100 books like A Ticket to the Circus

By Norris Church Mailer,

Here are 100 books that A Ticket to the Circus fans have personally recommended if you like A Ticket to the Circus. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Brianne Moore Author Of All Stirred Up

From my list on mouthwatering reads for foodies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of chefs and restaurant owners, so it’s probably no surprise that food plays a major role in my debut novel, All Stirred Up. (The two main characters are, in fact, chefs and restaurant owners. You write what you know!) Cooking plays a major part in my life as well—I’m always making something for family and loved ones. It’s probably no surprise that I love a good food book as well, whether it be fiction, memoir, or history. On my list are just five of my favourites.

Brianne's book list on mouthwatering reads for foodies

Brianne Moore Why did Brianne love this book?

Gabrielle Hamilton isn’t just a ‘reluctant chef’ (in her own words), she’s also an absolutely exquisite writer (her MFA really paid off!). Her memoir traces her life and love of food from her New Jersey childhood, through her many professional ups and downs and international travels (I especially love the parts where she’s staying at her Italian mother-in-law’s home, describing the incredible produce she was able to get. Oh, the tomatoes!) Did I extra love this because she grew up in the same small town I was born in? Maybe, but it’s a wonderful book no matter where you’re from.

By Gabrielle Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Blood, Bones & Butter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Magnificent' Anthony Bourdain

A sharply crafted and unflinchingly honest memoir. This is a rollicking, passionate story of food, purpose and family.

Blood, Bones & Butter follows the chef Gabrielle Hamilton's extraordinary journey through the places she has inhabited over the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; and the kitchen of her beloved Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton's idyllic past and her…


Book cover of Brooklyn

David Ciminello Author Of The Queen of Steeplechase Park

From my list on quirky wisdom filled love stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up queer and Italian in suburban New Jersey in the late 1960s and early 70s, it was the passionate love of food and family that got me through the tough times. I learned to cook from my mother and my grandmothers. I gardened and picked tomatoes with my grandfathers. There was always a pot of simmering tomato gravy and magic meatballs on the stove. My mother’s chicken parmigiana, my paternal grandmother’s homemade ravioli, my maternal grandmother’s stuffed clams, my great aunt’s baked chicken. As a writer, it became my mission to share these secret family recipes and the loving life lessons that saved me.

David's book list on quirky wisdom filled love stories

David Ciminello Why did David love this book?

This is a true heroine’s journey. It is a historical immigrant story about a young girl who leaves Ireland for post-World War II America to make a better life for herself. As she makes her way in a strange land called Brooklyn, New York, she meets and falls in love with a young man of Italian descent.

Like Belladonna Marie Donato, the feisty heroine of my debut novel, Eilis Lacey of Brooklyn relies on her own strength, grit, and determination to overcome obstacles and make a successful new existence for herself. I am looking forward to Colm Toibin’s sequel, Long Island, to find out what happens next.

By Colm Toίbίn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Colm Toibin's Brooklyn is a devastating story of love, loss and one woman's terrible choice between duty and personal freedom. The book that inspired the major motion picture starring Saoirse Ronan.

It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is…


Book cover of The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker

Alex Witchel Author Of All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments

From my list on to read in the waiting room.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the oldest of four children and was always close to my mom. She was a trailblazer, earning her doctorate in educational psychology in 1963 and teaching at the college level. In her early 70’s her memory started to falter, and she lived with dementia for 10 years before she died. I was a reporter at The New York Times and had published three books by that point. My fourth became All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments. I spent years in doctors’ and hospital’s waiting rooms and these are some of the books that helped make that time not only tolerable but sometimes, even joyful. 

Alex's book list on to read in the waiting room

Alex Witchel Why did Alex love this book?

“I saw a little boy on the street today, and he cried so eloquently that I will never forget him.” Maeve Brennan wrote for the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section as ‘The Long-Winded Lady’ from 1954 to 1968. She roamed the city’s streets, bars, and restaurants, eyes wide open, weaving stories of vivid emotional detail from the most seemingly mundane moments. None of these are too long – in the waiting room concentration can be fleeting – but each sketch engages. Her story of the crying boy ends this way: “He might have been the last bird in the world, except that if he had been the last bird there would have been no one to hear him.”

By Maeve Brennan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long-Winded Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Of all the incomparable stable of journalists who wrote for The New Yorker during its glory days in the Fifties and Sixties,” writes The Independent, “the most distinctive was Irish-born Maeve Brennan.” From 1954 to 1981, Maeve Brennan wrote for The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” column under the pen name “The Long-Winded Lady.” Her unforgettable sketches—prose snapshots of life in small restaurants, cheap hotels, and crowded streets of Times Square and the Village—together form a timeless, bittersweet tribute to what she called the “most reckless, most ambitious, most confused, most comical, the saddest and coldest and most human…


Book cover of Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family

Alex Witchel Author Of All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments

From my list on to read in the waiting room.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the oldest of four children and was always close to my mom. She was a trailblazer, earning her doctorate in educational psychology in 1963 and teaching at the college level. In her early 70’s her memory started to falter, and she lived with dementia for 10 years before she died. I was a reporter at The New York Times and had published three books by that point. My fourth became All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments. I spent years in doctors’ and hospital’s waiting rooms and these are some of the books that helped make that time not only tolerable but sometimes, even joyful. 

Alex's book list on to read in the waiting room

Alex Witchel Why did Alex love this book?

“My family struck me as larger than life, bigger than news,” Volk once said. This memoir imbues her relatives’ stories with all the wonder and glamour children confer on the mere mortals who raise us. In the waiting room, you may still feel that way about the person inside. Volk’s family ran restaurants in New York City – her grandfather owned 14 – and four generations lived within five blocks of each other. The details of their clothes, their couches, and their craziness (Uncle Al had an affair with Aunt Lil for 11 years then refused to marry her because she wasn’t a virgin), hark back to those Sundays forever ago when families chose to visit each other on their only day off. Reading this feels like home. 

By Patricia Volk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'We were a restaurant family, four generations in a six-block radius. When you opened our fridge, food fell on your feet.' Three generations of Patricia Volk's family have been in the restaurant business. Her hallway was the colour of ball-park mustard, the living room was cocoa and the floor was like Genoa salami. At Morgen's, the famous restaurant in the garment district which her grandfather started and which her father ran, she was the princess. Waiters winked at her and twirled her napkin up high before draping it on her lap and when she wanted a hamburger, her grandfather would…


Book cover of Zelda: A Biography

Libby Sternberg Author Of Daisy

From my list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories ever since I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager. After that, I devoured all of his works, thanks to a membership in one of those book subscription services where you have to send back monthly book selections if you don’t want them. I read almost all his short stories, all his novels, including the unfinished The Last Tycoon, and everything I could find on him and his wife Zelda. When The Great Gatsby entered the public domain a couple years ago, I started daydreaming of how I'd love to revisit the story from a fresh perspective, which led me to penning Daisy.

Libby's book list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Libby Sternberg Why did Libby love this book?

Probably the biggest tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life was his wife Zelda’s descent into mental illness.

This magnificent biography chronicles their tumultuous relationship as well as Zelda’s upbringing, and how she became the perfect flapper, independent and even a little wild. While the story is drenched in sadness as we all know its ending, this book reveals the struggles of creative women to be respected and seen as individuals, not just appendages to their famous husbands.

It also illuminates Scott’s enduring love for Zelda. Even as he had an affair at the end of his life, he never abandoned his wife to public institutions, insisting she have the best care, no matter the expense, at private ones.

By Nancy Milford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Profound, overwhelmingly moving . . . a richly complex love story.” — New York Times

Acclaimed biographer Nancy Milford brings to life the tormented, elusive personality of Zelda Sayre and clarifies as never before Zelda’s relationship with her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald—tracing the inner disintegration of a gifted, despairing woman, torn by the clash between her husband’s career and her own talent.

Zelda Sayre’s stormy life spanned from notoriety as a spirited Southern beauty to success as a gifted novelist and international celebrity at the side of her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda and Fitzgerald were one of the most…


Book cover of He Said He Would Be Late

Nicole Hackett Author Of The Perfect Ones

From my list on the non-Instagrammable parts of motherhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was pregnant for the first time, I knew exactly the sort of mother I was going to be. I had read all the articles, bookmarked all the tastefully filtered Instagram posts. But then I had my son, and I realized almost immediately how little I knew. It turns out that while those tender Instagram moments do happen (and they truly are magic), there are just as many moments that can only be described as: WTF? My novel, The Perfect Ones, goes deep behind the screens of two Instagram influencers and their messy, conflicting, and fundamentally human feelings on motherhood. Here are five more books about the parts that don’t make the Instagram grid.

Nicole's book list on the non-Instagrammable parts of motherhood

Nicole Hackett Why did Nicole love this book?

This novel does the very scary thing of looking postpartum directly in the eye.

It follows new mom Liz Bennet along her increasingly unhinged search for clues about her husband’s suspected infidelity. Most moms (hopefully!) won’t relate to Liz’s specific situation, but Justine Sullivan paints a terrifyingly realistic portrait of the madness of those first years of new motherhood.

By Justine Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked He Said He Would Be Late as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Liz Bennett knows that she is one of the lucky ones. Wealthy and charming, Arno is a supportive husband to Liz and a doting father to their daughter, Emma. A rising banker at a top firm in the Boston area, he is the picture of perfection, rounding off their idyllic New England life. But when Liz sees a text on Arno's phone with a kissy-face emoji, her anxiety kicks into overdrive and she begins to worry that her luck has run out.

Plagued by persistent skepticism and countless sleepless nights, Liz decides she must uncover the truth about her husband…


Book cover of A Happy Marriage

Joanne Serling Author Of Good Neighbors

From my list on the truth about love and marriage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a novelist, essayist, and short story writer who finds domestic life as fascinating and complex as any board room battle or historical event. I love books about marriage and family because so few people are willing to talk honestly about them. Finding a great book is like meeting a new friend who is willing to tell you their secrets and then share hard-won advice. 

Joanne's book list on the truth about love and marriage

Joanne Serling Why did Joanne love this book?

It’s been nearly ten years since I first read this book and I can still remember what the characters were wearing in the first chapter. Now that’s visceral storytelling! The author’s ability to capture his intense obsession with his future wife is familiar, poignant, and heart-warming. Yglesias’ portrayal of the couple’s long and, at times, bumpy marriage, makes this one of the most complex and honest portrayals of a marriage that I have ever read. That this is also a book about cancer and death does nothing to diminish the feelings of hope and gratitude embodied on every page. 

By Rafael Yglesias,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Happy Marriage is both intimate and expansive: It is the story of Enrique Sabas and his wife, Margaret, a novel that alternates between the romantic misadventures of the first weeks of their courtship and the final months of Margaret's life as she says good-bye to her family, friends, and children -- and to Enrique. Spanning thirty years, this achingly honest story is about what it means for two people to spend a lifetime together -- and what makes a happy marriage.

Yglesias's career as a novelist began in 1970 when he wrote an autobiographical novel at sixteen, hailed by…


Book cover of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Julie Metz Author Of Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

From my list on for women recovering from betrayal or divorce.

Why am I passionate about this?

Though I’ve been a great reader since childhood, I sometimes describe myself as an accidental writer—I came to this work later in my life, following the events that I write about in my first memoir Perfection. Before I became a writer, I did spend many years in the publishing business designing book covers, so I appreciate all sides of the work of bringing books to readers. My favorite books help me enter new worlds for a time and re-reading favorites is like visiting a faithful friend. My recommendations here are a mix of both memoir and fiction and include some of my “desert island” favorites. I hope you enjoy them!

Julie's book list on for women recovering from betrayal or divorce

Julie Metz Why did Julie love this book?

This book was published years after mine, but I wish it had been around when I was going through my life upheaval. The author writes about relationships and has an intelligent and thoughtful take on marriage. You might not agree with her philosophy, but her book is eye-opening, will challenge your assumptions, and shares information that might help people as they rebuild their lives after widowhood, infidelity, and divorce.

By Esther Perel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

***NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER***

Is there such a thing as an affair-proof marriage? Is it possible to love more than one person at once? Why do people cheat? Can an affair ever help a marriage?

Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal. But does it have to be? Relationship therapist Esther Perel examines why people cheat, and unpacks why affairs are so traumatic; because they threaten our emotional security. In infidelity, she sees something unexpected - an expression of longing and loss.

A must-read for anyone who has ever cheated or been cheated on, or who simply wants a new framework for…


Book cover of Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages

Joel Cabrita Author Of Written Out: The Silencing of Regina Gelana Twala

From my list on literary women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of Southern Africa who is fascinated by questions of visibility and invisibility. I love probing beneath the surface of the past. For example, why is this person famous and renowned, but that person isn’t? To me, recognition and reputation are interesting to scrutinize as social categories in their own right, rather than as factual statements. I’ve written two books focusing on the history of religious expression in Southern Africa, and my most recent book is a biography of the forgotten South African writer and politician Regina Gelana Twala. 

Joel's book list on literary women you’ve never heard of

Joel Cabrita Why did Joel love this book?

I love the way in which this fascinating group biography of the female partners of renowned male writers brings these usually ignored figures into the limelight.

Ciuraru argues that behind the careers of many acclaimed literary figures stand the important contributions of their wives. These women offered intellectual as well as practical support. 

Many of these literary wives shelved their own creative aspirations to tend to the careers of their husbands.

But after their husbands’ deaths, some of these women found they finally had space for their own literary lives to start blossoming. 

By Carmela Ciuraru,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The five marriages that Carmela Ciuraru explores in Lives of the Wives provide such delightfully gossipy pleasure that we have to remind ourselves that these were real people whose often stormy relationships must surely have been less fun to experience than they are for us to read about."-Francine Prose, author of The Vixen

A witty, provocative look inside the tumultuous marriages of five writers, illuminating the creative process as well as the role of money, power, and fame in these complex and fascinating relationships.

"With an ego the size of a small nation, the literary lion is powerful on the…


Book cover of The Paris Wife

Patti Callahan Henry Author Of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

From my list on transporting you to another land.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author because I was a reader who loved to be transported to a world and land outside my own. My favorite books are the ones that introduce me to a place and time I’ve never been, an immersive read that brings me somewhere new. I believe in the power of story and the magic of its transport. Come along with me and discover a few books that do this very thing. 

Patti's book list on transporting you to another land

Patti Callahan Henry Why did Patti love this book?

I’ve only been to Paris one time, but I feel as if I’ve been many times because I toured this city with Paula McLain and the story of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest’s first and most beloved wife. From the cafes to the cobbled streets to the parlors and apartments, I was engrossed. 

This is the wild story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Hadley was a quiet twenty-eight-year-old woman who had given up on love until she met Ernest. Their whirlwind romance was ill-prepared for the fast living of Jazz Age Paris. It is a beautiful portrayal of love and loyalty, of art and heartbreak. 

By Paula McLain,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Paris Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A deeply evocative novel of ambition and betrayal that captures the love affair between two unforgettable people, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley—from the author of Love and Ruin and When the Stars Go Dark
 
“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • Chicago Tribune • NPR • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Kirkus Reviews • The Toronto Sun • BookPage

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but…


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