Don't Let It Get You Down: A reading list by Savala NolanBy The Indigo Press
Maile Meloy£9.99 £9.49
Nobody does a short story like Meloy! The characters feel so real and rich that they seem to breathe through the pages, and her themes are the biggies—desire, love, loss, mortality. She manages to leave so much unsaid—it’s like she sketches the empty space inside the bowl and lets us conjure the sides and bottom on our own. How she creates penetrating stories with such spare architecture and such a light hand is a technical mystery to me. I aspire to it!
Toni Morrison£9.99 £9.49
I turned to Beloved again and again, rereading it in its entirety and revisiting passages and lines. The language moves me as much as the story. And Morrison’s was the only prose I could read during the drafting process that didn’t throw off my voice; I attribute this to her talent being lightyears beyond my reach, like a galaxy unto herself, and therefore having an unattainable gravity and gravitas. In other words, she’s so magnificent and singular there was no chance of my voice drifting toward hers! Reading Beloved simply felt good, and it reminded me why writing matters.
Maud Martha (Faber Editions): 'I loved it and want everyone to read this lost literary treasure.' Bernardine Evaristo
Gwendolyn Brooks£9.99 £9.49
Brooks dwells in her protagonist’s interior with leisurely, detailed, loving attention, and this is a rare treat. Black women like Maud Martha are often depicted as being in constant conversation with the external forces of racism and sexism, and we therefore lose sight of their inner lives separate and apart from their oppressions. Brooks’ approach reminded (and reminds) me to protect the private, non-political parts of myself even as I engage in political and public conversations. (The Sovereignty of Quiet by Kevin Quashie includes a terrific meditation on Maud Martha.)
Natalie Diaz£10.99 £10.44
Revelatory, in a word. Diaz knots together language with rhythm, clarity, and a lot of heart, and she’s never sentimental. I found this collection to be a bracing tonic, always opening my thinking about what’s possible with language.
Ross Gay£10.99 £10.44
A joy to read. Writing a daily diary of joys is a simple idea, which is part of the book’s appeal; it is also a special idea, to linger over life’s sweetness and etch the fleeting moments into prose.
Margo Jefferson£8.99 £8.54
Nobody does it better! If Jefferson wrote a recipe for toast, I’d read it. Her writing has the sheen and polish of deep, careful attention and also the freshness of improvisation. She assumes we, her readers, are as smart as she is. She asks us to work a bit for the fruit of her labor, and because her writing and intellect are sharp as razors and rich as cream, the work is joyful, indeed.
Terese Marie Mailhot£8.99 £8.54
The intimacy in this book is riveting. It’s as though Mailhot is allowing us to watch her beating heart. The metacognition in this book is fierce, too—she is well aware of the conundrums women of color, and Indigenous women in particular, face when it comes to speaking honestly and publicly about our trials. How do we balance our need to speak with our need to protect ourselves from voyeurism? Heart Berries is a masterclass on this question.
Jesmyn Ward£10.99 £10.44
The story is a gut-punch, with a mix of otherworldly and workaday scenes that Ward weaves together masterfully. But, as a writer, it’s Ward’s creative strength that really got me. There is writerly brawn and grit in these pages. I can just feel her unwavering commitment to her vision, and I find that very exciting.
Jerry Saltz£10.00 £9.50
Every writer should read this book. It changed my life. In particular, Saltz’s advice on handling the embarrassment of exposure, on the cure for procrastination, and on how to measure your success are game-changers. I can confidently say my book wouldn't exist had I not read this one first.