Recommended Reading

The selections here are not meant to be a road map to literature–just authors to whom you can turn, works you can depend on, if you’re new to writing. You’ll notice it skews female or LGBTQIA+, but so does my life.

Canadian Women of Colour: 50 Books

Canadian LGBTQTTI2 writers

A few memorable queer/non-binary/trans authors (far from complete):

Gwen Benaway

Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Ali Blythe

Rebecca Brown

Nicole Brossard

Alec Butler

Patrick Califia

Ivan Coyote


Nancy Jo Cullen

Michael Cunningham

Amber Dawn

Farzana Doctor

Emma Donoghue

Leslie Feinberg

Sky Gilbert

Leah Horlick

Lydia Kwa

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Sarah Leavitt

Alex Leslie

Daphne Marlatt

Shani Mootoo

Erin Mouré

Nayomi Munaweera

Ma-Nee Chacaby

Casey Plett

Arleen Paré

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Bill Richardson

Jane Rule

Trish Salah

Shyam Selvadurai

Vivek Shraya

Michael V Smith

Mariko Temaki

Kai Cheng Thom

Colm Tóibin

Betsy Warland

Jeanette Winterson

Zoe Whittall

Monique Wittig

Marnie Woodrow

A few memorable short stories:

Generally, I recommend reading from Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prizes, Best Non-Required Reading, Pushcart Prize, Best Canadian Short Stories, the yearly anthologies of Latina, Asian or Black American or Canadian, LGBTQIA+ writers.

For a few specific stories:

Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story, Russell Banks

Interpreter of Maladies, Jumpa Lahiri

The Day I Sat with Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts, Gloria Sawai

People Like That are the Only People Here, Lorrie Moore

Whose Upward Flight I Love, Nalo Hopkinson

Not Bleak, Casey Plett

A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

A Worn Path, Eudora Welty

The Year of Getting to Know Us, David Leavitt

A Small, Good Thing, Raymond Carver

Book of Martha, Octavia Butler

The Middleman, Bharati Mukherjee

Meneseteung, by Alice Munro

Edison, NJ, by Junot Díaz

Hills Like White Elephants, Earnest Hemingway

The Pura Principle, Junot Diaz

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Ursula Le Guin

Selway, Pam Houston

My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn, Sandra Cisneros

Nashville Gone to Ashes, Amy Hemple

We Walked on Water, Eliza Robertson

No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, Z.Z. Packer

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

What Safety Is, Thisbe Nissen

Father, Lover, Deadman, Dreamer, Melanie Rae Thon

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, Joyce Carol Oates
White Angel, Michael Cunningham

Why I Live at the P.O., Eudora Welty

Gold Star, Siobhan Fallon

The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

Semplica Girls, George Saunders

A few memorable short fiction collections:

The Collection Stories of Lydia Davis, Lydia Davis

People Who Disappear, Alex Leslie

Yours, Helen Oyeyemi

Tenth of December, George Saunders

Black Tickets, Jayne Anne Phillips

Birds of America, Lorrie Moore

Bad Behaviour, Mary Gaitskill

Daydreams of Angels, Heather O’Neill

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, Amy Bloom

Rare and Endangered Species, Richard Bausch

A few memorable novels:

The Orchid Thief, Susan Orleans

What Lies Between Us, Nayomi Munaweera

The Flying Troutmans, Miriam Toews

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

The Blood of Flowers, Anita Amirrezvani

Flight Behaviour, Barbara Kingsolver

Obasan/The Rain Ascends, Joy Kogawa

The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks

The Vegetarian, Han King

Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

The Enchanted, Rene Denfield

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson

The Last Nude, Ellis Avery

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

Fall on Your Knees, Anne-Marie MacDonald

Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

The Break, Katherena Vermette

A few memorable essays:

For essays, Best American Essays is a good consult.

Debbie Weingarten, The Mule Deer

No Name Woman, Maxine Hong Kingston

Jo Ann Beard, The Fourth State of Matter

Melissa Febos, Kettle Holes

Karrie Higgins, Strange Flowers

Michael Paternit, The Last Meal

Sonya Huber, The Lava Lamp of Pain

Kelly Sundberg, It Will Look Like a Sunset

Jo Ann Beard, The Fourth State of Matter

Ruthann Robson, Notes from a Difficult Case

Leslie Jamison,The Empathy Exams

Ten Great Essays That Should Be Made Into Films

17 Essays by Female Writers That Everyone Should Read

A few memorable non-fiction books:

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, Anne Fadiman

Abandon Me:Melissa Febos

Bluets, Maggie Nelson

The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son, Ian Brown

Two Lives, Gertrude and Alice , Janet Malcolm

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Pilgraim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

A few memorable poets:

Adrienne Rich

Gwen Benaway

Anne Sexton

Sharon Olds

Maureen Hynes

Lucille Clifton

Ali Blythe

Tanis McDonald

Margaret Atwood

Eileen Myles

Rita Dove

Patrick Lane

Rachel Rose

Kai Cheng Thom

Dionne Brand

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Gwen MacEwan

bill bissett

Anne Michaels

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Maya Angelou

Olga Broumas

Books/essays on writing:

What Writers Really Do When They Write, George Saunders

The Half Known World by Robert Boswell

Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

On Writing by Stephen King

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The Eleventh Draft, by the Iowa Writer’s Workshop

Make a Scene Crafing A Powerful Story One Scene at a TIme, by Jordan Rosenfeld

How Fiction Works by James Wood

The Writing Warrior by Laraine Herring

The Fiction Writers Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

The Art of Subtext, by Charles Baxter

From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler

The Eleventh Draft, ed: Frank Conroy (Iowa Writer’s Workshop)

Half Known World by Robert Boswell

Negotiating With The Dead by Margaret Atwood

The Added Dimension by Flannery O’Connor

Attack of the Copula Spiders by Doug Glover

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont

Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval

The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley

Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See