10 books like The Year of No Mistakes

By Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Year of No Mistakes. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Spiking the Sucker Punch

By Robbie Q. Telfer,

Book cover of Spiking the Sucker Punch

I love this book. I am, of course, tremendously biased as someone who believes that humor is the best gateway to truth, and this collection of poems contains a lot of humor and no small amount of truth, and even some truth about humor in the form of “Clowns”, a tremendously moving piece about comedians which proves what I've always said, the only important thing to be serious about is comedy. For anyone who has ever done stand-up, that poem is seriously a must-read. But the whole book is a much-needed shot to the heart and funny bone.

Spiking the Sucker Punch

By Robbie Q. Telfer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Spiking the Sucker Punch, Robbie Q. Telfer's first published collection, the author profiles the modern comedian from the inside out - starting with the innards and moving toward a damaged laughter.  His work blends surrealism and narrative, bending grammar and expectations along the way.  These pieces interrogate identity, place, and lead the reader to a much higher understanding of bears.


It Starts from the Belly and Blooms

By Thomas Fucaloro,

Book cover of It Starts from the Belly and Blooms: Poems

Nothing says humanity like vulnerability about the messy, imperfect creatures we are, and this book has that in spades. (Or I guess, more appropriately, hearts.) I could talk about how the book is darkly funny and reveals hidden depths of the soul, but I'll admit one thing I love about it is that it contains one of the most beautiful, inspiring poems I've ever heard, one I share frequently, with some devastating lines and a real sense of hope that it's okay to feel broken and still fight on, and the poem is titled, “I Can't Believe I Let You Touch My Balls”.  It's like if that old piano player joke was real life.

It Starts from the Belly and Blooms

By Thomas Fucaloro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Starts from the Belly and Blooms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A strong dose of Bukowski, Breaking Bad, and brilliance. Intense and gripping, with splashes of outlandish humor, it is a full frontal assault on the challenges of modern life for outsiders. As award-winning poet Mark Bibbins raves, "Thomas Fucaloro is here and he is showing you his big messy heart. (Actually, if you're looking for other body parts, you'll find most of them in this book.). Poet Corrina Bain (louderARTS project) applauds the work: "It Starts from the Belly and Blooms dives facefirst into the glory and wildness of life, combining fearless authenticity, humor, and a gut-punching ear for images.…


The Last Time As We Are

By Taylor Mali,

Book cover of The Last Time As We Are

There's a good chance you're familiar with his poem “What Teachers Make”, from his other book. But this is the book that has his most poignant and human poems, including “Tony Steinberg: Brave Seventh Grade Viking Warrior”, which has long been one of my partner's favorite poems, and accomplishes in a few minutes of words what many Hollywood movies try and fail to accomplish with a full cast, two hours, and hundreds of millions of dollars: It alternately makes you laugh and cry. Which I say as someone who has seen it performed many times, and it still makes me laugh every time, and still makes me cry every time.

The Last Time As We Are

By Taylor Mali,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Time As We Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You don't need a classroom to be a teacher, and you don't need to be a teacher to help someone learn a lesson. Taylor Mali's poetry explores this truth in entertaining and plainspoken ways because "the last thing this world needs is another poem" ("The Call to What We Know"). Whether discussing the language of love or the love of language, the poems contained in The Last Time As We Are prove that "He who dares to teach must never cease to learn." Not since Taylor Mali has there been a poet the likes of Taylor Mali-he is a man…


We Were All Someone Else Yesterday

By Omar Holmon,

Book cover of We Were All Someone Else Yesterday

So, we often think of what is human as being vulnerable and real. Which this book is. But to me, the pinnacle of humanity is humor, and the ability to use humor even in tough times is what makes humanity great. Which this book also is. It's got tough times but it's got a whole lot of humor mixed in, from the funny bits in the sad poems, to full-on non-stop barrages of humor in poems like "Jesus Christ Super Toaster" which had me in hysterics when I saw it performed.

And I'm realizing from making my whole list, that's what I want. I want hilarious poems when I'm in a good mood, and when I'm feeling sad and human, I still want to explore that in a funny way.

We Were All Someone Else Yesterday

By Omar Holmon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Were All Someone Else Yesterday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hybrid text that deals most urgently in the articulation of growth and grief. After the loss of his mother, Omar Holmon re-learns how to live by immersing himself in popular culture, becoming well-versed in using the many modes of pop culture to spell out his emotions. This book is made up of both poems and essays, drenched in both sadness and unmistakable humor. Teeming with references that are touchable, no matter what you do or don’t know, this book feels warm and inviting.


The Blue Clerk

By Dionne Brand,

Book cover of The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos

I love this book. Dionne Brand conveys what it means to write through a crystalline web of ideas, poetry, and philosophy. Her profound, evocative, and real tale of imagined conversations between a poet and the clerk charged with dealing with their output is simultaneously familiar and fantastical. I got lost in the beauty of language only to be jolted into the realities of the world as it exists in all its beauty and awfulness. 

The Blue Clerk

By Dionne Brand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a lonely wharf a clerk in an ink-blue coat inspects bales and bales of paper that hold a poet’s accumulated left-hand pages—the unwritten, the withheld, the unexpressed, the withdrawn, the restrained, the word-shard. In The Blue Clerk renowned poet Dionne Brand stages a conversation and an argument between the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is the keeper of the poet’s pages. In their dialogues—which take shape as a series of haunting prose poems—the poet and the clerk invoke a host of writers, philosophers, and artists, from Jacob Lawrence, Lola Kiepja, and Walter Benjamin to John Coltrane, Josephine Turalba,…


No Other Life

By Gary Young,

Book cover of No Other Life

No Other Life combines three of Gary Young’s books into one volume. There is such unique style and quiet beauty to Young’s work. I am truly inspired by it. He has a knack for capturing the extraordinary in the mundane in brief but deep prose poems that grip the soul. 

Young was one of my professors in college and was a driving force for why I pursued a creative writing degree and chose to continue to write after graduating. His work will always hold a special place in my nature-loving creative heart.

No Other Life

By Gary Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Other Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No Other Life gathers in a single volume two earlier books by Gary Young, Days and the award-winning Braver Deeds, with the final book in his trilogy, If He Had. Utilizing a radically brief prose poem that in its spare lucidity leaves after images burned into the readers imagination, Young weaves a pattern of compelling and often harrowing correspondences that Ethan Paquin described in Quarterly West as an exploration of thresholds, of levels of human endurance. Although every poem stands as an independent utterance, each book suggests a discrete poetic unit, and the entire trilogy can be read as a…


A Place to Start a Family

By David L. Harrison, Giles Laroche (illustrator),

Book cover of A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

Given poet David L. Harrison’s background and interests (he holds science degrees from both Drury and Emory Universities), it should not be surprising to see his books show up on two of my lists. While he has published numerous poetry collections about animals, A Place to Start a Family stands out because of its tight focus – poems about animals that build nests, hives, and other types of homes – and the writer’s incredible talent for wordplay.

From ingenious internal rhyme to intriguing back matter to Giles Laroche’s masterful cut-paper illustrations, this work of creative nonfiction is equally at home in libraries and classrooms as it is on children’s bookshelves.

A Place to Start a Family

By David L. Harrison, Giles Laroche (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Place to Start a Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A poetry collection introducing animal architects that build remarkable structures in order to attract a mate and have babies.

Many animals build something--a nest, tunnel, or web--in order to pair up, lay eggs, give birth, and otherwise perpetuate their species. Organized based on where creatures live--underground, in the water, on land, or in the air--twelve poems bring fish, insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds to life. Back matter includes more information about each animal.

"A fine synthesis of poetry and science" — Kirkus Reviews

"An inviting introduction to a dozen industrious creatures" — Publishers Weekly


"A natural for classroom use, with…


The Explosive Expert's Wife

By Shara Lessley,

Book cover of The Explosive Expert's Wife

Shara Lessley and I met in Amman, Jordan, during the Arab Spring—both of us American writers whose husbands worked at the embassy. Poetry is not a staple of my reading diet, but Lessley’s poems are small, crystalline stories that perfectly encapsulate what it is like to be an American woman living in the Middle East during a time of potential instability. This volume is slim, but the Jordan that emerges is vast and unforgettable.

The Explosive Expert's Wife

By Shara Lessley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Explosive Expert's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In sparse, powerful lines, Shara Lessley recalls an expat's displacement, examines her experience as a mother, and offers intimate witness to the unfolding of the Arab Spring. Veering from the strip malls and situation rooms of Washington to the markets and mines of Amman, Lessley confronts the pressures and pleasures of other cultures, exploring our common humanity with all its aggressions, loves, biases, and contradictions.


Light at the Seam

By Joseph Bathanti,

Book cover of Light at the Seam: Poems

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. 

Light at the Seam

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…


The Collected Poems

By Sylvia Plath,

Book cover of The Collected Poems

As the years pass it seems to me that Sylvia Plath is not just one of the notable poets of the second half of the twentieth century but the stand-out voice after whom everyone had to refer back to her. Her death by suicide still stirs the imagination; her poems are a kind of controlled scream showing her wrestling with an intolerable mental condition.

The Collected Poems

By Sylvia Plath,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This comprehensive volume contains all Sylvia Plath's mature poetry written from 1956 up to her death in 1963. The poems are drawn from the only collection Plath published while alive, The Colossus, as well as from posthumous collections Ariel, Crossing the Water and Winter Trees.

The text is preceded by an introduction by Ted Hughes and followed by notes and comments on individual poems. There is also an appendix containing fifty poems from Sylvia Plath's juvenilia.

This collection was awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

'For me, the most important literary event of 1981 has been the publication, eighteen…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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