This is a list of books I’ve read or am currently reading that have fed my imagination and inspired me.

I will continue to add to this list in the hopes it will inspire my readers to try something new.  These are not reviews, but rather very small takes on unusually good writing.  Responses and suggestions are invited…

Zeitoun  - David Eggers

A moving account of one Muslim man’s tenacity and courage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  A great survival story.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers  - Katherine Boo

An intimate account of life in the Mumbai slums.  Unforgettable characters.  This is a page-turner, and a brave book.

The Odyssey – translated by Emily Wilson

A clean, insightful translation of Homer’s classic Odyssey by the very first woman.  This is one of the great pieces of literature of all time.

How to Live - A Life of Montaigne -  Sarah Bakewell

A unique approach to the life of the great essayist and public figure Montaigne, framed in the form of 20 answers to the question “how to live.” about how to live the righteous life.

H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald

Lyrically written account of one woman’s recovery from grief at father’s death as she trains the legendary and un-trainable goshawk.

Pieces of my Mother. -  Melissa Cistaro

An inspiring and compassionate memoir about one woman’s journey to fathom the mother who walked away from her family.

Slow Motion  - Dani Shapiro

Beautifully written memoir about recovery – and putting her own pieces back together – following the catastrophic accident that almost destroyed her mother & father.

City of Thieves - David Benioff

Great novel unfolding in Nazi occupied Leningrad about an unlikely, adventure-filled friendship between two men, one a citizen of Leningrad, the other a deserter.  Boys become men in this funny thriller

Exit West - Moshin Hamid

This novel about migration and relationship has a great deal of magic in it, and mystery, and a poetic sensibility that you won’t soon forget.

For Keeps - Ed. By Victoria Zackheim

A collection of essays by women who tell the truth about getting older and dealing with such prickly things as their bodies and accepting the whole process. Great variety.  Makes you smile in recognition of their wisdom and humor.

LEONARDO DA VINCI -  Walter Isaacson

A sumptuous volume that illuminates the vast mind and creative force that was Leonardo da Vinci.  Filled with beautiful plates, and impeccably researched, this book brings us into the world of Leonardo the artist, inventor, scientist, architect, and all around dreamer ... and it shows us a complex character feverishly trying to understand his world.  At 600 or more pages, it's a heavy tome, but it certainly is worth holding in your hands!


The brilliant writer of The Liars Club has written a witty, sharp examination of what the memoir consists of.  She lays bare her own process, and excerpts a number of fine memoirs throughout this engaging book.  Using her own experience as a teacher of memoir, she takes us on a journey that forces us to have regard for all those brave enough to take on this genre of writing!

The Year of Magical Thinking  -  Joan Didion

This stunning, brutally honest look at Didion's journey of grief following her husband's sudden heart attack will stay with you for a long time after you put the book down.  She takes us inside her broken heart and mind and shows us the surreal, disorienting world of deep sadness.  Was made into a beautiful stage play years ago starring the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave as the author.

BIRD BY BIRD  -   Anne Lamott

This classic look at the writing process should be on the bookshelf of all writers and aspiring writers.  With her unique irreverence and passion for the process, Lamott takes you through such agonizing pitfalls as:  "shitty first drafts" the horrors of perfectionism, or holding what she calls the "moral point of view."  As a teacher I've used this book to enlighten and inspire my students, and also to give them the freedom to hold themselves more lightly in the difficult journey of being an artist.