100 books like Morningstar

By Ann Hood,

Here are 100 books that Morningstar fans have personally recommended if you like Morningstar. 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 The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Ronnie Blair Author Of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

From my list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community, I enjoyed reading about the lives of other people and how their experiences differed from mine. I read biographies of famous people, such as Paul Revere or Stephen Foster, and an occasional memoir, such as Harlan Ellison writing about infiltrating a juvenile gang or David Gerrold revealing how he came to write for Star Trek. Fiction also took me to places that I had never seen. But something about a coming-of-age tale especially resonated with me and I hope these recommendations will help you make that same connection with how others have navigated the magic and miseries of childhood. 

Ronnie's book list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood

Ronnie Blair Why did Ronnie love this book?

The title might sound like fiction, but the Thunderbolt Kid is simply an imaginary superhero version of himself that Bryson created as a child. Mostly, this trope is used sparingly throughout the book, which is a memoir of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s. Bryson brings plenty of humor to the work, as well as a wistful nostalgia for the era. He is roughly a decade older than me, but I identified greatly with his descriptions of the time period. Plus, he and I were both fans of The Roy Rogers Show on TV, though Bryson seems a little more put off than I was about how the show couldn’t seem to decide which century the characters were living in.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of our most beloved and bestselling authors, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s.

Born in 1951 in the middle of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa, Bill Bryson is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24 carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generation, Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around the house wearing a jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel round his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings…


Book cover of An American Childhood

Ronnie Blair Author Of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

From my list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community, I enjoyed reading about the lives of other people and how their experiences differed from mine. I read biographies of famous people, such as Paul Revere or Stephen Foster, and an occasional memoir, such as Harlan Ellison writing about infiltrating a juvenile gang or David Gerrold revealing how he came to write for Star Trek. Fiction also took me to places that I had never seen. But something about a coming-of-age tale especially resonated with me and I hope these recommendations will help you make that same connection with how others have navigated the magic and miseries of childhood. 

Ronnie's book list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood

Ronnie Blair Why did Ronnie love this book?

Annie Dillard, probably best known for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is masterful with words and brings all of her writing abilities to this memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh. For a city girl, she is especially entranced by nature as she gathers in her bedroom a rock collection that seems to foretell a career as a geologist that never happened. But it’s her tales of her father that are the most striking to me because as a child I didn’t know any fathers quite like him. He once set off alone on a long-planned river trip from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Most wonderful of all, he had a role in the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. Finally, think of the title Dillard chose for her memoir: An American Childhood. In many ways, her childhood was no more unique than any other…

By Annie Dillard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"[An American Childhood] combines the child's sense of wonder with the adult's intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary America. It is a special sort of memoir that is entirely successful...This new book is [Annie Dillard's] best, a joyous ode to her own happy childhood."  — Chicago Tribune

A book that instantly captured the hearts of readers across the country, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard's poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and 60s. 

Dedicated to her parents - from whom she learned a love…


Book cover of Eastern Sun, Winter Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey

Ronnie Blair Author Of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

From my list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community, I enjoyed reading about the lives of other people and how their experiences differed from mine. I read biographies of famous people, such as Paul Revere or Stephen Foster, and an occasional memoir, such as Harlan Ellison writing about infiltrating a juvenile gang or David Gerrold revealing how he came to write for Star Trek. Fiction also took me to places that I had never seen. But something about a coming-of-age tale especially resonated with me and I hope these recommendations will help you make that same connection with how others have navigated the magic and miseries of childhood. 

Ronnie's book list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood

Ronnie Blair Why did Ronnie love this book?

Gary Paulsen is best known for his novels for young people, such as the popular Hatchet, but this R-rated memoir is aimed at an adult audience. Of my five recommendations, this one is far and away the most representative of the miseries of a dysfunctional childhood. Paulsen’s parents were both alcoholics, and his mother had affairs that she could have done a much better job of hiding from her young son. Somehow, despite the trauma (or maybe because of it), Paulsen emerged as a successful and extraordinarily prolific writer. For those of us with wonderful childhood memories, this book serves as a reminder that not everyone is so lucky.

By Gary Paulsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eastern Sun, Winter Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work describes the author's experiences as a child during World War II. Along with his mother, who is alternatively protective and selfishly neglectful, Paulsen travelled to the Philippines to live with his father, a distant and imperious army officer.


Book cover of The Yearling

Ronnie Blair Author Of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

From my list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community, I enjoyed reading about the lives of other people and how their experiences differed from mine. I read biographies of famous people, such as Paul Revere or Stephen Foster, and an occasional memoir, such as Harlan Ellison writing about infiltrating a juvenile gang or David Gerrold revealing how he came to write for Star Trek. Fiction also took me to places that I had never seen. But something about a coming-of-age tale especially resonated with me and I hope these recommendations will help you make that same connection with how others have navigated the magic and miseries of childhood. 

Ronnie's book list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood

Ronnie Blair Why did Ronnie love this book?

My only fiction pick, this classic novel set in Florida in the 1870s is about 12-year-old Jody Baxter and his friendship with a fawn. I became familiar with this coming-of-age tale in an unusual way. In seventh grade, I was on a school speech team, and one of the other kids competed in the storytelling competition using an excerpt from The Yearling. That excerpt included the moment when Jody’s father talks to him about becoming a man: “What’s he to do when he gits knocked down? Why, take it for his share and go on.” That phrase stuck with me, and was even more powerful years later when I read the novel in its entirety and learned all that Jody had gone through by the time he and his father reached that moment.

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Yearling is a novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings published in March 1938. It has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Russian and 22 other languages. It won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.
Rawlings's editor was Maxwell Perkins, who also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary luminaries. She had submitted several projects to Perkins for his review, and he rejected them all. He advised her to write about what she knew from her own life, and The Yearling was the result.


Book cover of Borrowed Finery: A Memoir

Tom Bissell Author Of The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam

From my list on trying to understand your parents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter, as well as the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Creative Types and Other Stories, which will be published later this year. Along with Neil Cross, I developed for television The Mosquito Coast, based on Paul Theroux’s novel, which is now showing on Apple TV. Currently, I live with my family in Los Angeles.

Tom's book list on trying to understand your parents

Tom Bissell Why did Tom love this book?

Paula Fox, the late great novelist and revered children’s book author, wrote a wonderful memoir of effectively not having parents. Oh, Fox’s parents were around, but they were drunk, careless, and inattentive, often shuffling young Paula to and from locales as varied as Hollywood and pre-Revolutionary Cuba. Her parents are depicted in this memoir as both monstrous and sympathetic, providing aspiring memoirists with a model of artful ambivalence. The book is also filled with extraordinary walk-ons by Orson Welles, James Cagney, Stella Adler, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a beautiful book by one of the most effortlessly commanding writers this country has ever produced. (Full disclosure: As a twenty-eight-year-old greenhorn editor, I had the pleasure of line-editing this book, which wasn’t editing so much as polishing silver.)

By Paula Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An astonishing, devastating memoir of a 1930s American childhood. A New York Times Best Book of 2001

Born in the 1920s to young, bohemian parents, Paula Fox was left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage. Rescued by her grandmother, Fox eventually landed with a gentle, poor minister in upstate New York. Uncle Elwood, as he came to be known, gave Paula a secure and loving home for many years, but her parents constantly re-surface. Her father is a good-looking, hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter (among his credits is The Last Train to Madrid, which Graham Greene declared was 'the worst movie I…


Book cover of The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War

Jessica Frazier Author Of Women's Antiwar Diplomacy During the Vietnam War Era

From my list on women and the US war in Vietnam.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell into researching women’s antiwar activism during the U.S. war in Vietnam by chance when I came across evidence of middle-aged American women traveling to Jakarta, Indonesia in 1965 to meet with women from North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front—the enemies of the United States at the time. Discovering that some of these same U.S. women (and many others), would later travel to Hanoi despite the United States conducting extensive bombing raids over North Vietnam, despite travel to North Vietnam being prohibited, and despite some of the women having young children at home, simply astounded me, and I had to find out more.

Jessica's book list on women and the US war in Vietnam

Jessica Frazier Why did Jessica love this book?

Telling the story of the girl who became an international icon when the Associated Press published a photograph of her running from napalm bombing in her village in 1972, Denise Chong’s The Girl in the Picture offers insight into the day-to-day lives of South Vietnamese villagers who simply wanted to survive. Caught between the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese military and the National Liberation Front, villagers often had family members fighting on both sides of the war, not because of divergent ideological beliefs, but because repressive recruitment efforts left young men no choice but to enlist. Through the eyes of Kim Phuc, Denise Chong’s book humanizes life on the ground in a war zone and describes what happened when U.S. troops left the country.

By Denise Chong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl in the Picture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 8 June 1972, nine-year-old Kim Phuc, severely burned by napalm, ran from her burning village and into the eye of history. Her photograph, seen around the world, helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War and is one of a handful of images that remain branded in the public consciousness. This book is the story of how that photograph came to be - but also of what happened to Kim Phuc after it was taken. It opens up to readers an unknown world - the world of Vietnam after the US army left. Kim became a pawn in the…


Book cover of Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta

JQ Rose Author Of Arranging A Dream

From my list on extraordinary life stories about ordinary people.

Why am I passionate about this?

My author friend, Mary, brought her great, great, great + grandfather’s journal to our writers' group and shared excerpts from the pages written in the 1800s. When her grandfather was window shopping in downtown London, he peered into the bookstore window. He yearned to own the books on display, but he couldn’t afford them on a minister’s income. Only the rich could purchase books. The journal excerpts brought the 1800s to life. I decided then to begin recording my life experiences to make our lives today real for the generations of tomorrow. I share my enthusiasm for telling life stories by presenting workshops on how to write life stories. 

JQ's book list on extraordinary life stories about ordinary people

JQ Rose Why did JQ love this book?

Put on your flowered shirt and place a flower in your hair to be taken away to the beautiful island of Samoa. This page-turning memoir chronicles the author’s struggles with adolescence against the backdrop of a changing Samoan culture. With lyrical language, Ms. Pokerwinski paints true-to-life scenes of the island and the Samoan people. The situations and the fascinating characters will keep you reading. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving memories of the 60s such as the music of the Beach Boys, White Rain Conditioner, and Tangee lipstick. If you witnessed life in the 60s, you will identify with the author and enjoy her humor and sass. 

By Nan Sanders Pokerwinski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Moving to a South Pacific island from small town Oklahoma, sixteen year old Nancy Sanders trades cruising Main Street in search of tater tots for strolling sandy shores with islanders who feast on sea worms and summon sharks with song.



With a dash of teenage sass, MANGO RASH chronicles Nancy's search for adventure—and identity—in two alien realms: the tricky terrain of adolescence and the remote U.S. territory of American Samoa. Against a backdrop of lava-rimmed beaches, frangipani-laced air, and sensual music, Nancy immerses herself in 1960s island culture with a colorful cast of Samoan and American expat kids.



But life…


Book cover of Elowen

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

From my list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

Manni Coe Why did Manni love this book?

William and his wife lost their baby in its last term and had to endure the torment of an induced stillbirth.

The same thing happened to a dear friend years ago so when I heard William as embarking on this brave endeavour to write about it, I was intrigued. The publisher, Little Toller Books, decided to create a space for William’s male voice in a publishing genre that is dominated by women’s.

The result is a heart-wrenching tale of grief as William clamours to contextualise the world he has been thrown into. William’s skill as a writer lies in his depiction of the indescribable. I’m sure there were months of soul searching and pen holding before he finally hit upon a way of converting his pain into the stunning prose. I am so grateful he did. And you will be too.

By William Henry Searle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the summer of 2017, Will and his wife Amy lost their baby, Elowen, a few days before their due date. After a traumatic
induced birth, they returned from hospital to their cottage in the New Forest, grief-stricken and struggling to make sense of
what happened to them. Unmoored by sadness, what became clear in the weeks and months following Elowen's death is that there is no established vocabulary with which to understand this experience, either for Will or the people around him. Indeed, as he discovers, there is no word in the English language for a parent who has…


Book cover of Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier

D'Arcy Jenish Author Of Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West

From my list on the exploraton of the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a journalist, the author of 10 works of popular history, and, latterly, a playwright. For nearly 25 years, I have earned a living on the strength of my own writing. I have written one full-length play that was produced at an outdoor summer theatre in July 2023, and I have written three short plays for the Port Hope, Ontario Arts Festival. I now live in Peterborough, Ontario, about 90 miles northeast of Toronto, but have had a lifelong interest in the history of western North America by dint of having grown up in southeastern Saskatchewan and having worked as a journalist in Alberta in the early 1980s.  

D'Arcy's book list on the exploraton of the West

D'Arcy Jenish Why did D'Arcy love this book?

There are many reasons to love this book, and the subtitle says it all. This book is A History, A Story, And A Memory Of The Last Plains Frontier.

That last frontier was an arid, desolate corner of southwestern Saskatchewan where his American parents tried homesteading between 1914 and 1920 when Stegner was a child. The family returned to the U.S., but Stegner re-visited this land of his youth in the early 1950s and wrote one of the best accounts of the last frontier in the North American West.   

By Wallace Stegner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Enchanting, heartrending and eminently enviable' Vladimir Nabokov

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner's boyhood was spent on the beautiful and remote frontier of the Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, where his family homesteaded fro 1914 to 1920. In a recollection of his years there, Stegner applies childhood remembrances and adult reflection to the history of the region to create this wise and enduring portrait of pioneer community existing in the verge of a modern world.

'Stegner has summarized the frontier story and interpreted it as only one who was part of it could' The New York Times Book Review


Book cover of Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Lisa Rogers Author Of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and the Red Wheelbarrow

From my list on biographies to inspire young poets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love sharing poetry with children! I became inspired to write poetic picture books during my 20-year career as an elementary school librarian. In class, we often read aloud, discussed, and performed poems. My students considered word choices, identified alliteration, metaphor, and simile, and developed a sophisticated vocabulary of “beautiful” words. They delighted in using their senses to write about special places and moments and did research to create and illustrate fact-based poems about people and animals. In exploring poetry and biographies of poets, students found inspiration and used their authentic voices to craft their own funny, engaging, and thoughtful poetry.

Lisa's book list on biographies to inspire young poets

Lisa Rogers Why did Lisa love this book?

What experiences might children have that inspire them to write poetry? Author Yolen brings readers into the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where young Emily scribbles on scraps of paper in her father’s study. Emily reads her three-word poem to her parents, to the flowers in the garden, and to Mrs. Mack, who provides encouragement that’s as warm and appreciated as the desserts they share. Just as Emily takes time to ponder what is the essence of a poem, this imagined story unfolds at an unhurried pace. That pace, combined with the engaging illustrations, permits readers to linger on small moments and let their own imaginations wander. Poetry takes time, just as growing up does.

By Jane Yolen, Christine Davenier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emily Writes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Perhaps, she thinks, I'll make a poem.
Emily smiles.
The garden makes her feel all sunny,
like a poet.

As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the bountiful flowers in her spring garden. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her feelings. She thinks about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between.

This thoughtful spotlight on Emily's early experimentation with poetry as a child offers a unique window into one of the world's most…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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