TWELVE BOOKS I WISH I'D WRITTEN!

  1. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
    This book is quiet but revolutionary, written with precise and perfect sentences, and steeped in a kind of atmospheric cold that puts my ordinary housebound bougie life into question.
  2. The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carlson
    Carson is my favorite living author because she can inhabit any form she wants and she makes everything she touches strange. This book is in the point of view of the monster Geryon, passionately in love with Herkles, who does not return his love.
  3. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
    I was knocked out by Calasso's insane and deep knowledge of Greek mythology, and the way that Greek narrative shows itself to be an alien beast, multidimensional, compared to our relatively linear and two-dimensional storytelling.
  4. Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer
    I love how this book trembles between the novel form, the essay form, and the anti-biography form​, and that it does so hilariously and with anger.
  5. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
    I don't know how Fitzgerald writes with such clarity and lightness, but this novel about the Romantic poet Novalis is a pure and deep delight.
  6. Light Years by James Salter
    I've read this book at least five times, and each time, I end up weeping. This is one of the best books about marriage and autonomy, in some of the best prose, that I know of.
  7. The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
    This book is my pick as the most under-read contemporary classic. It's capacious, but Hazzard's language is devastatingly exact.
  8. Bluets by Maggie Nelson
    A small and beautiful essay about suffering, as seen through the color blue. I love this book by itself, but find it so much more fascinating when read with the book that sparked it, William Gass's On Being Blue.
  9. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
    This ​is one of the first novels ever written, and it remains one of the most brilliantly experimental. If you ever think you don't have permission to do something in fiction, it's likely that Laurence Sterne already did it centuries ago.
  10. Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson
    A delirious, philosophical novel by possibly the last woman on the planet? Yes, please.
  11. Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos
    This is an epistolary novel that blew my mind when I first read and continues to blow my mind twenty years later. There are few villains ​in literature as complete as the Marquise de Meurteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont.
  12. The Lover by Marguerite Duras
    There's no such thing as a perfect book, but this book is sharp and sad and very hot and comes very close to perfection, at least to my mind.