Book Recommendations from Your Favorite Authors

It’s an oft-repeated maxim: to be a great writer, one must first be a great reader. So who better to ask for reading recommendations than your favorite authors? We’ve pulled together quotes from much-loved writers across the genres, including Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Rainbow Rowell, and Amy Tan, on the books they love. Just in time for those long, lazy summer days, build up your TBR pile with these awesome recs.

George R.R. Martin
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
From George R.R. Martin’s Not A Blog:
“As best I can recall, I’ve never met Emily St. John Mandel, and I’ve never read anything else by her, but I won’t soon forget Station Eleven. One could, I suppose, call it a post-apocalypse novel, and it is that, but all the usual tropes of that subgenre are missing here, and half the book is devoted to flashbacks to before the coming of the virus that wipes out the world, so it’s also a novel of character, and there’s this thread about a comic book and Doctor Eleven and a giant space station and…oh, well, this book should NOT have worked, but it does. It’s a deeply melancholy novel, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac…a book that I will long remember, and return to.”

Amy Tan
Rabih Alameddine
From the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review:
“For years, I have been heralding the work of Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese-American writer. His prose is gorgeous, his approach irreverent, and the ideas in his stories are sometimes comical or fantastical, but always deadly serious—very relevant to understanding the complex history behind multiple holy wars today. In Italy and Spain, his books are best sellers. He has full-page profiles in major newspapers, has garnered prizes, is a darling of literary festivals and has won acclaim from international writers. In the U.S., he’s hardly known. Why is there a geographic divide in literary appreciation?”

(Check out Alameddine’s latest, An Unnecessary Woman. Set in Beirut, the book follows Aaliya, a reclusive septuagenarian, as she deals with an emotional crisis and reflects on the past, the Lebanese Civil War, creativity, solitude, and aging. An Unnecessary Woman was widely praised upon its release last year.)

J.K. Rowling
Emma, by Jane Austen
From Oprah’s Book Club:
“Virginia Woolf said of Austen, ‘For a great writer, she was the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness,’ which is a fantastic line. You’re drawn into the story, and you come out the other end, and you know you’ve seen something great in action. But you can’t see the pyrotechnics; there’s nothing flashy.”

David Mitchell
Under the Skin, by Michel Faber
From The Week:
“Faber may be best known for his postmodern Victorian glory, The Crimson Petal and the White, but his debut novel tattoos the memory with an unholy trinity of hitchhikers, the Scottish Highlands, and the extraterrestrial meat-packing industry. Wonderful, grisly, and beyond bonkers.”

(Mitchell’s favorite books also include A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, by Danilo Kis; The Fish Can Sing, by Halldór Laxness; and The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.)

Terry Pratchett
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, by G. K. Chesterton
From a 2004 interview:
“For teaching me how to see the world. To Chesterton, even a quiet street was a world of fantasy and a street lamp more precious than a star (because there’s a universe full of stars, compared to which street lamps are really uncommon).”

(Pratchett’s favorites also included Roughing It, by Mark Twain; The Evolution Man, by Roy Lewis (which he called “The funniest science fiction book ever”); and The Specialist, by Charles Sale.)

Rainbow Rowell
The World According to Garp, by John Irving
At a Barnes & Noble author event last year, we learned Rowell’s favorite book as a teenager was John Irving’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic coming-of-age tale. First published in 1978, The World According to Garp follows the life of one T.S. Garp, bastard son of a feminist icon, author, parent, and husband, through a series of tragicomic, but surprisingly real, events. Neatly structured with several internally framed narratives, it’s perhaps not surprising to discover that Garp was an influential novel for the author who gave us another book remarkable for its elegant and complicated structure: Fangirl.

John Green
Sula, by Toni Morrison
From The Week:
“Morrison won the Nobel Prize in literature the same year that I read Song of Solomon in a high school English class. I loved that novel so much I read Sula (and Beloved) for fun that summer. The friendship between Sula and Nel transformed the way I thought about love and gender.”

Other John Green favorites include the delightful The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart, and Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, which Green calls “one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.”

Nora Roberts
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
From the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, answering the question “What’s the best love story you’ve ever read?”

“I have a very hard time with ‘best’ and ‘favorite,’ as this can change with the mood, or with the discovery of a new book or author. I often find the book I’ve just finished is my favorite, as it’s the one I’m so involved with at that moment. But one of my very favorites of all time is Jane Eyre. It simply has it all—a marvelous, compelling story told brilliantly, wonderfully realized characters, a gorgeous love story, evocative settings. And the madwoman in the attic. Hard to top it.”

(Roberts also mentions Harper Lee and Mary Stewart as two of her favorite authors, and says that if she could require the President to read one book, it would be Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.)

Follow BNReads