With lyrical prose and meticulous research, Madeline Miller has become a master of reimagining classical Greek myths, breathing fresh life into timeless tales that have captivated readers for generations. Born in Boston in 1978, she studied Classics at Brown and spent ten years writing her first novel while teaching Latin and Greek.

Miller achieved widespread acclaim with her 2011 debut The Song of Achilles, a poignant retelling of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus that won both the Orange Prize and Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, 2018’s Circe which delves into the story of the enigmatic sorceress – was also a sweeping success, topping bestseller lists and getting greenlit for an 8-part HBO adaptation.

Speaking with the Women’s Prize Podcast on the books of her life, Miller shared five of her all-time favorite works by women. From Amy Tan’s intergenerational epic to Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen, explore her reading list below, and check out the bookshelves of other great writers here.

Madeline Miller’s Reading List

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (also rec’d by Hillary ClintonKamala Harris & Lisa Ling)

“I loved the psychological realism… the relationships between the mothers and daughters were so beautifully drawn, so razor sharp… [Tan] isn’t afraid to show us the complexity of their difficulty, their trauma, but also this warmth and this real understanding and empathy for their life.” -MM

Sense and Sensibility (screenplay) by Emma Thompson

“The way [Thompson] wrote the scenes, the humor she brought in, the psychology, the acuity, the incredibly wonderful encapsulating of whole long scenes in just a few lines of back and forth, was so exciting to me… It felt like a masterclass in adaptation.” -MM

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

“When I started reading it, it was that wonderful feeling when you think ‘oh my gosh, I’m gonna love this book’… It’s a story about found family – the idea that even if we don’t have family, there are families out there in the world where we can really be ourselves. And I think that part of the story really spoke to me.” -MM

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (also rec’d by Florence Welch & Lena Dunham)

“You can’t just have unrelenting misery. That doesn’t really reflect human experience. Even in incredibly hard times, there’s always the wryness, the absurdity, the fun. So I love the richness of the tapestry that [Ephron] weaves in, and I try to bring that into my own work, even though I’m not the queen of zingers like Nora.” -MM

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

“This book was an absolute revelation to me when I was in high school … I was blown away by the scope of it – the generations, the family drama, the family relationships, the love, the epic nature of people’s experiences was really gripping. I felt immersed in these families and in these people’s lives.” -MM

(via Women’s Prize For Fiction; photo by Stephanie Diani)

Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Madeline Miller’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop page.

Categories: Writers