Garth Greenwell: TOP TEN BOOKS


Courtesy of Ricardo Moutinho Ferreira

The poet and author Garth Greenwell debuted his first novel, What Belongs to You, in early 2016 to rave reviews, including Publishers Weekly which called it the “first great novel of 2016.” The New York Times quickly weighed in, anointing it an “instant classic.” His 2010 novella, Mitko, won the Miami University Press Novella Prize, and was also a finalist for a Lambda Award and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Prize. He resides in Iowa City as a recipient of the University of Iowa’s Richard E. Guthrie Memorial Fellowship, a residence he has taken up after returning from Bulgaria, where he worked as an LGBT rights activist. Greenwell’s second novel, Cleanness, was published in January 2020, and was again set in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Below are Garth Greenwell’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.



Frank Bidart
In my personal canon, Frank Bidart is the gold standard, the most important living American writer. His discomfiting poems delve into extremes of emotion that would defeat almost any other writer. Fearless, brilliant, they remind me what the stakes of art should be.
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Middle Earth

Henri Cole
Henri Cole’s poems pair surfaces of classical, sometimes cool elegance of expression with emotion of extraordinary heat. The startling, beguiling poems in this book are masterful and heartbreaking.
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The Angel of History

Carolyn Forché
This ambitious, uncannily beautiful book moves me more deeply with every reading. A powerful meditation on history and conscience, it’s also an assertion of the centrality of political witness to the work of art.
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Poems 1962-2012

Louise Glück
Little in recent American literature is as fascinating as watching Glück become one of our most important poets. Her late work is astonishing for its formal freedom and philosophical breadth.
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From the New World

Jorie Graham
No poet since Wallace Stevens has used poetry as a vehicle for such ecstatic thinking. In her recent books, Graham has faced up to the peril of our moment more than any other writer I know. She has become not just a brilliant poet, but an essential witness.
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My Tender Matador

Pedro Lemebel
An aging drag queen falls in love with a young revolutionary in Pinochet’s Chile. It’s a crime that Lemebel is so little known in the English-speaking world. This is one of the great novels of the past half century.
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Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006

Carl Phillips
Wildness and control are recurring themes in Phillips’s brilliant poems, and they play out too in his winding, meticulous, everywhere self-interrogating syntax. He is our metaphysical poet, using the desiring, sexual body to ask poetry’s eternal questions in distinctively contemporary ways
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Hotel de Dream

Edmund White
In this gorgeous, lyrical novel, the writer Stephen Crane dictates from his death bed the story of a young rent boy and his relationship with an older, married man. An American masterpiece.
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A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara
Yanagihara’s novel breaks with the decorum of much of contemporary American fiction, laying claim instead to the scope and grandeur that often characterize the greatest queer art. This book elicits strong reactions; however you feel about it, it will be a landmark in your reading life.
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The Small Backs of Children

Lidia Yuknavitch
Yuknavitch takes on art, sex, and the traumas of history in a gut-punch of a novel that reads like nothing else in current American fiction.
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