If you love books and writing like we do here at Grammarly, then there are probably a few stories that stand out in your mind. Maybe you were given a treasured book as a child that opened up the realms of imagination, or maybe you discovered a book in college that changed how you saw the world.
We thought it would be interesting to see which books some of our favorite writers would choose. Below is an informal survey of ten contemporary authors on their most beloved books.
- Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, names a diverse list of books as his favorites, from Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges to Moby-Dick by Herman Melville and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (For more top ten lists from authors, check out this site.)
- New York City’s famous Strand Book Store asks authors to curate bookshelves of their favorite titles. The late screenwriter and novelist Nora Ephron included books by Alice Munro, Jane Hamilton, Jennifer Egan, and Julia Child on hers. Haitian author Edwidge Danticat picked essays by Albert Camus, while Girls creator Lena Dunham contrasted the classic Anne of Green Gables with Ariel, a collection of poems by Sylvia Plath.
- Zadie Smith, who exploded onto the literary scene with her novel White Teeth, chose Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and Middlemarch by George Eliot.
- Haruki Murakami’s list is one of the most eclectic—perhaps not surprising given how diverse his own work is. He names hardboiled noir author Raymond Chandler alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Franz Kafka.
- J.K. Rowling found a kindred spirit in Jo March, the heroine of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. “It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer,” says Rowling.
- While Gillian Flynn, author of the runaway bestseller Gone Girl, names Joyce Carol Oates as the writer she most admires, she admits that a significantly less literary book had a huge influence on her. Flynn read V.C. Andrews’s salacious Flowers in the Attic when she was twelve and confesses that she “will probably be clutching Flowers in the Attic in my gnarled hands on my deathbed.”
- Emma Donoghue, author of The Room and Astray, told Oprah’s O Magazine that she was addicted to “Any Jane Austen, anytime.” Anne Lamott, whose own memoir and writing guide Bird By Bird turns up on the lists of other writers, loves Middlemarch. She calls it “brilliant, one of history’s greatest novels, and an EASY read—a page turner.”
What can we learn from this survey? Well, it seems that if you want to be a famous writer, you need a solid grounding the classics (George Eliot, Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Herman Melville for starters), the complete works of Vladimir Nabokov, and just a little bit of pulp and trash to keep things interesting.
What’s your favorite book? Let us know in the comments!