Ottessa Moshfegh: TOP TEN BOOKS


Ottessa Moshfegh photographed by Luke Goebel

American author Ottessa Moshfegh leapt right out of the gate with her debut novel, “Eileen,” which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and received the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 2016. Just this week, Penguin Press published Moshfegh’s most recent novel, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” which, like her other works, centers on a difficult-to-like, existentially angsty protagonist mucking her way through her own version of reality. She is, as the New Yorker put it, “easily the most interesting contemporary American writer on the subject of being alive when being alive feels terrible.”

“If I had to live the rest of my life alone on a desert island,” says Moshfegh, “I’d bring books written by my friends. Who else would I want to keep me company? It might make me lonelier to be among my favorite people, knowing I’ll never see them again, but to be immersed in their strange imaginations and feel the strength of their creative visions, I think, would keep me from drowning myself, or gulping enough saltwater to make me lose my mind completely.”

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


Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours

Luke Goebel
I'm engaged to this brilliant author, so this would be the book I'd probably strap across my heart. It might keep my heart intact somehow, although, ironically, it's a heartbreaking bakers dozen of linked short stories about a young seeker on the sprawl, reeling from a recent break up and the loss of his brother.
Add to cart

West of Eden

Jean Stein
This is a portrait of a city I love as well as a self-portrait of a woman who changed my life profoundly, and who I miss every day. Through the oral history tradition she helped found with her groundbreaking book, “Edie,” Stein chronicled the histories of prominent Los Angeles families, including her own, through edited interviews with a huge cast of characters, a masterwork by the most intuitive conversationalist I ever knew.
Add to cart

Binary Star

Sarah Gerard
This book wowed me and spoke to me so intimately, I knew I had to befriend Sarah Gerard, who is just as powerful, beautiful and bright as I imagined. It's a short road trip book about a starving maniac and her terrible boyfriend that seems to expand beyond the limits of the page and the entire universe. It still echoes in my mind.
Add to cart

You Are Having a Good Time

Amie Barrodale
This is my favorite collection of short stories, and every time I pick it up, it reminds me that there is a genius on Earth with heart and humor so evolved I have to wonder if she is from the future. This book breaks my brain open so it can grow. I'll be sitting there on my island, praying that someone will drop Barrodale's next book on my head from heaven.
Add to cart

I Must Have You

JoAnna Novak
Reading this novel is like going back to a life I didn't have, but one that feels eerily familiar, as a teenager in high school. There's such a force in her writing, which is the force of Novak—she looks like a sweet person on the outside, which she is, but inside she is a tornado of passion and strength enough to crush the planet with her pinky finger.
Add to cart

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Patty Yumi Cottrell
Oh, Patty. I miss you! Her debut novel moved me really deeply. It's so personally written, although it is also a dry dissection of an experience with death, also of a brother. Having lost my own brother recently, Patty's book, along with “Fourteen Stories,” reminds me that there is a way out of grief, which is creativity.
Add to cart

The Way to the Spring

Ben Ehrenreich
If I ever need a reminder to be courageous and keep an open heart, Ehrenreich's nonfiction book about Palestine is plenty. I can't believe I know the man who wrote this book, that he's walking around among us. Living on the West Bank, Ben chronicled the true stories of everyday people with humility, tenderness and perfect storytelling. Like Patty Yumi Cottrell and Luke Goebel remind me, Ehrenreich proves that art is the ultimate panacea.
Add to cart

Among Strange Victims

Daniel Saldaña París
Daniel Saldaña París is the Mexican Philip Roth, dare I say, and his novel is both satirical and self-reflective, which is my favorite mode of literary expression. I met him a few years ago, and speaking with him about writing fiction was like talking to a long lost twin.
Add to cart

What It Feels Like to Cry with Your Brain

Mark Baumer
We lost this brave genius last year, and the books he gifted us while he lived are so wonderfully strange and honest and beautiful, I can't believe he even existed. He was more than a poet or performance artist—Baumer’s life itself was a work of art. He was truly radical, and the most openhearted, un-jaded human I've ever met.
Currently unavailable

Portrait of an Addict As a Young Man

Bill Clegg
Clegg's memoir of hitting bottom made me so grateful, both for him, and for the possibility of recovery from addiction, which so many of us don't survive. It's a story of violent indulgence, the saving grace of his own wise spirit, as well as the transformative power of love from true friends.
Add to cart