Oh boy, how many hours do you have? Actually, do you have a week?? This is a really difficult question for any writer to answer, because books are our ongoing lifelong obsession, and there are always new ones to add to the list. I know I’ll inadvertently leave out some of my favorites, as well as books written by friends, so rather than naming specific books, I’ll answer in a rather general way.
I read books for all age levels and across all genres. A well-executed picture book is a true artform that can transcend all ages, and a good horror/thriller will definitely have me holding my breath for hours.
A little more specifically, in the picture book realm, I love anything that makes me laugh or cry. If a book can provide both an effective emotional and educational journey, WOW. When I was a kid (as well as even now), I ran away from didactic, “lesson-driven” or “message-driven” books (ick — no, thank you).
As for middle grade, I think there must be a nine-year-old boy who resides in my brain, because I gravitate towards zany humor (hello, R.L. Stine & Jeff Kinney). I also love Linda Sue Park’s economy of language. She generously maintains Kibooka, a list of Korean American authors who work in traditional publishing, including yours truly.
In the YA realm, there are SO many good books. Omg, I love Matt de la Pena, John Green, E. Lockhart, Stephanie Perkins, David & Nicola Yoon. Okay, I’ll mention one specific title: Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns…WOW…a brilliant twist on folktales.
As for the adult realm, I’ll go ahead and get specific: Stephen King (when I want to be afraid of my own house — specifically, I prefer his short story collections like Full Dark, No Stars because hanging out in the dark worlds of his novel-length works can get TOO scary), Paul Theroux (when I want to travel far and wide with a hilarious-cranky guide), Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Gilbert (Signature of All Things – WOW), Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life), Geoff Dyer, Sigrid Nunez (OMG, The Friend is so heartbreakingly lovely) and Chang Rae Lee. Harlan Coben and Haruki Murakami are both so entertaining, and I also love good thrillers (Lisa Jewell’s Then She was Gone is a fast-moving thriller with a lot of heart). M.G. Lord was a writing professor of mine and is a masterful writer and hilarious speaker. Judith Freeman and Janet Fitch are also amazingly skilled writers and teachers. And there are the classics—I will always love Marguerite Duras, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Bowles, Arthur Miller and on and on… Did I put you to sleep? Because I could spend a week on this topic. When I’m near an author I admire, I have to remind myself to breathe.