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American humorist, author, and radio personality David Sedaris is known for drawing extensively on his personal life for his writing – and his latest semi-autobiographical essay collection Calypso is no exception. Honest, heartful and darkly hilarious, its stories are written with the uniquely cynical wit Sedaris fans have come to know and love over his prolific writing and radio career.
Sharing his own favorite books and authors with CBC, Sedaris named the works that shaped his life and voice. From Raymond Carver and Joan Didion to Richard Yates and Dorothy Parker, find David Sedaris’ recommended reading below. For more insight into his writing process, check out his Masterclass on the art of personal storytelling.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
“I just remember the excitement that I felt when I got Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love from the library. The writing was so simple.” -DS
Taking Care by Joy Williams
“Another strong stylist that I imitated for a while was a woman named Joy Williams who had a short story collection called Taking Care. She has such a singular voice. It hasn’t really changed over the years. I remember she was talking about a girl having a fantasy about her beau and she said, ‘He was feeling fine, and fancy too.’ It was such music to me.” -DS
“I can look back through my diary and I can tell when I discovered Joan Didion because all of a sudden I’m writing like Joan Didion. I mean it’s a very poor imitation, but there I am, writing like Joan Didion.” -DS
In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff
“I’ve read every word Tobias Wolff has ever written. I have to be his biggest fan. Really, I would fight someone. If someone came in here and said ‘I’m his biggest fan,’ I would fight that person and I would win. Because I’m Tobias Wolff’s biggest fan.” -DS
“I read The Easter Parade or Revolutionary Road every year. Richard Yates is just a good word-for-word on-the-page writer. He couldn’t be more different than someone like Joy Williams or Raymond Carver. His sentences are very complex, the stories are complicated and he was such a miserable man. I always like people who would hate me. I don’t know what that’s about. But Richard Yates would definitely hate me.” -DS
Is There No Place on Earth for Me? by Susan Sheehan
“The book is so good at showing the grinding wheel of mental illness. And the writing is so good. She doesn’t turn somersaults in a sentence. She does her job and you’re just devastated.” -DS
Selected Stories by Dorothy Parker
“I like an audiobook. Quite often in an audiobook someone will read a story, especially the last line of a story, and I’ll think, ‘That’s not how it goes at all. Don’t you know anything?’ But Elaine Stritch, who’s a Broadway actress, recorded Dorothy Parker stories and she understood those stories. There’s nothing I would change. Not a thing in those recordings. They’re masterful. They never released them on CD or digital. They’re just on tapes and that’s why I’ll never get rid of my tape player.” -DS