The most recommended Walt Whitman books

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to Walt Whitman, and here are their favorite Walt Whitman books.
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What type of Walt Whitman book?


Jeb and Dash

By Ina Russell (editor),

Book cover of Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life, 1918-1945

Jeff Stookey Author Of Acquaintance

From the list on revealing LGBT life in the early 20th century.

Who am I?

I’ve known all my life that I am gay. At age 50 I decided to try my hand at writing. After an image of two men kissing in a 1920s vehicle landed in my head, I began writing my Medicine for the Blues trilogy (Acquaintance is book one). But knowing nothing about LGBT history, I began a deep dive into gay and lesbian history, into the history of Portland and Oregon, into the era of the 1920s, the KKK, Prohibition, Freud, eugenics, and more. During 20 years of writing the trilogy, I’ve read dozens of books that roiled through my imagination and the information spilled out in the story.

Jeff's book list on revealing LGBT life in the early 20th century

Why did Jeff love this book?

A valuable first-person account in real time describing what it was like to be gay in early 20th century USA. Jeb is well-read in the homosexuality literature of his era, from Havelock Ellis to Walt Whitman. One sympathizes with Jeb’s shame and misery in a time when being homosexual was socially unacceptable and illegal. Yet his self-pity and social ineptitude can be exasperating. In time he makes some gay friends, but he is often ambivalent toward them. Eventually he does develop some confidence and self-assertiveness. Most admirable is his love of culture (books, art, movies, stage plays, concerts) and his affection for nature (weather, plants, scenery, etc.) which he describes so exquisitely. By sloth and lack of dedication, Jeb never achieved his ambitions as a writer, but he did leave us these diaries that so well describe his singular life.

By Ina Russell (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It occurred to me today with something of a shock how horrible it would be for this diary of mine to be pawed over and read unsympathetically after I am dead, by those incapable of understanding... And then the thought of the one thing even more dreadful and terrible than that - for my diary never to be read by the one person who would or could understand. For I do want it to be read - there is no use concealing the fact - by somebody who is like me, who would understand.
Jeb Alexander was a gay man…

Leaves of Grass

By Walt Whitman,

Book cover of Leaves of Grass

Blythe Roberson Author Of America the Beautiful?: One Woman in a Borrowed Prius on the Road Most Traveled

From the list on nature and freedom.

Who am I?

Since I was a kid I’ve loved being outdoors, scrambling up rocks and smelling trees, exploring. But during the years I worked an office job in New York City, I was able to hike and feel truly free only rarely. So I quit my job to go on a Great American Road Trip to national parks and other natural areas in our country. Here are some of the books that, to me, best encapsulate that feeling of loving nature so much it opens up whole worlds inside of you.

Blythe's book list on nature and freedom

Why did Blythe love this book?

A bookseller once said to me, “There are your heroes, and there are your heroes heroes.” Walt Whitman is both.

He is the OG. I love the man so much that the first tattoo I ever got was a line from one of his poems. Whitman can write a poem whose premise is basically “What’s the deal with grass?” and make you weep. He can write a 50-page poem that I actually want to read and that, my friends, is a magic trick.

If you love travel and nature and being alive you can read my new book or you can just read the Whitman poem “Song of the Open Road.” I need to move on to the next rec before I convince myself to get another Walt Whitman tattoo.

By Walt Whitman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Features several of Whitman's most famous poems including 'I Hear America Singing', 'I Sing the Body Electric' and 'One's-self I sing'.

Black Spring

By Henry Miller,

Book cover of Black Spring

David Thorpe Author Of Hybrids

From the list on books that changed my life.

Who am I?

I love books that boggle my mind. Take me away from mundane reality. That’s the kind of book I like to write.

David's book list on books that changed my life

Why did David love this book?

As a young man I had a prolonged bout of mental illness. What saved me was my struggle to become a writer. This was my secret identity. I had to find other writers to inspire me, whose books offered hope, and could help me channel the restless energy that I felt within that had not yet found a purpose. I found such a writer in Henry Miller.

Miller is out of fashion now, even though George Orwell called him "the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past". Like DH Lawrence, he tangled with the censors repeatedly – to his credit.

He was as uncompromising about his art as Lawrence. Unlike him, he had no hang-ups about moralism and guilt. Far from it. Reading him was like sipping nectar. It was a tonic for the mind. His exuberant language was…

By Henry Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Continuing the subversive self-revelation begun in Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, Henry Miller takes readers along a mad, free-associating journey from the damp grime of his Brooklyn youth to the sun-splashed cafes and squalid flats of Paris. With incomparable glee, Miller shifts effortlessly from Virgil to venereal disease, from Rabelais to Roquefort. In this seductive technicolor swirl of Paris and New York, he captures like no one else the blending of people and the cities they inhabit.

The Maze of Bones

By Rick Riordan,

Book cover of The Maze of Bones

Jo Watson Hackl Author Of Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

From the list on to inspire curiosity and exploration.

Who am I?

To me, curiosity is an essential ingredient for a well-lived life. I love to ask questions and spent years collecting odd, weird, and intriguing facts and studying outdoor survival, art history, historical puzzles, and poetry to write Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. Curiosity also led me to found as a free resource for information and inspiration about nature and to research ways that time in nature increases focus and creativity. One of my favorite parts of being an author is visiting with students and exploring things that they are curious about. Curiosity keeps life interesting for us all.

Jo's book list on to inspire curiosity and exploration

Why did Jo love this book?

I love how The Maze of Bones, the first in a set of series written by acclaimed and award-winning children’s authors, transports readers across the globe to explore historical connections that still resonate today. The book takes readers along with sister and brother Amy and Dan Cahill as they compete against talented and treacherous members of their own family to try to solve a series of thirty-nine clues that will make the finders “the most powerful, influential human beings on the planet.”

I admire how The Maze of Bones explores the complex connections among family and across time and weaves in real-life historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin and lesser-known facts such as that Franklin used the pseudonym Richard Saunders to publish Poor Richard’s Almanac. The Maze of Bones takes readers from Boston to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute and Independence Hall and to the catacombs of Paris and it…

By Rick Riordan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family's power was hidden around the world in the form of 39 clues? What if you were given a choice - take a million dollars and walk away ...or get the first clue and begin the search? At the reading of their grandmother's will, Dan and Amy are given this choice - and they take the clue. Immediately, they are caught in a dangerous race against their own family members. The hunt…

Book cover of Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight: 200 Inspired Recipes from the Master of New World Cuisine

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Author Of The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers

From the list on reads for when you’re hungry.

Who are we?

Our obsessions with food and history mean that recipes are not the end of the journey, but the beginning. Recipes are an answer to a whole host of questions, challenges, and opportunities, and those are the stories that interest us. A recipe with no history is like the punch line with no preceding joke, incomplete at best.   

Andrew's book list on reads for when you’re hungry

Why did Andrew love this book?

Norman Van Aken is known internationally for introducing "fusion" into the lexicon of modern cookery as the founding father of New World Cuisine. 

Van Aken found his cooking voice in Key West by marrying Caribbean ingredients and spices with classic cooking techniques. 

He wrote this landmark book while helming Key West's Mira restaurant, where he showcased lobster terrine with caviar on a champagne yogurt dressing, curried carrot and chicken soup, and grilled marinated shrimp and chorizo.

Chef Charlie Trotter once called Van Aken, “the Walt Whitman of American Cuisine.” That would make this book his “Leaves Of Grass.” Poetry indeed.

By Norman Van Aken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the New World. The tastiest, most imaginative cooking in America today comes not from the East Coast or the West Coast but the South Coast, especially Florida. That's where Norman Van Aken, Florida's most celebrated chef, has created New World Cuisine, a passionate marriage between the vibrant flavours of the South, Southwest, Latin America, and the Caribbean and the classic techniques of Europe and the Mediterranean. Here are big, bold flavours exquisitely prepared and beautifully presented, from a true master who, in these 200 glorious recipes, happily reveal his secrets to the home cook.


By Rufo Quintavalle,

Book cover of Shelf

Daniel Levin Becker Author Of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature

From the list on poetry from the outposts of potential literature.

Who am I?

I’ve always been preternaturally attentive to the way words work—as components of meaning, but also as visual, aural, and functional objects with their own erratic behaviors. Since joining the Oulipo in 2009, I’ve had even more occasion to think and talk about how those behaviors can be pointed in a literary direction, and to recognize successful experiments when I read them. 

Daniel's book list on poetry from the outposts of potential literature

Why did Daniel love this book?

A full-length rewrite of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” that preserves only the first and last letter of each line, Shelf is a consummate work of potential literature—from the “why on earth would someone do that” all the way to the “wait, this is actually dope.” Without ever estranging himself from Whitman’s transcendentalist trumpeting, Quintavalle burrows deep into the poem’s form and instills a disenchanted eloquence all his own.

By Rufo Quintavalle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Poetry. In this poem, Rufo Quintavalle has rewritten Walt Whitman's Song of Myself keeping the first and last letter of each line, and replacing the middle. Within this strict constraint, Quintavalle the poet has achieved a remarkable and touching intimacy at a distance with Whitman's inner world.

Belligerent Muse

By Stephen Cushman,

Book cover of Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War

Candice Shy Hooper Author Of Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War--For Better and for Worse

From the list on William Tecumseh Sherman.

Who am I?

I was fated to write about war. Born on Guam to a Navy hospital corpsman and his intrepid wife, I spent four years on tank-littered beaches of Saipan and sailed to Japan on a U.S. Navy LST at the age of seven. When I graduated from college with a major in journalism, a Navy man, the late great Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson hired me as his press secretary, and we talked military history even as he made it in Afghanistan. Thirty-three years later, I went back to school for an MA in History. As I write, my great grandfather’s bugle from the Spanish-American War and the flag that covered my father’s coffin at his Arlington Cemetery funeral sit atop my shelves of military history books.

Candice's book list on William Tecumseh Sherman

Why did Candice love this book?

If Marszalek’s book is thin on any aspect of Sherman it is on his writing — the eloquent, powerful weapon he brandished during the war and the efficient, versatile tool with which he constructed his legacy in his Memoirs.

As a young man, the letters he wrote to his foster sister and future wife Ellen contained carefully constructed sentences with descriptive flourishes; as an adult, he borrowed liberally from his love of Shakespeare and the theater to craft his persona in his Memoirs.

Cushman, an award-winning poet and historian, places Sherman’s writing in the context of four other Northern writers (Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Chamberlain) who were inspired by the “belligerent muse” — war. You will treasure this book, which is unlike any other book about history or literature you’ve ever read.

By Stephen Cushman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

War destroys, but it also inspires, stimulates, and creates. It is, in this way, a muse, and a powerful one at that. The American Civil War was a particularly prolific muse--unleashing with its violent realities a torrent of language, from soldiers' intimate letters and diaries to everyday newspaper accounts, great speeches, and enduring literary works. In Belligerent Muse, Stephen Cushman considers the Civil War writings of five of the most significant and best known narrators of the conflict: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Considering their writings both as literary expressions and as…


By Emily Skaja,

Book cover of Brute: Poems

Andrea Blythe Author Of Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale

From the list on women reclaiming their own power.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated fairy tales, folklore, and horror since I was a child, drawn to these strange stories in which wondrous and terrifying things happen. In many of these tales, the women often lack a sense of agency or control over their lives and work for a better life within the limitations of their situation. The act of retelling these stories provides space to explore this lack of power and how these women might find clever or unusual ways to reclaim it. In particular, I’m interested in the ways characters might make use of the danger or darkness around them to carve their own path in the world. 

Andrea's book list on women reclaiming their own power

Why did Andrea love this book?

In her stunning poetry collection, Brute, Emily Skaja navigates the dark corridors of trauma at the end of an abusive relationship. Exploring the intersections of both love and violence, these poems have a mythic quality to them, with the narrator seemingly struggling to survive the brutality of a fairy tale world longing to gobble her up. At the same time, the fantastical elements of these poems are balanced by the present moment, with cell phones, social media, and other current technologies evoking a kind of modern magic that holds sway over our lives. The poems in this collection take the reader on a journey from sorrow to rage, guilt, hope, self-discovery, and reinvention.

By Emily Skaja,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Selected by Joy Harjo as the winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets

Emily Skaja’s debut collection is a fiery, hypnotic book that confronts the dark questions and menacing silences around gender, sexuality, and violence. Brute arises, brave and furious, from the dissolution of a relationship, showing how such endings necessitate self-discovery and reinvention. The speaker of these poems is a sorceress, a bride, a warrior, a lover, both object and agent, ricocheting among ways of knowing and being known. Each incarnation squares itself up against ideas of feminine virtue and sin, strength and vulnerability,…


By Mary Oliver,

Book cover of Upstream: Selected Essays

Deirdre Heekin Author Of An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir

From the list on wine, love, and landscape.

Who am I?

I am a winegrower, farmer, writer, photographer, and pop-upeuse. I fell in love with food and wine while living and working in Italy, then returned stateside to create an homage to the people and place that embraced us and taught us so much. That endeavor--the restaurant osteria pane e salute opened with my chef husband Caleb Barber—was where I curated the wine program and became passionate about wines farmed artfully. I began working as a winegrower in 2007, a personal landscape experiment that led me down the rabbit hole of growing and making wine from hybrid varieties focused on regenerative viticulture and low intervention winemaking.

Deirdre's book list on wine, love, and landscape

Why did Deirdre love this book?

Mary Oliver, as a poet and an essayist, writes with a lyric sword. Upstream is a collection of essays that reflect her willingness to lose herself in the mysteries and intricacies of the natural world. In this work, Oliver contemplates the joy of her work, her passionate eye for observation, her ability and responsibility to write and think about the flora and fauna, the flowers, the grass, the water, the sky, and how they connect us to the natural world, to each other, and to ourselves.

The sheer power of her writing and command of language has always drawn me in, what pushes me as a person, a farmer, and a writer to give into the “stream” of our consciousness, to stop and observe, but to also keep moving forward with the power of words and my experience of the world around me.

By Mary Oliver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of O, The Oprah Magazine's Ten Best Books of the Year

The New York Times bestselling collection of essays from beloved poet, Mary Oliver.

"There's hardly a page in my copy of Upstream that isn't folded down or underlined and scribbled on, so charged is Oliver's language . . ." -Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

"Uniting essays from Oliver's previous books and elsewhere, this gem of a collection offers a compelling synthesis of the poet's thoughts on the natural, spiritual and artistic worlds . . ." -The New York Times

"In the beginning I was so young and such…

A Worse Place Than Hell

By John Matteson,

Book cover of A Worse Place Than Hell: How the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg Changed a Nation

Brian Matthew Jordan Author Of A Thousand May Fall: An Immigrant Regiment's Civil War

From the list on laying bare the human ordeal of the Civil War.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War my entire life. As a boy, I met a man in my Ohio hometown who spent his own youth visiting with the last, wrinkled survivors of the Union armies. His memories at once made the Civil War real and immediate for me. I soon devoured every book and walked every battlefield I could find. After earning an undergraduate degree in Civil War Studies at Gettysburg College, I completed my Ph.D. at Yale. I have authored six books on the conflict—one of which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer in History—and teach courses on the Civil War at Sam Houston State University.   

Brian Matthew's book list on laying bare the human ordeal of the Civil War

Why did Brian Matthew love this book?

John Matteson is a deft prose stylist who once more delivers in this engrossing narrative of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of five key protagonists—including the poet Walt Whitman and a young Louisa May Alcott. The characters wind up on the murderous battlefields and teeming hospital wards of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The title is admittedly deceptive; readers expecting an operational or tactical history of Ambrose Burnside’s rout on the Rappahannock won’t find it here. On the other hand, those interested in a searing meditation on all that the war did to individual human bodies and minds—and the collective American soul—will savor this haunting, smart, and elegant book.  

By John Matteson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Worse Place Than Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

December 1862 drove the United States towards a breaking point. The Battle of Fredericksburg shattered Union forces and Northern confidence. As Abraham Lincoln's government threatened to fracture, this critical moment also tested five extraordinary individuals whose lives reflect the soul of a nation. The changes they underwent led to profound repercussions in the country's law, literature, politics and popular mythology. Taken together, their stories offer a striking restatement of what it means to be American. Guided by patriotism, driven by desire, all five moved towards singular destinies. A young Harvard intellectual steeped in courageous ideals, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr confronted…


By David S. Reynolds,

Book cover of Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

Michael Burlingame Author Of The Black Man's President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality

From the list on Lincoln as an anti-racist.

Who am I?

As a college freshman, I was profoundly affected by a mesmerizing, Pulitzer-Prize-winning professor and Lincoln scholar, David Herbert Donald, who became an important mentor. I was drawn to Lincoln as source of personal inspiration, someone who triumphed over adversity, one who despite a childhood of emotional malnutrition and grinding poverty, despite a lack of formal education, despite a series of career failures, despite a woe-filled marriage, despite a tendency to depression, despite a painful midlife crisis, despite the early death of his mother and his siblings as well as of his sweetheart and two of his four children, became a model of psychological maturity, moral clarity, and unimpeachable integrity.

Michael's book list on Lincoln as an anti-racist

Why did Michael love this book?

As I read through this “cultural biography,” I was delighted to find that among the many subjects he covers, the distinguished author devoted much attention to the racial climate of antebellum America, for, as he put it, Lincoln’s “attitudes toward race must be measured against those of the surrounding culture. Only then can we responsibly come to a conclusion about this crucial topic.”

That responsible conclusion: Lincoln was “leftist abolitionist who loathed racism” and a “radical anti-racist.” A literary scholar, Reynolds notes that Lincoln “cunningly surrounded” seemingly racist pronouncements “with phrases that pointed in a radically abolitionist direction.”

Moreover, Reynolds rightly insisted that only by examining Lincoln’s “personal interchange with black people” can “we see the complete falsity of the charges of innate racism that some have levelled at him.”

By David S. Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now an Apple TV+ documentary, Lincoln's Dilemma, airing February 18, 2022.

One of the Wall Street Journal's Ten Best Books of the Year | A Washington Post Notable Book | A Christian Science Monitor and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020

Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Abraham Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award

"A marvelous cultural biography that captures Lincoln in all his historical fullness. . . . using popular culture in this way, to fill out the context surrounding Lincoln, is what makes Mr. Reynolds's biography so different and so compelling . . . Where did…

The Spider's Thread

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

Paul Thagard Author Of Balance: How It Works and What It Means

From the list on metaphor.

Who am I?

I became interested in metaphor and analogy as a graduate student in philosophy of science in the 1970s. Important scientific ideas such as natural selection and the wave theories of sound and light were built from metaphors and made to work by analogical thinking. In the 1980s, I started building computational models of analogy. So when I got interested in balance because of a case of vertigo in 2016, I naturally noticed the abundance of balance metaphors operating in science and everyday life. Once the pandemic hit, I was struck by the prevalence of the powerful metaphor of making public health decisions while balancing lives and livelihoods. 

Paul's book list on metaphor

Why did Paul love this book?

In the 1980s and 1990s, Keith Holyoak and I collaborated on a series of articles and books about analogy, which is the underpinning of complex metaphors. His new book is a delightfully insightful discussion of metaphors in poetry, drawing not only on his deep knowledge of cognitive psychology but also on his experience as a highly published poet. Through analysis of great poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and many others, he illuminates how metaphors contribute to beautiful poems and to creativity in general.  

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An examination of metaphor in poetry as a microcosm of the human imagination—a way to understand the mechanisms of creativity.

In The Spider's Thread, Keith Holyoak looks at metaphor as a microcosm of the creative imagination. Holyoak, a psychologist and poet, draws on the perspectives of thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics—and from the sciences—psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists. He begins each chapter with a poem—by poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda—and then widens the discussion to broader notions of metaphor…


By Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Book cover of Demonology

Richard Hardack Author Of Not Altogether Human: Pantheism and the Dark Nature of the American Renaissance

From the list on to reassess the nature of nature.

Who am I?

I received my Ph.D. and J.D. at Berkeley, and my next book Your Call is Very Important to Us: Advertising and the Corporate Theft of Personhood, is forthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield. My research into literary and legal history made me fascinated with how people project hopes and fears onto the social construct of nature. How does one explain the contradictory ways white men imagined they could transcend painful isolation by merging into a nature coded as non-white and female? These fantasies play out in popular culture, e.g. in Avatar, in which men seek the unobtanium they lack: a nature that was always lost/a retroactively-constructed fantasy, and a cover for what it seemed to oppose—finally the corporation.

Richard's book list on to reassess the nature of nature

Why did Richard love this book?

Though it focuses on dreams and the occult, the ulterior subject of Emerson’s Demonology is the arcane inversions, doublings, and “unconscious” of transcendentalism. Between many of Emerson’s pronouncements falls this shadow of Demonology, which provides key tenets of his philosophy. Demonology is the cumulative residue of an attempt to explain away that which resists Emerson’s theory that nature is consistent, explicable, rational, and benign. Encapsulating the uncanny, and the inexplicable forces of dreams, animals, and pseudosciences, Demonology consolidates all that is “outside” and negated for Emerson—everything that is, in his terminology, “not me.” Demonology locates the cracks in Emerson’s consciousness, as well as the hobgoblins in his notion of Reason. Emerson’s conception of nature here is notably modern, and often sounds Lacanian—the demonological exception or irrational, that which cannot be fully understood or described, is the necessary anomaly or remainder on which the universality of nature depends.

By Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'"The name Demonology covers dreams, omens, coincidences, luck, sortilege, magic and other experiences which shun rather than court inquiry, and deserve notice chiefly because every man has usually in a lifetime two or three hints in this kind which are specially impressive to him. They also shed light on our structure."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson is one of the most influential thinkers in American history. His Transcendentalism preached a close communion with man and nature and is one of the great life-affirming philosophies of any age. As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson embraced a philosophy…

We Contain Multitudes

By Sarah Henstra,

Book cover of We Contain Multitudes

Michael Cart Author Of Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism

From the list on beautifully capturing gay teens’ lives and loves.

Who am I?

I’ve been a full-time writer since 1994 and have so far published twenty-seven books, three of them with gay themes: My Father’s Scar, a gay coming-of-age novel and two about LGBTQ+ issues: Top 250 LGTBQ Books for Teens and The Heart Has Its Reasons, a history of queer literature. I’ve been interested in this literature since I was a gay teen myself, because there were no YA books with queer characters then. I missed seeing my face in the pages of a good book and so I promised myself that when I became an adult. I would make sure there was an ample assortment for today’s queer kids. And, guess what? I’ve kept my promise!

Michael's book list on beautifully capturing gay teens’ lives and loves

Why did Michael love this book?

Here’s another book that I love because it’s a story about love, the love of two boys who are unlikely companions: one is a former football player, taciturn and withdrawn; the other is openly gay, a short, slender, fine-boned boy who idolizes the poet Walt Whitman, whose words become a leitmotif of this remarkable novel. Told in the form of. letters that the two boys exchange, it follows their emerging friendship as it gradually turns into a love that’s as poetic as Whitman’s well-chosen words. The relationship of the boys – who are characters to die for – is riveting and their story, unforgettable. Another terrific addition to gay literature for teens.   

By Sarah Henstra,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam 'Kurl' Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and familial abuse, Jonathan and Kurl must struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship, and each other.We Contain Multitudes is the sort of novel that has readers falling in love with their characters, becoming so invested in their stories and conflicts that it's impossible to put the book down. The literary languages and references throughout (particularly to…

Book cover of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Justin Martin Author Of A Fierce Glory: Antietam--The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery

From the list on for experiencing the vivid reality of the Civil War.

Who am I?

My specialty is American history, meticulously researched, but delivered in a narrative style that’s akin to fiction. My latest book, A Fierce Glory, is about Antietam, a battle that occupied a single day in 1862, yet remains one of history’s most consequential events. Of course, there are countless military histories of Antietam–or any Civil War battle, for that matter–focusing on troop movements and tactics. I wanted to get at the emotional heart of this epic showdown: the confusion, terror, sadness, along with some startling and selfless acts of heroism. To do so, I drew inspiration from some of my favorite fictional works.

Justin's book list on for experiencing the vivid reality of the Civil War

Why did Justin love this book?

This fifth pick isn’t fiction. But like the best fiction, poetry can pierce through to the very essence. Although shaggy poet Whitman was the furthest thing from a soldier imaginable, he was deeply involved in the war effort nonetheless. After the Battle of Fredericksburg, Whitman traveled to Virginia to find his wounded brother. He then chose to remain in Washington, DC, nursing wounded soldiers. Whitman’s war-time experiences gave rise to some of the finest poems in Leaves of Grass such as “The Wound-Dresser,” “Come Up from the Fields Father,” and “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim.”

By Walt Whitman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Library of America edition is the biggest and best edition of Walt Whitman's writings ever published. It includes all of his poetry and what he considered his complete prose. It is also the only collection that includes, in exactly the form in which it appeared in 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass. This was the book, a commercial failure, which prompted Emerson’s famous message to Whitman: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” These twelve poems, including what were later to be entitled “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric,” and a…

The Wander Society

By Keri Smith,

Book cover of The Wander Society

Christina Crook Author Of Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age

From the list on beat binge watching.

Who am I?

Christina Crook is a pioneer and leading voice in the field of digital well-being. She is the award-winning author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, the harbinger of the global #JOMO movement, and Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in a Digital Age. Christina regularly shares her insights about technology and our daily lives in international media including The New York Times, Psychology Today, and Harper's Bazaar which called her "The Marie Kondo of Digital.”

Christina's book list on beat binge watching

Why did Christina love this book?

Several years ago when Keri Smith, bestselling author of Wreck This Journal, discovered cryptic handwritten notations in a worn copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, her interest was piqued. Little did she know at the time that those simple markings would become the basis of a years-long, life-changing exploration into a mysterious group known only as The Wander Society, as well as the subject of this book.

Within these pages, you'll find the results of Smith's research: A guide to the Wander Society, a secretive group that holds up the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life. You'll learn about the group's mysterious origins, meet fellow wanderers through time, discover how wandering feeds the creative mind, and learn how to best practice the art of wandering, should you choose to accept the mission. Reading this book is an experience. You won't…

By Keri Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the internationally bestselling creator of Wreck This Journal...

verb \ wan-dar\
to walk/explore/amble in an unplanned or aimless way with a complete openness to the unknown

Several years ago when Keri Smith, bestselling author of Wreck This Journal, discovered cryptic handwritten notations in a worn copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, her interest was piqued. Little did she know at the time that those simple markings would become the basis of a years-long, life-changing exploration into a mysterious group known only as The Wander Society, as well as the subject of this book.

Within these pages, you'll…

Up Front

By Bill Mauldin,

Book cover of Up Front

John Carey Author Of A Revolution in Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge

From the list on merging art with personal history.

Who am I?

I had been an exhibiting painter and an editorial cartoonist for years, but never a graphic book artist. Not until A Revolution in Three Acts. I was fortunate to have great guidance: my buddy David Hajdu (Positively Fourth Street, Lush Life, The Ten Cent Plague) wrote the words, did the research, and created the blueprint of every page and panel. My job was to lock myself up in my studio and draw, draw, draw. I think David and I did justice to three amazing figures of the American stage who dealt with the shifting societal forces of race, femininity, and gender: Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge.  

John's book list on merging art with personal history

Why did John love this book?

This is Bill Mauldin’s illustrated, autobiographical account of his experiences documenting the foot soldier in Europe in WWII. The cartoons were initially published in the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

The drawings are gorgeous examples of brush and ink—fluid, lyrical, and gritty. Patton hated Mauldin’s depictions of two scruffy, unshaved infantrymen—Willie and Joe—and told Mauldin to clean his characters up. Mauldin (and Ike) knew better.  

A book I look at all the time.

By Bill Mauldin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The real war," said Walt Whitman, "will never get in the books." During World War II, the truest glimpse most Americans got of the "real war" came through the flashing black lines of twenty-two-year-old infantry sergeant Bill Mauldin. Week after week, Mauldin defied army censors, German artillery, and Patton's pledge to "throw his ass in jail" to deliver his wildly popular cartoon, "Up Front," to the pages of Stars and Stripes. "Up Front" featured the wise-cracking Willie and Joe, whose stooped shoulders, mud-soaked uniforms, and pidgin of army slang and slum dialect bore eloquent witness to the world of combat…

Book cover of Poetry is Queer

K.R. Wilson Author Of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

From K.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Novelist Reader History enthusiast Occasional composer Sometime chorister

K.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did K.R. love this book?

To call Poetry is Queer a book of essays, as its copyright page does, would be like calling the Sistine Chapel ceiling a serviceable paint job. 

It’s a wide-ranging, unclassifiable dance through the glorious mind of an uninhibited icon of the Toronto literary scene, variously including, among many other things, frank memoir, sage advice, local queer history, snippets of the writings that shaped the author’s development, and a general celebration of life truly well-lived.

It’s a delightful and compelling read.

By Kirby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Poetry is Queer is a kaleidoscope of sexual outlaws, gay icons, Sapphic poets, and great lovers?real and imagined?conjured like gateway drugs to a queer world. Claiming the word ?queer? for those “ who self-proclaim the authority of their own bodies in defiance of church and state,” Kirby pays tribute to gay touchstones while embodying both their work and joy. From gazing upon street boys with constant companion C.P. Cavafy, to end of day observances with Frank O’Hara, to mowing Walt Whitman’s grass, Poetry Is Queer is a hybrid-genre memoir like no other.