100 books like The Names of All the Flowers

By Melissa Valentine,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Light of the World: A Memoir

Cassandra Lane Author Of We Are Bridges: A Memoir

From my list on lyrical memoirs from the soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

My writing background started in the newsroom where, as a reporter, my job was to interview and tell the stories of others. At one point in my career, my editors assigned me a bi-monthly column, and while I used this space to write about a variety of issues happening in the community, I also used it occasionally to write personal essays. I love this form because the personal story helps us drill down on an issue and, in essence, make deeper connections with the collective. When I left the newsroom, I continued to study and write in essay and memoir form. In my MFA program, I was able to focus on this form exclusively for two years, and I have spent many years crafting my first book-length memoir into form. 

Cassandra's book list on lyrical memoirs from the soul

Cassandra Lane Why did Cassandra love this book?

I absolutely love when poets write memoirs. They bring their vision and facility for sparse and exact language to the task, and Alexander’s memoir about the loss of her beloved husband is a shining example of a story that is both full and tightly woven with imagery, emotion, and action. Her words and sentences slay you, then, like a battery, or rather, lightning, shock the stunned thing in your chest back to life again. How can we write beautifully about grief and pain in a way that also heals by the sheer power of language and deep reflection? This. This is how.

By Elizabeth Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Reflecting with gratitude on the exquisite beauty of the intimacy they shared, grappling with the resulting void, and finding solace in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander channels her poetic sensibilities into rich, lucid prose that universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss. THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD is both an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. For those who…


Book cover of Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

Cassandra Lane Author Of We Are Bridges: A Memoir

From my list on lyrical memoirs from the soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

My writing background started in the newsroom where, as a reporter, my job was to interview and tell the stories of others. At one point in my career, my editors assigned me a bi-monthly column, and while I used this space to write about a variety of issues happening in the community, I also used it occasionally to write personal essays. I love this form because the personal story helps us drill down on an issue and, in essence, make deeper connections with the collective. When I left the newsroom, I continued to study and write in essay and memoir form. In my MFA program, I was able to focus on this form exclusively for two years, and I have spent many years crafting my first book-length memoir into form. 

Cassandra's book list on lyrical memoirs from the soul

Cassandra Lane Why did Cassandra love this book?

Faithful to its title, this brilliant book starts with the body — an unspeakable injury to the narrator’s body, a crime, a horror. Bernard writes with a specificity that is gut-wrenching without being sensational. And all along, running alongside the sensory language is the author’s intellectual river, constantly washing over and over a moment, a scene, a feeling, a thought. This book includes twelve interconnected essays, each building on the other despite how many years – and miles – separate them.

By Emily Bernard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox: intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays, but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably. . . . Race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book.” 

In these twelve deeply personal, connected essays, Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south with a family name inherited from a white man, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North and…


Book cover of Season of the Body: Essays

Cassandra Lane Author Of We Are Bridges: A Memoir

From my list on lyrical memoirs from the soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

My writing background started in the newsroom where, as a reporter, my job was to interview and tell the stories of others. At one point in my career, my editors assigned me a bi-monthly column, and while I used this space to write about a variety of issues happening in the community, I also used it occasionally to write personal essays. I love this form because the personal story helps us drill down on an issue and, in essence, make deeper connections with the collective. When I left the newsroom, I continued to study and write in essay and memoir form. In my MFA program, I was able to focus on this form exclusively for two years, and I have spent many years crafting my first book-length memoir into form. 

Cassandra's book list on lyrical memoirs from the soul

Cassandra Lane Why did Cassandra love this book?

Brenda Miller, a former professor of mine, was one of the first people whose work opened up for me the endless possibilities in creative nonfiction and memoir. Season of the Body is a sumptuous collection of lyric essays that can teach the close reader how to come at a subject “sideways”. A flash essay offered by Creative Nonfiction magazine had a subtitle that reminds me of the genius of Miller’s book, “Distill experiences, big or small, into their purest essence.” Whether she’s writing about heartbreak or meditation, Miller’s poetic attention to detail and philosophical tone act as distiller.

By Brenda Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A memoir in essay form, with the body as its central reference point.


Book cover of Heart Berries: A Memoir

Brittany Means Author Of Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways: A Memoir

From my list on narrators who think and feel too fast and too much.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was a little guy, I've been told that I complicate things unnecessarily. I overthink and over-communicate, and often, my feelings are outsized to the situation. These are not things I do on purpose, but involuntary, like a sneeze or the way you reflexively clench with cuteness aggression when you see a grizzly bear’s little ears, even though you know it can hurt and eat and kill you. I love to find books with narrators who seemingly share this affliction. It makes me feel less alone, but more importantly, I love to see how other people's Rube Goldberg machines function.

Brittany's book list on narrators who think and feel too fast and too much

Brittany Means Why did Brittany love this book?

A very dear friend suggested this book to me, and for that, they are now a very, very dear friend. I was in the middle of trying to figure out my own unwellness when I started reading, and I think I needed to see the kind of scouring vulnerability that Mailhot put into this memoir.

There are scenes that still play in my mind and lines that haunt me. It made me think about how messy survival is, how ungraceful it is to have to claw your way to stability, and how carefully you can create your own new kind of grace in telling that story.

By Terese Marie Mailhot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Winner of the Whiting Award for Non-Fiction
Selected by Emma Watson as an Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick

'I loved it' Kate Tempest
'Astounding' Roxane Gay
'A sledgehammer' New York Times

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on an Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalised and facing a dual diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder, Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma.

The triumphant…


Book cover of Homie: Poems

Sidik Fofana Author Of Stories from the Tenants Downstairs

From my list on poetry collections with the best sense of voice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love hip hop. It’s basically poetry with a beat. I'm always thinking of literature in terms of rhythm and delivery. Creatively, my inspirations come from lyricists. I look at poets the same way. They accomplish wonderful feats with words. From years of listening to classic albums, I can feel the aliveness of a good verse. It’s also an element I try to tap into as a fiction writer. I'm a recipient of the 2023 Whiting Award and was also named an Emerging Writer Fellow at the Center for Fiction in 2018. My work has appeared in the Sewanee Review and Granta. He is the author of Stories from the Tenants Downstairs. 

Sidik's book list on poetry collections with the best sense of voice

Sidik Fofana Why did Sidik love this book?

It’s funny because he wanted to call it My Nigs, but didn't like the idea of white people saying, I loved your collection My Nigs!

That first poem “My President” just floored me with how he heralded all his friends by nominating them for office, like “the boys outside Walgreens selling candy/ for a possibly fictional basketball team” or the guy who hooks him up with a free slice of pizza as long as Danez gives him time to say salat.

There’s a poem about getting beat up, at once an act of violence and an act of care for while they're beating you up, they’re weirdly making sure they don’t kill you. 

By Danez Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR THE 2020 NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR POETRY
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 NAACP IMAGE AWARD FOR POETRY

Danez Smith is our president

Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can…


Book cover of Go Tell It on the Mountain

Elisabeth Åsbrink Author Of 1947: Where Now Begins

From my list on memory and oblivion.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Hungarian father was 7 years old when he almost got deported to Polen by the Nazis, but was miraculously saved by his mother. He came to Sweden, where I´m born, and never looked back, completely focused on the future. So I, his only child, focus on memory and oblivion. It´s like we stand back to back—or like I´m a seamstress, trying to stitch the past with the present. In my British mother´s family history is Salonica, the magical Jewish city in the Ottoman Empire. My Spanish-Jewish grandfather spoke the same Castillian dialect that Cervantes used to write Don Quijote. And I´m born in Sweden. These are my universes and where my writing is born.  

Elisabeth's book list on memory and oblivion

Elisabeth Åsbrink Why did Elisabeth love this book?

I only recently started to read James Baldwin and am blown away by his intensity and poetic language. In this first novel he describes the world of his childhood in Harlem, NY. It is American identity, history, and passion, it´s a portrait of a young man as well of the wounds of slavery hurting in every individual born into the American system. And it’s a beautiful story.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go Tell It on the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came.'

Originally published in 1953, Go Tell it on the Mountain was James Baldwin's first major work, based in part on his own childhood in Harlem. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson…


Book cover of Waiting to Exhale

Sheri Langer Author Of Love-Lines

From my list on novels about romance, rejection, and betrayal that pair well with tubs of ice cream.

Why am I passionate about this?

My parents split up when I was six. I escaped from my sadness by reading stories about love and relationships and exploring how others went about the business of living and coping. I married young for security and to have a big family of my own. I succeeded. I have four amazing kids, but after years of wedded chaos, I too was divorced. As a single mom, I set out in search of my own identity and went back to novels to help me find myself. Though I’ve since been fortunate to find my happily ever after, I still enjoy characters that feel like friends who offer warmth, hope, and comfort. 

Sheri's book list on novels about romance, rejection, and betrayal that pair well with tubs of ice cream

Sheri Langer Why did Sheri love this book?

As a white Jewish woman, I know I’m not the authority on the systemic issues inherent in romantic relationships in Black culture, but the good news is, this novel doesn’t require me to be. Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria, and Robin, four Black, thirty-something women navigating their way through love in the nineties, is a story that transcends race. 

As I read about their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and pain, I recognized myself. Through McMillan’s clear voice, I was able to step into each character’s shoes and feel my way through their experiences. I also learned that a cheating guy’s car is an easy target- memorable!

Flavor Pick: Cookies and Cream

By Terry McMillan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of four vibrant black women in their thirties. They draw on each other for support as they struggle with careers, divorce, motherhood and their relationships with men.


Book cover of Blood Grove

Michael R. Lane Author Of The Gem Connection

From my list on African American mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an avid reader, I read a wide variety of books. Of the fiction genre mystery and suspense remain my favorite. From the classics to the gritty, a well-told mystery is a literary gem. As my mystery palette has aged—like my taste in wine—so are my demands of what makes a good mystery novel. The best mysteries for me contain more than a serpentine journey toward the hidden truth. They have intriguing characters, crisp dialogue, interesting settings, formidable foes, and of course indispensable heroes or anti-heroes. My writing goal is aimed at achieving the same level of literary penmanship of the mysteries I enjoy reading so much.

Michael's book list on African American mysteries

Michael R. Lane Why did Michael love this book?

Easy Rawlins is an African American private detective in 1960s Los Angeles. Easy gets a visit from a troubled Vietnam veteran at his office. The vet tells an implausible story of him and his lover being attacked in a citrus grove outside the city. He may have killed the man. The woman and his dog are missing. Rawlins’ gut tells him the case is nothing but trouble. He takes the case anyway. The bond between veterans overriding all other concerns. Blood Grove is an exhilarating, mystery soup involving moguls, sociopaths, cops, hippies, extremists, and swindlers. Requiring Easy to call upon help from his friends. Friends who range from genius to lethal. I loved going along with Easy on this case. Admiring his resolve and intelligence in solving the mystery.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is an unlicensed private investigator turned hard-boiled detective always willing to do what it takes to get things done in the racially charged, dark underbelly of Los Angeles.

But when Easy is approached by a shell-shocked Vietnam War veteran- a young white man who claims to have gotten into a fight protecting a white woman from a black man- he knows he shouldn't take the case.

Though he sees nothing but trouble in the brooding ex-soldier's eyes, Easy, a vet himself, feels a kinship form between them. Easy embarks on an investigation that takes him from…


Book cover of Invisible Man

Matthew Daddona Author Of The Longitude of Grief

From my list on philosophical novels I can’t stop thinking about.

Why am I passionate about this?

Philosophical novels challenge rather than appease. They subvert. They obscure. As a former acquisitions editor at major publishing houses, I am confounded by the scarcity of chances taken on books that don’t fit the status quo or, are "difficult." I am most interested in how books—even when they meander and cavort—lead to surprising and unsettling revelations. Or how they don’t lead to revelations at all but keep the reader guessing as to when some semblance of grace will be achieved. I don’t wish to sound pessimistic; if anything, I wish to be realistic. Philosophical novels are reflections of life, which is often confusing, contradictory, and, yes, difficult. With a touch of grace for good measure.

Matthew's book list on philosophical novels I can’t stop thinking about

Matthew Daddona Why did Matthew love this book?

Perhaps the most “realistic” novel of this bunch, Ralph Ellison’s National Book Award-winning novel follows an unnamed black narrator’s life in a small southern town, as detailed through his memories, dreams, and desires.

Ellison didn’t intend to write a “protest novel,” apparently, but it has become exactly that: a protestation of the inequities of an American system designed to keep Black people in the shadows. The novel’s voice, though singular, is representative of an entire social movement. A perfect novel. 

By Ralph Ellison,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Invisible Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. 

He describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," before retreating amid violence and confusion.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for…


Book cover of A Little Yellow Dog

Dianne Pearce Author Of Simona's Son

From my list on making you want to write your own damn book.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading voraciously at age 4, and read Camus by 6th grade, which is why it made sense that I was so into Pink Floyd, my favorite album of theirs being Animals, which is super depressing. I then studied writing extensively with some great writers, getting my MA and MFA, and teaching writing at colleges from 1991-2021. Along the way I became an editor, a writing coach, ran a writing workshop for 7 years, and started a publishing company. I know good writing when I see it versus crap, and I can tell for sure in about 300 words. I also fall hard for books, and do want to marry them

Dianne's book list on making you want to write your own damn book

Dianne Pearce Why did Dianne love this book?

I've met Mr. Mosely a few times, and he's a helluva guy.

This is my favorite of the Easy Rawlins series. Mosley writes in my favorite genre, hardboiled, and he's perfect Chandler, but with two important distinctions: his books teach us about being in a Black man's shoes in a white man's world, and we can never learn that well enough, and Easy is a genuinely good person, and there are not nearly enough of him.

He is good to his bones, to his soul, and we all want him to succeed: we're with him from the first line, and we all get religion praying for him to make it all the way, not to solving the crime, but to solving the mystery of living life well, and on his own terms.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Yellow Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With each succeeding mystery featuring his reluctant detective (and natural-born existentialist) Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley gains new fans and builds on what is now recognized as a permanent addition to American crime writing. His current book is A Little Yellow Dog--another instant classic of suspense, style, and shrewd social observation.

It's 1964. Easy Rawlins has given up the street life that has brought him so much trouble and grief. He's taken on a job as supervising custodian of Sojourner Truth Junior High School in Watts. For two years he's been getting up early and going off to work. He wears…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in African-American men, violence, and murder?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about African-American men, violence, and murder.

African-American Men Explore 34 books about African-American men
Violence Explore 93 books about violence
Murder Explore 961 books about murder