9 Famous Writers On Their Favorite Books — Because For Inspiration, You Should Go To The Inspired
We all have those books that we hold the closest to us. They're the books we make a point to re-read once a year. The ones we take with us when we travel for long periods of time. The ones whose pages are so yellow and crinkled and filled with scribbles that no one else could read them but you. And if you're a writer, these are the books that inspire you the most when creating your own work.
If my favorite books were piled up together, the only thing they'd really have in common is that they're bound and have covers. They range to everything from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar to S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders to B.J. Novak's One More Thing. I love them all for different reasons, and I hope that a little bit of all of them comes off in my own writing.
When I decided to search for famous writers' favorite books, I read interviews, saw lists, and read bios that showed me that they're inspired from as wide as range of novels, short stories, plays, poems, and comics as much as I am. Here are nine books that are near and dear to famous authors.
Joyce Carol Oates
Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
In an interview with The New York Times, renowned short story-writer, novelist, and playwright Joyce Carol Oats shared that Lewis Carroll was the writer that inspired her the most:
Styles of Radical Will by Susan Sontag
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
In a wonderful essay for BuzzFeed, Roxane Gay runs through descriptions for the dozens of books that have made her who she is today. Like so many young women, she was inspired and comforted by Judy Blume. "With Forever and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret , Judy Blume held my hand as my body changed and my heart changed and I began to feel less like a girl and more like a young woman," writes Gay.
David Foster Wallace
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
Infinite Jest writer David Foster Wallace rounded up a list of his 10 favorite books for the CS Monitor. One of his picks is Erica Jong's Fear of Flying , a novel that follows Isadora Wing, a dissatisfied young wife who travels to Europe and has an affair that "represents her hopes for finally achieving the sexual, emotional, and intellectual fulfillment that has perpetually eluded her."
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Strand Books, an independent bookstore in Manhattan created a series called Curated Collections, which is like a "staff picks" but with famous authors. Jennifer Egan (A Visit From the Goon Squad), picked a range of books that influenced her career. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man fell the first of three categories of books on her shelf. Egan says, "The first I call 'Literary DNA': books that helped to shape my thinking about language and storytelling. I could be accused of stating the obvious, here (The Bible; the Odyssey), and yet I can’t imagine a table representing my personal reading history without these volumes on it."
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
In a Barnes & Noble interview, Russian-born satirist Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story, The Russian Debutante's Handbook) says that "Nabokov's Pnin showed me how humor and pathos can coexist on a single page, in a single sentence."
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
A National Book Award winner for her novel Salvage the Bones , Jesmyn Ward tells TIME that the young adult novel nearest to her heart is The Hero and the Crown:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Most famous for his years of writing on Saturday Night Live , Simon Rich has also made a name for himself in the world of literary publishing — his most recent story collection, Spoiled Brats,was named one of the funniest books of 2014 by The Guardian. When Rich was asked to pick recommendations for readers who like his own work, he suggested Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide because "one of my favorite jokes in Simpsons history comes when an injured robot asks, 'Why … why was I programmed to feel pain?' As with many great gags, Adams did it first with Marvin the Paranoid Android. I’ve reread the Hitchhiker’s books so many times that I can recite them, annoyingly, from memory."
Sula by Toni Morrison
Dunham told Glamour that Toni Morrison's Sula , "which tackles what it's like to be a woman and not see yourself," is a required read. Some of her other picks include Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov), Shopgirl (Steve Martin), and Eloise in Paris (Helen Gurley Brown).