Recommended Reading: Joni Tevis

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of essay collections in preparation for a new course I’m teaching next year. Two that stand out are Lia Purpura’s Rough Likeness, and Amy Leach’s Things That Are.

I love both of these books for the particularity of their language. In fact I delight in them, and I think they each push the essay form into most excellent new territory: you’ll see the horizon of the form pushed back three or four hundred miles as you turn the pages. Try it and see.

I’ve been reading some terrific novels lately, too. The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin; The Round House, by Louise Erdrich; and Arcadia, by Lauren Groff. Also A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.

Right now I’m halfway through The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, and I’m finding it very tough to tear myself away from it. Will my holiday cards arrive late this year (again)? You bet, and it’s worth it, because her sentences are divine: dense, layered, particular, and so located in place and time.

There you have it—my list of Seven Literary Rock Stars. Bigger and better than Bonnaroo, even, and without the long lines for the Port-A-Jon.

Joni Tevis is the author of The Wet Collection. Her essay “What the Body Knows,” which appears in the November/December 2013 issue of Orion, is part of her new book of essays, due out next year from Milkweed Editions.


  1. I’m with you on Lia Purpura. Also love her collection, On Looking.

    Great list.

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