100 books like Bright Dead Things

By Ada Limon,

Here are 100 books that Bright Dead Things fans have personally recommended if you like Bright Dead Things. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

Jennifer Lang Author Of Places We Left Behind: A Memoir-in-Miniature

From my list on home and why it isn’t obvious for everyone.

Why am I passionate about this?

For my first 18 years, I slept in the same room (opposite my parents) in the same house (116 Monticello Avenue) in the same city (Piedmont) in the same state (CA) in the same country (USA), but soon after leaving for college in Evanston, IL, I pined for elsewhere and ended up peripatetic. That peripateticness plagued me, as a woman/wife/mother. While growing our family, my French husband and I moved: Israel to France to California to New York to Israel to New York to Israel. Finally, in my early fifties, I understood home is more about who you are than where you live. 

Jennifer's book list on home and why it isn’t obvious for everyone

Jennifer Lang Why did Jennifer love this book?

This book combines compressed prose with nonfiction truth-telling but it isn’t linear or a complete story as much as a snapshot of Fennelly’s childhood, home life, and keen observations.

This book showed me that the quality of writing trumps the quantity of words. Short and sparse, when well written, can find a place on a bookshelf and shine.  

By Beth Ann Fennelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 52 micro-memoirs in genre-defying Heating & Cooling offer bright glimpses into a richly lived life, combining the compression of poetry with the truth-telling of non-fiction into one heartfelt, celebratory book. Ranging from childhood recollections to quirky cultural observations, these micro-memoirs build on one another to arrive at a portrait of Beth Ann Fennelly as a wife, mother, writer and deeply original observer of life's challenges and joys.

Some pieces are wistful, some wry and many reveal the humour buried in our everyday interactions. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs shapes a life from unexpectedly illuminating moments and awakens us to…


Book cover of The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems

Ellis Elliott Author Of A Break in the Field

From my list on poetry to feed your distracted self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a dance teacher all of my adult life, and a poetry and word-lover even longer. I love the economy of language, immediacy, and the promise of surprise in poetry. In middle age, I returned to writing just as my body began its slow rebellion, with the added shifts of remarriage and step-parenting a severely disabled son. I went back to grad school and wrote my first book, drawing on the experience of confronting change, just as these recommended poets have done. Each of these poets has a very different story, but what they have in common outweighs their differences, and because of that we are able to see ourselves in their writing.

Ellis' book list on poetry to feed your distracted self

Ellis Elliott Why did Ellis love this book?

I like poetry that teaches me something, and I like how Harjo can teach me about Native American myth and culture (as a member of the Muscogee Nation)in a poem set within the context of something as mundane as an airport.

She expertly threads together the modern with the historical, and the sacred within the ordinary. “Once a woman fell from the sky. The woman who fell from the sky was neither murderer nor saint. She was rather ordinary…”

I am also struck with how Harjo unifies her own unique culture with the shared experiences of all of us, as in: “Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last/ sweet bite”.

By Joy Harjo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Woman Who Fell from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

She draws from the Native American tradition of praising the land and the spirit, the realities of American culture, and the concept of feminine individuality.


Book cover of Perfect Black

Ellis Elliott Author Of A Break in the Field

From my list on poetry to feed your distracted self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a dance teacher all of my adult life, and a poetry and word-lover even longer. I love the economy of language, immediacy, and the promise of surprise in poetry. In middle age, I returned to writing just as my body began its slow rebellion, with the added shifts of remarriage and step-parenting a severely disabled son. I went back to grad school and wrote my first book, drawing on the experience of confronting change, just as these recommended poets have done. Each of these poets has a very different story, but what they have in common outweighs their differences, and because of that we are able to see ourselves in their writing.

Ellis' book list on poetry to feed your distracted self

Ellis Elliott Why did Ellis love this book?

This collection teaches me as well, by taking me into the experience of growing up in the Black, rural Appalachian South.

The poems are part memoir, as in writing about the experience of her mother visiting her where she lived with her grandparents, “(We) held hands like we thought/mothers & daughters should/but neither of us knew for sure.” 

They are also part love song to home-cooking, “Every morning of my childhood, my grandmother, who stood a little/ under five feet tall, donned an apron and cooked breakfast. Slow. Precise./ Deliberate. She equated food with love, and she cooked with both a fury/ and a quiet joy.” 

And finally, they are part Black feminist manifesto, “My black body is a boulder, a stop sign. Sometimes i think my body is/ graceful, a song of freedom. Sometimes i think it is something that every/ eye casts away. I must concentrate if i…

By Crystal Wilkinson, Ronald W. Davis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the foreword:

"In Perfect Black, Crystal Wilkinson walks us back down the road she first walked as a girl, wanders us through the trees that lined the road where she grew up, where her sensibilities as a woman and a writer were first laid bare. In one of the first poems that opens the collection she is a woman looking back on her life, on the soil and mountains that first stamped the particular sound of her voice and she is deeply inquisitive about how it all fell into place: "The map of me can't be all hills& mountains…


Book cover of Odes

Ellis Elliott Author Of A Break in the Field

From my list on poetry to feed your distracted self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a dance teacher all of my adult life, and a poetry and word-lover even longer. I love the economy of language, immediacy, and the promise of surprise in poetry. In middle age, I returned to writing just as my body began its slow rebellion, with the added shifts of remarriage and step-parenting a severely disabled son. I went back to grad school and wrote my first book, drawing on the experience of confronting change, just as these recommended poets have done. Each of these poets has a very different story, but what they have in common outweighs their differences, and because of that we are able to see ourselves in their writing.

Ellis' book list on poetry to feed your distracted self

Ellis Elliott Why did Ellis love this book?

This book embraces both the conventional and the campy. Odes is unafraid to take an unflinching look at an aging female body, and when I say “unflinching”, I mean poems like, "Ode to the Hymen" or "Blow Job Ode".

She also addresses conventional subjects in her poems, such as her sister, buttermilk, and the wind. Odes definitely pushes boundaries, but does so with consummate skill, so that you feel both highly literary and a little dirty at the same time.

She doesn’t just talk about obvious body parts, either. In "Ode to Wattles", she writes, “…I love to be a little/disgusting, to go as far as I can/into the thrilling unloveliness/of an elder woman’s aging.” 

 

By Sharon Olds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • An intimate collection of poems that “picks up where Stag’s Leap left off, which is to say that it contains some of the best and most ingenious poems of her career.” —The New York Times

Opening with the powerful and tender “Ode to the Hymen,” Sharon Olds addresses and embodies, in this age-old poetic form, many aspects of love and gender and sexual politics in a collection that is centered on the body and its structures and pleasures. The poems extend parts of her narrative as a daughter, mother, wife, lover, friend, and poet of conscience…


Book cover of The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink

Gregory Emilio Author Of Kitchen Apocrypha: Poems

From my list on books for gourmands with literary appetites.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twin passions in life have always been food and writing. While I chose poetry and creative writing as my primary fields of expertise, my ten-plus years of working in restaurants are just as important to who I am. I’m hungry for food writing that takes a more literary or creative approach. Cooking is a highly creative and meaningful act, and I love to see writing that aspires to do for the reader what the dedicated cook does for the eater: to nourish not only the body but the more metaphysical elements of our being, which is to say, our hearts, and maybe even our souls.  

Gregory's book list on books for gourmands with literary appetites

Gregory Emilio Why did Gregory love this book?

I absolutely love it when poetry and food get down together at the table. In discussions of food writing, poetry is almost always left out of the conversation; this collection of poems spanning from Rumi to Joy Harjo seeks to correct that unfortunate omission.

Young’s organization for the book works almost like a carefully composed tasting menu: arranged by season, the poems begin by whetting the appetite, then gradually progress into meatier fare. Keep this cornucopia of foodie verses handy in the kitchen; it’s the secret seasoning you never knew you needed.    

By Kevin Young (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Food and poetry: in so many ways, a natural pairing, from prayers over bread to street vendor songs. Poetry is said to feed the soul, each poem a delicious morsel. When read aloud, the best poems provide a particular joy for the mouth. Poems about food make these satisfactions explicit and complete.

Of course, pages can and have been filled about food's elemental pleasures. And we all know food is more than food: it's identity and culture. Our days are marked by meals; our seasons are marked by celebrations. We plant in spring; harvest in fall. We labor over hot…


Book cover of Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

Tracy C. Gold Author Of Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat

From my list on Halloween picture books with cute illustrations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a huge fan of Halloween and love decorating my porch to greet our neighborhood kids. This past year I gave away a couple dozen copies of my own picture books along with candy, which was a huge hit. I live in Baltimore with my family, including my silly, spooky kid, and love animals, especially dogs and horses. This past Halloween, my daughter wanted to dress up as a dentist, of all things, so my husband and I went along dressed up as giant teeth. She never got the irony of asking for candy while dressed as a dentist. We’ll have to wait until she is older for that. 

Tracy's book list on Halloween picture books with cute illustrations

Tracy C. Gold Why did Tracy love this book?

This book is so darn cute! I love the fresh takes on familiar nursery rhymes. I always chuckle when I read the clever new twists (which are only a little spooky). The illustrations are a teeny bit scary, but mostly super cute. When you read this book, you can go all the way through, or just pick one nursery rhyme at a time to chant with the kids. 

By Rachel Kolar, Roland Garrigue (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mother Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

From "Mary, Mary, Tall and Scary" to "Wee Willie Werewolf," this collection of classic nursery rhymes turned on their heads will give readers the chills--and a serious case of belly laughs. With clever rhyme and spooky illustrations, Mother Ghost is perfect for getting in the Halloween spirit. Boo!


Book cover of Tougaloo Blues

James E. Cherry Author Of Edge of the Wind

From my list on contemporary African American authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a contemporary African American writer born and raised in the South. It was this sense of place that has shaped my artistic sensibilities. I was in my mid-twenties, searching, seeking for answers and direction on my own, when other Black southern writers were instrumental in pointing me in the right direction: Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Walker, Ernest J Gaines, Alice Walker, Arna Bontemps, Albert Murray, just to name a handful. Their writings were revelatory. The same issues that they were dealing with a generation earlier were the same ones I was struggling with every day. It opened my eyes, mind, heart and creativity to put into perspective what I was feeling. 

James' book list on contemporary African American authors

James E. Cherry Why did James love this book?

Kelly Norman Ellis is the Chairperson for the Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Literatures at Chicago State University. And like those who have made the “Great Migration” before her, she too has taken the South with her in this wonderful debut collection of poetry. In this book, she deftly taps into the Blues ethos to conjure vivid imagery of a Mississippi unique with its patois, cuisine, and customs that have unmistakably shaped her worldview as an adult. It was the South that would try to degrade and dehumanize Black life. But it was the same South where family and a village would instill pride, confidence, and self-worth. This is a book of a poet coming to terms with where she has come from and celebrating the journey. It reinforces the notion that everywhere you go, home is already there.

By Kelly Norman Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This collection of poems explores the author's southern roots through a blues/narrative voice and revisits her Mississippi youth, while revealing the contemporary voice of a Black woman searching for place and community outside of her southern past.


Book cover of A Fortune for Your Disaster

Kendra Allen Author Of The Collection Plate: Poems

From my list on finding inspiration and motivation.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Kendra's book list on finding inspiration and motivation

Kendra Allen Why did Kendra love 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.

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,…


Book cover of Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling

Sohini Sarah Pillai Author Of Many Mahābhāratas

From my list on Mahabharata poems, plays, and novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College and my research focuses on the Mahabharata, an epic narrative tradition from South Asia. As an Indian-American kid growing up in suburban Boston, my first introduction to the Mahabharata tradition was from the stories my grandmother told me when she would visit from Chennai and from the Mahabharata comics that she would bring me. Many years later, my friend and colleague Nell Shapiro Hawley (Preceptor of Sanskrit at Harvard University) and I began to work on a project that would eventually become our edited volume, Many Mahābhāratas. I’m excited to share some of my own personal favorite Mahabharatas with you here.

Sohini's book list on Mahabharata poems, plays, and novels

Sohini Sarah Pillai Why did Sohini love this book?

Considered to be the longest poem in the world, the Sanskrit Mahabharata is comprised of around 1.8 million words (for comparison: the combined length of the seven Harry Potter books is barely 1.1 million words). At 928 pages, Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling is by no means a short book, but it does make the massive Sanskrit epic very accessible for general readers. While the Sanskrit Mahabharata is primarily composed in couplets called shlokas, Carole Satyamurti’s masterful retelling is in blank verse, which is the meter of my two favorite English epics: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Jack Mitchell’s The Odyssey of Star Wars. I also especially love the way Satyamurti presents Karna, the secret elder brother of Pandavas and one of the greatest tragic heroes in world literature. 

By Carole Satyamurti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Mahabharata, originally composed some two thousand years ago is an epic masterpiece, "a hundred times more interesting" than the Iliad and the Odyssey (Wendy Doniger), it is a timeless work that evokes a world of myth, passion and warfare while exploring eternal questions of duty, love and spiritual freedom. A seminal Hindu text, it is one of the most important and influential works in the history of world civilisation.

This new English retelling, innovatively composed in blank verse, covers all the books of the Mahabharata. It masterfully captures the beauty, excitement and profundity of the original Sanskrit poem as…


Book cover of Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Author Of Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

From my list on to get you writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a published author with an MFA in Writing, I know how hard writing can be in terms of how to find a muse, employ an elusive craft, and deal with the soul-shaking consequences of digging deep. But as a survivor of life, including multiple moves, broken relationships, alcoholism, illness, and debilitating grief, I've also experienced the transformative power of writing. I took that belief into the community, and developed writing workshops for cancer survivors, women facing domestic violence, and many other people wrestling with trauma and illness, often recommending some of these books in my workshops. And along the way, I’ve witnessed time and again what the written word can do. 

G.'s book list on to get you writing

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did G. love this book?

This is one of those gems that can easily get lost in the literary shuffle. Poet-teacher John Fox gets into the craft of writing poetry in Finding What You Didn’t Lose, but it’s not one of those dry books that will get you all tangled up worrying about your iambic pentameters. Instead, he takes you on a beautiful journey, showing how such useful tools as imagery, sound, metaphor, and rhythm can help you express yourself. Quotes and poetry excerpts round out the rich content of this book.

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