Oh boy, how many hours do you have? Actually, do you have a week??
As a child, I absolutely loved any book about curious, adventurous kids – Ramona Quimby, Encyclopedia Brown and Harriet the Spy come to mind. I developed a deep, painful love for dogs after reading Where the Red Fern Grows. I also loved The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. And though Roald Dahl is now considered a troubling figure because of his personal beliefs, I did enjoy his books very much (particularly James and the Giant Peach). Looking back, I wish there’d been more diversity in the books I read as a child, but that’s just the way it was. Nowadays, there’s a lot more representation in books, which is a very good thing — but we still have a long way to go, and so I consider it one of my missions to help open up literature to more voices and perspectives.
Anyway, picture books have been a lifelong passion, and I started writing my own at age seven. When done well, they’re a wonderful marriage between text and art. I absolutely love picture books by Amy Krause Rosenthal (such as Duck, Rabbit) and by Doreen Cronin (Diary of a Worm and Click Clack Moo are brilliant). Christian Robinson’s books are amazing, and I have great admiration for the work of rising star Oge Mora. There are SO many good ones — if you’d like a curated list from me, please subscribe here and then email me a request to receive my list of recent favorites (with reasons why).
As for middle grade books, Linda Sue Park is masterful — a true storyteller with a poet’s ear! (She generously maintains Kibooka, a list of Korean American authors who work in traditional publishing, including yours truly.) As for young adult novels, omg I love Matt de la Pena. And John Green. And E. Lockhart, Stephanie Perkins, David & Nicola Yoon. I recently discovered Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns…brilliant.
In the adult realm, so many, from Stephen King (when I want to be afraid of my own house), Paul Theroux (when I want to travel far and wide with a cranky guide) and Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Gilbert (Signature of All Things – WOW), Ted Chiang, Geoff Dyer, Sigrid Nunez (OMG, The Friend is so heartbreakingly lovely) and Chang Rae Lee (when I want to marvel at gorgeous writing and brilliant thinking). 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 — I cried at the end). 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.