Books

BOOK LISTS

At the heart of my teaching and writing practice is “Read One Hundred Books: Write One,” which was the motto of my MFA in Writing and Literature in Fiction program at Bennington College. The approach is annotative, rather than a book report approach, for exploring and contrasting specific craft examples within books by masterful authors and distilling lessons from them. Below are lists of books referenced in courses and workshops. It’s not essential to read the books in order to benefit from the courses. I reference key passages in my teaching, pdfs, and blog posts. However, the more you read, the more you’ll gain.

The Master Craft Juggling Framework

My Master Craft Juggling framework includes nine groups of elements. The online course Writing Fiction: Nine Ways to Mastery and the in-person Read to Write Books course are organized in sessions according to these nine groups or chapters. The ambitious list is why these courses have been called a “mini-MFA.”

1 ~ Gatekeepers & Story Seeds 

Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen

The Quiet American, Graham Greene

Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner

Selected Stories, Alice Munro

A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

2 ~ Voice, Style & POV

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

The Middleman & Other Stories, Baharati Murkherjee

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Bell Canto, Ann Patchett

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Bachman

If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Atonement, Ian McEwan

3 ~ Character

Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Richard Yates

How to Make an American Quilt, Whitney Otto

The Country Life, Rachel Cusk

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

4 ~ Place

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson

Of the Farm & Pigeon Feathers, John Updike

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Dubliners, James Joyces

Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Atonement, Ian McEwan

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

5 ~ Tension

Felicia’s Journey, William Trevor

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante

6 ~ Time & Consciousness

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Lorrie Moore

Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron

Larry’s Party, Carol Shields

A Country Life, Rachel Cusk

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

Tinkers, Paul Harding

7 ~ Love & Other Emotions

Atonement, Ian McEwan

Jasmine, Baharati Mukherjee

Selected Stories, Alice Munro

A Passage to India, E.M Forster

Bell Canto, Ann Patchett

Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante

8 ~ Image & the Senses

Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M Coetzee

A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Our Ancestors: Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

9 ~ Theme & Gestalt

Middlemarch, George Eliot

Passage to India, E.M. Forster

Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M Coetzee

Human Stain, Philip Roth

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

FIRST PERSON: MEMOIR & NARRATIVE NONFICTION

Participants in First Person: Memoir & Narrative Nonfiction read as many books from the list as they wish. As the course progresses, participants may want to add books that speak to their specific concerns and interests.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson

An American Childhood, Annie Dillard

The Liars’ Club: A Memoir, Mary Karr

On Writing, Stephen King

Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan

Ruined by Reading, Lynne Sharon Schwartz

PRIZEWINNERS

Tinkers, Paul Harding


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