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Book recommendations by Michelle Zauner


Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s book column, where authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re looking for a book to comfort you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (because you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite titles will also become one of yours.

Crying in H Mart – by Michelle Zauner (Hardcover)

A few weeks ago, first-time author Michelle Zauner celebrated a milestone: 52 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (and still going strong) for his memoirs, Crying in H Mart (Knopf), about coping with his grief after losing his mother to cancer while cooking Korean food. Since its publication, it has apparently been in perpetual motion. Release of his third album, Jubilee, with his indie pop group Japanese Breakfast. Play Coachella, SXSW, Bonnaroo. Appearing in a Rodarte pre-fall campaign and a Levi’s x Free People ad. Manufacturing TimeThe 100 most influential people in listing. covering his single “Be Sweet” in simlish and composition the Sable video game soundtrack (she also has a game called Break Quest). Attending the Grammys as a double nominee dressed in Valentino. performing on SNL final. Throwing the first pitch during a New York Mets game. She is also writing the film adaptation of her book for Orion Pictures and right in the middle of a world Tour.

Born in Seoul, Eugene, Oregon, Brooklyn-based Zauner is an Aries, was the editor her college newspaper (she was thinking of doing journalism); was a competition chess fourth- to seventh-grade player; did Small office gig; once work locker room at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, which she sold five nights in a row; studied creative writing at Bryn Mawr; worked in advertising sales; got it first guitarr—a Yamaha acoustic—as a Christmas present from his mother; and dance at the carpenters Rainy days and Monday at his wedding.

Likes: Wilco, Cibo Matto and Karen O; dried cuttlefish and Kewpie mayonnaise (this last one is one of them) tattoos), Gwangjang Market in Seoul; Michael Imperioli (who appears in JBrekkie’s “Savage Good Boy” video); Café Reanimator Keystone blend. Do not like : Fusion kitchen, Trek.

The book that:

…should be included in all university curricula:

by Marilyn Robinson Housekeeping. I read this book in a novel-writing class at Bryn Mawr, and it completely changed me.

…helped me become a better writer:

by Richard Ford rock springs. I have re-read this book so many times. At one point, while I was reviewing Crying in H Mart, I picked it up and underlined all the phrases about the weather to figure out how to infuse more mood into my prose. It really is a master class in short fiction.

…I would love to be made into a Netflix show:

Frances Cha’s If I had your face. This novel is a real page-turner. It reads like a TV series, richly detailed and visually evocative.

…features a character I love to hate:

by Jane Austen Sense and sensitivity. In my opinion, John Willoughby is the ultimate fuckboy.

… grew on me:

At Megha Majumdar A burning. I don’t know why it didn’t appeal to me from the start, but a few chapters later I was hooked. I couldn’t put it down.

…helped me through a loss:

by Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking. A wonderful book on grief by a true master.

… presents the most beautiful jacket:

Last year on tour I picked up a beautiful vintage Charlotte Brontë hardcover Jane Eyrewhich features illustrations such as Procession of Lowood Orphan Girls in Gothic Dress.

… has the best title:

What are we talking about when we talk about love by Raymond Carver. Iconic. Unforgettable.

… made me laugh out loud:

by George Saunders Civilwarland in bad decline. George Saunders is hands down the funniest writer on the planet and an exceptional reader. I attended one of his lectures in college and was practically in tears.

…kept me up way too late:

At Jhumpa Lahiri’s In other words. I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing so much. His thoughts on language, education and belonging resonate so strongly with my current interests. Another book I couldn’t put down.

… currently sits on my bedside table:

I am currently reading a galley copy of The 12th Commandment by my former creative writing teacher, Daniel Torday. Daniel has been such a great friend and mentor to me. It is a pleasure to read it at its peak. The novel is an incredibly suspenseful detective story that revolves around a Jewish-Islamic cult in Columbus, Ohio.

…I recommend again and again:

MFK Fisher’s The gastronomic me. MFK Fisher’s food writing is spectacular and deeply inspired me while working on Crying in H Mart. She is so delicious, sensual, funny. Ahead of its time.

Read Zauner’s picks:
Household Picador

Now 22% off

rock springs
Grove Press Rock Springs

Now 34% off

If I had your face
If I had your face

Now 12% off

Sense and sensitivity
A burning
The Year of Magical Thinking
Vintage The Year of Magical Thinking

Now 31% off

Jane Eyre
Penguin Classics Jane Eyre
What are we talking about when we talk about love
Vintage What we talk about when we talk about love

Now 13% off

CivilWarLand in bad decline
Random House Trade Paperbacks CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

Now 12% off

In other words
The vintage in other words

Now 18% off