100 books like Perfect Black

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

Here are 100 books that Perfect Black fans have personally recommended if you like Perfect Black. 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 Bright Dead Things: 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 love the gorgeous, lyrical language Limón uses to sort out loss, own her power, and the power of the “huge beating genius machine” of the heart.

Limón uses imagery so visceral I can touch it, and examines the light and dark of womanhood when she declares, “…the largeness of me, the hot/gore of my want and wants, wants to disarm/the fixedness of this”. I like that what she writes is understandable, but never easy. Limón currently serves as our nation’s Poet Laureate.  

By Ada Limon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bright Dead Things examines the chaos that is life, the dangerous thrill of living in a world you know you have to leave one day, and the search to find something that is ultimately "disorderly, and marvelous, and ours." A book of bravado and introspection, of 21st century feminist swagger and harrowing terror and loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact--tracing in intimate detail the various ways the speaker's sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages…


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 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 You Better Be Lightning

Miles Borrero Author Of Beautiful Monster: A Becoming

From my list on living this wild and precious life to its fullest.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a trans, Latinx yoga teacher, writer, and musician who transitioned at the age of 40. Before that, I’d spent most of my life trying to live by someone else’s rules…only to realize, when my dad was dying, that I was not truly living. The funny thing is, as an artist and teacher, I’d dedicated myself to helping others live their lives to the fullest but had not granted myself the same courtesy. Sometimes, our lessons are hard-won. The books on this list have been beacons of hope and treasure trove chests of inspiration for me, as I hope they will be for you, too. 

Miles' book list on living this wild and precious life to its fullest

Miles Borrero Why did Miles love this book?

Oof, this book is heartbreaking/heartmaking.

I love hearing Andrea read it because of the feeling conveyed in their voice and the way it brings out the musicality in their incredible words. There is also something mesmerizing about reading it on the page, having the time to taste the words and all the space in between the lines.

Andrea’s writing is raw, visceral, and bittersweet-hurts-so-good kind of writing. Their poetry goes right to the quick. This is a book for the ages that, every time I read it, distills for me what matters in my life. 

By Andrea Gibson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2023 Feathered Quill Book Awards Gold Medal Winner
2022 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Gold Medal Winner
2022 Over the Rainbow Short List
2021 Goodreads Choice Awards - Best Poetry Book Finalist
2021 Bookshop's Indie Press Highlights

You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson is a queer, political, and feminist collection guided by self-reflection.

The poems range from close examination of the deeply personal to the vastness of the world, exploring the expansiveness of the human experience from love to illness, from space to climate change, and so much more in between.

One of the most celebrated poets and performers…


Book cover of Black Girl, Call Home

Leslie Anne Frye-Thomas Author Of Pum Pum Rock—There's No Place Like Homo

From my list on collection of queer themes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Emmy Award-winning writer, wife, and adoptive mother with an unapologetic passion for Black queer stories. I'm also an artist-activist who takes great pride in producing content that sparks honest dialogue and positive change. Life's complexities energize me, and, as a queer artist of color, I'm committed to reflecting these intricacies in my work. I write, produce video, and host allyship seminars as well as art as activism workshops for LGBTQ+ youth. If you're both inspired and entertained by layered depictions of BIPOC queer culture then please check out the recs in my Queer-tastic reading list. Enjoy!

Leslie's book list on collection of queer themes

Leslie Anne Frye-Thomas Why did Leslie love this book?

I love pretty packaging, so it's no surprise that Mans' Black Girl, Call Home stopped me in my tracks. The cover art, an over-the-shoulder shot of a young Black girl, her head bedazzled in a rainbow assortment of brightly colored barrettes. For me and Black women across the globe, the image evokes instant nostalgia. Luther on the radio. Me between my mama's legs. And the smell of Blue Magic hair grease slathered on the back of her hand.

Both painful and empowering, Mans' candid approach to feminism, race, and LGBTQ+ identity is wrapped in undeniable realness. Whether readers identify as Black and queer or simply as women on the path to healing, Mans' rhythmic collection of truths inspires self-acceptance and sisterhood. Do yourself a favor — order the audiobook and be blown away by Mans' heartfelt spoken word!

By Jasmine Mans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Oprah Magazine • Time •  Vogue • Vulture • Essence • Elle • Cosmopolitan • Real Simple • Marie Claire • Refinery 29 •  Shondaland • Pop Sugar • Bustle • Reader's Digest 

“Nothing short of sublime, and the territory [Mans'] explores...couldn’t be more necessary.”—Vogue

From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity.
 
With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous…


Book cover of Light at the Seam: Poems

Jane Harrington Author Of In Circling Flight

From my list on transporting readers to the Appalachian Mountains.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in the southern Appalachians, a place that boasts some of the most beautiful views on earth and laments some of the most ravaged landscapes. As a fiction writer who is passionate about nature and human rights, I’ve taken up my pen to craft a novel with regular people at its heart, all living regular lives that are disrupted by tragedies all too common to the region. This is the general throughline in the books I am recommending, although the themes differ. I’ve offered a variety of genres, as well, which best reflects my own bookshelf at my home in the hills. 

Jane's book list on transporting readers to the Appalachian Mountains

Jane Harrington Why did Jane love this book?

I’m including some verse in my list because there’s no better way to capture Appalachia’s mix of beauty and sorrow than with poetry. This collection by Joseph Bathanti, former poet laureate of North Carolina and longtime inhabitant of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lays bare the effects of mountaintop removal mining against a backdrop of the serene landscape it destroys. I don’t often read a book of poetry more than once, but I found myself skipping back through this one a lot, unable to turn away from the forsaken people and places of the poems. 

By Joseph Bathanti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Light at the Seam, a new collection from North Carolina poet Joseph Bathanti, is an exploration of mountaintop removal in southern Appalachian coal country. The volume illuminates and champions often invisible people residing, in a precarious moment in time, on the glorious, yet besieged, Appalachian earth. Their call to defend it, as well as their faith that the land will exact its own reckoning, constitutes a sacred as well as existential quest. Rooted in social and restorative justice, Light at the Seam contemplates the earth as fundamentally sacramental, a crucible of awe and mystery, able to regenerate itself and its…


Book cover of Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems

Caroliena Cabada Author Of True Stories

From my list on poetry during catastrophe.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher, I often talk with my students about current events and highlight how disasters can spiral. Wildfire seasons are worsening, storms are getting stronger, wars are starting and never-ending, and sometimes, my students express some despair in the face of such cycles. Though it’s not a cure-all for this anxiety, I encourage my students to try and create something from this existential worry. Rather than scrolling through all the bad things that cross our screens, creativity can help us imagine a better world to work towards. Poetry about disasters can help us see them through. 

Caroliena's book list on poetry during catastrophe

Caroliena Cabada Why did Caroliena love this book?

What I love most about this book is the strident, confident way the poems tackle our expectations about prose and poetic genres. Right from the collection's first poem, the book says that language is only the beginning; it still has its limits, though it can achieve longevity in the right conditions. 

However, my favorite poem of the collection is 'Shakespeare Doesn't Care,' a poem where Dove imagines Shakespeare’s confident, coy response to comments on his prolific, inimitable career. In doing so, she highlights how his work points the finger of judgment through time. Dove does this, too.

This is not a book of portents, nor is it strictly a celebration or mourning of an apocalyptic world; instead, it highlights the strange echoes of history.

By Rita Dove,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In her first volume of new poems in twelve years, Rita Dove investigates the vacillating moral compass guiding the world's experiments in democracy.

Whether depicting the first Jewish ghetto in sixteenth-century Venice or Black Lives Matter, this extraordinary poet never fails to connect history's grand exploits to the triumphs and tragedies of individual lives-the simmering resentment of a lift operator, an octogenarian's exuberant mambo, the mordant humour of a philosophising cricket.

Audaciously playful yet grave, alternating poignant meditations on mortality and acerbic observations of injustice, Playlist for the Apocalypse takes us from the smallest moments of redemption to apocalyptic failures…


Book cover of Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011

Hollis Robbins Author Of Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition

From my list on Black poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing and teaching about African American poetry and poetics for more than two decades. My passion began when I kept discovering long-lost poems that were published once, in Black newspapers, and then forgotten. I wondered why I had never learned about Gwendolyn Brooks in school, though I’d read about e.e. cummings and Robert Frost. Once I stumbled on the fact that Claude McKay discovered cummings, I realized how much the questions of influence and power aren’t really central topics in thinking about the genealogy of Black poets and their influence on each other and on poetry in general.

Hollis' book list on Black poetry

Hollis Robbins Why did Hollis love this book?

Marilyn Nelson’s poetry is staggeringly good, particularly the way she writes formal poems—sonnets!—in a humble voice, like her sonnet “From an Alabama Farmer.” Nelson’s poem “To the Confederate Dead,” with its epigraph by Allen Tate is a better poem than Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” with which it is in conversation. Nelson’s ‘wreath’ of sonnets, “A Wreath for Emmett Till,” is simply sublime.

By Marilyn Nelson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Conjuring numerous voices and characters across oceans and centuries, Faster Than Light explores widely disparate experiences through the lens of traditional poetic forms. This volume contains a selection of Marilyn Nelson's new and uncollected poems as well as work from each of her lyric histories of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century African American individuals and communities.

Poems include the stories of historical figures like Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old boy lynched in 1955, and the inhabitants of Seneca Village, an African American community razed in 1857 for the creation of Central Park. ""Bivouac in a Storm"" tells the story of a group…


Book cover of Felon: Poems

Keri Blakinger Author Of Corrections in Ink: A Memoir

From my list on to read in prison.

Why am I passionate about this?

Now, I’m a journalist who covers prisons—but a decade ago I was in prison myself. I’d landed there on a heroin charge after years of struggling with addiction as I bumbled my way through college. Behind bars, I read voraciously, almost as if making up for all the assignments I’d left half-done during my drug years. As I slowly learned to rebuild and reinvent myself, I also learned about recovery and hope, and the reality of our nation’s carceral system really is. Hopefully, these books might help you learn those things, too.

Keri's book list on to read in prison

Keri Blakinger Why did Keri love this book?

I read so much poetry in prison—words about survival, and loss, and absence. But one thing I did not read was poetry about people who’d been in prison like me, and wish I had. This poetry collection wasn’t out then, but I think I would have loved it if it were. 

By Reginald Dwayne Betts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In fierce, agile poems, Felon tells the story of the effects of incarceration-canvassing a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood and grace-and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the funk of post-incarceration existence in traditional and newfound forms, from revolutionary found poems created by redacting court documents to the astonishing crown of sonnets that serves as the volume's radiant conclusion.


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