Sarah Wrote That

A Reading List: Prose Stylists

I received terrific responses to my call for a list of notable women prose sentence-makers. It’s always striking with reading lists how pantheons differ and one person’s favorites are another’s also-rans or never heard-ofs. It’s strange to me to think how no one could hope to read all the books published in even a single year; and the extent to which anyone’s sense of a larger cultural tradition, even one’s own, is necessarily fragmentary. Which is why, as vapid as they can be, I do like reading lists: most bring to mind something unforeseen.

After the jump, the compiled list (it’s pretty long for Tumblr dashboards), alphabetized by author, a few with stories or books that to me stood out from the writer’s body of work, or that I find myself bearing in mind when I write (please add yours!). I also marked with an asterisk writers that others suggested whom I haven’t read—the beginning of a much longer list.

  • Renata Adler: Speedboat
  • Julia Alvarez*
  • Pat Barker
  • Ann Beattie
  • Aimee Bender
  • A.S. Byatt
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell: American Salvage
  • Angela Carter: “Peter and the Wolf,” “Fall River Axe Murders”
  • Lucy Corin: “Rich,” “My Favorite Dentist,” “The Way She Loved Cats”
  • Elizabeth Crane: “The Archetype’s Girlfriend” [review in the Boston Review]
  • Lydia Davis
  • Joan Didion: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Where I Was From, The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Annie Dillard
  • Deborah Eisenberg: “Lessons in Traveling Light,” “Rafe’s Coat,” “Rosie Gets a Soul,” “Mermaids,” “Some Other, Better Otto”
  • Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Paula Fox: Desperate Characters
  • Mary Gaitskill
  • Mavis Gallant
  • Nadine Gordimer: The Pickup, “The Diamond Mine”
  • Elizabeth Hardwick: Sleepless Nights, American Fictions
  • Amy Hempel
  • Patricia Highsmith*
  • Noy Holland
  • Zora Neale Hurston*
  • Mary Karr*
  • A.L. Kennedy
  • Theodora Keogh*
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: “A Temporary Matter,” “The Third and Final Continent”
  • Janet Malcolm
  • Katherine Mansfield: “Prelude,” “Bliss,” “The Garden Party
  • Mary McCarthy
  • Carson McCullers
  • Susan Minot: Evening, “The Break-up”
  • Lorrie Moore
  • Toni Morrison
  • Iris Murdoch
  • Alice Munro
  • Antonya Nelson: Female Trouble
  • Sigrid Nunez: A Feather on the Breath of God
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Susan Orlean
  • Grace Paley
  • Katherine Anne Porter: “The Grave,” “Noon Wine”
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Mary Robison
  • Marilynne Robison
  • Carol Shields
  • Muriel Spark
  • Getrude Stein
  • Zadie Smith
  • Rebecca West
  • Virginia Woolf
  1. readerofasaph reblogged this from sarahwrotethat
  2. ecantwell reblogged this from sarahwrotethat and added:
    Sarah made an awesome list of women who write good. Now if only I had more time to do some pleasure reading …
  3. sarahwrotethat posted this