The best literary novels that immerse readers through poetic prose

Who am I?

I want to leave behind a body of work capable of transcending time and to write in as many forms as possible. I often blur the lines of genre and experiment with style and structure, known for breaking “rules,” such as with the poetry in the collection, but you can’t break rules until you learn them, and I’m set on breaking as many as I can before taking my last breath. Writing meaningful and lasting poetic prose requires reading meaningful and lasting poetic prose, and the books I have chosen for this list are fine examples of authors whose entire bodies of work will be dissected for years.

I wrote...

Sifting the Ashes

By Michael Bailey, Marge Simon,

Book cover of Sifting the Ashes

What is my book about?

Over a hundred individual and collaborative poems explore what it takes to survive after all is suddenly taken. Combined life experiences of love, loss, and personal tragedy sift what’s salvageable from the aftermath of fire, searching through the layers of ash for lessons about death, cremation, the various stages of grief, as well as through medication, counselling, therapy, and spiritual rebirth. What might be found in the remains after all is lost?

While some stories are told through poetic prose in the form of novels or narrative nonfiction, other stories, those that hurt the most, can sometimes only be conveyed through the imagery and emotion of experimental poetic verse.

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The books I picked & why

The Bone Clocks

By David Mitchell,

Book cover of The Bone Clocks

Why did I love this book?

It’s difficult to choose a single book by David Mitchell, since everything he writes is painfully poetic, but The Bone Clocks is a favorite. The title is a derogatory term immortals in the story use for humans flawed with mortality because of natural aging. Six unique first-person perspectives; six timelines spanning past, present, and future. If underlining inspiring passages, in awe of their creation, most of the book would need underlining. Nearly every sentence is breathtaking for readers and writers alike. Mitchell is as literary as they get, but this novel dips into science fiction the way his novel Slade House dips into horror. All his works are connected by threads, including Ghostwritten, his debut that first made me want to become a writer.

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The dazzling novel from the bestselling author of CLOUD ATLAS.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

Run away, one drowsy summer's afternoon, with Holly Sykes: wayward teenager, broken-hearted rebel and unwitting pawn in a titanic, hidden conflict.

Over six decades, the consequences of a moment's impulse unfold, drawing an ordinary woman into a world far beyond her imagining. And as life in the near future turns perilous, the pledge she made to a stranger may become the key to her family's survival . . .

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Book cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Why did I love this book?

The structure of this incredibly emotional post-9/11 novel is unique, featuring photography, pen scribbles, red-lined and circled words, and pages wherein the words of the anxious narrator close in on each other until ultimately creating a jumbled block of unreadable text; some of the pages when flipped even animate a body falling upward into one of the buildings. It’s a lesson on experimental form. Beautiful prose and an incredible story make this novel special. After finding a key in a vase a year after his father’s death from the terrorist attacks, a nine-year-old boy named Oskar sets out on a journey to find the matching lock in New York City. He struggles with depression, insomnia, and panic attacks, which are expertly represented based on my own experiences.

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



From the critically acclaimed author of Here I Am, Everything is Illuminated and We are the Weather - a heartrending and unforgettable novel set in the aftermath of the 9/11

'Utterly engaging, hugely involving, tragic, funny and intensely moving... A heartbreaker' Spectator

'The most incredible fictional nine-year-old ever created... a funny, heart-rending portrayal of a child coping with disaster. It will have you biting back the tears' Glamour

'Pulsates with dazzling ideas' Times Literary Supplement

'It's a miracle... So impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving' Baltimore Sun…

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Why did I love this book?

Tata Jesus is bängala,” a father of four says while reading a self-created misprint of The Bible, instead of “Jesus is most precious,” and so the hurried mispronunciation becomes “Jesus is poisonwood,” hence the title of the novel. The Price family move from the south (Georgia, United States) to Africa on a missionary expedition. The intricately structured narrative, broken up into seven sections, alternates between the points of view of four daughters as they adapt and try to survive their harsh new village lifestyle, all during the dangerous political turmoil overtaking the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. This culturally rich novel explores how all life is connected, or muntu, the concept of unity. One of the girls is fascinated by palindromes, which was also the focus of my first novel.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…


By Jeffrey Eugenides,

Book cover of Middlesex

Why did I love this book?

In this coming-of-age story, praised by some as the next Great American Novel, Eugenides creates an in-depth discussion of intersex anatomy and emotions while exploring gender identity. The story of Calliope (her feminine identity) transitioning to Cal (his masculine identity) follows the effects of a 5-alpha-reductase gene deficiency over several generations. Themes include rebirth, nature vs. nurture, and differing views of society’s concept of polar opposites between men and women. A lot of research went into this book, which I feel is important. Mythology is also intertwined, with symbolic references to the Chimera and Minotaur. The writing is beautiful and the medical research eye-opening from the point of view of an audacious narrator. It’s a modern-day Greek comedy/tragedy. As an author, he never flinches, and I admire him for that.

By Jeffrey Eugenides,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Middlesex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974.'

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and her truly unique family secret, born on the slopes of Mount Olympus and passed on through three generations.

Growing up in 70s Michigan, Calliope's special inheritance will turn her into Cal, the narrator of this intersex, inter-generational epic of immigrant life in 20th century America.

Middlesex won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman, Elise Hurst (illustrator),

Book cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Why did I love this book?

Neil Gaiman is one of the most unique wordsmiths of our time and a truly imaginative storyteller. This short novel, like all his work, takes the reader down a dark, fantastical path, painting each page with immersive imagery. Every word is meaningful and essential, and this is my own philosophy on what’s required of poetic prose. Adults are content walking the same path, hundreds of times, thousands, as the story intones, but there is so much beauty and joy to be found on this particular journey, both melancholy and magical. It is perhaps the perfect story and full of life lessons. His words say it best: “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and rolling. And people change as much as oceans.”

By Neil Gaiman, Elise Hurst (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Ocean at the End of the Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'Neil Gaiman's entire body of work is a feat of elegant sorcery. He writes with such assurance and originality that the reader has no choice but to surrender to a waking dream' ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

'Some books just swallow you up, heart and soul' JOANNE HARRIS

'Summons both the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, and the complicated landscape of memory and forgetting' GUARDIAN


'My favourite response to this book is when people say, 'My childhood was nothing like that - and it was as if…

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