Apparently ignited by the plea for “help” in my recent Books 3 post, friends have sent a trove of recommendations that could keep me occupied with great fiction and nonfiction books for years. As I looked over the recommendations–some contained in the Comments to the post and many more sent by email–one fact stood out: There was virtually no overlap among either the lists they provided or with my Books 1,2, or 3 lists–very surprising to me given that, at least on the surface, many of us had much in common. The only exceptions:

  • In the fiction category, one friend recommended Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, which I’d listed in my Books I list. While it’s been a while since I read it, I still think of it as one of my favorite modern novels. Another friend recommended American Dirt, which was also on my Books 3 list.
  • In the nonfiction category, the winner was Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste, recommended by three friends, along with me. Two friends recommended Andrea Elliot’s The Invisible Child, as did I. My friend Sara, a voracious reader, said “it’s the best book I’ve read in a decade” and would recommend it to “pretty much everyone I know.” I can’t recall reading a more powerful book about a more important subject: the problems with our child welfare system and the power of family bonds.

With that intro, here’s the list of fiction and nonfiction books recommended by friends in response to Books 3. I hope you’ll find it as useful as I have as you hunt for something good to read:


10 Minutes and 38 Seconds (Elif Shafak)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Anthony Marra)
A Girl Returned (Donatella Di Pietrantonio)
A Man Called Ove (Fredrick Backman)
After Lives (Absulrazak Gurnah)
After Parties (Anthony Veasna So)
Aftershocks (Nadia Owusu)
All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The (Michael Chabon)
American Dirt (Jeanine Cummins)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (Danielle Evans)
Between Friends (Amos Oz)
Burnt Sugar (Avni Doshi)
Cloud Cuckoo Land (Anthony Doerr)
Country Girl (series) (Edna O’Brien)
Crossing to Safety (Wallace Stegner)
Daniel Deronda (George Eliott)
Death of Vivek Oji, The (Akwaeke Emezi)
Deep River (Karl Marlantes)
Demon Copperhead (Barbara Kingsolver)
Family Chao, The (Lan Samantha Chang)
Golden Hill (Francis Spufford)
Guesthouse for Ganesha (Judith Teitelman)
How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water (Angie Cruz)
I am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes)
Intimacies (Katie Kitamura)
King Kong (Delos W. Lovelace)
Last One, The (Alexandra Oliva)
Leavers, The (Lisa Ko)
Life Without Children (Roddy Doyle)
Love Songs, The (W.E.B.Dubois)
Magician, The (Colm Toibin)
Matrix (Lauren Groff)
Matterhorn (Karl Marlantes)
Memory Police, The (Yōko Ogawa)
Middlemarch (George Eliot)
Milk, Blood, Heat (Dantiel W. Moniz)
Mother in the Dark (Kayla Maiuri)
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (Elizabeth Taylor)
Ms. Ice Sandwich (Mieko Kawakami)
Nero Wolfe novels (Rex Stout)
Night Watchman, The (Louise Erdrich)
Olga Dies Dreaming (Xochitl Gonzalez)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Ocean Vuong)
Ordinary Light (Tracy K Smith)
Persepolis 1&2 (Marjane Satrapi) – Graphic Novels
Personal Librarian, The (Heather Terrell)
Poisonwood Bible, The (Barbara Kingsolver)
Promise, The (Damon Galgut)
Rules of Civility, The (Amor Towles)
Salt Houses (Hala Alyan)
School for Good Mothers, The (Jessamine Chan)
Secret Lives of Church Ladies, The (Deesha Philyaw)
Seeking Fortune Elsewhere (Sindya Bhanoo)
Sentence, The (Louise Erdrich)
Skinship (Choe Yun)
Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)
Stories of Your Life and Others (Ted Chiang)
Things We Lost to the Water (Eric Nguyen)
Tony Hagan Bought me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stol my Ma (Kerry Hudson)
Trespasses (Louise Kennedy)
What Strange Paradise (Omar El Akkad)
Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
Zoo Station (series) (David Downing)
Zorrie (Laird Hunt)


A Distant Mirror (Barbara W. Tuchman)
A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemmingway)
An Empire of Wealth (John Steele Gordon)
Art is Life (Jerry Saltz)
Beautiful Country (Qian Julie Wang)
Between Two Kingdoms (Suleika Jaouad)
Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Calypso (David Sedaris)
Caste (Isabel Wilkerson)
Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, The (Ulysses Grant)
Corrections in Ink (Keri Blakinger)
Countdown 1945 (Chris Wallace and Mitch Weiss)
Frederick Douglass (David Blight)
Genius, Courage and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile (Candice Miller)
Great Bridge, The (David McCullough)
Half the Sky (Nicholas D Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn)
History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
House of Sticks (Ly Tran)
Hue 1968 (Mark Bowden)
I Will Bear Witness (Victor Klemperer)
Invisible Child–Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City (Andrea Elliott)
Island in the Center of the World (Russell Shorto)
Johnstown Flood, The (David McCullough)
Know My Name (Chanel Miller)
Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power (Susan Page)
Made in China (Amelia Pang)
Memorial Drive (Natasha Trethewey)
Mindfulness and the Brain (Jack Kornfield and Daniel Siegel)
New Jim Crow, The (Michelle Alexander)
Nomadland (Jessica Bruder)
Random Family (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc)
River of Doubt (Candice Miller)
River of the Gods (Candice Miller)
Solito (Javier Zamora)
Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, The (Anne Fadiman)
Sunset Route, The (Carrot Quinn)
These Precious Days (Ann Patchett)
This is Ear Hustle (Earlonne Woods)
Under the Skin (Linda Villarosa)
Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 (Max Hastings)
Warmth of other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)
We Were Soldiers Once (Hal Moore)