Ottessa Moshfegh Book Recommendations

Welcome to Shelf life, book column, in which the authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re looking for a book that will comfort you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers of our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will also become one of yours.


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His third novel (death in his hands) went out during the confinement; now comes Ottessa Moshfegh’s room, Lapvona (Penguin Press), written during lockdown.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Moshfegh’s first book, eileen, won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. Sales of your second, My Year of Rest and Relaxationabout a young woman who tries to sleep her trauma for a year, rose during the pandemic, as readers grappled with their own isolation. Also speak to Proenza Schouler, for whom she wrote a story for the duo’s fall 2022 collection. She also contributed a story to Gagosian’s picture books. Serie.

She is adapting her novel, McGlue, for Vice Films, of which she will be the producer; film rights of MORE were acquired by Margot Robbie’s production company and Atlas Films; and she and her husband, Luke Goebel, adapted the script for eileenstarring Anne Hathaway, and co-wrote Red, White and Aqua.

Author from Pasadena, raised in Newton, Massachusetts juice four instruments at age seven (his Iranian father is a violinist and his Croatian mother is a violist); omitted Eighth grade; he earned his MFA from Brown and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford; he lives in a 1920s stone house called Casa de Pajaros; he consults a Vedic astrologer, he has a mixed race named Walter; wrote in a fiction letter Donald Trump using his middle name Charlotte at Starbucks; she taught english and worked in a punk bar in wuhan, porcelain. bad at: Frame. Good in: Consumer true crime shows, loneliness.

The book that:

…kept me up too late:

Communion by Whitley Strieber. It’s “A True Story” about the author’s encounters with aliens, and I love the way it’s written: frank, smart, self-aware, and very descriptive.

…I recommend over and over again:

a moving party by Hemingway. He has a bit of everything: the truth, the times, his adventures, his partners, his struggles. The first time I read it, I was in Paris on a high school field trip. The last time I spent any significant time in Paris I read A Life of Picasso I: The Prodigy by John Richardson. I have never recommended it until now. It is fascinating.

… shaped my view of the world:

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Probably the most important American novel of the last century.

…I swear I’ll finish one day:

the house of joy by Edith Warton. I’ve read the first hundred pages a dozen times. It’s so good. I think it’s so good that it exhausts me, really. I just say to myself, “Wow!” at the end of each paragraph. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll finish it…

… I read it in one sitting, so good:

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. It is a beautiful memoir about a sudden and incomprehensible loss. It’s also a story of survival and it was very inspiring for me after losing my brother.

…currently sits on my nightstand:

Some biographies of Audrey Hepburn. the barry paris one is extremely detailed!

…made me laugh out loud:

Women by Charles Buckowski. It completely overturned my concept of what a novel is. It’s so slick and hilarious, and it’s narrated by the most depraved and brilliant protagonist. It is both a disgusting love letter to women and a grotesque self-portrait of a man who will never understand them.

…has the best opening line:

“I was a child killer.” This is the opening line in expensive people by Joyce Carol Oates. She continues: “I don’t mean the child killer, although it’s an idea. I mean child murderer, that is, a murderer who turns out to be a child, or a child who turns out to be a murderer. You can take your choice. When Aristotle points out that man is a rational animal, one strains, covering one’s ear, to hear which of those words is emphasized: rational animal, rational animal? Which I am? Child killer, child killer? Amazing…

…helped me become a better writer:

The first collection of short stories by Gary Lutz, stories in the worst way. I discovered Lutz when he was in high school. There is so much precision in the construction of each sentence. He really made me sit down and fall in love with grammar in a deeper way, to appreciate that he has such a deep and beautiful system of reason behind it.

…is a master class on dialogue:

Kristine McKenna’s books of interviews with the most interesting artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers of the last 50 years. To talk with her Y change book! She is probably one of the best interlocutors on the planet.

… I have reread more:

Aghora: At the left hand of God by Robert E. Svoboda. I have read this book so many times because I know I will never fully understand it, but I would like to. It details the stories and teachings of Aghori Vimalananda, which are profoundly strange and very difficult to hold in my mind.

…sealed a friendship:

the room of mars by Rachel Kushner. Rachel is a genius with a huge heart. I am honored to call you a friend of hers.

…fills me with hope:

Drinking: a love story by Caroline Knapp. I read this when I was 20 years old when I first stopped drinking. She wrote other books that I love, but this was the one that impressed me the most. They may have been the first memoirs I read.

… I would like signed by the author:

west of eden by Jean Stein. I had a signed copy of the book dedicated to me, but I lost it in one of my several moves across the country. Stein was a dear friend and I had done some work on the book towards the end of its editing process. Stein passed away in 2017 and I really miss her.

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