Shauna Niequist’s book recommendations for writers

Last week when we snooped Shauna Niequist’s bookshelves, I mentioned that Shauna exploded my reading list back in September when she rattled off a long list of books writers should be reading at Influence.

I should have known you’d want that list, and by some miracle, I found it.

Shauna believes writers should be reading, and reading often. They should identify three or four authors they consider personal touchstones, whose works they come back to and become familiar with. She specifically recommended Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose, because it unpacks what the author was doing in successful writing and why it works.

Shauna rattled off a list of recent personal favorites she’d been reading, and would recommend to other writers looking to read more with the goal of improving their writing. (This list was delivered off-the-cuff.)

Here’s the list, in order:

Shauna’s #1 pick: Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott. (Shauna says: “I want to be like her when I grow up.”)

• Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott.

• A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway.

Anything by Ruth Reichl, “the best living food writer, bar none.” Especially Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples.

• Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, for its unusual structure.

• Song of the Exile, Kiana Davenport.

 • The Language of FlowersVanessa Diffenbaugh.

• Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann.

• Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy, Sudhir Venkatesh.

If you’re a writer, I’d add Shauna’s books to that list: Bread and WineBittersweet, and Cold Tangerines.

Shauna also believes that too many writers and other artists create in isolation, which is why conferences are valuable. I’m on my way to the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids this week (with Anne Lamott!). I may be a little slow to respond to comments and email while I’m on the road, but I will respond.  (If you’ll be there, let me know!)

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  1. Jill says:

    I live down the street from Calvin College, and I’m coming to Anne Lamott’s talk because it is open to the public. So excited!!!!

  2. Andrea says:

    Love adding to my must read list!

    Enjoy FFW! I am hoping to go in 2016, so I want to hear all about it!! And enjoy Anne Lamott. I saw her in the fall and I just loved her. Just how I’d expected she’d be…

  3. Cathy Armour says:

    I LOVED this list — especially LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS. I’d been “too busy” to read for several years. Really, I’d just given up finding “good” books. I randomly found LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS and it set me on a journey to read again. Seriously, it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to see what Ms. Diffenbaugh writes next. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

  4. Prose’s book (could an author have a better name??) has been on my shelf for ages. This is the year I must get to it. I read A MOVEABLE FEAST at a young age and think it would benefit me to pick up again. BIRD BY BIRD continues to be the book I harken back to when I need encouragement…even though I gave my copy to someone who never returned it. So much of the book has stayed with me, I just dredge up what I remember.

    I love how much fiction Shauna’s recommended here. We’re definitely on the same wavelength about GONE GIRL. I wrote a post called Literary Lessons from GONE GIRL straight after reading it!

    Enjoy Anne Lamott. What a thrill!

    • Anne says:

      Confession: Prose’s book didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I haven’t even finished it–I’ve only read about half. But I intend to take another stab at it this summer.

      So curious about your Gone Girl post! Off to read it now… 🙂

  5. Jessica says:

    I love The Language of Flowers, and I’m so happy to see it recommended here! It is definitely in my top five favorite books ever, which is a hard spot to earn.

    • Anne says:

      I just downloaded it to my Kindle for my trip! I’m even more excited to read it now that everyone has given it so much love today. 🙂

  6. Megan says:

    I’ve been a stealth reader of your blog for some months now, but haven’t commented. Big fan, though. 🙂

    I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing as an undergrad probably five years ago. It was absolutely wonderful! (It made for a very long but worthwhile road trip from Arkadelphia, Arkansas to Grand Rapids!) I do hope you’ll grace us with a synopsis of your trip!

  7. This is a super topic to ponder. I’m both a writer and an English teacher, which makes for a busy life. The plus side is that as a teacher I am constantly reading (more like re-reading) the classics. That is tremendously helpful for a writer; you get to know the “bones” of the classics, and the styles that made these writers great.

  8. Betsy says:

    Bird by Bird is my all-time favorite writing book. I’m going to read Travelling Mercies for sure, after seeing it’s first on Shauna’s list. I love the idea of having two or three touchstone authers you return to for inspiration. That is good food for thought.

    I hope you’ll have a great time at the conference and write a post or two about it to share with us I look forwarad to checking the rest of your links.

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