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What’s on Anne Lamott’s Bookshelf?

In each issue of Writer’s Digest, we tend to ask our cover interview subject a seemingly minor question for a sidebar—but in my opinion, it can be one of the most intriguing parts of the whole piece.

What’s on his/her bookshelf?

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The responses range from the expected (Sue Grafton, Double Indemnity) to the unexpected (James Patterson, Ulysses) to the simply awesome (Diablo Cody, Ramona Quimby, Age 8).

In our newest issue, on sale Tuesday, we feature an interview with Anne Lamott. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are five picks from her bookshelf (followed by a tidbit from the interview for the short fiction gurus in the room, and a writing prompt).

Reading through this sidebar every month, it’s hard not to fantasize: If it were you, which books would you list? (Feel free to share your picks in the Comments section—after all, you are what you read, right?)

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5 Picks From Anne Lamott’s Bookshelf

"Charles Portis is one of my very, very favorite American literary heroes. He wrote The Dog of the South; he’s famous for True Grit."

"I love Drop City by T.C. Boyle, and I think he’s one of America’s pure, great, clean, exciting storytellers."

"Pippi Longstocking was what launched me into my life as a feminist and a woman of laughter."

"My favorite book that my father wrote is called Anti-California: Report From Our First Parafascist State, about the years when Reagan was governor. That’s a book I really love and have read a number of times."

"If I had to pick one book by a woman that I love above all others, it would be Middlemarch by George Eliot."

And Lamott’s thoughts and process on shorter works versus novels:

“[It’s] so much easier, because there’s a foreseeable beginning, middle and end. If I’m working on a story, then I would typically scrawl it all down on a Monday, and on a Tuesday, I’d start cleaning it up … and the third day I would get very firm and adult-like and disciplined, and try to make myself edit it all much more tightly, and be much more self-indulgent. By the fourth day I become desperate to show it to people, and that’s always alarming for me, because I’m really not ready then. … And on Friday, I’m a whole different person, and I’m cutting stuff out. With a novel, there’s no easy way to separate out the assignment—it’s like trying to move a hockey puck in super slow-mo down the ice.”

* * *


free to take the following prompt home or post your
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

You buy a used car. On the way home, you make a stop and are forced into buying something else you never even knew was sold used.


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