Reading lists

The books that influenced Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi's debut Homegoing tells the story of two sisters whose different experiences of the slave trade go on to shape the lives of their family for generations. She picks five books that influenced her writing

Lost in the City  

Edward P. Jones

I found a worn copy of Lost in the City in my hometown’s library one summer when I was home from college. I’d never heard of Jones, but I was immediately smitten. His short stories are, for me, the gold standard. Each story in Lost in the City is perfect. While many writers write short stories that feel like a snack, Jones’s short stories feel like full meals. Lost in the City taught me that it is possible to contain an entire world in less than 40 pages.

Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri

This was the first book of Lahiri’s that I read, though it was her third to be published. The stories in this collection are so moving, and reminded me, again, of fiction’s incredible power to create empathy and understanding. When I taught this collection to a group of mostly white students at the University of Iowa one young man said to me that he never realized that he could relate so fully to stories about Bengali immigrants. I cherish this book for that teaching moment alone.

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