A few weeks ago, I dedicated an entire week to filling the Joan Didion-shaped hole in my knowledge. Within the course of a few days, I went from never reading a word she'd written (despite owning a New Yorker tote with her face on it, like the faux hipster I am) to having a foundational education on her. I read her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, as well as her novel, Play It As It Lays, in addition to multiple New Yorker pieces on and by her, including excerpts from Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I rounded out the week by watching the documentary, The Center Will Not Hold, already looking forward to the next subject of my "Author Deep Dive." When I wrote about ADDs (note to self to find a better acronym) in The List, I received so many comments and DMs from you all—apparently I'm not the only person who feels like they have an author-sized hole in their knowledge. Here's a list of suggested Author Deep Dives I'm planning on tackling next:
How to Use These Deep Dives: I began each "Deep Dive" with a "Start Here" section so you can get a feel for the author, and see if you want to keep going! From there, the "Read," and "Watch/Listen To" sections are designed to take you about a month to complete—which means they don't contain everything by that author, just enough highlights to give you a foundational knowledge of their work. From there, you can "Dive Deeper"! It's not like I'm a college professor, so each Deep Dive won't be a perfect course, but I hope you enjoy them! x
If your knowledge of Nora Ephron is limited to her films, you've really only just scratched the surface of her irreverent, laugh-out-loud funny writing. Although I've read several of her essays, I turned to my friend Elle Huerta (the founder of this brilliant app, Nora aficionado, and fellow Wellesley alumna, like Nora!) for recommendations. She curated a 'Deep Dive' for me, which I've shared below with some small additions.
Start Here: Read her essay about her apartment in The New Yorker and watch the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally
Read: Heartburn (then watch the movie adaptation with Jack and Meryl!), her column for Esquire, and her '96 commencement speech for Wellesley College
Watch: The documentary, Everything is Copy
Dive Even Deeper: Read I Feel Bad About My Neck, I Remember Nothing, Crazy Salad, her column for the New Yorker, and her sister Delia Ephron's books, like Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.
In spite of reading and loving Americanah, I've never read anything else by feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose Ted Talks are some of the most-viewed in the world.
Start Here: Watch the 'We Should All Be Feminists' Ted Talk immortalized in Beyoncé's 'Flawless'
Read: Americanah (and look forward to the upcoming miniseries starting Lupita Nyong'o, which is currently in development!) and her short story, "Ceiling"
Watch: The Ted Talk that predated 'We Should All Be Feminists' by three years, 'The Danger of a Single Story'
Dive Even Deeper: Read her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (and the Chinua Achebe novel it references, Things Fall Apart), and her latest book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (plus her corresponding interview on it with Trevor Noah)
Although Roxane Gay is likely best known for her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, she's had a considerable impact on the indie literature work, as an essay editor for Rumpus, founder of a micro-press, speaker, and author of an impressive body of influential work.
Start Here: Read her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, and her New York Times 'By The Book'
Read: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and her collection of fictional short stories, Difficult Women
Listen To: Her NPR interview after the release of Hunger
Dive Even Deeper: Read her debut novel An Untamed State and her essay anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, attend one of her frequent appearances (she's also a member of the WeHo Wing, and occasionally lectures there—and here's another good one coming up soon!), read books published by her micro-press Tiny Hardcore Press (and her essay about starting it)
My introduction to Dani Shapiro came through her memoir, Hourglass. I have no idea how it came into my house, but I picked it up from the shelf one evening when Jonah was out and finished the entire thing by the time he came home. I was fully absorbed by her reflections on marriage. Her watershed memoir Inheritance was the talk of the town earlier this year!
Start Here: Read her memoir, Inheritance (and her essay for The New Yorker on writing memoirs)
Read: Hourglass, and her bestselling memoir Devotion
Listen To: The podcast she hosts, Family Secrets
Dive Even Deeper: Attend one of her writing workshops
Our team recently read The Testaments as part of our Of The Month Club, which reminded me just how much I love Atwood's writing. Though I've watched and read pretty much everything related to The Handmaid's Table and am fully immersed in the upside-down world of Gilead, I've never read anything else she's written—even though speculative fiction is my favorite genre!
Start With: Read The Blind Assasin and The Handmaid's Tale
Read: The sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments
Watch: The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu, her Master Class on creative writing, and this interview
Dive Even Deeper: Read the graphic novel version of The Handmaid's Tale, dive into her poetry (her 1995 collection Morning in the Burned House is a good place to start!), and read her novels, Cat's Eye and Alias Grace
You may remember Jia Tolentino from her work at Jezebel, but I only came across her writing with the recent release of her critically acclaimed collection of essays, Trick Mirror. She doesn't have the same body of work as everyone on this list (she's only released one book), but I enjoyed her interview on Longform so much I wanted to include her!
Start Here: Read Her previous work at Jezebel (before she joined the New Yorker), notably "No Offense" and her collection of essays, Trick Mirror
Read: Her ongoing collection of work at The New Yorker, particularly her Cultural Comment columns
Listen To: Her interview on the Longform Podcast
Dive Even Deeper: Listen to Jia's original interview on the Longform Podcast and take all of her recommendations (especially her music recs)
This wouldn't be a comprehensive list without including at least one non-contemporary author, and Edith Wharton's characters were basically the first fashion bloggers. As part of the fashionable, high society elite in New York City, they would have been front row at Fashion Week. Did I mention Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature? Badass.
Start Here: Read The Age of Innocence
Read: Her memoir, A Backward Glance and her novel, The House of Mirth
Watch: Scorsese's film interpretation of her novel, The Age of Innocence
Dive Even Deeper: Read Jia Tolentino's recent essay on the famous Wharton protagonist, Undine Spragg, and books by Edith's midwest contemporary Willa Cather from comparison's sake, then visit her Berkshires estate, The Mount (which includes a cemetery for her pets!)