Touted as “the most interesting contemporary American writer on the subject of being alive when being alive feels terrible” and “a pioneer of a new genre of slacker fiction,” Ottessa Moshfegh has spent the past decade writing fiction that revels in the misanthropic and grotesque. When her breakthrough novel Eileen was published in 2015, it won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize – catapulting the author into the status of critical darling.

Moshfegh’s subsequent novels – 2018’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2020’s Death in Her Hands, and this year’s Lapvonawere all New York Times bestsellers, centering amoral antiheroes and cementing her reputation as literary “it” girl. She also authored the short story collection Homesick for Another World and the hallucinatory, swashbuckling novella McGlue.

Sharing ten of her favorite tomes with NY-based bookstore One Grand, Moshfegh’s reading list is full of heart-wrenching stories steeped in humor and humility. From Jean Stein’s oral history of Los Angeles to Bill Clegg’s crack addiction memoir, find her recommendations below.

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Reading List

Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours by Luke Goebel

“I’m engaged to this brilliant author, so this would be the book I’d probably strap across my heart. It might keep my heart intact somehow, although, ironically, it’s a heartbreaking baker’s dozen of linked short stories about a young seeker on the sprawl, reeling from a recent breakup and the loss of his brother.” -OM

West of Eden by Jean Stein

“This is a portrait of a city I love as well as a self-portrait of a woman who changed my life profoundly, and who I miss every day. Through the oral history tradition she helped found with her groundbreaking book, Edie, Stein chronicled the histories of prominent Los Angeles families, including her own, through edited interviews with a huge cast of characters, a masterwork by the most intuitive conversationalist I ever knew.” -OM

Binary Star by Sarah Gerard

“This book wowed me and spoke to me so intimately, I knew I had to befriend Sarah Gerard, who is just as powerful, beautiful and bright as I imagined. It’s a short road trip book about a starving maniac and her terrible boyfriend that seems to expand beyond the limits of the page and the entire universe. It still echoes in my mind.” -OM

Your Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale

“This is my favorite collection of short stories, and every time I pick it up, it reminds me that there is a genius on Earth with heart and humor so evolved I have to wonder if she is from the future. This book breaks my brain open so it can grow. I’ll be sitting there on my island, praying that someone will drop Barrodale’s next book on my head from heaven.” -OM

I Must Have You by JoAnna Novak

“Reading this novel is like going back to a life I didn’t have, but one that feels eerily familiar, as a teenager in high school. There’s such a force in her writing, which is the force of Novak—she looks like a sweet person on the outside, which she is, but inside she is a tornado of passion and strength enough to crush the planet with her pinky finger.” -OM

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell

“Oh, Patty. I miss you! Her debut novel moved me really deeply. It’s so personally written, although it is also a dry dissection of an experience with death, also of a brother. Having lost my own brother recently, Patty’s book, along with Fourteen Stories, reminds me that there is a way out of grief, which is creativity.” -OM

The Way to the Spring by Ben Ehrenreich

“If I ever need a reminder to be courageous and keep an open heart, Ehrenreich’s nonfiction book about Palestine is plenty. I can’t believe I know the man who wrote this book, that he’s walking around among us. Living on the West Bank, Ben chronicled the true stories of everyday people with humility, tenderness and perfect storytelling. Like Patty Yumi Cottrell and Luke Goebel remind me, Ehrenreich proves that art is the ultimate panacea.” -OM

Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña París

“Daniel Saldaña París is the Mexican Philip Roth, dare I say, and his novel is both satirical and self-reflective, which is my favorite mode of literary expression. I met him a few years ago, and speaking with him about writing fiction was like talking to a long lost twin.” -OM

What It Feels Like To Cry With Your Brain by Mark Baumer

“We lost this brave genius last year, and the books he gifted us while he lived are so wonderfully strange and honest and beautiful, I can’t believe he even existed. He was more than a poet or performance artist—Baumer’s life itself was a work of art. He was truly radical, and the most openhearted, un-jaded human I’ve ever met.” -OM

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg

“Clegg’s memoir of hitting bottom made me so grateful, both for him, and for the possibility of recovery from addiction, which so many of us don’t survive. It’s a story of violent indulgence, the saving grace of his own wise spirit, as well as the transformative power of love from true friends.” -OM

(via One Grand Books)

Categories: Writers