read most recently, since it’s fresh in my mind. In this case, that’s The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett. It’s about an Arctic expedition in the 1850s, during a time where men died regularly exploring that area. The story weaves together what happens on a particular ship with the lives of those waiting back at home for the ship to return. Barrett writes so beautifully and precisely about both the emotional and physical dimensions of her characters’ lives. It’s gorgeous and brutal. I loved it.
Read It: One by Sarah Crossan, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, & Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I think that’s almost impossible for me as I read constantly, and I am forever discovering my newest favorite novel…So, I’m going to choose my novel of the moment, which is Sarah Crossan’s ONE, which will be published by Bloomsbury in August. It’s a verse novel for young adults, and it’s a beautiful story about conjoined twins.It’s completely consuming and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
(I should also say that I reread, every summer, Meg Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS and Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP. Two completely amazing feats of literary fiction and coming of age…I know this is cheating but it’s hard for me!)
I’d go with The Bluest Eye, because Toni Morrison is one of my all-time favorite authors and that book says so much about race and culture and identity and love, and it’s beautifully written to boot.
Read It: Room by Emma Donoghue
What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity. If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.
Rene says- Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.
Kristin says- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time!
Read It: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.
That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I can pick just one book. But my favorite author is Anna Quindlen. I read Black and Blue years ago and it has always stayed with me. Every time she has a new book out, I buy it right away!
I don’t think I can prescribe a cure-all because books are so personal to each individual, but I’ll share with you the most important book I ever read—a book that burst open my imagination and taught me that it’s possible to create an incredible alternate reality on the page.
When I was thirteen, my older sister told me I had to read this book, giving me only the title and a pinch of her fingers to demonstrate its approximate spine width. I went to my school library to look for the book and, having no idea where to start my search, I said to a friend, “I’m looking for a book that’s about this thick.” I extended my finger to poke the spine of a random book. It was Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: the very book my sister told me I must read. It was a bizarre, serendipitous first encounter. That book rocked my world.
Read It: Long Man by Amy Greene
It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s, Long Man has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.
Read It: The Stand by Stephen King, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, & Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).
I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book.
My favorite book of all time is My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.
So many possible answers to that! You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time. Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe. It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three. But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying. Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago. Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots. What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it. But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes. Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before. And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.
It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places. But Wolfe’s imagination is vast. He creates a world and peoples it. And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.
My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This is one that I tell everyone to read. It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. You don’t need to be a history guru to fall in love with this book. When it comes to my own genre though, psychological suspense, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.
Read It: Room by Emma Donaghue, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Bees by Laline Paull
Emma Donaghue’s Room, Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One, and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Just a few days ago, I finished Laline Paull’s fabulous debut, The Bees; I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Read It: Awareness by Anthony de Mello & The Lover by Marguerite Duras
IMPOSSIBLE. I NEED TWO AT LEAST, AMY! However, a book I have to read over and over is Anthony de Mello’s Awareness. It’s not fiction. It might even be called self-help (choke). It reminds me of the troublesome human pitfalls that can really muck up our short little jaunt on earth. I also return to Duras’ The Lover over and over because it reminds me of longing and waking up to life. These are a few of my favorite things, as the song says.
The Great Gatsby. I hated it in high school, but then years later, I had to teach it in a high school, and I began to realize what a perfectly structured novel it is, how moving, how sad, and how beautiful a book it really is.
Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals. It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will give it a look!
Read It: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
“I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.
Ah, the dreaded one book question, asked of a multiple-book lover! Since I know nothing about the reader, including why he or she reads—and given my answers to the question about critical subjectivity—I’ll assume your real question is “What book could someone read that would reveal the most about you?” You said “book,” not “novel,” for which I am grateful, since novels are such delicious slices of life it would be like asking if you could only taste one food what would it be. So I am going to go the nonfiction route and say The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A brilliant life guide that I’ve read many times, my sensibilities are all over its pages.
I’m not sure I can answer this question. It would depend on the anyone – I don’t think books are a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. But a current enthusiasm is Kelly Link’s new short story collection, Get In Trouble. I will be so happy if you all buy and read it.
My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.
Read It: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
That’s so hard. But this one has been very much on my mind lately so I’m going to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
Oh My! What a hard question! I love books so much, choosing just one is almost impossible. But I’ll bite the bullet and say…no I just can’t do it! So instead I’ll say The Shadow of the Wind, The Great Gatsby, anything by P.J. Wodehouse, The Last Anniversary, anything by Mary Wesley, Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and Clive James.
This answer would likely be different on any day you asked me. There are so many great books out there! Right now, however, I will say Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I’ve found myself missing that book lately, sort of yearning to go back and re-read it for maybe the 12th time. Who knows why? This is the great mystery of beautiful fiction; it speaks to us in fundamental ways that we ourselves don’t always understand. It’s a glorious thing.
Read It: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war and regrets. I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point out of sheer orneriness. C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.
Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
My all-time favourite novel is Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the incredible story of a prolonged embassy siege and the relationships which form between the hostages and their captors. Patchett has the most incredible insight into human behaviour and her prose is simply gorgeous. I have read this book at least half a dozen times and I get something new from it every time.
My favorite book last year was Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. It’s dark, riveting, gorgeous, important.
Two books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. My all time favorite novels.
Light Years by James Salter. It’s just one of those books that I keep picking up again and again. There is not a lot of fiction that I read while writing because I don’t want to be overly influenced. His writing is somebody, of course I write differently, but I just feel like he is a master. I also love, and we were recently talking about Desperate Characters by Paula Fox is a really wonderful book and Jonathan Franzen wrote the forward on it!
Read It: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been tweeting about this book a ton, and I am probably starting to scare the author a little. But it’s a stunning book—gorgeous prose, and an epic and powerful tale about friendship.
That’s easy. Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun.”
If you like Every Last Word’s message about the healing power of writing, you’ll love the way this novel celebrates the healing power of art. It’s so brilliantly crafted, told in alternating viewpoints by brother and sister twins—his story tells the past while hers tells the present. I’m simply in awe of Nelson’s ability to weave together different timelines and points of view into a beautifully written, emotionally gripping story.