My Personal Canon

Inspired by a post written by Adam on his blog Roofbeam Reader, I’ve decided to compile a list of books and writers that I deem my own personal canon – that is, texts that I continue to go back to, that I’ve deemed important in terms of my own life, that haunt and continue to guide my own writing throughout the years. This personal canon, since it is personal, will inevitably evolve over time. We all have our themes and tastes. Come back and maybe you’ll find something new.

I have separated it by genre, although the works/writers are in no particular order.


  • Carson McCullers: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding
  • J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go
  • Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, Men Without Women
  • James Baldwin: Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time
  • Raymond Carver: Where I’m Calling From, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
  • Lorrie Moore: Birds of America
  • Laura van den Berg: The Isle of Youth, What the World Will Look Like When the Water Leaves Us
  • Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties
  • Sherwood Anderson: Winesburg, Ohio
  • Sandra Cisneros: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
  • Tobias Wolff: In the Garden of the North American Martyrs
  • Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories
  • David Mitchell: Black Swan Green


  • Maggie Nelson: Bluets, The Argonauts
  • Kate Zambreno: Heroines, Book of Mutter
  • Leslie Jameson: The Empathy Exams
  • Olivia Laing: The Lonely City


  • Tracy Brimhall: Our Lady of the Ruins, Rookery
  • Ocean Vuong: Burnings, Night Sky with Exit Wounds
  • Jamaal May: Hum, The Big Book of Exit Strategies
  • Peter Campion: The Lions
  • Richard Siken: Crush, War of the Foxes
  • Sara Eliza Johnson: Bone Map
  • Audre Lorde: Our Dead Behind Us
  • Sylvia Plath: Ariel
  • Adrienne Rich: The Dream of a Common Language, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
  • Nin Andrews: Why God Is a Woman
  • Rachel McKibbens: blud


  • Lynda Barry: Cruddy
  • Joe Kelly: I Kill Giants
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley: Seconds
  • Charles Burns: Black Hole
  • Mariko Tamaki: Skim