95 books like Sing, Unburied, Sing

By Jesmyn Ward,

Here are 95 books that Sing, Unburied, Sing fans have personally recommended if you like Sing, Unburied, Sing. 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 Lincoln in the Bardo

Alison L. McLennan Author Of The Secret Story of a Mormon Turned Madam

From my list on existential and experimental historical fiction.

Who am I?

My imagination opened a portal into the past. And then I found myself spending years researching, reading, and traveling to historical sites across the western United States. Upon visiting historical places, I sometimes become overwhelmed by a visceral sense that is difficult to describe but has compelled me to write about people and places whose stories and spirits are lost and forgotten. An anecdote about a madam in a local museum stirred around in my consciousness for many years before I started writing Ophelia’s War as my MFA thesis. 

Alison's book list on existential and experimental historical fiction

Alison L. McLennan Why did Alison love this book?

I loved this novel because it was haunting, historical, and existential with an experimental format that blew my mind almost like an intense meditation session.

While some people may find the experimental format jarring, it transported me to a surreal disorienting dimension similar to a dream or bardo state. If you’re not familiar with the Bardo, it’s worth researching.

The word Bardo in the title is what originally attracted me to the novel because of my interest in Buddhism. Yet the bardo in this novel reminded me more of Dante’s Inferno!

The technique used at the beginning to establish the time and setting was ingenious, yet I did wonder if it was entirely fiction or pulled from the historical record. It seems people either really love this novel or have some synapses blown. In my case, it was both. 

By George Saunders,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Lincoln in the Bardo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017 A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH 'A masterpiece' Zadie Smith 'Extraordinary' Daily Mail 'Breathtaking' Observer 'A tour de force' The Sunday Times The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns…


Book cover of Beloved

Donna Hemans Author Of The House of Plain Truth

From my list on haunting: how the past lingers with us.

Who am I?

I grew up in a culture that both fears and embraces spirits or outrightly rejects the idea that spirits live on beyond death. I grew up on stories of rolling calves and duppies that caused havoc among the living. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by what haunts us—whether it be our familial spirits that float among the living and continue to play a role in our lives, our memories, or our past actions. I’ve written three books that play with this idea of past actions lingering long into the characters’ lives and returning in unexpected ways.  

Donna's book list on haunting: how the past lingers with us

Donna Hemans Why did Donna love this book?

This book is a longtime favorite of mine. Toni Morrison was a master at blending the personal story and the political, and in this book, she blends the true story of a mother who kills her child to prevent slave catchers from returning the baby to life as a slave.

Morrison’s fictional Sethe is haunted by the ghost of the baby she killed and the memories of her difficult life as a slave. This is one of the novels I return to time after time, both for the beauty of the writing and the portrayal of a mother’s love, guilt, and the lingering impact of slavery.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours... Beloved is a heart-breaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all' Margaret Atwood, New York Times

Discover this beautiful gift edition of Toni Morrison's prize-winning contemporary classic Beloved

It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her…


Book cover of As I Lay Dying

Susan Scarf Merrell Author Of Shirley

From my list on that only get better with time.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, a teacher of writers in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton, and one of the founding directors of the novel incubation program, BookEnds. In the course of a year, I read as many as 125 novels. It can be tiring on the eyes, but I really love what I do. And each year, I make sure to return to some of my old favorites, the books that keep giving back to me more and more with each reading. Some of these books were tough to love at first, but over time, they’ve become the most important, loved novels in my library. Not everything or everyone needs to be easy to love!

Susan's book list on that only get better with time

Susan Scarf Merrell Why did Susan love this book?

I always try to find reasons to read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the painfully sad story of a family hauling their mother’s body to her hometown in order to bury her. Addie Bundren’s life has been sad and dreary, but the path to her resting place is even more so, replete with flood and fire, as well as a post-death monologue that contains one of the most psychologically complete rationalizations in literary history. Every time I read this book, I understand each of the Bundren family members more deeply, and have greater sympathy for the yoke their circumstance has harnessed them to.

By William Faulkner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked As I Lay Dying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people. And as the intense desires, fears and rivalries of the family are revealed in the vernacular of the Deep South, Faulkner presents a portrait of extraordinary power - as epic as the Old Testament, as American as Huckleberry Finn.


Book cover of The Lovely Bones

Gregg Dunnett Author Of Little Ghosts: My sister's name was Layla. I know who killed her. She told me.

From my list on blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

Who am I?

I’m not an expert on very much. Certainly not the biggest questions of all, such as are we really here, and if not, what’s this all about? But I’ve always enjoyed books that touch upon these questions and find a way to connect them to our everyday reality (I find them easier than actual philosophy). If I am well placed to curate this list, that’s why. I hope it reminds you how we all grapple with these same universal questions. How we all share our doubts and face the same fears. How we’re all whittled away by the same relentless flow of time. 

Gregg's book list on blurring the line between fantasy and reality

Gregg Dunnett Why did Gregg love this book?

I read this book years ago, but it stuck with me.

The idea that when a loved one dies they watch over us, wishing to end our pain, is a powerful one. And for a novelist it’s a rich seam to mine. And yet The Lovely Bones did it so well, that few have tried to follow where it leads.

Although it moves in a very different direction, my own book clearly owes a debt of inspiration to Alice Seebold and I couldn’t not make it first on my list.

By Alice Sebold,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Lovely Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling novel that inspired the acclaimed film directed by Peter Jackson.

With an introduction by Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

In heaven, Susie Salmon can have whatever she wishes for - except what she most wants, which is to be back with the people she loved on earth. In the wake of her murder, Susie watches as her happy suburban family is torn apart by grief; as her friends grow up, fall in…


Book cover of Annihilation

Dwain Worrell Author Of Androne

From my list on suspenseful science fiction.

Who am I?

To be honest, and this will sound strange, but suspense is the air I breathe. I’m a pretty calm, boring human being, and the only thing that gets my heart pumping are films, TV, books, and video games in this genre. Suspense and thrillers are genres that make up ninety percent of the entertainment that I consume, and one hundred percent of the entertainment that I write.

Dwain's book list on suspenseful science fiction

Dwain Worrell Why did Dwain love this book?

What can I say about Annihilation? It’s a novel where the reader isn’t quite sure what is going on, nor can any two readers agree on what they just read and that’s the amazing part about it.

Hypnosis, genetic deviation, and something utterly alien make this such an intense read. And that suspense is heightened because there is a level of mystery and weirdness in Jeff VanderMeer’s world, where things aren’t quite grounded in the reality that we are used to.

By Jeff VanderMeer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A contemporary masterpiece' Guardian

THE FIRST VOLUME OF THE EXTRAORDINARY SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY - NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ALEX GARLAND (EX MACHINA) AND STARRING NATALIE PORTMAN AND OSCAR ISAAC

For thirty years, Area X has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border - an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness.

The Southern Reach, a secretive government agency, has sent eleven expeditions to investigate Area X. One has ended in mass suicide, another in a hail of gunfire, the eleventh in a fatal cancer epidemic.

Now four women embark on the…


Book cover of The Shining

Ben Monroe Author Of The Seething

From my list on scary stories to bring on vacation.

Who am I?

I’ve been a fan of horror stories as long as I can remember. The sense of building dread, and the moment of release when the terrible thing happens. I love stories about people put in impossible situations, and seeing how they overcome them, and that’s what good horror brings to the table. Being an avid reader I always have a book with me. To me, picking the right book to take on a holiday is as important as choosing the right clothing. I certainly hope this list gives you some ideas for your next vacation read.

Ben's book list on scary stories to bring on vacation

Ben Monroe Why did Ben love this book?

Perhaps a trip to the mountains is more your style? Spend some time in a snowy cabin with a hot drink and a copy of this classic ghost story. If you’re only familiar with the film version of this tale, then buckle up, buddy.

The book goes places the film never could, and is very much worth the time. The set up and pay off are great, and the sense of isolation and dread which pervades the book is palpable. It’s a classic for a reason. I reread this book every winter, and it never gets old.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Before Doctor Sleep, there was The Shining, a classic of modern American horror from the undisputed master, Stephen King.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around…


Book cover of Wise Blood

Jon Bassoff Author Of Beneath Cruel Waters

From my list on that are relentlessly twisted.

Who am I?

When I completed one of my early novels, a really demented one called Factory Town, a fellow author emailed me with great concern for my mental health. He was convinced I was heading down a dark cave that I couldn’t be rescued from. But it wasn’t true. Writing and reading these dark novels doesn’t make me depressed. It makes me feel creatively revitalized. Dark literature reminds us that being alive is painful—but it’s also wonderful. I hope to never spend any real time with people as terrifying as the ones I’ve found on these pages. But I’m incredibly thankful they were a part of my imagined world for a time. 

Jon's book list on that are relentlessly twisted

Jon Bassoff Why did Jon love this book?

William Faulkner might have been the father of Southern Gothic, but Flannery O’Connor was the master. This is one of those books that makes you thankful for genius. Because everything about this book is genius. The story is about a young man named Hazel Motes who struggles to avoid his relentless fate. O’Connor’s writing is filled with religious extremism, grotesqueness, and mental illness—all the things that make America great. If I could have written a single book—this would be it.  

By Flannery O'Connor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor's first novel, is the story of Hazel Motes who, released from the armed services, returns to the evangelical Deep South. There he begins a private battle against the religiosity of the community and in particular against Asa Hawkes, the 'blind' preacher, and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter. In desperation Hazel founds his own religion, 'The Church without Christ', and this extraordinary narrative moves towards its savage and macabre resolution.

'A literary talent that has about it the uniqueness of greatness.' Sunday Telegraph

'No other major American writer of our century has constructed a fictional world so energetically…


Book cover of Heart-Shaped Box

Christopher Brett Bailey Author Of I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven

From my list on for headbangers.

Who am I?

My new book, I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven, is among other things, a love letter to heavy metal. I am a lifelong music obsessive: a record collector, concertgoer, maker of mixtapes, sewer of patch jackets. When I’m not writing or reading I’m playing guitar with the amp turned all the way up. And I have the tinnitus to prove it. Some of the books on this list are about metal, others are simply imbued with its rebellious dionysian spirit. But every damn one of them goes to 11, I can assure you of that. Enjoy!

Christopher's book list on for headbangers

Christopher Brett Bailey Why did Christopher love this book?

Debut novel by Stephen King’s kid.

A poppy, pulpy page-turner in the grand tradition of his father. In which an ageing rockstar obsessed with the morbid—think Ozzy or Alice Cooper—stumbles onto a newfangled website called “eBay” where one can seemingly buy anything one desires… and what does he buy? A human soul. And guess what? That ain’t good juju, so all heck breaks loose. 

By Joe Hill,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Heart-Shaped Box as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Buy my stepfather's ghost' read the e-mail.

So Jude did.

He bought it, in the shape of the dead man's suit, delivered in a heart-shaped box, because he wanted it: because his fans ate up that kind of story. It was perfect for his collection: the genuine skulls and the bones, the real honest-to-God snuff movie, the occult books and all the rest of the paraphanalia that goes along with his kind of hard/goth rock.

But the rest of his collection doesn't make the house feel cold. The bones don't make the dogs bark; the movie doesn't make Jude feel…


Book cover of Peace Like a River

Kelly Flanagan Author Of The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell

From my list on making you fall in love with male protagonists.

Who am I?

As a clinical psychologist, a man, and a human being on his own journey of healing and becoming, I suppose I’m interested in stories with struggling but lovable male protagonists because I’m the struggling male protagonist in my own life story, learning how to fall in love again with myself and my story and the little boy who lives on within me. The courage my clients show in the process of facing their pain and finding something beautiful in it is inspiring to me. I hope my life reflects that courage, too. And I want to write stories that give others hope and inspiration for this kind of healing, as well.  

Kelly's book list on making you fall in love with male protagonists

Kelly Flanagan Why did Kelly love this book?

When I was thirty-one, on a Marine base in Virginia, I had a spiritual awakening. I stepped out of my ego and saw it from the outside—this thing I’d thought was myself but was actually a persona I’d fabricated to protect myself. The experience left me no longer wanting to solve the mystery of life, but wanting to live in the mystery. Peace Like a River is the embodiment of this longing to live in the mystery of existence. Narrated by a young boy whose father’s mysterious, other-worldly powers are revealed again and again as his older brother faces and flees from murder charges, this book leaves you with the hope that the things we can’t see are even more graceful than we can imagine.

By Leif Enger,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Peace Like a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Israel Finch and Tommy Basca, the town bullies, break into the home of school caretaker Jeremiah Land, wielding a baseball bat and looking for trouble, they find more of it than even they expected. For seventeen-year-old Davey is sitting up in bed waiting for them with a Winchester rifle. His younger brother Reuben has seen their father perform miracles, but Jeremiah now seems as powerless to prevent Davey from being arrested for manslaughter, as he has always been to ease Reuben's daily spungy struggle to breathe. Nor does brave and brilliant nine-year-old Swede, obsessed as she is with the…


Book cover of Amy and Isabelle

Susan Beckham Zurenda Author Of Bells for Eli

From my list on impaired characters propeling the protagonists.

Who am I?

Susan Beckham Zurenda taught English for 33 years on the college level and at the high school level to AP students. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press, March 2020; paperback edition March 2021), has been selected the Gold Medal (first place) winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. She has won numerous regional awards for her short fiction. She lives in Spartanburg, SC.

Susan's book list on impaired characters propeling the protagonists

Susan Beckham Zurenda Why did Susan love this book?

In this exceptional story that I’ve read twice, Elizabeth Strout places a seemingly ordinary, though distant, mother and her shy teenage daughter in the provincial town of Shirley Falls, Maine, to create a stunning awakening in the daughter Amy and foster the admission of a long-hidden secret by Amy’s mother Isabelle. As much as Amy thinks her development is about her sexuality, it is more about forming a relationship with her lonely mother. After Amy learns her mother’s story, she learns her most important moment of identity has not been sexual initiation, but her self-acceptance. The relationship between mother and daughter fosters Amy’s coming of age. 

By Elizabeth Strout,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Man Booker Prize longlisted author of My Name is Lucy Barton

Isabelle Goodrow has been living in self-imposed exile with her daughter Amy for 15 years. Shamed by her past and her affair with Amy's father she has submerged herself in the routine of her dead-end job and her unrequited love for her boss. But when Amy, frustrated by her quiet and unemotional mother, embarks on an illicit affair with her maths teacher, the disgrace intensifies the shame Isabelle feels about her own past.

Throughout one long, sweltering summer as the events of the small town ebb and…


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