As one of the most acclaimed writers of our time, George Saunders has received MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and had work appear in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and The Guardian. His 2017 novel Lincoln in the Bardo won the Man Booker Prize, and 2013 story collection Tenth of December was a National Book Award Finalist.
In a reading list for The Week, Saunders selected six books that remind him of the power of language. From Ernest Hemingway to Toni Morrison, find his favorites below, and check out the bookshelves of other iconic writers right here.
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
“Before Hemingway was a famously macho world icon, he was a magnificent 20-something prose prodigy. He does more poetic work with two- to three-sentence clusters than any writer I know. I teach Indian Camp as an example of constant, meaningful escalation.” -GS
“Babel was as laconic as Hemingway, but more lyrical. I don’t know a writer who has expressed the essential strangeness of childhood better: real as a dusty couch, yet full of mythic beauty. In the Basement is the funniest, most uncomfortable story ever written on the (touchy) subject of class.” -GS
Dispatches by Michael Herr
“I re-read Dispatches whenever I want to be reminded of how intelligent and communicative prose can be. This is the best writing about war anyone ever accomplished. Herr is a legendary stylist, a great reporter, and a profound human being, and this book feels newer and more essential every time I open it.” -GS
“This book reawakened part of me that had been slumbering since my young Catholic days—the part that knows that the point of life on earth is to learn to be more sympathetic to others. This novel — which was Morrison’s first — is both a modeling and a thrilling enactment of that notion.” -GS
Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac
“Kerouac’s heartfelt ode to his brother, who died young, and to his hometown of Lowell, Mass., always fires me up anew about the power of language, and reminds me that the highest aim of writing is to jolt us (albeit temporarily) into a more awake and uncertain state of mind.” -GS
“Gogol is, to me, the most morally complete writer: baffled, outraged, reverent, mock-didactic, mocking, all at once. He honors life by feeling no one way about it — his stories contain a dazzling multiplicity of voices and moral stances, none of which he ever fully settles upon.” -GS
(via The Week)