Lauded for her distinctive blend of insight, wit, and unflinching honesty, genre-bending novelist and memoirist Rachel Cusk has been revered by critics and readers alike. Born in Canada in 1967, Cusk grew up in Suffolk and studied English at Oxford University. She burst onto the literary scene in 1993 with her debut novel Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award and established her as a formidable figure in contemporary literature.

Over the years, Cusk has built a reputation for crafting complex, introspective works that explore the messy and sometimes painful realities of modern life. Her novels, including the acclaimed Outline trilogy, often eschew traditional plot structures in favor of intimate character studies that probe the depths of human experience.

Cusk is also known for her incisive essays, which have appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Paris Review. In her non-fiction work, she tackles subjects ranging from motherhood to feminism to the art of storytelling, always with a keen eye for the nuances of human behavior.

Sharing six of her favorite books with The Week, Cusk recommended work by D.H. Lawrence, Raymond Carver, and Albert Camus that plumb the perils and pitfalls of modern living. Explore her reading list below, and check out the bookshelves of other literary greats right here.

Rachel Cusk’s Reading List

The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence

“This is a book all women should read, to find out how we became what we are in the modern world; ditto all English people. Lawrence is the great analyst of transformation and change and self-realization, and this novel — about three generations of an English family — leaves readers with the skills to continue that analysis in their own living of life.” -RC

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (also rec’d by Gabriel García Márquez)

The Magic Mountain is something of a writer’s bible, and the general reader is often discouraged by its novel-as-mountain form from scaling it to the top. My advice is to take it slowly and keep going. Mann’s epic account of how the processes of sensitivity undermine the diktats of social reality can be read and understood at the most personal level.” -RC

The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

“To my mind, Porter is the most unjustly neglected of 20th-century writers: In the U.K., she is barely known, and this Pulitzer Prize–winning collection of her short fiction has fallen out of print. The novella-length stories in Pale Horse, Pale Rider and The Leaning Tower are among the great modern works, and Porter’s prose style is a master class in empathy and accuracy.” -RC

Raymond Carver: Collected Stories

“Carver has suffered a slip in his former standing as the darling of creative-writing courses, but his writing remains the best modern example of the technical and disciplinary basis of literary art. I often go back to Carver to remind myself what the rules are.” -RC

The Plague by Albert Camus (also rec’d by Jim Morrison & Richey Edwards)

“Generation after generation, Camus’ novel about a modern city afflicted by the medieval scourge of bubonic plague retains its relevance and freshness as a social metaphor, not to mention as a compelling narrative.” -RC

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (also rec’d by Alison Bechdel, Greta GerwigOcean Vuong & Richard E. Grant)

“Woolf’s groundbreaking novel is still one of the best available accounts of self-mythologizing middle-class family life and its oppressive construction of male and female identity.” -RC

(via The Week; photo by Rii Schroer)

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Categories: Writers