Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (Delta, $16). I love books with unintended heroines. Smilla Jaspersen, a Greenland-born resident of Copenhagen, turns into the most badass homicide detective the world has ever seen after the suspicious death of her 6-year-old neighbor. Her story makes for an incredible ride. I read it once a year, usually during the height of summer.
Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande, $15). The title of this poetry collection is an anagram for "Robert Redford," who is the book's focus. Petrosino writes as if she were in a long-term relationship with the actor, and her tender narrative poems share the wonderfully simple moments that any relationship would have — flying on a plane together, for instance. Fort Red Border is also a meditation on longing, interracial love, and unrequited desire.
Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis (Overlook, $16). A masterpiece. More happens on the first page of this book than on that of any other book I've read — because Portis knows how to pack a punch. In his fourth novel, a group of ambitious yet somewhat pathetic cult leaders manage to build a massive religion despite severe personal shortcomings.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler (Dey Street, $29). I mean, do I need to explain why I love this book?
Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (Harper Perennial, $13). A beautiful coming-of-age story about a teenage girl's summertime vacation in a French villa with her father and his mistress. Sagan wrote the 1954 novel when she was only 18 years old, and her adolescent capacity for power, magic, and truth drenches each page.
Glitter in the Blood: A Poet's Manifesto for Better, Braver Writing by Mindy Nettifee (Write Bloody, $17). Mindy and I co-founded the nonprofit Write Now Poetry Society. I constantly refer back to her 2012 book on the art of poetry, which contains advice on giving similes and metaphors the kick they deserve to have. It's one of the most important how-to books I've ever read.
— Actress Amber Tamblyn has written three poetry collections while appearing in TV series like Two and a Half Men and films like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Her new collection, Dark Sparkler, focuses on screen starlets who died young.