Dinty W. Moore on his 5 favorite books

from Dinty W. Moore, All That Glitters contributor

I honestly can’t imagine narrowing my list of favorite books down to five, and feel also that any such list would invariably change from day to day, depending on my state of mind, the phases of the moon, and what I’ve read the evening before, so here is my list of five favorite books on a given Wednesday, in no particular order:

John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers: I read this many decades ago for the first time, and it was perhaps the first memoir that truly punched me in the gut and made me realize the true power of the genre. A spare but fearless examination of two Pittsburgh brothers–one an award-winning novelist, the other imprisoned for robbery and murder–and the circumstances that led them down different pathways.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five: This novel (I recently taught it to a group of 20-year-olds) remains innovative, crazy, infinitely sad, and damned funny. Based on his experience as a prisoner of war during the bombing of Dresden, Vonnegut took plenty of fictional liberties, but an argument could be made that this is an experimental memoir of extreme PTSD. Some classify it as science fiction. That the book can do so many things at once, and with such sharp language and wit, amazes me every time I dip back in.

Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Didion’s unwavering precision leaves me awestruck.

Jonathan Weiner’s The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. Elegant and brilliant, and my “go to” book when someone asks me how science writing can incorporate the best of narrative storytelling.

Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. The story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who ventures into the Alaskan Wilderness filled with a noble, adventurous spirit but insufficient knowledge, is a masterful work of literary journalism. Krakauer never met the young man at the heart of the story, but his meticulous research, combined with informed speculation and imagining, creates a vivid, compelling central character and an exquisite riddle.

Dinty W. Moore

Dinty W. Moore is author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. He also edited The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Iron Horse Literary Review, and The Normal School, among numerous other venues. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, he edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction, and lives in Athens, Ohio, where he grows heirloom tomatoes and edible dandelions.

6 thoughts on “Dinty W. Moore on his 5 favorite books

  1. What a great list. I certainly agree about Krakauer’s book, which I have read and taught many times, and am going to check out the others.

    1. Oops, meant to say, Ditto on Slaughterhouse 5 too; reread it last summer and was again blown away. I read the Didion three lifetimes ago and loved it but need to replace that book, lost along the way.

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