Joan Didion’s Reading List

I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world.
—John Steinbeck

With much more time on my hands, I’ve been making my way through Joan Didion’s favorite books, handwritten by Joan herself below:


  1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  2. Victory by Joseph Conrad
  3. Guerrillas by V.S. Naipaul
  4. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  5. Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë*
  7. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez*
  9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky*
  10. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  11. The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
  12. The Novels of Henry James by Renata Adler
  13. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  14. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  15. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
  16. Collected Poems by Robert Lowell
  17. Collected Poems by W.H. Auden*
  18. Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens

*I will be re-reading.

I was surprised to see Steinbeck did not make the list, given their thematic overlap in stunning portraiture of the American west and California at points of conflict, in particular.

When I first moved back to California after my time abroad, reading Steinbeck again was like coming home twice over.

Now that I’m in San Francisco, and not going anywhere anytime soon, reading Slouching Toward Bethlehem takes on new meaning.


Now read this

Writing like Ray Bradbury

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