Feature

Allegra Goodman recommends 6 moving and powerful reads

The author suggests works by Miriam Toews, Jesmyn Ward, and more

Allegra Goodman's best-selling new novel, Sam, is a portrait of a girl who loves to climb and doesn't like to be told to plan for her future. Below, Goodman, the author of Intuition and Kaaterskill Falls, names six favorite recent discoveries.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews (2018) 

Sarah Polley adapted Toews' novel into a current movie, but you should read the book first. The women of a traditional religious community gather to debate what to do after suffering a series of brutal rapes. Should they stay or should they go? Submit or fight? This novel shook me. It's strange, riveting, radical art. Buy it here. 

Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories by Gish Jen (2022) 

Witty, poignant, and prescient, these are stories of China and the Chinese diaspora. They are also stories of families in all their complexity. Gish Jen is the rare writer who can be funny and sad at the same time. Buy it here.

The Hyacinth Girl: T. S. Eliot's Hidden Muse by Lyndall Gordon (2022)

"Looking into the heart of light..." Drawing upon more than a thousand private letters unsealed in 2020, biographer Lyndall Gordon explores T.S. Eliot's relationship with his muse Emily Hale, the "hyacinth girl" mentioned in his landmark 1922 modernist poem, The Waste Land. A nuanced, unflinching look at a brilliant poet and his inspiration.  Buy it here.

Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath (2004) 

When Ariel was published in 1965, two years after Sylvia Plath's death, her husband, Ted Hughes, removed some poems and added others. This edition belatedly restores Plath's original selection and arrangement of her searing poems and includes facsimiles of manuscript pages and her typescript with penned corrections. Read it to see a writer working at the height of her powers. Buy it here.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (2013)

Intimate, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, this memoir is a personal history and a testament to a brother, cousin, and friends — all men, young and Black, who died too soon. Ward is a memoirist who writes about other people as well as she writes about herself. Buy it here.

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price (2020)

An archaeologist counters centuries of myth with evidence that the Vikings were sophisticated, ethnically diverse, and cosmopolitan. Price's book is a profound meditation on culture, ritual, and what it means to be human. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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