The best books to read when you need a lil bit of everything to finish one thing

Who am I?

As a person who reads solely for pleasure regardless of research, I make it a mission while writing to read books I actually enjoy on topics I wanna learn more about. I chose the books on this list because I’m also a person who reads multiple books at once in various genres, it keeps me honest; aware of holes and discrepancies in my own work and pushes me towards some semblance of completion. All the writers on this list do multiple things at once and I admire their skill and risk in coupling creativity with clarity.


I wrote...

The Collection Plate: Poems

By Kendra Allen,

Book cover of The Collection Plate: Poems

What is my book about?

Looping exultantly through the overlapping experiences of girlhood, Blackness, sex, and personhood in America, award-winning essayist and poet Kendra Allen braids together personal narrative and cultural commentary, wrestling with the beauty and brutality to be found between mothers and daughters, young women and the world, Black bodies and white space, virginity and intrusion, prison and freedom, birth and death. Most of all, The Collection Plate explores both how we collect and erase the voices, lives, and innocence of underrepresented bodies--and behold their pleasure, pain, and possibility

Both formally exciting and a delight to read, The Collection Plate is a testament to Allen's place as the voice of a generation--and a witness to how we come into being in the twenty-first century.

The books I picked & why

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Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

By bell hooks,

Book cover of Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

Why this book?

What bell hooks has shown me about the possibility of personal narrative and memoir writing is endless because she consistently shows that your story is never-ending. But mostly bell hooks likes to hurt me on purpose. This is my favorite memoir by her because it centers on two of my favorite topics: words and whirlwind romance that refuses to interfere with the words at stake, and I knew this book would be one I would return to in order to figure out my own priorities once I read, “I’m willing to give up everything I love if it means I won’t be crazy.”

Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life

By bell hooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wounds of Passion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“bell hooks’s brave memoir of struggling to find her own work, love, and independence.” ―Gloria Steinem
With her customary boldness and insight, brilliant social critic and public intellectual bell hooks traces her writer’s journey in Wounds of Passion. She shares the difficulties and triumphs, the pleasures and the dangers, of a life devoted to writing. hooks lets readers see the ways one woman writer can find her own voice while forging relationships of love in keeping with her feminist thinking. With unflinching courage and hard-won wisdom, hooks reveals the intimate details and provocative ideas of the life path she carved…


A Fortune for Your Disaster

By Hanif Abdurraqib,

Book cover of A Fortune for Your Disaster

Why this book?

Hanif Abdurraqib has a way of making you forget you’re reading poetry while also reminding you that nothing else could be as poetic as one of his poems. They always unravel in a way only his unique way of storytelling permits. It’s truly a skill that is mastered beautifully in this collection.

A Fortune for Your Disaster

By Hanif Abdurraqib,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Fortune for Your Disaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“When an author’s unmitigated brilliance shows up on every page, it’s tempting to skip a description and just say, Read this! Such is the case with this breathlessly powerful, deceptively breezy book of poetry.” ―Booklist, Starred Review

In his much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew. It's a book about a mother's death, and admitting that Michael Jordan pushed off, about forgiveness,…


Lima:: Limón

By Natalie Scenters-Zapico,

Book cover of Lima:: Limón

Why this book?

I had been wanting to read this book for a while. Then I read this book. Then I realized I needed to revise my book. Then I reread the book. Then I researched Natalie Scenters- Zapico because I think I fell in love.

Lima:: Limón

By Natalie Scenters-Zapico,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lima as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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“Through a range of forms―tercets, prose hybrids, lyric strophes, and more―the poems in Scenters-Zapico’s second collection . . . incisively interrogate the aesthetics of cultural difference.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review In her striking second collection, Natalie Scenters-Zapico sets her unflinching gaze once…


How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired

By Dany Laferrière, David Homel (translator),

Book cover of How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired

Why this book?

Of course this title will catch anyone’s attention, but I’m including it here because of how mundane the plot is. It’s just people people’ing and therefore experiencing and learning. They just happen to be all the things they are. It’s a fun and funny ride living in a small Parisian apartment with these characters, eating their food, and laying with their friends. 

How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired

By Dany Laferrière, David Homel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brilliant and tense, Dany Laferrière's first novel, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, is as fresh and relevant today as when it was first published in Canada in 1985. With ribald humor and a working-class intellectualism on par with Charles Bukowski's or Henry Miller's, Laferrière's narrator wanders the streets and slums of Montreal, has sex with white women, and writes a book to save his life. With this novel, Laferrière began a series of internationally acclaimed social and political novels about the love of the world, and the world of sex, including Heading South and I…


The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

By Vivian Gornick,

Book cover of The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

Why this book?

Sometimes I need a book that will inspire me not to continue writing, but to start; kinda like when I binge watch YouTube book talks—that’s the feeling this book brings over me—inspired. It’s a book that helps me write anything because I’m a person who struggles with—yet craves the ability to— strip a piece as bare as possible. Strip a story of its fluff and dissect its roots. I need to know what to save for later, and Gornick expressing the difference between situation and story is something I always go back to in order to help declutter my work. 

The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

By Vivian Gornick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Situation and the Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A guide to the art of personal writing, by the author of Fierce Attachments and The End of the Novel of Love

All narrative writing must pull from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver a bit of wisdom. In a story or a novel the "I" who tells this tale can be, and often is, an unreliable narrator but in nonfiction the reader must always be persuaded that the narrator is speaking truth.

How does one pull from one's own boring, agitated self the truth-speaker who will tell the story a personal…


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