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Have you ever loved an author’s work so much that you’re willing to read whatever they write next? Donna Tartt could write a review for her local hardware store, and I’d read it. David Sedaris could write about his sock drawer, and I’d curl up with that book right now.
Today I want to share 20 of my favorite contemporary writers. (To make this list, I had to have read at least two of their books.) Most of these writers are names you’ll probably know since you’re reading a book blog, but maybe there will be a discovery or two. Let my fangirling commence.
What she writes: Crime fiction and suspense
Why I like her work: Her books are unputdownable, keeping me in my chair until the final twist is revealed.
Where to start: You Will Know Me
What she writes: Domestic fiction full of dysfunctional characters
What I like her work: I love books full of flawed yet fascinating characters, and Attenberg always delivers.
Where to start: All Grown Up
What she writes: Poetic spiritual memoirs chronicling the evolution of her faith and theology
Why I like her work: Bessey is a skilled writer who can discuss complicated theology with a gentle touch.
Where to start: Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
What she writes: Candid nonfiction about shame and vulnerability
Why I like her work: Few books have been life-changing for me, but Brown’s truly have been. I can’t think of any other writers doing the type of work she’s doing.
Where to start: The Gifts of Imperfection
What she writes: Dark, twisted suspense
Why I like her work: When I read thrillers, plot is important, but good characters are my first priority. Flynn writes complex (and terribly messed up) characters so well.
Where to start: Gone Girl
What she writes: Crime and mystery fiction
Why I like her work: Tana French is the queen of her genre. Her prose is fantastic and her character development is second to none.
Where to start: In the Woods
What she writes: Everything: cultural criticism, essays, memoir, fiction
Why I like her work: Gay is an incredibly engaging writer. She can make any topic interesting. She’s as funny as she can be heartbreaking.
Where to start: Bad Feminist
What she writes: Atmospheric mysteries set in Australia
Why I like her work: I appreciate books with a strong sense of place, and that’s where Harper excels. When I read her books, I feel like I’m right there in the world she’s created.
Where to start: The Dry
What she writes: Memoir, essays, criticism, fiction
Why I like her work: Her prose is gorgeous. She writes like a poet.
Where to start: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
What she writes: Fast-paced mysteries and thrillers
Why I like her work: I like books that are suspenseful, set in England, and full of compelling characters and stories. Jewell gives me all that and more.
Where to start: Watching You
What she writes: Spiritual essays, memoir, fiction
Why I like her work: Lamott is unabashedly herself. Her work is thoughtful, joyful, and always worth reading.
Where to start: Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
What she writes: Character-driven suspense and domestic fiction
Why I like her work: Moriarty’s books have a lot going on. Sometimes when books are plot-heavy, characterization is sacrificed. That’s not the case with her work, though. Her characters are as well-developed as her stories are gripping.
Where to start: Big Little Lies
What he writes: Surrealist fiction
Why I like his work: Murakami’s fiction is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It’s weird, wonderful, and hard to explain.
Where to start: Norwegian Wood
What she writes: Complex literary fiction that grapples with identity
Why I like her work: Ng’s novels are beautifully written, well-paced, and memorable. I find myself thinking about her characters long after I’ve finished her books.
Where to start: Everything I Never Told You
What she writes: Twisty mysteries and suspense
Why I like her work: Pessl crafts superb, inventive stories that keep you guessing and thinking until the last page.
Where to start: Night Film
What he writes: Creepy suspense
Why I like his work: Sager’s novels are the definition of page-turners. I know I can count on him to deliver a book I want to read in one sitting.
Where to start: Final Girls
What he writes: Humorous essays
Why I like his work: Sedaris is hilarious. That’s all you need to know.
Where to start: Me Talk Pretty One Day
What she writes: Psychological and atmospheric literary fiction
Why I like her work: When I read Donna Tartt, I feel wholly immersed in the situations she’s created for her complex characters.
Where to start: The Secret History
Barbara Brown Taylor
What she writes: Spiritual memoir and religion
Why I like her work: Some spiritual books can come across as preachy or too sentimental. Barbara Brown Taylor writes about spirituality and religion with tenderness, care, insight, and great love for the Church.
Where to start: An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
What she writes: Memoir and devastating-yet-somehow-still-hopeful fiction
Why I like her work: I read a lot of fiction and end up forgetting many plot lines and characters, but that doesn’t happen with Ward’s books. Her stories are emotionally resonant and stick with you.
Where to start: Sing, Unburied, Sing
Who are your must-read authors? Do you share any of mine? I’d love to hear!