The best books about authors

6 authors have picked their favorite books about authors and why they recommend each book.

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By T.W. Neal,

Book cover of Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii

T.W. Neal grows up with parents who opt to live on a sparsely populated Hawaiian island, not wearing clothes, surfing, smoking Marijuana, and eating magic mushrooms. The family lives in a van or in housing with few modern amenities and the author attends school on the island only sporadically. Due to her mother’s mental illness and her father’s alcohol abuse, she at times, has to run the household. With difficulty she connects with relatives and a few teachers and begins to reach for a lifeline to break free from the life her parents chose. She wants to go to college and eventually is able to leave the island and pursue a mainstream life. It is astounding that a person growing up in such circumstances would have the desire and determination to forge a different life.

Who am I?

I became involved in a rigid religious movement as a teen and prepared for the ministry at a fundamentalist college and seminary. I took this ideology to its logical extreme and became a foreign missionary. I know from the inside how such an ideology takes hold of a person and how difficult it is to escape its grasp, especially when family and career are intertwined. Through my own struggle with depression and anxiety, I scoured books to help understand myself and faith development, eventually earning a Ph.D in counseling, emphasizing developmental theory. I know from personal experience what it means to walk away from a way of thinking that has defined much of your life.

I wrote...

The Long Surrender: A Memoir about Losing My Religion

By Brian Rush McDonald,

Book cover of The Long Surrender: A Memoir about Losing My Religion

What is my book about?

The author becomes a Jesus freak during during high school in the seventies and unwittingly slides into fundamentalist Christianity. Terrified by the teaching of hell, he decides to become a fundamentalist preacher, eventually going with his family to Taiwan as missionaries for seven years. He loves Taiwan but questions about his faith plague him, he struggles with depression and anxiety. Later he is a pastor in the U.S. for many more years, misgivings about his faith ever-present--searching for a way out. Finally, after 30 years, he walks away from the pulpit to begin a different life.

Star Child

By Ibi Zoboi,

Book cover of Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler

My love affair with Octavia Butler began early when I encountered her short story collection, Bloodchild, in college. I was so taken with the questions she was asking about the nature of being human, our seemingly innate need to form a hierarchy and dominate others, and possibilities for freedom and transformation. The best part was that she did it all through a sci-fi that she infused with a distinctly Black feminist perspective. I had never read anything like it. And now, we finally have a biography for young people (and really for everyone) about her life, her mind, and preoccupations as a young woman. Ibi Zoboi has deftly penned what she is calling a "biographical constellation" of a young Butler, written primarily in short poems, but also including micro-essays on the social context of her youth, and copies of some of her first writings. Anyone with an imagination…

Who am I?

I love stories and storytelling of all kinds – from YA to memoir to journalism to children's picture books. If there is a story worth telling I will pursue it, regardless of genre. I'm particularly fascinated by stories that are out of the mainstream, are hidden, or come from people and cultures at the intersections of place, race, and gender. See No Color, about a mixed Black girl adopted into a white family, was my first YA novel, and it was followed by Dream Country, which chronicles five generations of a Liberian and Liberian American family. I co-edited an anthology on BIPOC women's experiences with miscarriage and infant loss, What God Is Honored Here?

I wrote...

See No Color

By Shannon Gibney,

Book cover of See No Color

What is my book about?

Alexandra Kirtridge is a 16-year-old baseball prodigy. She's also a mixed Black girl adopted into a white family, who wonders about her racial identity, where she fits in in her family and among her peers. Then she discovers letters from her Black birth father that her white adoptive parents have kept from her and is propelled into a journey that changes her life forever.

The Boys of My Youth

By Jo Ann Beard,

Book cover of The Boys of My Youth

Technically, this is not a book about marriage. It’s not even really a book about divorce, although there is one. It’s really a book about men and love and the kind of longing we carry with us from the time we first discover sex in our teens all the way through middle age and its discontents. Although the book is technically a series of essays, it is really one long extended chronology of boys met, men married, risks taken, failures unanticipated. You will laugh, cry and cringe in recognition. 

Who am I?

I’m a novelist, essayist, and short story writer who finds domestic life as fascinating and complex as any board room battle or historical event. I love books about marriage and family because so few people are willing to talk honestly about them. Finding a great book is like meeting a new friend who is willing to tell you their secrets and then share hard-won advice. 

I wrote...

Good Neighbors

By Joanne Serling,

Book cover of Good Neighbors

What is my book about?

Living in a community means going along with certain unspoken social norms. But where is the line between conformity and complicity? Good Neighbors tells the story of four families who live on a cul-de-sac and enjoy each other’s company at barbeques and dinner parties. They say they're ‘like family’ but hardly know each other. Their fragile bonds are soon tested when one of the couples, Gene and Paige Edwards, adopt a child from Russia. Questions soon emerge about the couple’s parenting and whether they're subtly abusing their newly adopted daughter. Told from the point of view of Nicole Westerhof, a woman with her own troubled family relationships, Good Neighbors forces readers to define for themselves what it means to be a good-enough parent and to live in an engaged and caring community. 

Journeys Without a Map

By Marion Molteno,

Book cover of Journeys Without a Map: A Writer's Life

Award-winning novelist Molteno takes us on a mesmerising journey of discovery, tracing the origins of her fictional worlds. From the mountains of Tajikistan to remote parts of Africa, in small English towns or huge Indian literary festivals, she engages with people she meets and is inspired by them. Through these vignettes she threads reflections on the creative process—why we write, and what fiction does for us. Through Marion’s clear and involving writing, we encounter not one but several truly remarkable women, as she weaves the emergence of her writing life into her own much-travelled and absorbing story.

Who am I?

I’ve always adored stories of courageous, sometimes outrageous women who forge ahead into the unknown, survive in strange lands in troubled times, pursue their career dreams. Like my favourite picks, I’ve relished my own adventures in distant countries (Libya, Czechia, Kyrgystan, Mongolia…), while always earning my crust from writing. From motivational research in Dublin and London, I switched to financial journalism in Holland, where I met and was inspired by ground-breaking journalist Nel Slis whose story I’ve told in my book Hellcat of the Hague. Now I’m settled in London to concentrate on my novels and short stories and be near my family, I hope you love these books too.

I wrote...

Hellcat of The Hague: The Nel Slis Story

By Caroline Studdert,

Book cover of Hellcat of The Hague: The Nel Slis Story

What is my book about?

I unearth the riveting tale of pioneering Dutch woman journalist Nel Slis, the first Associated Press correspondent in The Hague after WWII. From remote island origins via European adventuring, nursing Finnish war-wounded and wartime monitoring for the BBC to reporting on Dutch Queens, royal scandals, emerging Europe. With no lack of lovers but losing the one she would have married, she fights on and wins many battles, becoming a legend in her own time: the magnetic and trustworthy woman journalist every other journalist wants to interview and emulate. I hope her story, which would otherwise have been lost, will inspire many more generations of adventurous women to crack glass ceilings and achieve their dreams.  

Daydream's Daughter, Nightmare's Friend

By Nonnie Jules,

Book cover of Daydream's Daughter, Nightmare's Friend: One Woman's Journey Through Two Hells

I've always heard there are two sides to every story. Generally, this means a good side and a bad, or at least one with some sort of a redeeming perspective. But what does a person do when both sides are equally hellish? For Maiya, it means she truly is Daydream's Daughter and Nightmare's Friend. It seems as though the insufferable miseries will never end. This book is deeply emotional and compelling. The author describes the events in vivid detail creating a sense for the reader of being there in the midst of it all. The book immediately captures your attention, and page after page keeps you wondering what will happen next. An excellent story by an excellent author.

Who am I?

While the subject matter of the books on my list may vary, the thing that ties them together is the suspenseful tension that builds and keeps the reader on edge. The unexpected twists and turns are the "secret sauce"  that adds flavor and fervor. I like the way each of these books keeps your mind from wandering by combining vivid imagery with a compelling storyline. As an author myself, I am always fascinated by those who make it look so easy and effortless. And as an avid reader, I constantly search for these kind of books; the kind that make you feel as if you just have to keep reading.

I wrote...

Over My Dead Body

By Bruce A. Borders,

Book cover of Over My Dead Body

What is my book about?

When the director of Child Protective Services uses his position to exact a personal vendetta in removing three-year-old Ashley from her home, a protective father, Jeff Blake, puts up a fight. The situation quickly becomes violent and by the end of the short encounter, three people are dead. Ironically, Ashley is still taken.

To further complicate matters, Amy, the wife and mother, winds up in a mental ward due to the trauma she witnessed in her home. Ashley is placed in foster care, while the family’s attorneys attempt to salvage what they can and re-unite the family. The police, as well as the courts, understandably, are not too concerned with the needs of the family and it seems the entire justice system is against them.

First Things First

By Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill

Book cover of First Things First

Covey is internationally acclaimed for The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. However, I have a penchant for his also famous First Things First, a gem with visceral concepts that stick like honey in the brain. 

For example, the brilliance behind “Quad Two”—shorthand for items and to-dos that are important yet not urgent. Because they are not pressing, the things (and people) that matter most often get waylaid—propelling us into a life missing our passions and aspirations. Only cropping back up when they do become urgent—such as neglecting health until we can’t fully function.

And who can proceed in life unchanged following his introduction of the “Big Rocks” concept. I won’t do a spoiler alert. Let’s just say it merges prioritization with a singletasked focus.

Finally, I’m a sucker for the thoughtful worksheets nestled throughout First Things First.

Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.

I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

Rise Up Singing

By Cecelie Berry,

Book cover of Rise Up Singing: Black Women Writers on Motherhood

This anthology brings together diverse Black women’s voices to discuss motherhood, they range from mothers who celebrate their role to women who ask why motherhood is cast upon all of us as a necessary step, they explore the joys as well as some of the painful realities of loss and postpartum depression. Reading these stories from varied perspectives in short essay formats makes it approachable and allows you to move through it at a pace that is comfortable for any reader.

Who am I?

Anna Malaika Tubbs is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation. She is also a Cambridge Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a BA in Anthropology, Anna received a Master’s from the University of Cambridge in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. Outside of the academy, she is an educator and DEI consultant. She lives with her husband, Michael Tubbs, and their son Michael Malakai.

I wrote...

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

What is my book about?

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes.

These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers. These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.

If You Want to Write

By Brenda Ueland,

Book cover of If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Writers often struggle to think of themselves as “writers” because the world has us believing that we can only carry that title if we are successfully published, and of course words such as “success” and even “published” can be fraught with subjective controversy. One of the lessons I learned from Brenda Ueland, among other great thinkers, is that we need to focus first on our own authenticity and only much, much later dare we think about what the world might have to say. This allowed me to let go and move on and trust myself on my writing path. It wasn’t easy, but as emphasized in If You Want to Write, we will be all right if we believe in our inner richness.  

Who am I?

As a published author with an MFA in Writing, I know how hard writing can be in terms of how to find a muse, employ an elusive craft, and deal with the soul-shaking consequences of digging deep. But as a survivor of life, including multiple moves, broken relationships, alcoholism, illness, and debilitating grief, I've also experienced the transformative power of writing. I took that belief into the community, and developed writing workshops for cancer survivors, women facing domestic violence, and many other people wrestling with trauma and illness, often recommending some of these books in my workshops. And along the way, I’ve witnessed time and again what the written word can do. 

I wrote...

Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer,

Book cover of Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

What is my book about?

Life can be hard. When we get knocked off our feet and into the muck, writing can sometimes offer the leverage we need to climb out. Inspired by dozens of writing workshops for cancer patients, domestic violence survivors, and others seeking inner truth, Writing Through the Muck offers thoughtful insight and encouragement for anyone who wants to discover holistic wellness through the written word.

You’ll find: surprising evidence that shows why writing is good for you; easy-to-use tools and techniques to awaken thoughts and memories; dozens of poems and quotes to enlighten and motivate; fresh, new ways to look at yourself and your stories; and more than fifty creative writing prompts that will get you going on your journey to growth and healing today.

The Shining

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Shining

At age 13, this book scared me. As an adult, it left me sad. Everyone remembers the movie with Jack Nicholson chasing his son through a frozen maze, but in King’s novel, Jack Torrance is an alcoholic father struggling to care for the gifted son he doesn’t fully understand. In a rare tender moment, Jack breaks the Overlook Hotel’s hold long enough to express his love for Danny and urge him to run away—from the demons of the hotel, but also from the demons inside Jack.  Perhaps everyone, at some point, is afraid of his or her father. In The Shining, love and fear are intertwined.              

Who am I?

When I started writing my novel A Better Heart, the focus was not on fathers and sons, but from the moment the narrator’s estranged father walked through the door, I knew their relationship would drive the story. As a reader, I enjoy following characters as they navigate the potholes of their lives, and family often present the biggest holes. Our primary relationships are with our parents, and their influence is a big part of who we become as adults. Exploring that bond often makes great fiction. My father died of cancer ten years ago. In writing about fathers and sons, perhaps I’m trying to imagine a different ending.          

I wrote...

A Better Heart

By Chuck Augello,

Book cover of A Better Heart

What is my book about?

For aspiring indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey, it’s another day on the set of his first film, but when his estranged father, a failed Hollywood actor, arrives unexpectedly with a bundle of cash, a gun, and a stolen capuchin monkey, he’s propelled toward the journey that will change his life. A heartbreaking yet comic family drama, A Better Heart examines the human-animal bond and the bonds between fathers and sons, challenging readers to explore their beliefs about the treatment of non-human species.

“A promising new literary voice.” - Kirkus Reviews. “Augello has crafted a sweet, funny character study…madcap and accomplished, this comic novel boasts big surprises, heartfelt characters, and a passion for animal rights.” - Booklife

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen

By Deborah Hopkinson, Qin Leng (illustrator),

Book cover of Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl

A luminous portrait of Jane Austen chocked full of spirited text and shimmery illustrations that capture the times. The story highlights the beginnings of Austen’s great career as a novelist from her youngest days all the way to famous writer. It’s a great addition to any classroom or library. Like Jane Taylor before her, Austen’s success paved the way for women authors to come.

Who am I?

I’m an author and a college writing professor with an MFA in Creative Writing. Additionally, I am involved in and teach other art forms and the humanities including music, film, and literature. I enjoy researching and writing about literary figures, musicians, and other creatives, all of which have been a focus in my children’s books.

I wrote...

Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars

By Elizabeth Brown, Becca Stadtlander (illustrator),

Book cover of Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars

What is my book about?

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Did you ever wonder who wrote that famous verse?

In the days when most girls were brought up to run a home, Jane Taylor had a different kind of education in the English countryside, where she was inspired by nature and the stars, and dreamed of becoming a writer. But in the late 1700s, it was not considered proper for women to be writers. Jane and other female poets were shunned, unable to use their own names when published. But Jane did write, and she never forgot her love for the beauty of nature and the glow of stars, or her desire to write for children. Her published poetry became universally known for generations to come: Twinkle, twinkle little star.

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