Esther Morgan’s book recommendations
To start with, three books about writing and creativity which are wonderful irrespective of whether you write or not:
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
A brilliant, concise and illuminating glimpse into the writing process by a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Short bite-size essays reveal some of the trials and joys of writing and are full of warmth and wisdom.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This is subtitled ‘Instructions on Writing and Life’ and is full of insight into the creative process and wise advice for the aspiring writer. Practical and profound, it is also, at times, really really funny.
Still Life with Oysters and Lemon by Mark Doty
I love Mark Doty’s poetry and would recommend any of his single collections. He is also the author of an incredibly moving memoir about the devastating impact of Aids, Heaven’s Coast. But this slim extended essay gets my vote – an extraordinarily beautiful meditation on radiance and impermanence which takes a Dutch still life as its starting point and extends outwards.
Lifesaving Poems by Anthony Wilson
This started life as a simple idea in the form of a blog – with poet Anthony Wilson choosing poems which mattered to him most and saying why he liked them. The project gained more urgency following his diagnosis of, treatment for, and recovery from lymphoma. His enthusiasm for poetry is infectious, his analysis of favourite poems unpretentious and illuminating. (And I’m also very delighted that he included one of mine, but that’s not the reason for choosing it!)
A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland
A fascinating book, part memoir, part psychological experiment, which charts Sara Maitland’s quest to explore the power of silence in a world which increasingly seems to have forgotten its importance.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Another Pulitzer-Prize winner and deservedly so. I don’t have much time to read novels, but this one really floored me – truly funny and heart-warming while also including the most horrifying evocation of life under the vicious military dictatorship of President Trujillo which ran the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. “Unforgettable” is often used too liberally about novels but this one genuinely is.