100 books like American Dirt

By Jeanine Cummins,

Here are 100 books that American Dirt fans have personally recommended if you like American Dirt. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.


By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Kim Alexander Author Of The Sand Prince

From the list on fantasy that make you feel like you’ve been there.

Who am I?

I’m a writer of epic fantasy and paranormal romance, and my obsession is writing about the fashion, food, language, and social politics of the worlds I create. World building is vital if you intend to create a lived-in backdrop for your story, but intricate, elaborate world building will only take you so far. You (the author) must have a cast of characters equally well developed. I’ve tried to take lessons away from every book I’ve read and every author I’ve interviewed and worked to balance characters to fall in love with against places that feel absolutely alive. Their joy/terror/love/hate/experience becomes the readers. It’s that combination that makes a book unforgettable.

Kim's book list on fantasy that make you feel like you’ve been there

Why did Kim love this book?

Well, I suppose a few words have been devoted to Dune already, but I’m going to chime in!

I read Dune the first time as a teenager, and found some of it (Paul’s adventures, everything to do with Jessica) exciting and engrossing. On the other hand, some of it I couldn’t puzzle out—mostly politics. Now, that’s my favorite part! Honestly, I got my first and most vital lesson in world building from Dune, and it remains a huge influence on my writing.

What does it smell like, this new world? What happens if you get caught outside in a storm? What do your clothes look like and do they mark you as an outsider? What do you eat and when? And so on, ad infinitum. And I loved the quotes that open the chapters, so much that I created my own book-within-a-book just so I could similarly quote it.

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By Kim Michele Richardson,

Book cover of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

JuliAnne Sisung Author Of Curse of the Damselfly

From the list on unconventional, courageous women.

Who am I?

When I was a child, my mother and I shared and discussed Zane Grey books. I loved his portrayal of the past and read every one. My obsession with historical fiction grew, and I wrote my first draft of Elephant in the Room at age sixteen. I’m stuck in the period between 1875 and 1940 because of the simplicity driving life as well as the complexity of larger events changing the world. Wilder, Steinbeck, Twain, all picked me off my feet and set me down in their shoes. I’m not able to remove them. I write about courageous women because we are, whether it’s expressed or is in waiting.  

JuliAnne's book list on unconventional, courageous women

Why did JuliAnne love this book?

Set in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1930s, Cussy embodies strength and fearlessness in the face of prejudice and hardship. Her skin is a light shade of blue, and she lives in a community of people who blame a Blue for every misery they encounter. She fights to earn a packhorse librarian’s position and, in snow and rain, travels the dangerous mountain trails to bring books to the hill people who despise her.  The Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project causes dissension on the mountain, and her skin color causes even more, but her indomitable spirit endures, and her belief in the power of books changes lives. Cussy survives against all odds and remains above the prejudice dogging the mountain society.  

I was drawn to Cussy through her lyrical language and magical but earthy view of life. I cried, smiled, and flexed my fortitude muscles.

By Kim Michele Richardson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling historical fiction from Kim Michele Richardson, this is a novel following Cussy Mary, a packhorse librarian and her quest to bring books to the Appalachian community she loves, perfect for readers of Lee Smith and Lisa Wingate. The perfect addition to your next book club!
The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything-everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.
Cussy's not only…

Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Klara and the Sun

Therese Down Author Of The Estate Agent

From the list on lighting up your imagination and your soul.

Who am I?

I love stories grounded in realism - but which also explore that there may be more to life than meets the eye; reasons beyond reason, for the way we dream, love, and think, and which come from unexpected sources. I love books whose characters really 'live', and stay with me, long after I've finished reading. I aspire to create such characters. In my novels, I seek to explore important themes from perspectives that often pitch rationality against what it cannot explain, or dismiss. The fiction I most love does this – whether it exploits mythology, suggests life beyond life, or uses magical realism to add ‘other’ dimensions to the ordinary. "There are more things… Horatio…"

Therese's book list on lighting up your imagination and your soul

Why did Therese love this book?

This astonishing novel from literary Nobel-prize-winning author, Kazuo Ishiguru, gripped me from page 1 and kept me in thrall, to the end.

It bloomed, slowly, but steadily, into a panoramic narrative, artfully focalised from a unique perspective. In a society growing resentful of the androids it has created, to be ‘friends’ to its neurally ‘uplifted’ children, one android, Klara, speaks with a voice - and evident ‘soul’.

Truly innocent, and movingly vulnerable, Klara trusts the sun - on whose energy she relies for life - to help her meet the needs of those she learns to love. But, can they love Klara? A beautiful, extraordinary story, written by an author unsurpassed in his narrative skill.

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Klara and the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*The #1 Sunday Times Bestseller*
*Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021*
*A Barack Obama Summer Reading Pick*

'A delicate, haunting story' The Washington Post
'This is a novel for fans of Never Let Me Go . . . tender, touching and true.' The Times

'The Sun always has ways to reach us.'

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges…

Book cover of Island of the Blue Dolphins

Pat Lowery Collins Author Of Daughter of Winter

From the list on protagonist identity other than that of the writer.

Who am I?

The books I've recommended are all skillfully told by someone who is not of the race or sexual orientation of the protagonist. Though I believe in the importance of people telling their own stories, I also think there should be room for writers to write from viewpoints other than their own. The past is where many of my characters live, but I still have to deal with the quandry of authenticity. Daughter of Winter is placed in Essex, MA, in 1949, at the height of the shipbuilding industry and features a mixed-race child and a Wapanoag grandmother. To make certain of my characterizations, I hired a chief of that tribe to read the finished manuscript.

Pat's book list on protagonist identity other than that of the writer

Why did Pat love this book?

This winner of the Newbury Medal is another book that gave me the courage to write a book that includes my own invented tribe. The author, Scott O'Dell, also spent his early years in Southern Calif. as did I and much of the described island flora and fauna is reminiscent of Santa Catalina Island. After hunting for otters Karina's tribe misses the first boat that was to take them back to the mainland. When she misses the second one because of an act of bravery, she is fated to survive many years alone which she does with unimaginable courage and tenacity.

By Scott O’Dell,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Island of the Blue Dolphins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Karana escapes death at the hands of treacherous hunters, only to find herself totally alone on a harsh desolate island. How she survives in the face of all sorts of dangers makes gripping and inspiring reading.

Based on a true story.

The New Wilderness

By Diane Cook,

Book cover of The New Wilderness

Christine Grillo Author Of Hestia Strikes a Match: A Novel

From the list on engaging in world-building.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved to dip into speculative worlds as a way of gaining a new perspective on conundrums in the real world. In the real world, so many of us are plagued by concerns or frustrations having to do with connection and commitment, and those concerns transcend whatever place or moment we’re living in. So, by dropping those concerns into a surreal setting, I get another way to tussle with them.

Christine's book list on engaging in world-building

Why did Christine love this book?

As a writer who’s interested in what comes next—after climate change, after fascism—I love how Diane Cook uses broad brush strokes to show us the future, without going into too much history or detail.

Instead of hyper-focusing on what the future holds for us, Cook directs our attention to one small, outlier community that’s doing weird things. This is a great technique: she paints a picture of a future world by painting a picture of a fringe group that’s trying desperately to be different from the main one.

A mother-daughter drama drives the plot forward, and we learn about the rules and ruminations of the fringe group as the characters sort out their power struggles.

By Diane Cook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'THE ENVIRONMENTAL NOVEL OF OUR TIMES.' Lemn Sissay, Booker Prize judge

From an acclaimed Guardian First Book Award finalist comes a debut novel 'brutal and beautiful in equal measure' (Emily St. John Mandel)

Longlisted for the DUBLIN Literary Award 2022

A Guardian Best Science Fiction Book of the Year

A 'Best Book of the Year 2020' according to BBC Culture * An Irish Times Best Debut Fiction of 2020

Bea's daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, her lungs ravaged by the smog and pollution of the overpopulated metropolis they call home.

The only alternative is to build a life in…

The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of The Sun Also Rises

John Andrew Fredrick Author Of The King Of Good Intentions Part Three

From the list on reads if your rock ‘n’ roll party days are over.

Who am I?

I’m a perfect of exemplar of an author whose party days are decidedly not over, but I’m doubtless at the age/stage where I’m bloody contemplating at least paring down my intakes plural. Not that I’m still at it like a Sophomore or anything but I’m hanging in there. I get a great, tingly buzz (you had to have seen this coming!) recommending great books to keen readers. I live in a library—essentially—and friends who visit for a beer or a spliff most often leave with a book I’ve given them. Now you lot are gonna ask me to lend you some scratch! Now you’ve gone and done it, John! Haha.

John's book list on reads if your rock ‘n’ roll party days are over

Why did John love this book?

If you’re over thirty you should have outgrown your infatuation with Papa by now, methinks; but still it’s nice to revisit this lark of a roman a clef.

You’ll either shudder or joy (or both) at the scenes where the roisterers on the bus are shooting wine into each others’ mouths via boda bag. Did I spell boda bag properly? It’s been a long time, mate.

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Sun Also Rises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jake Barnes is a man whose war wound has made him unable to have sex—and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley. Jake is an expatriate American journalist living in Paris, while Brett is a twice-divorced Englishwoman with bobbed hair and numerous love affairs, and embodies the new sexual freedom of the 1920s. The novel is a roman à clef: the characters are based on real people in Hemingway's circle, and the action is based on real events, particularly Hemingway's life in Paris in the 1920s and a trip to Spain in 1925 for the Pamplona festival and fishing in the…

The Lion's Game

By Nelson DeMille,

Book cover of The Lion's Game

John L. DeBoer Author Of The Girl from Belgrade

From the list on thrillers that don’t skimp on character development.

Who am I?

I’m a retired surgeon and have no expertise in espionage, law enforcement, or the legal system. But I enjoy thriller novels that feature these things, and I follow the adage, “Write what you like to read.” But I do have medical/surgical expertise and have followed another adage: “Write what you know,” so I have inserted medical situations into many of my stories and one of my published books is a medical thriller. What I like about thrillers is the ability to show each side of the conflict. The good guys against the bad guys, neither side knowing what the other is doing. But the reader knows, and this adds to the suspense.

John's book list on thrillers that don’t skimp on character development

Why did John love this book?

Besides being a page-turning terrorism thriller, what gives the novel even more life is the protagonist, John Corey. He’s a bit of a wise-ass, and his sarcastic humor, despite dire situations, appeals to me. You just know he’ll get the bad guy(s) and do it with devil-may-care determination. His pugnacious attitude often gets him in trouble, but he’s a character easy to like and root for.

By Nelson DeMille,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lion's Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

April 1986 : American F - 111 warplanes bomb the Al Azziyah compound in Libya where President Gadhafi is residing. A 16-year-old youth, Asad - Arabic for 'lion ' - loses his mother, two brothers and two sisters in the raid. Asad sees himself as chosen to avenge not only his family but his nation, his religion and the Great Leader - Gadhafi. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Twelve years later, Asad arrives in New York City, intent on killing all five surviing pilots across America who participated in the bombing , one by one.…

The Drop

By Dennis Lehane,

Book cover of The Drop

James Fouche Author Of Jack Hanger

From the list on crime mysteries with unconventional characters.

Who am I?

As a crime author and screenwriter, I’m fascinated by the consequences of crime and how it impacts feasible characters. I try to illustrate this obsession by creating realistic stress situations for my characters, then showcasing how it affects their decision-making process. In writing the protagonist for Jack Hanger, I consulted two different psychologists to research the protagonist and to capture the severity of his circumstances in detail. For King of Sorrow, I created an unconventional antagonist, with the aim of showing readers how ambition and greed can corrupt the most rational mind. I believe it is my job to challenge conventions and entertain readers from the opening page.

James' book list on crime mysteries with unconventional characters

Why did James love this book?

After a lonely barman, Bob, rescues an abused puppy from a trashcan, his mundane world is turned upside down. He befriends an emotionally scarred woman, which puts him at odds with her ex, and unknowingly gets drawn into a con against the Chechen Mafia that uses the bar for money drops.

Lehane is masterful at creating flawed characters that pins readers to the text. As a short novel, The Drop is loaded with punchy dialogue, rapid characterisation, and off-beat humour. However, it’s barman Bob’s stoic presence that makes this such a fascinating read. He fades sublimely into the gloomy Boston crime scene in a profound way, which makes him one of the most unconventional protagonists caught on paper.

By Dennis Lehane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane's The Drop is a crime story, a love story, and ultimately a journey of faith, set in Boston's underworld.

"[A] gritty gem...a stark and moving short novel." - Publishers Weekly

Two days after Christmas, Bob Saginowski, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live, rescues an abused and abandoned pit bull puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman named Nadia Dunn looking for something to believe in.

As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia, who have taken over his cousin Marv's bar and use it…

Dr. No

By Ian Fleming,

Book cover of Dr. No

Ron Base Author Of Scandal at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 2

From the list on combining mystery and suspense into something magical.

Who am I?

As readers may have gathered from the five books I’ve chosen, my childhood obsessions and passions have had an immense influence on my later writing life. Somewhat to my surprise, I must say. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, movie critic, and have written screenplays. But returning to novels, first with the Sanibel Sunset Detective series and lately with Death at the Savoy and Scandal at the Savoy, I am, in effect, reliving my childhood, using it to write these books. What a joy to be looking back as I move forward—and you always keep the plot moving forward!

Ron's book list on combining mystery and suspense into something magical

Why did Ron love this book?

Dr. No was the sixth James Bond novel Fleming wrote but it was the first one I was finally able to read in paperback when I was about twelve years old.

It transfixed me. I had never read anything quite like it, transporting a boy trapped in small-town Ontario into a wider world of sophistication, sex, and violence.

I devoured the other Bond adventures as fast as I could get my hands on them. If any books made me hunger for faraway glamorous places, it was the Bond novels.

If you can’t imagine the influence Fleming’s worldly writing had on me, you have only to read one of the Priscilla Tempest mysteries.

By Ian Fleming,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dr. No as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dispatched by M to investigate the mysterious disappearance of MI6’s Jamaica station chief, Bond was expecting a holiday in the sun. But when he discovers a deadly centipede placed in his hotel room, the vacation is over.

On this island, all suspicious activity leads inexorably to Dr. Julius No, a reclusive megalomaniac with steel pincers for hands. To find out what the good doctor is hiding, 007 must enlist the aid of local fisherman Quarrel and alluring beachcomber Honeychile Rider. Together they will combat a local legend the natives call “the Dragon,” before Bond alone must face the most punishing…

Be Cool

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Be Cool

Gary Ponzo Author Of A Touch of Terror

From the list on thrillers with an international villain.

Who am I?

From a very early age, writing has always been my one true passion. Ever since I was in eighth grade and my teacher would pass out copies of my journal assignment for that week, I was hooked on the idea of writing. I could create my own world where no one could tell me how my characters should behave. Well, two Pushcart Prize nominations and many awards later, I’m grateful I pursued my dream to become a writer. I hope you’ve enjoyed the list I provided and please feel free to pick up one of my Nick Bracco thrillers about a Sicilian FBI agent who uses his Mafia-connected cousin to track terrorists. 

Gary's book list on thrillers with an international villain

Why did Gary love this book?

I’ll admit, the Russian villain in this thriller is a very bit part, but I can’t have a top 5 list of any thriller without including Elmore Leonard. I read one of Leonard’s first urban thrillers, Glitz, back in ‘80’s and was blown away with how gritty it was. I’d never heard dialogue coming out of character’s mouths like that before. He wrote dialogue like people actually spoke—not with perfect dialect, but street language. It’s the reason he was dubbed the Dickens of Detroit. If you’ve read Elmore Leonard and liked him, then pick this up and read it. It’s a quasi-sequel to Get Shorty with shylock Chili Palmer moving from the movie industry to the music business. 

If you’ve never read Leonard, then start with this one. My writing career would never have flourished like is has without reading Leonard, so this on is near to my heart. Enjoy.  

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The sequel to Chili Palmer's hit movie tanked and now Chili's itching for a comeback. So when a power lunch with record-label executive and former associate Tommy Athens ends in a mob hit, he soon finds himself in an unlikely alliance with organized-crime detective Darryl Holmes and the likely next target of Russian gangsters. But where others see danger, Chili Palmer sees story possibilities.

Enter Linda Moon, a singer with aspirations that go further than her current gig in a Spice Girls cover band. Chili takes over as Linda's manager, entering the world of rock stars, pop divas, and hip-hop…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the USA Mexico border, immigrants, and organized crime?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the USA Mexico border, immigrants, and organized crime.

The USA Mexico Border Explore 25 books about the USA Mexico border
Immigrants Explore 147 books about immigrants
Organized Crime Explore 51 books about organized crime