recommended reading by Philadelphia-affiliated authors
Click on title to purchase from Amazon.com. Many of these books by Philly writers are available from local booksellers.
Start with the best.
Charles Brockden Brown Three Gothic Novels : Wieland / Arthur Mervyn / Edgar Huntly.
Known as the “father of the American novel,” Brockden Brown (1771-1810) was born in Chester County. His gothic ouvre influenced later writers on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Best of Philadelphia Stories, 2004-2006. Fiction/ Art/ Poetry of the Delaware Valley.
An excellent collection of short stories, essays, and poems by some of the best writers in the Philadelphia area. Selected from the published highlights of the first three years of Philadelphia Stories, the region’s finest literary magazine. Includes pieces by several Philly Fiction writers.
Edgar Allen Poe. Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe.
Although he was born in Boston to a Virginian family and lived in cities throughout the East Coast, Poe wrote many of his most memorable works in Philadelphia, including “Tell Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” His influence on American short stories is immeasurable.
Elise Juska. One for Sorrow, Two for Joy. (Pocket, 2007.)
John Edgar Wideman. Philadelphia Fire: A Novel.
An African American expatriate writer returns from Greece to pen a novel about the 1985 MOVE bombing in this memorable work by the first director of UPenn’s Afro American Studies program.
Phyllis Carol Agins. Suisan.
John O’Hara. Appointment in Samarra.
A Great American Novel. As Philadelphian as Yuengling lager, Pottsville native John O’Hara created a foreboding masterpiece of downfall in this, his first major entry in an enduring ouvre.
Michael Aronowitz. Twisted Campfire Tales.
Louisa May Alcott. Little Women.
Born in Germantown, Alcott (1831-1888) became perhaps the finest women author of 19th-century America. Little Women, based on her childhood experiences, established her reputation.
Beth Goldner. The Number We End Up With.
The first novel by Philly Fiction 2 contributor Beth Goldner is a touching and humorous portrayal of a modern woman trying to come to terms with the death (on the Ben Franklin Parkway) of her philandering boyfriend.
Paul Elwork. The Tea House.
A suspensful coming of age novel set in 1920s Philadelphia. A twin brother and sister fool neighborhood children by pretending to contact the dead through ghostly knocking sounds; when adults get involved, the game ventures into the raw, uncertain territory of human grief.
James A. Michener. Chesapeake.
Although dismissed by literary luminary Ernest Hemingway as “that gifted Philadelphia writer,” James Michener never used eastern Pennsylvania as a backdrop to one of his epic bio-geographies. The closest he came was in this novelistic history of one of Philly’s favorite summer playgrounds.
Sarah Dunn. The Big Love.
“Chick Lit” is not known for metaphysical contemplation, but the main character in Big Love, by former City Paper columnist Sarah Dunn, discovers much inner turmoil as she attempts to reconcile her evangelist upbringing with the quest for romantic love in urban Philadelphia.
Steve Lopez. Third and Indiana.
A gritty, decaying Philadelphia is the star character in this story by an Inquirer columnist about a 14-year-old boy who gets caught up with inner city Philly drug dealers.
Jonathan Franzen. The Corrections.
This is irritating: in the acclaimed novel by Oprah’s BFF Jonathan Franzen, a main character’s departure from Philadelphia symbolizes her move towards independence and success. Nevertheless, Franzen’s descriptions of modern life in Philadelphia and its Main Line suburbs are intimate and true.
Diane McKinney-Whetstone. Tempest Rising.
One of a series of novels following life in a South Philadelphia African American neighborhood. This work by the noted Philadelphia author traces the trials and tribulations faced by one middle-class family in the 1960s.
Solomon Jones. The Bridge.
Hard boiled fiction by Philadelphia Weekly columnist and Temple University professor Solomon Jones.
Jennifer Weiner. In Her Shoes.
I know someone who had a babysitting gig with Jennifer Weiner. I think she said she was very nice, but I might be wrong about that. Weiner’s books have made her Philadelphia’s most famous living novelist.
Charles Bukowski. Notes of a Dirty Old Man.
Though he is indelibly associated with the dive bars of Los Angeles, a younger, itinerant Bukowski spent extended periods in Philadelphia, losing his virginity at the age of 23 to an overweight Philly prostitute and paying an involuntary visit to Moyamensing Prison. He mined his experiences here for some of his best drunken stories, several of which were relocated to LA for the movie Barfly.
David Bradley. South Street.
Although better known for the PEN/Faulkner Awardwinning Chaneysville Incident, Penn graduate and Pennsylvania native David Bradley painted a sharply observed and playful picture of black urban life along the famous Philly street in his first novel.
Book notes by cpm.
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