I’m an inveterate list-maker. I enjoy introducing people to things I think they will love. I once travelled three hundred miles to make a recommendation to someone.

Five books that I wish everyone would read or Who I’d love to write like (and sometimes do)

1) Richard Van Camp-Angel Wing Splash Pattern – Think of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, which is in itself a magnificent book. Now give it even more soul and transpose it to Northwest Canada and set it among the First Nations communities. It’s genius. I dare you to not be moved by the story The Fifth Step. Jim Harrison talks about how literature should be about the big emotions, love and grit. This man’s got them all. In spades. None of that tired, scratch-your-own-ass irony lesser writers employ. Shame he’s unheard of outside of Canada.

2) Elena Ferrante-Days of Abandonment – I know this is not her real identity but goddamn, this is the most raw, real book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a harsh, unflinching look at motherhood. She writes like a harsher Jayne Anne Phillips. Motherhood is often used as a sacred cow that dehumanizes the people involved. This is an utterly horrifying book.

3) Aharon Appelfeld-The Immortal Bartfuss- I went back and forth on whether I wanted Amos Oz or Appelfeld in here. Inability to write horror is in itself horrifying. The Holocaust, while barely mentioned and never delved into, comes to life in this book. Appelfeld can create that void with such grace and then ask “shouldn’t we be changed by this to be more complete people?” He refuses to answer, which is the honest response to a question like that. I read a lot of Jewish fiction but this slim book affected me most even if more than half the quotes I will take to my grave come from Jonathan Safran-Foer and Nicole Krauss.

4) Antonio Munoz-Molina- Sepharad- A strange anti-history of exile. There’s a story in the middle about Wittgenstein that kills me every time. Munoz-Molina heads the Cervantes Institute in New York (?) and I’ve asked Jaime Manrique to help me get close enough to touch him, nothing more. There’s such wisdom in every line. This is old writing with great heart.

5) Alessandro Baricco- Without Blood– This is probably the tautest, most incredible book I can recommend. The premise is simple: In an unnamed war, a young boy shows an act of kindness towards a girl who’s curled up in a hole (he doesn’t kill her, essentially, or give her away). The girl, however, grows up in the shadow of this kindness. She kills everyone else but the boy who is now an old man who is convinced his time has come to die at her hand. It’s how people who know safety and trauma return to that safety despite how difficult that road may be. Immensely affecting.

Honorable mentions

6) Bernard McLaverty-Cal – I fell in love to this book. It earned that stellar last line, without which I would never have called the girl I ended up falling in love with. It was her book.

7) Jeanette Winterson-Lighthousekeeping – Storytelling rarely gets better. I love stories. Sweep me away, change me, deceive me, love me.

8) Haruki Murakami- Wild-Sheep Chase – There’s nothing I have to add that millions of people haven’t already said.

9) Theodore Sturgeon- Collected Works– This man made me a writer. Slow Sculpture was the story that reshaped my life.

10) Sartre-Nausea

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