Recommended Reading

Poet Gregory Orr giving a reading at UNC Asheville

This is not, by any means, a comprehensive list, but one that covers a wide range of genres, styles, and approaches to writing craft. Some of these books will be familiar to you, others will be wholly new; all have something to offer serious young writers eager to place themselves within a long and glorious literary tradition.

Books on Craft

The Craft of Poetry

  • Fussell, Paul: Poetic Meter, Poetic Form
  • Gudding, Gabriel “Dung in an Age of Empire: An Defense of A Defense of Poetry”; online essay
  • Hirsch, Edward: How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry
  • Hirschfield, Jane: Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry
  • Howe, Susan: The Birth-mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History, My Emily Dickinson
  • Koch, Kenneth: Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry
  • Longenbach, James: The Resistance to Poetry
  • Oliver, Mary: Rules for the Dance
  • Pound, Ezra: The ABC of Reading
  • Padgett, Ron, ed.: Handbook of Poetic Forms
  • Shapiro, Alan: The Last Happy Occasion
  • Shelley, Percy B.: In Defense of Poetry
  • Rich, Adrienne: What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics
  • Zukofsky, Louis: A Test of Poetry

Prose Craft

  • Baxter, Charles. Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • Bernays, Anne. and Pamela Painter. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.
  • Burroway: Writing Fiction
  • Dillard, Annie: The Writing Life
  • Gardner, John: The Art of Fiction, On Becoming a Novelist
  • Gerard, Philip: Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life
  • Heilbrun, Carolyn: Writing a Woman's Life
  • Hills, Rust: Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
  • Johnston, Bret Anthony: Naming the World
  • King, Stephen: On Writing
  • Kundera, Milan: The Art of the Novel
  • Lamott, Anne: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Lott, Brett: Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of a Writer’s Life
  • Mamet, David: Writing in Restaurants
  • O’Connor, Flannery: Mystery and Manners
  • Stern, Jerome: Making Shapely Fiction
  • Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One's Own
  • Yeats, W.B.: Essays and Introductions

Poetry

  • Ashbery, John: Selected Poems (Penguin Poets)
  • Becker, Robin: The Horse Fair
  • Bernstein, Charles: My Way: Speeches and Poems
  • Bishop, Elizabeth: Poems, Prose and Letters (LOA edition)
  • Dickinson, Emily: The Poems of Emily Dickinson, (ed. by R. V. Franklin)
  • Eady, Cornelius: Brutal Imagination
  • Estrada, Álvaro: María Sabina: Her Life and Chants
  • Fulton, Alice: Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems
  • Gay, Ross: Against Which
  • Gilbert, Jack: The Great Fires, Refusing Heaven
  • Ginsberg, Allen: Howl
  • Gluck, Louise: The Wild Iris, The Seven Ages
  • Groff, David: The Theory of Devolution
  • Hacker, Marilyn: Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons
  • Hall, Donald: Without
  • Hoagland, Tony: What Narcissus Means to Me
  • Jabes, Edmond: From the Book to the Book: An Edmond Jabes Reader
  • Jordan, A. Van: Quantum Lyrics: Poems
  • Justice, Donald: Collected Poems
  • Kenyon, Jane: Otherwise
  • Koch, Kenneth: Selected Poems: American Poets Project
  • Komunyakaa, Yusef: Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems
  • Levertov, Denise: Selected Poems
  • Levine, Philip: New Selected Poems
  • Levis, Larry: The Selected Levis
  • Lorde, Audre: The Selected Poems of Audre Lorde
  • Matthews, Sebastian: We Generous
  • Matthews, William: Search Party: Selected Poems
  • Merwin, W.S.: Four Books of Poems: The Moving Target, The Lice, The Carrier of Ladders, Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment
  • Nelson, Marilyn: The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems
  • Olds, Sharon: Strike Sparks: Selected Poems
  • Oliver, Mary: Thirst, Red Bird, or any collection
  • Parker, Alan Michael: Elephants and Butterflies
  • Pound, Ezra: The Cantos
  • Rich, Adrienne: The Dream of a Common Language
  • Roethke, Theodore: Any poetry collection
  • Rosal, Patrick: Uprock, Headspin, Scramble and Dive, My American Kundiman
  • Shelley, Percy B.: Poetical Works
  • Simic, Charles: Sixty Poems
  • Spahr, Juliana: Response
  • Spicer, Jack: The Collected Books of Jack Spicer
  • Stern, Gerald: This Time: New and Selected Poems
  • Stevens, Wallace: Collected Poems
  • Stewart, Susan: Columbarium
  • Thomas, Dylan: Collected Poems
  • Trethewey, Natasha: Bellocq’s Ophelia
  • Voigt, Ellen Bryant: Messenger: New and Selected Poems
  • Weiner, Hannah: Little Books, Indians
  • Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass, Poetry and Prose, Library of America College Edition
  • Williams, C.K.: Collected Poems
  • Wilner, Eleanor: Reversing the Spell
  • Winters, Anne: The Displaced of Capital
  • Wright, Charles: The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980 – 1990
  • Yeats, W.B. Yeats: Collected Poems

Plays, Drama

  • Albee, Edward: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Goat: Or Who is Sylvia?
  • Durang, Christopher: Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Marriage of Bette and Boo
  • Fuller, Charles: A Soldier’s Play
  • Guare, John: Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves
  • Hansberry, Lorraine: A Raisin in the Sun
  • Hellman, Lillian: Little Foxes, The Children’s Hour
  • Henley, Beth: Crimes of the Heart
  • Howe, Tina: Coastal Disturbances, Painting Churches
  • Hwang, David Henry: M Butterfly
  • Inge, William: Picnic, Come Back, Little Sheba
  • Kushner, Tony: Angels in America
  • Mamet, David: American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross
  • McDonough, Martin: The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane
  • McNally, Terrence: Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!
  • Miller, Arthur: The Crucible, Death of a Salesman
  • Norman, Marsha: ‘night, Mother
  • O'Neill, Eugene: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Morning Becomes Electra
  • Parks, Suzan-Lori: Topdog/Underdog
  • Pinter, Harold: Betrayal, The Homecoming
  • Shange, Ntozake: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf
  • Shepard, Sam: True West, Buried Child
  • Stoppard, Tom: The Real Thing, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Travesties
  • Strindberg, August: Miss Julie
  • Vogel, Paula: How I Learned to Drive
  • Wasserstein, Wendy: Uncommon Women, The Heidi Chronicles
  • Williams, Tennessee: A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Summer and Smoke
  • Wilson, August: Fences, Ma Rainey’s Fat Bottom, The Piano Lesson
  • Wilson, Doug: I Am My Own Wife

Short Fiction

  • Anderson, Sherwood: Winesburg, Ohio
  • Barrett, Andrea: Servants of the Map
  • Barthelme, Donald: any of his short story collections
  • Bausch, Richard: The Stories of Richard Bausch
  • Bloom, Amy: Come to Me
  • Boyle, T.C.: T.C. Boyle Stories
  • Butler, Robert Olen: A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain
  • Buzatti, Dino: Restless Nights
  • Bynum, Sarah Shun-lien: Madeleine is Sleeping
  • Carver, Raymond: Cathedral, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
  • Colwin, Laurie: The Lone Pilgrim,
  • Diaz, Junot: Drown
  • Dinasen, Isak: Winter Tales
  • Gurganus, Alan: White People
  • Haslett, Adam: You Are Not A Stranger Here
  • Hempl, Amy: Reasons to Live
  • Hijuelos, Oscar: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
  • Jen, Gish: Who’s Irish?
  • Jin, Ha: The Bridegroom
  • Johnston, Bret Anthony: Corpus Christi
  • Joyce, James: The Dubliners
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa: Interpreter of Maladies
  • Link, Kelly: Magic for Beginners
  • Malamud, Bernard: The Magic Barrel
  • Millhauser, Steven: In the Penny Arcade
  • McPherson, James Alan: Elbow Room
  • Moore, Lorrie: Like Life, Birds of America, Self-Help
  • Munro, Alice: Runaway, or any of her short story collections
  • O’Brien, Tim: The Things They Carried
  • O’Connor, Flannery: A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything that Rises Must Converge
  • Richter, Stacey: My Date with Satan
  • Saunders, George: Civil War Land in Bad Repair
  • Smiley, Jane: The Age of Grief
  • Trevor, William: After Rain
  • Welty, Eudora: A Curtain of Green, Collected Stories

Memoir, Essays & Other Creative Non-fiction

  • Allison, Dorothy: Bastard Out of Carolina
  • Baldwin, James: The Fire Next Time
  • Barthes, Roland: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
  • Beard, Jo Ann: Boys of My Youth
  • Brown, Claude: Manchild in the Promised Land
  • Burroway, Janet: Writing Fiction
  • Capote, Truman: In Cold Blood
  • Daum, Megan: My Misspent Youth
  • Dericotte, Toi: The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey
  • Didion, Joan: The White Album, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Dillard, Annie: The Writing Life, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • Dinasen, Isak: Out of Africa
  • Eggers, Dave: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Fadiman, Anne: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
  • Fraser, Joelle: Territory of Men
  • Grealy, Lucy: Autobiography of a Face
  • Guibert, Herve: Ghost Image
  • Lewis, C.S.: Surprised by Joy
  • Markham, Beryl: West with the Night
  • Nabokov, Vladimir: Speak, Memory
  • O'Connor, Flannery: The Habit of Being
  • Patchett, Ann: Truth and Beauty
  • Roethke, Theodore: Straw for the Fire
  • Sanders, Scott Russell: A Private History of Awe
  • Scalapino : Zither & Autobiography
  • Sedaris, David: Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked
  • Sontag, Susan: Against Interpretation, Illness as Metaphor
  • Thomas, Lewis: Lives of a Cell, The Medusa and the Snail
  • Thompson, Hunter S.: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
  • Vowell, Sarah: Partly Cloudy Patriot
  • Walls, Jeannette: The Glass Castle
  • Williams, Terry Tempest: Refuge
  • Wolff, Tobias: This Boy’s Life
  • Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own
  • Wright, Richard: Black Boy
  • Yeats, W.B.: Autobiographies

Novels

  • Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin
  • Bechard, D.Y.: Vandal Love
  • Bloom, Amy: Away
  • Byatt, A.S.: Possession
  • Cain, James M.: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce
  • Cary, Joyce: The Horse’s Mouth
  • Chabon, Michael: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys
  • Chopin, Kate: The Awakening
  • Coetzee, J.M.: Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians
  • Colwin, Laurie: Happy All the Time
  • Crace, Jim: Being Dead
  • Cunningham, Michael: The Hours, A Home at the End of the World
  • Dalton, John: Heaven Lake
  • Danticat, Edwidge: The Farming of Bones
  • DeLillo, Don: Mao II, White Noise, Underworld
  • Diaz, Junot: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Doctorow, E.L.: Ragtime, The March
  • Early, Tony: Jim the Boy
  • Eugenides, Jeffrey: Middlesex, The Virgin Suicides
  • Faulks, Sebastian: Birdsong
  • Flagg, Fannie: Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Flaubert, Gustav: Madame Bovary
  • Gibbons, Kaye: Ellen Foster
  • Gordimer, Nadine: The House Gun, July’s People, The Conservationist, Get a Life
  • Gruen, Sarah: Water For Chocolate
  • Hagedorn, Jessica: The Dogeaters
  • Haruf, Kent: Plainsong
  • Hosseini, Khaled: The Kite Runner
  • Hulme, Keri: The Bone People
  • Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes were Watching God
  • Jones, Edward P.: The Known World
  • Kundera, Milan: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unforgettable Lightness of Being
  • Kennedy, William: Ironweed (or any of the Albany Trilogy)
  • Kingsolver, Barbara: The Poisonwood Bible
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa: The Namesake
  • Livesey, Margot: Eva Moves the Furniture, Criminals, The House on Fortune Street
  • McCarthy, Cormac: The Road, Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men
  • McDermott, Alice: Charming Billy, That Night
  • McEwan, Ian: Atonement, The Child in Time, Enduring Love
  • Miller, Henry: Tropic of Cancer
  • Millhauser, Steven: Martin Dressler
  • Min, Katherine: Secondhand World
  • Mitchell, David: Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green
  • Morrison, Toni: Beloved, Song of Solomon
  • Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita
  • Oates, Joyce Carol: Them
  • O'Brien, Flann: At-Swim-Two-Birds
  • Ondaatje, Michael: The English Patient
  • O’Neill, Joseph: Netherland
  • Patchett, Ann: Bel Canto, The Magician’s Assistant
  • Petersen, Per: Out Stealing Horses
  • Robinson, Marilyn: Housekeeping, Gilead
  • Russo, Richard: Empire Falls
  • Salter, James: A Sport and a Pastime
  • Saramago, Jose: Blindness
  • Saterstrom, Selah: The Pink Institution
  • Schutt, Christine: Florida
  • Sebold, W.G.: Austerlitz
  • Sharpe, Matthew: The Sleeping Father
  • Shields, Carol: The Stone Diaries
  • Smith, Lee: Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History
  • Spencer, Scott: A Ship Made of Paper
  • Stegner, Wallace: Angle of Repose
  • Stephens, James: The Crock of Gold
  • Strout, Elizabeth: Amy and Isabelle
  • Styron, William: Sophie's Choice
  • Tan, Amy: The Kitchen God's Wife
  • Trevor, William: Any of his books
  • Truong, Monique: The Book of Salt
  • Updike, John: The Centaur, Rabbit Run
  • Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse Five
  • Walker, Alice: The Color Purple
  • Warren, Robert Penn: All the King’s Men
  • West, Nathaniel: The Day of the Locust, Miss Lonelyhearts
  • Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse
  • Yates, Richard: Revolutionary Road