Life on the Writing Trail

I’ve been terrible, readers. This spring’s schedule of teaching and keeping up with multiple writing jobs has overwhelmed me and I haven’t been able to keep up with regular posts. But I haven’t abandoned Writerly Life! This blog will still be a vital source of tips and techniques and larger thoughts about what it means to be a writer; but I’ll have to hold myself accountable and devise a posting schedule that is truly manageable. So for the future, let tell you to expect a weekly post, but one with greater length and substance than your average posts. I’ll be working hard on those posts to make sure they’re up to a high standard, and that they get you thinking about writing, memory, life, creativity, and much more. Don’t give up on me yet!

At the same time, of course, I’ll be wearing my other hat of acting as co-editor of my new literary magazine, Two Cities Review. You’ll see me over there, writing about the intersection of writing and city life, and you can expect any relevant post about writing to wander over here as well.

For now, keep reading, and keep writing. What I have been working on this week, as my classes wind down, is a list of book recommendations for my students, and I thought you might benefit from it as well. I’ve collected by no means an exhaustive list, but this is a list of my favorite reads from the past three years of my reading. I’ve grouped them according to category. Enjoy, and make sure you take a good book as a beach read this week, not a bad book!


Dystopia, Magic Realism, or Thought-Provoking Strangeness:


On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee

At Night We Walk in Circles, Daniel Alarcon

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

After Dark, Haruki Murakami

Swamplandia!, Karen Russell

1Q84, Haruki Murakami


Tense Family Drama


Family Life, Akhil Sharma

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Nick Flynn


Stunning Suspense and Action


Deliverance, James Dickey

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy


Modern Life: Romance, Relationships, etc.


The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,


Gorgeous Writing

The Surrendered, Chang-rae Lee

The Flamethrowers

Dear Life, Alice Munro

NW, Zadie Smith

The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner

A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul


Experimental Forms


Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis

The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka


Defies Categorization


Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan


  1. Michael Washburn says:

    You have superb tastes. Dickey’s Deliverance has had an influence on me – vivid and powerful from the first sentence to the last. (Of course if this were my list, there would be a lot of French authors, but hey …)

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