100 books like Boom Town

By Sam Anderson,

Here are 100 books that Boom Town fans have personally recommended if you like Boom Town. 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 Heavy: An American Memoir

Rachana Vajjhala Author Of Kinetic Cultures: Modernism and Embodiment on the Belle Epoque Stage

From my list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a music historian who loves to read novels. Most of my childhood was spent either playing the piano or devouring whatever books I could get my hands on. Now, I try to share my love of music and good writing with my students at Boston University. When not at school, you can usually find me exploring the trails of New England with my dog.     

Rachana's book list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance

Rachana Vajjhala Why did Rachana love this book?

As someone who writes about historical embodied practices such as music and dance, I am always interested in how people write about lived experiences in their own bodies.

Though ostensibly a memoir about growing up in Mississippi, Heavy also explores the possibilities and impossibilities of writing. Laymon, nevertheless, gives lightness to his profound narrative with complex, challenging, yet always luminous prose.  

By Kiese Laymon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed (Nonfiction), The Undefeated, Library Journal (Biography/Memoirs), The Washington Post (Nonfiction), Southern Living (Southern), Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Critics*

In this powerful, provocative, and universally lauded memoir—winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and finalist for the Kirkus Prize—genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon “provocatively meditates on his trauma growing up as a black man, and in turn crafts an essential polemic against American moral rot” (Entertainment Weekly).

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son…


Book cover of And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes

Jeff Provine Author Of Secret Oklahoma City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

From my list on showing the hidden struggles of Oklahomans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on my family’s land run farm north of Enid before coming to the OKC metro for school, giving me a view of the quiet rural spaces and the hopping city life Oklahoma pushes for today and more! 

Jeff's book list on showing the hidden struggles of Oklahomans

Jeff Provine Why did Jeff love this book?

People were shocked to read about the Osage murders, but those who’ve read Angie Debo just had to sigh and shake their heads since it’s nothing new. Her 1936 work opened my eyes to the systematic devastation of the tribes, bite by bite. Forced off their homelands with removal, they were promised to hold land in Oklahoma “as long as the waters run,” but it wasn’t more than a few decades before allotment narrowed tribal holdings and opened up more land to be taken. With Native peoples not even legal citizens, anyone with money had to have a guardian, a breeding ground for amoral administrators to siphon off as much as they wanted.

By Angie Debo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked And Still the Waters Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Debo's classic work tells the tragic story of the spoliation of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole nations at the turn of the last century in what is now the state of Oklahoma. After their earlier forced removal from traditional lands in the southeastern states--culminating in the devastating 'trail of tears' march of the Cherokees--these five so-called Civilized Tribes held federal land grants in perpetuity, or "as long as the waters run, as long as the grass grows." Yet after passage of the Dawes Act in 1887, the land was purchased back from the tribes, whose members were then…


Book cover of The Grapes of Wrath

Jerome Antil Author Of The Mysteries of Pompey Hollow

From my list on human resolve in the face of moments of despair.

Why am I passionate about this?

The seventh child of a seventh son of a seventh son. Mother spoke of my sleeping nights and alert days…felt I was curious, observant. She was convinced I’d be the writer in the family. Named me Jerome after the librarian St. Jerome and Mark after Mark Twain, her favorite author as a child. Mother read to us daily, during high school time, a chapter a night. My brother Fred mailed me a word a week to look up. My freshman year in college I earned money writing compositions. And so it began. I sat on the floor and listened to the world war from Pearl Harbor to D-Day and Hiroshima.

Jerome's book list on human resolve in the face of moments of despair

Jerome Antil Why did Jerome love this book?

Steinbeck can see through his character’s eyes. I get chills when he captures private moments.

Faces on pickers being pushed off land in the dustbowl during the Depression. I tasted abject poverty when supper was passed out on pie tins—one tablespoon of beans in each. Dimes were gas money to follow a dream of picking work a brochure of orange orchards in California promised, not for bread.

The hardships mesmerized me—burying Grandpa along the highway; daughter Rosasharn rocking her swaddled stillborn to ward off the suspicion of border inspectors. In an abandoned railroad car as a night’s shelter a man was dying from malnutrition.

I was moved by the statement of character when the childless momma kneeled and offered the dying man a breast letting her dead baby’s milk save him from death. Steinbeck inspired me to become a writer—this novel and his Of Mice and Men.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied.'

Shocking and controversial when it was first published, The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck's Pultizer Prize-winning epic of the Joad family, forced to travel west from Dust Bowl era Oklahoma in search of the promised land of California. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and powerlessness, yet out of their struggle Steinbeck created a drama that is both intensely human and majestic in its scale and moral vision.


Book cover of My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Rachana Vajjhala Author Of Kinetic Cultures: Modernism and Embodiment on the Belle Epoque Stage

From my list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a music historian who loves to read novels. Most of my childhood was spent either playing the piano or devouring whatever books I could get my hands on. Now, I try to share my love of music and good writing with my students at Boston University. When not at school, you can usually find me exploring the trails of New England with my dog.     

Rachana's book list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance

Rachana Vajjhala Why did Rachana love this book?

Who knew a book about sleeping could be so funny and engaging?

As someone who constantly wants and needs more rest, I related to the protagonist’s hunch that a year of (almost uninterrupted) sleep would change her life. And it does, though not at all in the way she expects.

Moshfegh writes about trips to the local bodega and the edgy conceptual art scene in such a brilliant way that the book will (perhaps, unfortunately!) keep you up late.

By Ottessa Moshfegh,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked My Year of Rest and Relaxation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, Time, NPR, Amazon,Vice, Bustle, The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, The AV Club, & Audible

A New York Times Bestseller

"One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings and Xanaxed b*tcheries somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound." - Entertainment Weekly

"Darkly hilarious . . . [Moshfegh's] the kind of provocateur who makes you laugh out loud while drawing blood." -Vogue

From one of our boldest,…


Book cover of The World According to Garp

J.M. Unrue Author Of The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

From my list on showing that somebody has it worse than you do.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an old guy. I say this with a bit of cheek and a certain amount of incongruity. All the books on my list are old. That’s one area of continuity. Another, and I’ll probably stop at two, is that they all deal with ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances—those curveballs of life we flail at with an unfamiliar bat; the getting stuck on the Interstate behind a semi and some geezer in a golf cap hogging the passing lane in a Buick Le Sabre. No one makes it through this life unscathed. How we cope does more to define us than a thousand smiles when things are rosy. Thus endeth the lesson.

J.M.'s book list on showing that somebody has it worse than you do

J.M. Unrue Why did J.M. love this book?

Irving took the Keseyian banner and supercharged it.

An eccentric novel with eccentric characters that all made perfect sense. I especially liked the wrestling sub-theme. A foray into a competitive sport that is both mundane and allegorical. Rich in whimsy. The term pre-disastered is a master stroke of piquant invention.  

By John Irving,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The World According to Garp as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers.

'A wonderful novel, full of energy and art, at once funny and heartbreaking...terrific' WASHINGTON POST

Anniversary edition with a new afterword from the author.

A worldwide bestseller since its publication, Irving's classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, struggling writer and illegitimate son of Jenny Fields - an unlikely feminist heroine ahead of her time.

Beautifully written, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP is a powerfully compelling and compassionate coming-of-age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers…


Book cover of The Plot

Rachana Vajjhala Author Of Kinetic Cultures: Modernism and Embodiment on the Belle Epoque Stage

From my list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a music historian who loves to read novels. Most of my childhood was spent either playing the piano or devouring whatever books I could get my hands on. Now, I try to share my love of music and good writing with my students at Boston University. When not at school, you can usually find me exploring the trails of New England with my dog.     

Rachana's book list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance

Rachana Vajjhala Why did Rachana love this book?

Whether trying to finish an email or a book, I feel Dorothy Parker’s words deeply: “I hate writing,” she is purported to have said, but “I love having written.” 

In this book, protagonist Jacob Finch Bonner does Parker one better. Stuck after his well-received first novel, he takes someone else’s story and passes it off as his own. Korelitz unravels the dire consequences, though with fizzy, suspenseful glee rather than scared-straight preachiness.

Bonner may not be, as he tells himself, “a great writer,” but Korelitz certainly is. It made me want to try to write again: hate, love, and all other feelings welcome. 

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! ** The Tonight Show Summer Reads Winner ** A New York Times Notable Book of 2021 **

"Insanely readable." ―Stephen King

Hailed as "breathtakingly suspenseful," Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student,…


Book cover of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Jennifer Savran Kelly Author Of Endpapers

From my list on queer people on the edge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s resilience—how we hold onto life and find meaning in it when everything seems to be falling apart. As a queer and genderqueer author, I especially love to see stories about queer characters in all of their human messiness, characters who aren’t forced to be models of perfection in order to earn readers’ empathy, stories that show us queer people don’t deserve dignity because we’re perfect; we deserve it because we’re human. These five novels have affected me deeply because they don’t shy away from the complexities of grief, love, parenting, trauma, sex, social justice, gender identity, and more. 

Jennifer's book list on queer people on the edge

Jennifer Savran Kelly Why did Jennifer love this book?

Lawlor’s novel gave me the best gift a book can offer: it changed my mind halfway through.

I had been so intrigued by the premise of a shapeshifting character who can change their gender at will, that I forced myself to read on even though I wasn’t enjoying the emphasis on sex, especially as conquest, and I was sorely disappointed the story didn’t seem to go deeper.

But as I continued, I was happy to be proven wrong. By the end of the novel, I was checking my own biases and prejudices and empathizing deeply with Paul and his/her/their struggles. Reading this novel was an emotional experience unlike any I’ve had with a book.

By Andrea Lawlor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is quite simply one of the most exciting - and one of the most fun - novels of the decade.' Garth Greenwell

It's 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a lesbian best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul's also got a secret: he's a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women's Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in…


Book cover of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet

Jeremy Sorese Author Of The Short While

From my list on for building community.

Why am I passionate about this?

With my first book Curveball and now my second The Short While, I’ve attempted at telling stories about the various connections between people and how happenstance really does shape more than we can ever know. Both of my books are a little over 400 pages each, not because I don’t know how to edit but rather that only at that scale do I feel like I can adequately describe life as it has felt like for me. It’s what I love in the books listed below—that the way in which we find ourselves surrounded by the people we know never ceases to feel anything short of miraculous and absurd.

Jeremy's book list on for building community

Jeremy Sorese Why did Jeremy love this book?

Both my first book Curveball and my new book touch on how losing access to information can only shrink someone’s ability to live their life effectively which, in an age where most of us have a near-constant Internet connection, can feel unimaginable, and yet, Broad Band proves that is more likely than we think. Evan’s book attempts to reframe the history of computing by recentering the often forgotten women at the center of that story, asking us to reimagine what our digital informational landscape could have looked like if care for everyone in our communities was more central to that story.

By Claire L. Evans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

If you loved Hidden Figures or The Rise of the Rocket Girls, you'll love Claire Evans' breakthrough book on the women who brought you the internet--written out of history, until now.

"This is a radically important, timely work," says Miranda July, filmmaker and author of The First Bad Man. The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers--but from Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the Victorian Age, to the cyberpunk Web designers of the 1990s, female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology…


Book cover of Tales of the City

Christopher DiRaddo Author Of The Family Way

From my list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a queer author based in Montreal. When I came out in the early 1990s, at the age of 21, I remember feeling concerned about my future. Family has always been important to me, but I couldn’t imagine what mine would look like as I got older. I knew I wasn't going to have a traditional family like my parents, but I didn’t know what else was possible. Thankfully, I found the answer in books… As queer people, we must seek out and learn our traditions and history. We’re not taught them from birth. Finding books that demonstrate and uplift the bonds that queer people share provides a roadmap for those of us seeking community.

Christopher's book list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family

Christopher DiRaddo Why did Christopher love this book?

There were only three Tales of the City books when I picked up my first copy. There are now nine of them, spanning 40 years.

First written as a newspaper serial, the collected Tales explore the lives and loves of a diverse group of folks living in the same boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco. Among them is landlord Anna Madrigal, an early trans icon, and gay everyman Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, a hopeless romantic looking for love in the Castro.

The book is an easy read with short chapters, lots of dialogue, and zany plot twists. What I love most is how much these characters – some of whom are estranged from their biological families – start to feel like close friends whose lives you get to follow. 

By Armistead Maupin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NAMED AS ONE OF THE BBC'S 100 MOST INSPIRING NOVELS

Now a Netflix series starring Elliot Page and Laura Linney . . .

'It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.' Oscar Wilde

Mary Ann is twenty-five and arrives in San Francisco for an eight-day holiday.

But then her Mood Ring turns blue.

So obviously she decides to stay. It is the 1970s after all.

Fresh out of Cleveland, naive Mary Ann tumbles headlong into a brave new world of pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, spaced-out neighbours and outrageous parties. Finding a…


Book cover of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Rachana Vajjhala Author Of Kinetic Cultures: Modernism and Embodiment on the Belle Epoque Stage

From my list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a music historian who loves to read novels. Most of my childhood was spent either playing the piano or devouring whatever books I could get my hands on. Now, I try to share my love of music and good writing with my students at Boston University. When not at school, you can usually find me exploring the trails of New England with my dog.     

Rachana's book list on dazzlingly written books from the past five years with both style and substance

Rachana Vajjhala Why did Rachana love this book?

A play within a play, a book within a book, may be one of the oldest tricks in the book. Doerr’s book (which also contains fragments of an ancient text of the same name by one Antonius Diogenes) infuses this familiar trope with new scope, pathos, humor, and profundity.

It is a story about the past, the present, the future, and two beautiful twin bulls named Tree and Moonlight; I think this book contains it all.

Doerr makes this narrative juggling act seem easy, shifting from fifteenth-century Constantinople to a world-containing spaceship as easily as he moved me from laughter to tears.  

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Cloud Cuckoo Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more

“If you’re looking for a superb novel, look no further.” —The Washington Post

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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