The best books about poets

Who picked these books? Meet our 73 experts.

73 authors created a book list connected to poets, and here are their favorite poet books.
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What type of poet book?



By Karl Shapiro,

Book cover of Edsel

Corey Mesler Author Of Memphis Movie

From the list on by poets.

Who am I?

Corey Mesler has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published over 25 books of fiction and poetry. His newest novel, The Diminishment of Charlie Cain, is from Livingston Press. He also wrote the screenplay for We Go On, which won The Memphis Film Prize in 2017. With his wife he runs Burke’s Book Store (est. 1875) in Memphis. I have a fondness for novels written by writers who are primarily poets. These five books are my favorites in that contracted genre.

Corey's book list on by poets

Discover why each book is one of Corey's favorite books.

Why did Corey love this book?

Shapiro’s Edsel appeared in 1971, well after Shapiro had established himself as one of America’s greatest poets and 25 years after he won the Pulitzer Prize. Like many novels by poets, the protagonist is a writer, in this case a poet named Edsel Lazerow. Also like many other novels in this grouping the setting is academia. I’m particularly fond of academic satires, from John Barth’s Giles, Goat Boy, to Richard Russo’s Straight Man, to the novels of British writer, David Lodge. Perhaps I enjoy these romps because I am a failed academic—I went to college for five years without getting a degree. They had the audacity to suggest that I take Zoology! Anyway, this novel is a hoot, and unjustly forgotten.

By Karl Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Shakespeare's Dog

By Leon Rooke,

Book cover of Shakespeare's Dog: A Novel

Theodore Irvin Silar Author Of Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

From the list on fiction set in the 16th century.

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University, and I have taught English for 30 years. I have studied and taught Shakespeare, Tudor drama, English linguistics, the Reformation, and various other aspects in the literary and cultural history of the 16th century. The 16th century is a time of great upheaval and the more I study it, the more I am fascinated by how pivotal this epoch is in the creation of the modern world, for better and for worse. I seek out books that chart, from grandest to most intimate, this momentous time’s transformations.

Theodore's book list on fiction set in the 16th century

Discover why each book is one of Theodore's favorite books.

Why did Theodore love this book?

Shakespeare’s Dog is the craziest Shakespearean book I’ve ever read. Not only is the young Stratford Shakespeare’s tale told by his dog, Hooker ̶ the dog speaks a kind of faux-Shakespearean: full of Elizabethan-esque vocabulary and syntax, Anglo-Saxon bawdry, new-coined usages of common words (“the wind flummoxed”; “I knelled the truth”).  Moreover, Rooke must really know his dogs. Because the dog-viewpoint (a frustrated Shakespeare “bites his toenails”) seems right on the money. The struggle of a prodigy youth and his prodigy dog to escape the tawdry, shallow, raucous banality of provincial small-town life is told with vividness, wit, and pathos.

By Leon Rooke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare's Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Will Shakespeare's dog, named Hooker, reports on the young poet and playwright's tumultuous Stratford household and on his and his master's shared and growing desire to be away to London

In Byron's Wake

By Miranda Seymour,

Book cover of In Byron's Wake

Diane Atkinson Author Of Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes

From the list on women’s history.

Who am I?

I have been researching, curating, and writing women’s history for 30 years. I curated the suffragette exhibition Purple, White, and Green at the Museum of London. I wrote The Suffragettes in Pictures; Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick; Elsie and Mairi Go To War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front; The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton, and Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes. I am a public historian, devoted to sharing my research and writing with all. I am a keen podcaster, Youtuber, and guest on television and radio. You could say I’m a heroine addict. I hope you love my recommendations.

Diane's book list on women’s history

Discover why each book is one of Diane's favorite books.

Why did Diane love this book?

At last! A book that places Byron’s wife, Annabella Milbank, and mathematician daughter, Ada Lovelace, centre-stage instead of the dusty wings of all previous books about this notorious and complicated man. It is the perfect book for anyone interested in Byron and his world, and more importantly for readers keen to consider a more nuanced account of his wife and daughter.

By Miranda Seymour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Byron's Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.

Ada didn't. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron's little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild…


By Don Tate,

Book cover of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Lisa Rogers Author Of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and the Red Wheelbarrow

From the list on biographies to inspire young poets.

Who am I?

I love sharing poetry with children! I became inspired to write poetic picture books during my 20-year career as an elementary school librarian. In class, we often read aloud, discussed, and performed poems. My students considered word choices, identified alliteration, metaphor, and simile, and developed a sophisticated vocabulary of “beautiful” words. They delighted in using their senses to write about special places and moments and did research to create and illustrate fact-based poems about people and animals. In exploring poetry and biographies of poets, students found inspiration and used their authentic voices to craft their own funny, engaging, and thoughtful poetry.

Lisa's book list on biographies to inspire young poets

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

I’m hooked when authors get to the heart of how someone finds their passion. That’s what Don Tate does as he spins the tale of how an enslaved boy, forbidden to learn to read and write, became a sought-after poet. Children will cheer for George as he teaches himself to read and becomes a published poet. They will hold their breath as George returns to his enslaver, and they will share his joy at his eventual freedom. Tate’s storytelling — this picture book biography brilliantly encompasses the hope, tension, and satisfaction of a story — shows that George’s physical bondage could not imprison his dreams. Through George’s fascinating story, children surely will be inspired to follow their own dreams.

By Don Tate,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George loved words. Enslaved and forced to work long hours, he was unable to attend school or learn how to read.

But he was determined―he listened to the white children's lessons and learned the alphabet. Then he taught himself to read.

Soon, he began composing poetry in his head and reciting it aloud as he sold fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the enslaved poet traveled quickly among the students, and before long, George had customers for his poems. But George was still enslaved. Would he ever be free?

Award-winning author-illustrator Don Tate tells an inspiring…

Set to Sea

By Drew Weing,

Book cover of Set to Sea

Ben Towle Author Of Oyster War

From the list on graphic novels set on the high seas.

Who am I?

I grew up and have often lived around water and ships—Norfolk, VA, Aiea, Hawaii, Savannah, Georgia—and I’ve always had a fascination with things nautical. As a cartoonist, I’m of course always on the lookout for comics that overlap with this interest. Curiously, these sorts of stories seem to be few and far between in the U.S. but more of a genre staple in Europe—France in particular. I tried to highlight here not just books that I particularly like, but books that are representative of the breadth and depth that the comics medium can offer in art style, tone, and intended audience. I hope you enjoy some of these as much as I have!  

Ben's book list on graphic novels set on the high seas

Discover why each book is one of Ben's favorite books.

Why did Ben love this book?

This is a beautiful little book in an interesting format—a single image per page—that tells the story of a poet whose romanticizing about life on the sea is put to the test when he’s shanghaied and made part of a crew of sailors heading for Hong Kong. Don’t be fooled by Drew’s stunning cartooning that evokes the glory of the heyday of newspaper cartooning (think E.C. Segar, Walt Kelly, etc.); this is a book for grown-ups. 

By Drew Weing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A poet is shanghaied and adventures on the high seas in this graphic novel: now in paperback.

The central character of Set to Sea is a big lug and an aspiring poet who runs up tabs at the local bars by day and haunts the docks by night, writing paeans to the seafaring life. When he gets shanghaied aboard a clipper bound for Hong Kong, he finds the sailor’s life a bit rougher than his romantic nautical fantasies, but he learns to live―and love―a Conradian life on the sea, all the while writing poetry about pirates, bad food, unceremonial funerals,…

How to Be Content

By Horace, Stephen Harrison,

Book cover of How to Be Content: An Ancient Poet's Guide for an Age of Excess

John Sellars Author Of The Pocket Epicurean

From the list on Epicureanism and its teachings.

Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.

John's book list on Epicureanism and its teachings

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

The Roman poet Horace was influenced by Epicurean ideas and they often feature in his work. This book forms a nice introduction to Horace and his works, with carefully chosen selections in both English and the original Latin. Horace might not be the first place that someone curious about Epicureanism would look, but he’s well worth reading, both in his own right and as a Epicurean author. 

By Horace, Stephen Harrison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be Content as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What the Roman poet Horace can teach us about how to live a life of contentment

What are the secrets to a contented life? One of Rome's greatest and most influential poets, Horace (65-8 BCE) has been cherished by readers for more than two thousand years not only for his wit, style, and reflections on Roman society, but also for his wisdom about how to live a good life-above all else, a life of contentment in a world of materialistic excess and personal pressures. In How to Be Content, Stephen Harrison, a leading authority on the poet, provides fresh, contemporary…

Book cover of My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson

James Sulzer Author Of The Voice at the Door

From the list on poets and politics.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I “discovered” the poetry of Emily Dickinson and put her verse to music. Later, at Yale University I delved deeper into the power of rhythms, the beauty of images, the clarity of insights—how they combine to create a genuine poetic voice that reveals an interior world. Politics, of course, define our interactions in the exterior world, and great novels meld these two elements—poetry and politics—into a seamless union. I’ve been inspired to write novels about two poets—Emily Dickinson and John Keats—to bring the reader into the intense, poetic world of their blazing interiors and their unique outward politics.

James' book list on poets and politics

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

In contrast to my first pick, My Wars are Laid Away in Books is a calm, scholarly, relentless search for the literal facts of the life of a great but enigmatic poet—Emily Dickinson. Habegger also shows considerable literary acumen in analyzing the context and vigor, and passions of Dickinson’s poetry. Though other biographies of Dickinson are better known, this is the one that gave me the best factual basis for my book, my intensely poetic novel about Dickinson’s personal politics and astonishing genius.

By Alfred Habegger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Wars Are Laid Away in Books as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Emily Dickinson, probably the most loved and certainly the greatest of American poets, continues to be seen as the most elusive. One reason she has become a timeless icon of mystery for many readers is that her developmental phases have not been clarified. In this exhaustively researched biography, Alfred Habegger presents the first thorough account of Dickinson’s growth–a richly contextualized story of genius in the process of formation and then in the act of overwhelming production.

Building on the work of former and contemporary scholars, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books brings to light a wide range of new…

Goodbye to All That

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of Goodbye to All That

Clark McCauley Author Of Radicalization to Terrorism: What Everyone Needs to Know

From the list on to understand the experience of men in combat.

Who am I?

Research Professor of Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. Since the 9/11 attacks I have tried to understand how normal individuals, people like you and me, can move to terrorism in particular and political violence more generally. I retired from teaching in 2015 to have more time to write. I’ve written about genocide (Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder), about self-sacrifice (The Marvel of Martyrdom: The Power of Self Sacrifice in a Selfish World), and about terrorism (Friction: How Conflict Radicalizes Them and Us). 

Clark's book list on to understand the experience of men in combat

Discover why each book is one of Clark's favorite books.

Why did Clark love this book?

Best known as the author of I, Claudius, poet Robert Graves writes movingly about his experience in World War I. He began as a patriotic young officer of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but life in the trenches, class conflict, bureaucracy, and loss of friends in combat made him a different man. A shell fragment pierced his lung at the Battle of the Somme; he was expected to die but somehow survived. His experience can be compared with Keegan’s account of the Somme. After the war he suffered from what today would be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—startled at loud noises and any smell that reminded him of poison gas in the trenches. I love this book because it brings poetic sensitivity to the experience and effect of combat.

By Robert Graves,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Goodbye to All That as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I: a hardcover edition of one of the best and most famous memoirs of the conflict.

Good-bye to All That was published a decade after the end of the first World War, as the poet and novelist Robert Graves was preparing to leave England for good. The memoir documents not only his own personal experience, as a patriotic young officer, of the horrors and disillusionment of battle, but also the wider loss of innocence the Great War brought about. By the time of his writing, a way of life had…


By Suzanne Slade, Cozbi A. Cabrera (illustrator),

Book cover of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Jasmine A. Stirling Author Of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

From the list on women writers and artists.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author who grew up in a family of painters, poets, sculptors, and novelists; people who designed their lives around, and dedicated their lives to, artistic expression. I knew I wanted to be a writer at age three when I began dictating a poem every day to my mom. I first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where I read my favorite of her novels, Persuasion.

Jasmine's book list on women writers and artists

Discover why each book is one of Jasmine's favorite books.

Why did Jasmine love this book?

This book inspired my family to start reading poetry together, to create playlists of poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and even to have a Calico Critters poetry reading with tiny dollhouse books (the elephants and hedgehogs are especially good poets). 

Exquisite’s extraordinary illustrations and playful prose, which honors Gwendolyn’s rhythms, take us through the poet’s childhood love of poetry—she begins writing as early as 7. Poetry is Gwendolyn’s world. Eventually, her poems are published—first in her neighborhood, then in her city and beyond—but they don’t pay the bills. Then one day a phone call delivers the news: She is the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize! I adored this book, about how art can elevate and bring joy to everyday life—with all its limitations—and gifted it to several families this year.

By Suzanne Slade, Cozbi A. Cabrera (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A picture-book biography of celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is known for her poems about "real life." She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty-showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression-all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to…

Burning Bright

By Tracy Chevalier,

Book cover of Burning Bright

Carol M. Cram Author Of The Muse of Fire

From the list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare.

Who am I?

I’ve loved the theater ever since I first stepped on stage in a high school production of You Can’t Take It With You. I had one line and was hooked! And as for Shakespeare–I fell in love with the Bard when I was 13 and saw Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. My best friend and I spent hours reciting the lines (I still remember whole speeches). So, when I was looking for an artsy subject (I love the arts) for my third novel, I naturally turned to the theater. I have a Master of Arts in Drama from the University of Toronto and when I’m not writing, I run Art In Fiction, a website showcasing 1700+ novels inspired by the arts.

Carol's book list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare

Discover why each book is one of Carol's favorite books.

Why did Carol love this book?

Tracy Chevalier writes the novels I want to write! I’ve read just about all of them and was particularly excited to discover Burning Bright. Chevalier’s depiction of London in the early 19th century is masterful, and hugely inspiring for me. Burning Bright is a coming-of-age story that centers around two children’s interactions with the great poet William Blake. I met Tracy Chevalier at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Oxford where she made my day by graciously agreeing to accept a copy of my first novel The Towers of Tuscany which was heavily inspired by her novels and even insisting that I sign it! 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the international bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard, comes a stirring eighteenth-century coming-of-age tale

In the waning days of eighteenth-century London, poet, artist, and printer William Blake works in obscurity as England is rocked by the shock waves of the French Revolution. Next door, the Kellaway family has just moved in, and country boy Jem Kellaway strikes up a tentative friendship with street-savvy Maggie Butterfield. As their stories intertwine with Blake's, the two children navigate the confusing and exhilarating path to adolescence, and inspire the poet to create the…

The Angel of History

By Rabih Alameddine,

Book cover of The Angel of History: A Novel

Tammy Lynne Stoner Author Of Sugar Land

From the list on queer books across time & genre.

Who am I?

I’m a serial mover, living in 18 cities in three countries (so far) – though that has settled down (kinda) now that my lady and I find ourselves with three kids + a fish, kitten, and 100-pound dog. Wherever we land, we single-handedly support the entire local restaurant industry. My debut novel was lucky enough to do well and has inspired a short film, which will hopefully usher it down the long road to TV series… 

Tammy's book list on queer books across time & genre

Discover why each book is one of Tammy's favorite books.

Why did Tammy love this book?

A few years ago we at Gertrude lit journal decided to answer the question that kept coming our way: What are some great books written by queer people with narratives that center on queer people? Before the pandemic made a mess of things, we ran GERTIE, a book club that chose two fabulous queer books every quarter. This was our very first book selection, and—like with many firsts, perhaps—it holds a special place.

The Angel of History takes place during one night in the waiting room of a San Francisco psyche ward when visits by the Devil and 14 Saints reveal the life of Jacob, a Yemen-born poet who was born in an Egyptian whorehouse. Yes, you read that right. 

By Rabih Alameddine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Washington Independent Review of Books, Literary Hub, and Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year

An Unnecessary Woman

won the California Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN Open Book Award and was a Best Book of the Year for the Washington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Amazon, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal

The Writer's Voice

By A. Alvarez,

Book cover of The Writer's Voice

Harriet Griffey Author Of Write Every Day: Daily Practice to Kickstart Your Creative Writing

From the list on by writers on writing.

Why this topic?

Where do writers go for distraction? For me it’s usually into the work of other writers and, when I’m done escaping into fiction, I turn to nonfiction and particularly those writers who write about writing. Why? Because it helps refresh my own writing to read those writing with clarity, insight, and coherence when my own process is in danger of fragmenting. What’s more, many writers write so well about the components of writing - voice, structure, narrative or even something as prosaic as getting started - that I am reassured about what I’m trying to do with my own writing.

Harriet's book list on by writers on writing

Discover why each book is one of Harriet's favorite books.

Why did Harriet love this book?

Talking of voice, finding your writer’s voice lies in the confidence that comes from effort and application. Alvarez was a poet, writer, critic, and poetry editor at The Observer newspaper in the 1960s, where he nourished the writing of Sylvia Plath and others. When you think of your favourite writers it’s usually their voice that grabs and sustains interest and trying to figure out your own, as a writer, can take time. Playing with other voices, trying them on for size, making one your own, is something Alvarez explores through his own insights about the work of Plath, Yeats, Jean Rhys, Freud, and others.

By A. Alvarez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'For a writer, voice is a problem that never lets you go, and I have thought about it for as long as I can remember - if for no other reason than that a writer doesn't properly begin until he has a voice of his own.' What makes good writing good? In his brilliant new book, Al Alvarez argues that it is the development of the voice - voice as distinct from style - that makes a writer great. A poet as well as a critic, Al Alvarez approaches his subject both as an informed observer and an insider. Here…

The Poet Tarot Guidebook

By Two Sylvias Press,

Book cover of The Poet Tarot Guidebook

Tania Pryputniewicz Author Of Heart's Compass Tarot

From the list on tarot improvisation for writers and artists.

Who am I?

I’m a poet, tarot muse, and artist whose childhood experiences with vivid night-time dreams and a handful of years on a commune in the cornfields ignited my passion for exploring inner imagery. I read voraciously from science fiction to fairytales to channelings. I discovered tarot in my twenties, using it to read for others, mend my broken heart, and get squared away enough to apply to graduate school for poetry in the heartland at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ever since, tarot is my favorite mirror for self-reflection. Author of two poetry collections, I wrote a workbook to help others apply the tarot in joyful, healing ways through writing and art.

Tania's book list on tarot improvisation for writers and artists

Discover why each book is one of Tania's favorite books.

Why did Tania love this book?

As a poet, I love the Poet Tarot, for which Two Sylvias Press matched Major Arcana and Court Cards with deceased British and American poets. The Guidebook offers a mini history lesson about each poet’s strengths and weaknesses, including psychological wellbeing, journey to publication, and sources of inspiration. Each chapter ends with suggested actions: “Remember and honor the inspirational women in your life,” (Gwendolyn Brooks as the Queen of Muses / Cups) and prompts: “Is there a project I’ve been afraid to undertake—why?” (ee cummings as The Fool). Taken collectively, the prompts provide a roadmap for a rich self-reflective inventory and the chance to write new poems based on the themes of each poet’s work. I love to use the exercises in the poetry workshops I teach.

By Two Sylvias Press,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Guidebook to accompany The Poet Tarot deck. Deck not included.

Letters to a Young Poet

By Rainer Maria Rilke, MD Herter Norton,

Book cover of Letters to a Young Poet

Mark David Gerson Author Of Writer's Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow

From the list on unlikely books to help you through creative blocks.

Who am I?

Ask successful authors how they started writing, and many will tell you that they always wanted to write. Not me! In fact, through most of my first 35 years, I resisted engaging with anything even remotely creative. I wouldn’t have called it “writer’s block” back then because, having no conscious desire to be a writer, how I could I be blocked? Yet writer’s block is what it was. That I was ultimately able to recognize it as such and get past it has given me a unique perspective on others’ writing challenges, as well as the skill and compassion to help them free up their innate creative potential.

Mark's book list on unlikely books to help you through creative blocks

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

There’s nothing in Letters to a Young Poet about craft, writer’s block, or any of the recognizable challenges faced by twenty-first-century writers. Yet this slender volume published more than a century ago speaks to writers everywhere and in every era, who so often work in isolation and, if they are to be true to their art and authentic within themselves, must rip open their souls and spill the contents onto the page without regard for others’ judgment and criticism. In fact, it speaks to anyone, non-writer as well as writer, whose sensitivity and feelings of not belonging make it sometimes feel impossible to express themselves out in the world. In the end, isn’t that what writer’s block is all about. It certainly was for me!

By Rainer Maria Rilke, MD Herter Norton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Letters to a Young Poet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born in 1875, the great German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke published his first collection of poems in 1898 and went on to become renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart. Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Those letters, still a fresh source of inspiration and insight, are accompanied here by a chronicle…

Pimp My Airship

By Maurice Broaddus,

Book cover of Pimp My Airship: A Naptown by Airship Novel

Errick Nunnally Author Of All The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2

From the list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue.

Who am I?

Errick Nunnally was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school was a safer pursuit. He enjoys art, comics, and genre novels. A graphic designer, he has trained in Krav Maga and Muay Thai kickboxing. His work has appeared in several anthologies of speculative fiction. His work can be found in Apex Magazine, Fiyah Magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, Lamplight, Nightlight Podcast, and the novels, Lightning Wears a Red Cape, Blood for the Sun, and All the Dead Men.

Errick's book list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue

Discover why each book is one of Errick's favorite books.

Why did Errick love this book?

I don’t often read “steampunk” because it usually reflects the Victorian era of England or a ‘what if’ scenario involving the Confederacy and I’m just sick to death of the subjects. Along came “steamfunk,” an addition to the genre where the focus wouldn’t be on exclusively white characters, but Black sourced from the African continent. Then once upon a time, Broaddus cracked a joke on Twitter: “I’m going to write a steampunk story with an all-Black cast and call it ‘Pimp My Airship.’ To his chagrin (and eventual delight) several editors asked to see the story. The worldbuilding in this story is phenomenal. It take place in Indiana, part of an alternate history where England has established a “United States of Albion” and Native Americans have managed to retain a sizeable chunk of territory. There’s so much more to the book in relation to history and cultural norms. I thoroughly…

By Maurice Broaddus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Warning: Don’t Believe the Hype!

All the poet called Sleepy wants to do is spit his verses, smoke chiba, and stay off the COP’s radar—all of which becomes impossible once he encounters a professional protestor known as (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah. They soon find themselves on the wrong side of local authorities and have to elude the powers that be.

When young heiress Sophine Jefferson’s father is murdered, the careful life she’d been constructing for herself tumbles around her. She’s quickly drawn into a web of intrigue, politics and airships, joining with Sleepy and Knowledge Allah in a fight…

My Name Is Why

By Lemn Sissay,

Book cover of My Name Is Why

Jools Abrams Author Of Girl in the Mirror

From the list on un-miserable memoirs with tricky family history.

Who am I?

I’ve been a life writer since I kept my first Mary Quant, Daisy diary in 1973. Reading and writing memoir, I’ve written thirty as a ghostwriter in the last six years and am working on my own. I’m fascinated by life stories. After an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, I won the Wasafiri Life Writing Prize, which led to a novel in biographical form, based on the life of my nan in the last century, Girl in the Mirror. I write stories, short and long, for adults and children, performing nationally and in London, was Writer in Residence for Talliston House, and have been published by Walker Books and Mslexia.

Jools' book list on un-miserable memoirs with tricky family history

Discover why each book is one of Jools' favorite books.

Why did Jools love this book?

Mixing official documents with real, remembered events, Lemn Sissay’s memoir is a search for identity, for his true name. Left in a home in Liverpool for unmarried mothers, he is moved between a series of foster and care homes, until he is given access to all his records in 2015, after a thirty-year campaign to find them. He finds who he really is. It’s an honest, poignant, unsettling, and heartfelt journey, revealing how a small boy’s life is shaped by ‘the authority’ and the faceless state. Complimented with inspiring poems and useful resources, this is a hopeful and helpful book. 

By Lemn Sissay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Name Is Why as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret? This story is how.

At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and…

Poet and Painter

By Claude Colleer, Anthony Bertram,

Book cover of Poet and Painter

Dave McKean Author Of Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash

From the list on Paul Nash.

Who am I?

I spent two years researching and creating the graphic novel Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash for the 14-18Now Foundations WW1 centenary art commissions, and then touring a live permanence work evolved from the book. We grew up a few miles from each other, and he convalesced after the war where I live now, and I share his sense of place, and we appear to have shared many life experiences, with the obvious exception being his time in the trenches - that was the huge black hole I tried to understand with this work.

Dave's book list on Paul Nash

Discover why each book is one of Dave's favorite books.

Why did Dave love this book?

More than any other book, this volume of letters between friends, and the unguarded insight they allow, gave me a sense of the man, his rhythms of speech, his manner of expression and his character. Career details and everyday mundanities mix with deeper concerns and the kind of excavation of ideas only really close and respectful friends can express.

By Claude Colleer, Anthony Bertram,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book bears witness to the staying power of Pre-Raphaelitism & illuminates the ambivalent, relatively uncritical response in England to the modern movement.

The Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Book cover of The Poet X

Alexandra V. Méndez Author Of What the Jaguar Told Her

From the list on the power of stories and finding your voice.

Who am I?

Stories and the myriad ways they’re told fascinate me. Growing up in Atlanta with Mexican and American heritage, I first learned about Mexican códices—centuries-old books that tell stories through images—on a trip to visit family in Mexico. Later, I studied the history and literature of Latin America at Harvard and got a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. I’ve studied storytelling in many forms, from Mesoamerican maps to early Spanish chronicles of exploration and invasion, to modern Latin American novels. The books listed here celebrate oral storytelling, written traditions, and artistic expression, and they take seriously the perspectives of young people.

Alexandra's book list on the power of stories and finding your voice

Discover why each book is one of Alexandra's favorite books.

Why did Alexandra love this book?

In this novel in verse, Elizabeth Acevedo beautifully evokes the landscape and feel of Harlem through the observant character of Xiomara Batista.

Having lived in upper Manhattan for years, I recognized the neighborhood in the vibrant descriptions. I identified with Xiomara’s need to express herself, how she fills the pages of her notebook with what she feels she can’t speak aloud. Her emotions as she confronts the challenges of friendship, romance, and family feel very real.

When a high school teacher opens up for her the world of spoken word poetry and a whole new set of possibilities for self-expression, I find myself rooting for Xiomara to be brave and take the steps she must take on her personal and artistic journey towards sharing her voice.

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Poet X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'I fell in love at slam poetry. This one will stay with you a long time.' - Angie Thomas, bestselling author of The Hate U Give

'This was the type of book where "I'll just do 50 pages" turned into finishing it in 2 reads. I felt very emotional, not just because the story and…

Ants Among Elephants

By Sujatha Gidla,

Book cover of Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan Author Of The Origin Story of India's States

From the list on discovering a modern India you’ve never seen.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by maps all my life. The map of India has always held special interest. As I’ve lived in different parts of India, I’ve seen firsthand how India is one country, but its stories are multiple. I chronicled India’s varied stories through the origins of each of its states. Similarly, I’ve curated a diverse and inclusive reading list. It covers different parts of the country and contains different types of books—graphic novel, travelog, memoir, and short story collections. The authors also cut across religion, gender, and social strata. I hope you discover a whole new India!

Venkataraghavan's book list on discovering a modern India you’ve never seen

Discover why each book is one of Venkataraghavan's favorite books.

Why did Venkataraghavan love this book?

We learn about our family and our place in the world through the stories our older generations tell us. This is such a memoirnot about the author but about her (famous) uncle and mother. To me, it has the feel of numerous family gatherings where old stories are dredged up and the youngsters listen with wide eyes and keen ears of a time before their time. Situated deep in the Telugu hinterland in the south, this memoir presents an intimate personal narrative layered with the communist and caste politics of the first decades after Independence.

By Sujatha Gidla,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Top 10 Nonfiction Book of 2017
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2017
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2017

"Ants Among Elephants is an arresting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and heralds the arrival of a formidable new writer." —The Economist

The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and revolutionary

Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables…

Pablo Neruda

By Monica Brown, Julie Paschkis (illustrator),

Book cover of Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

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

From the list on children’s books about writers.

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.

Elizabeth's book list on children’s books about writers

Discover why each book is one of Elizabeth's favorite books.

Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Monica Brown’s picture book biography of Pablo Neruda is a wonderfully written account of his life and the creation of his beautiful writing and poems that sing, even under the weight of tremendous struggles. The lyrical text soars on the page while Julie Paschkis’ colorful illustrations capture the heart and soul of the poet of the people. This is a must-read!

By Monica Brown, Julie Paschkis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A stunning picture book biography from Monica Brown and illustrator Julie Paschkis about one of the world's most enduring and popular poets, Pablo Neruda

Once there was a little boy named Neftalí who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly. From the moment he could talk, he surrounded himself with words. Neftalí discovered the magic between the pages of books. When he was sixteen, he began publishing his poems as Pablo Neruda.

Pablo wrote poems about the things he loved―things made by his friends in the café, things found at the marketplace, and things he saw in nature. He…