Katie Roiphe

The author of In Praise of Messy Lives picks three favorites.

Katie Roiphe’s essays for publications such as Harper’s, Slate, Vogue, and The New York Times have taken on some of the most controversial issues of the day, from the definition of sexual assault to the onus placed on single mothers. Her new book, In Praise of Messy Lives, collects some of her most arresting writing and calls for an embrace of the complexity of a rapidly changing cultural landscape. This week, the writer points us to a trio of reads that echo her theme, works of fiction and nonfiction that deal with distinctly untidy emotions.

Books by Katie Roiphe


Light Years

By James Salter

“One thing I love about this gorgeous novel is the originality of its subject: the unhappiness latent in happiness. It’s a wholly original, lushly described portrait of a marriage, in which happiness is entwined with restlessness, satisfaction with longing; it’s a private world evoked so thoroughly and intimately it’s more vivid than your own. I thought about lines in it for weeks after I read it. I lent my copy to someone else only with great trepidation and an actual sense of loss.”


Are You My Mother?

By Alison Bechdel

“This wildly original, hugely charismatic memoir veers from Dr. Suess to D. W. Winnicott to Virginia Woolf without sacrificing lightness or grace. It’s an investigation of the morality and difficulty of writing, combined with a deep, affecting, funny look at family and what it does to you. It’s both hugely entertaining and the kind of book that changes the way you think about the world a little.”


The Silent Woman

By Janet Malcolm

“This elegant and penetrating investigation of Sylvia Plath mythologizing has inspired and astonished me for years. In Malcolm’s exploration of Plath, the biographers become characters, and the true subject is the construction of the story, how biographies are made. It is a wonderfully written, fiercely smart, literary mystery story which speaks to the creation of private mythologies and the flawed conception of truth we all live with.”