Jen Doll

Jen Doll, author of Save the Date, writes:

“The books I return to again and again tend to have a memoiristic quality, even if they’re fiction. Often they are first-person. The stories contained within feel real, and within them lives a certain kind of character (often a girl who wants to be a writer) who is driven by a curiosity — expressed or latent — about the ‘human condition.’ These characters all go through the life of their pages asking questions, with their voices or their thoughts and actions: Why do we behave the way we do? What do we want? Why do we want it? Why are people the way they are? I guess you could say all good books get at this in some way or another, but these are the ones that have spoken to me the most deeply over the years.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Betty Smith
“This book was given to me when I was 11 (the age of main character Francie Nolan when the novel begins) by a friend of my mother. I had to replace it when the pages started falling out after too many re-reads, but that worn paperback still sits on my shelves in a place of honor. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a female empowerment story, a New York history, a chronicle of family life, and an epic romance, all wrapped into one. I recommend giving it to any girl who wants to be a writer on her 11th birthday.”

The Adrian Mole Diaries
By Sue Townsend

“We recently lost the great Sue Townsend, but thankfully we still have her work — in particular, her novels comprising the diary entries of a sometimes-spotty teenage British lad who copes with the universal growing pains of life with his own inimitable humor, horror, and heart. (He is also an inspiringly frequent journaler.)”

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
By E. L. Konigsberg

“Sure, this is middle-grade, but that’s not to say that plenty of adults don’t dream of running away so people finally learn to appreciate them and they can come back home just a little bit different. Claudia, however, the nearly-12-year-old protagonist of Konigsberg’s book, is the only one smart enough to figure out how to live secretly in the Met (and solve a mystery in the process).”

Just Kids
By Patti Smith

“Smith, of course, is a songwriter, a poet, and a punk rock icon. She’s also a vivid and emotionally evocative memoirist. Her book captures what it was like to be young and poor and searching for fulfillment through art, with dreams of fame, in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s also about friendship, chance meetings, happiness, and how love can transcend life.”

Manhattan, When I Was Young
By Mary Cantwell

“Clearly I like books about women starting out in New York City with big plans and making their lives happen. Cantwell’s entire oeuvre is great, but this memoir, which chronicles her experience as a post-college graduate single into marriage and motherhood and then reclaiming the independent writer self she wants to be — set upon the thrilling and eloquently described backdrop of New York City in the ‘50s and ‘60s — is my favorite.”