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#WritersRead: Favorite Authors Recommend Books

June 6, 2017


Note From Rochelle


Dear Readers,

We’ve been talking about how to overcome excuses, get unstuck, and write! If you need feedback on your writing, weekly accountability, and tools to help you overcome obstacles, sign up for this summer’s Write-A-Thon Critique and Coaching Group. Not only will you get the accountability you need, you’ll have a chance to get feedback on 25 pages of writing. Visit the Group Coaching page for more information. I’ve got space for only five writers, so sign up soon!

Today’s tip is the first of my summer reading lists—chosen by some of my favorite authors! Two of them, Lori Rader-Day and David Krugler, along with Nick Petrie, will be signing books at MobCraft Brewery this Thursday, June 8. Brewery tour starts at 7 with the reading and book signing beginning at 7:45!




The Write Now! Coach




Authors Recommend Summer Reads

By Rochelle Melander

I’m always curious about what people read, especially if the reader is also an author. So I asked a bunch of my favorite authors to choose a book to recommend for your summer reading. And wow—did they choose some amazing books! So here you’ve got a double list: the books these authors recommend plus all of the amazing the books they’ve written. Now that’s an awesome summer reading list!

Here they are in alphabetical order by the author’s first name—enjoy!


David Krugler, author of The Dead Don’t Bleed, recommends:

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel is a welcome, impressive addition to the genre of Cold War espionage novels. Narrated in the form of a confession, the sympathizer (we never learn his real name) quickly reveals his secret: an aide-de-camp to an important South Vietnamese general, the sympathizer is actually a spy for communist North Vietnam. When Saigon falls to communist forces in April 1975, the sympathizer dutifully obeys his order to evacuate with the general and follow him to southern California in order to monitor the still fiercely anticommunist refugee community. To keep his betrayal hidden, he’s forced to condemn the innocent—and carry out their punishment. His deeds of violence haunt him, as does a long-forgotten act of self-preservation for which he must answer upon his return to Vietnam. 

The Sympathizer is much more than an outstanding spy story. The narrator’s meditations on the brutality of Vietnam’s civil war, the corrosive legacy of French colonialism, and the enduring failure of the United States to understand or accept as equals the Vietnamese for whom they fought are deeply perceptive and memorable but never distracting. As a spy novelist and historian, I’m in awe of how deftly Viet Thanh Nguyen weaves history into his strikingly original story. And for all the misdeeds and sins committed by his narrator, I found myself sympathizing with him to the very end.



Hallie Ephron, author of You’ll Never Know, Dear, recommends:

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie. Summer is a great time to get lost in one of Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James character-driven crime novels featuring husband-and-wife Scotland Yard detectives. 


In her latest, two stories intertwine as Gemma investigates the murder of a beloved nanny who worked for a local family, and Duncan wades hip deep into departmental corruption. I especially enjoyed a subplot about a young boy who wants to be a dancer. In this series, domesticity and heart provide a counterpoint to police procedure and intrigue.



Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of Say No More, recommends:

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Someone (was it you, Rochelle?) told me to write the kind of book I love to read. And it’s a balance—I don’t want my writing to be affected by what I’m reading, but then again, I do. I’m always tearing books apart as I read, seeing how they work and why. But when I find a book that sweeps me away so much that I forget to analyze it, then I know I have a winner. And that’s exactly what happened with Shari Lapena’s brilliant The Couple Next Door. It’s domestic suspense—a suburban neighborhood, a nice young couple and their equally nice neighbors. But the thing that enchanted me about this was not only the provocative and riveting story, but the honesty. It’s all told in a seemingly very straightforward way—it unfolds logically and realistically, without phony suspense or portentous silences or unfair tricks of author convenience. But somehow—because LaPena is so skilled—the tension is non-stop and perfectly crafted. And the twists? You’ll never see them coming, but they are perfectly fair.

Its also heartbreakingly possible—what sets the story in motion is something anyone might do—or might they? It’s so nerve-wracking, and such a page-turner. I may have read it at one sitting, but if I didn’t, I certainly wanted to.

(And if you haven’t read S.J. Watson’s fabulous Before I Go To Sleep—make sure that’s on your list, too.)



Janet Benton, author of Lilli de Jong, recommends:

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This novel, published in May 1925, focuses on a single day—in mid-June, 1923—and on things some people might have considered trivial at the time: a London high-society woman’s preparations for a party.

The depth and passion of these highly detailed moments redefined the terrain of the novel. Moving back and forth among characters’ minds and into their awareness of their pasts and present, Woolf brings our attention to the nature of thinking. And Woolf’s sentences—masterfully constructed, building more and more richness and detail as they move along–are a joy to experience. When I read this novel in high school, it opened my mind and helped me explore moments more deeply in my own writing. I hope it will bring you pleasure.



Jeanette Hurt, author of Drink Like a Woman, recommends:

Any Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich. My husband can always tell when I’m reading a Stephanie Plum mystery—mainly because I’m usually snorting with laughter. I don’t think I’ve come across another author who can describe an absurd situation in such a deadpan manner. Some of the books in the series are better than others, but, if you’ve got a series going on 24 books—plus some side short novels in the series—that’s to be expected.

I haven’t yet read Turbo Twenty-Three, but Tricky Twenty-Two had me choking on my coffee—Grandma Mazur is catfishing using Stephanie’s identity. And Lulu ends up adding bling to flea collars. That’s really all you need to know.





Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, recommends:

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. This Edgar Award-winning biography is the kind of long read summer was made for. Franklin’s research starts with Jackson’s grandparents and, because Shirley Jackson’s life and career was tangled up with her husband’s, the grandparent’s of Jackson’s spouse, critic Stanley Hyman.

You’d probably want to be a fan of Jackson’s work to wade into this book, but if you are a fan, you will only be a more ardent one by the end. I’m particularly fond of how Franklin shows that Jackson’s oddness made her a disappointment to her mother and also made her the writer we appreciate today. Reading this biography made me want to be a better writer.

Quote, from Jackson: “The very nice thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it, so long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were. All you have to do—and watch this carefully, please—is keep writing. So long as you write it away regularly nothing can really hurt you.”




About the authors:

David Krugler grew up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. After graduating from Creighton University, where he studied creative writing, he earned a M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He now teaches American history at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville. He has published books on several different topics: Cold War propaganda, nuclear warfare, and racial conflict in the United States. The Dead Don’t Bleed (Pegasus Crime, 2016), a World War II spy thriller set in Washington, D.C., is his first novel. Visit him online:



Hallie Ephron is the New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels. Her new novel, You’ll Never Know, Dear, tells the story of a little girl’s disappearance and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to her fate. Reviewers call her novels, “deliciously creepy,” “Hitchcockian,” and “unputdownable.” She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and wrote the Edgar-nominated Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel. Find her online at




Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV. She’s won 33 EMMYs and dozens more honors for her groundbreaking journalism. The bestselling author of nine mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her novels have been named Library Journal‘s Best of 2014 and 2015—and Ryan’s newest novel, Say No More, is a Library Journal Best of 2016. It is now also honored as a Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha, and Daphne Award nominee. Hank is a founder of MWA University and 2013 president of National Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at:


Janet Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, is the diary of an unwed mother in 1883 Philadelphia (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, May 2017). Kirkus Reviews calls it a “monumental accomplishment.” Amazon picked it as a Best Book of May in the Literature/Fiction category. Her writings have appeared in the New York Times Modern Love column, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Writers Digest, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. She has edited and co-written award-winning TV documentaries for The Great Experiment, a series on Philadelphia history. Benton holds an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a B. A. in religious studies from Oberlin College. She has taught writing at four universities and has taught private workshops for two decades. Through her business, The Word Studio, she mentors writers. Visit


Jeanette Hurt is the award-winning writer and author of eight culinary and drink books, including Drink Like a Woman, The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide, which received the 2010 Mark Twain Award for Best Travel Book, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. As full-time journalist, Jeanette has written about spirits, wine, and food for, Four Seasons Magazine, Wine Enthusiast,,, and dozens more publications. When she’s not writing, traveling, cooking or shaking up some concoction, she can usually be found walking along Milwaukee’s lakefront with her husband, their son, and their dog. Visit her online at her website and on Twitter.


Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter. Visit her online:







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