Narrowing the list down to three took only slightly more time than it would take me to write three books. I decided to apply the “multiple-copy” test and ask myself what three books I’ve purchased often in the past few months to literally put into a reader’s hands. I came up with the following three, and assure you they will not disappoint.

Winter’s Bone

By Daniel Woodrell
“Yes, the film was excellent, and deserving of every award it won, but Woodrell’s prose has a beauty that no camera could ever capture. ‘His voice held raised hammers and long shadows,’ he writes of one menacing character in this taut, stunning novel, and rest assured: Woodrell’s voice will cast long shadows itself, in the way that only great novelists achieve.”

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

By David Sedaris
“I don’t think there’s a more difficult form of writing than humor. There are wipe-the-tears-from-your-eyes laughs in this collection, but there are also complex emotional threads, and when the laughs subside you’ll realize the stories linger not just because of the wit, but also because they make you consider how we treat those around us, and why, and at what cost. Many writers addressing such themes in a dramatic narrative fall flat. Now try doing it while making people laugh.”

Emily, Alone

By Stewart O’Nan

“Talk about taking on a literary challenge–O’Nan’s quiet tale of an elderly widow defies every dramatic expectation readers bring to the page and leaves them better off for it. There are many ways in which O’Nan is flat-out better than most writers working today, but none more impressive or effective than his uniquely genuine empathy.”