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Amy Waldman's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Amy Waldman recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Amy Waldman's favorite book recommendations of all time.



A tremendously acclaimed and exquisitely realized novel of literary suspense, Harbor recounts the adventures of Aziz Arkoun who, at twenty-four, makes his way to America via the hold of an Algerian tanker and the icy waters of Boston harbor. Aziz soon finds himself a community of fellow Algerians, but their means of survival in this strange land begins to remind him of the dangerous world he was desperate to escape. As the story of Aziz and his friends unfolds, moving from East Boston and Brooklyn to Montreal and a North African army camp, Harbor takes us inside the ambiguities... more
Recommended by Amy Waldman, and 1 others.

Amy WaldmanHarbor is a beautifully written book about a group of illegal Algerian immigrants in the US, indelible characters. It cuts back and forth between Algeria and the US, telling the story of what their lives are like as they come under suspicion of being part of a terror plot. (Source)

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A Widow's Walk

A Memoir of 9/11

On September 11, I dropped my son off at his second full day of kindergarten. The sky was so blue it looked as if it had been ironed. I crossed the street, ordered coffee, and sat to wait for my husband to meet me. It was our eighth wedding anniversary and Dave and I were about to begin a new chapter in our seventeen years together. Sipping coffee, I watched as a line of thick black smoke crept across the sky from Manhattan, oblivious to the fact that my life was about to change forever.

On September 11, 2001, Marian Fontana lost her husband, Dave, a firefighter...
Recommended by Amy Waldman, and 1 others.

Amy WaldmanThe reason why I have trouble with some of the fiction about 9/11 is a lot of it seems to be about people very peripherally affected: New Yorkers of a certain class whose lives were interrupted but who readjusted. Marian Fontana is not one of those people. Her life was completely rewritten. She writes, with great eloquence, about the very human wake of 9/11, the difficulty of balancing public and... (Source)

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Strong Is Your Hold


Recommended by Amy Waldman, and 1 others.

Amy WaldmanSoon after 9/11, no more than a year, I heard Kinnell read this poem and it was an experience I will not forget. “When the Towers Fell” really demonstrates what poetry can do that other art forms can’t – provide catharsis by finding the right words to describe the otherwise unspeakable. Making art of tragedy is tricky. How do you do it? Is it unseemly? In what I have read of the literature... (Source)

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Open City

Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past.

But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and...

Leo HollisIt’s a series of walks around New York, and is one of the most powerful books on living in a city that I’ve read in a long time. (Source)

Robert EaglestoneIn the novel, migration is closely related to the theme of looking in the city, and of blindness. (Source)

Amy WaldmanIt’s about a solitary narrator who goes on walks through New York. 9/11 keeps resurfacing, indirectly and almost allusively, in really interesting ways. (Source)

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter...

Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds...

Daniyal MueenuddinWell, it’s an odd kind of book. I think what’s especially useful about it is the way in which it describes the transformation in this man’s thinking. The protagonist is somebody who had been living in New York and been a banker and he gradually turns into, as the title says, a reluctant fundamentalist. This is something that I have seen among my friends in Pakistan. People who I have always... (Source)

Ahmede HussainThis is an amazing book, and it’s a shame that it didn’t win the Man Booker Prize [in 2007] – in my opinion it was the best of the bunch. I think it’s going to become a modern classic in five or 10 years’ time, if it’s not already regarded as one. This novel speaks for so many peoples’ experiences in the aftermath of 9/11. The prose is very tight and the title is also very clever. (Source)

Amy WaldmanYou’re right – the protagonist has a completely different profile from the humble one in Harbor. Changez is from a prestigious Pakistani family, but one without a lot of money. He comes to the United States to attend Princeton on a scholarship and then is recruited into the corporate world. The whole novel is a monologue. This character, in a café in Lahore, is talking to an unidentified... (Source)

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