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Wondering what to read next if you love Ann Patchett? Fans of Bel Canto, Run, Commonwealth, The Dutch House, and other Ann Patchett novels will want to check out some of the books on this list. Find books with similar themes, settings, and writing styles–or just pick up your next book by Patchett herself!
Who’s the author that immediately comes to mind when someone asks what you like to read?
Most readers have one (or more). For me, that favorite author is Ann Patchett.
Patchett’s most recent novels have been family dramas–both excellent–but her backlist includes a variety of storylines, themes, and settings, including the Amazon jungle, a home for unwed mothers, and a mansion in South America.
Patchett isn’t afraid to experiment, which can make it tough to pin down read-alikes. However, she always brings her signature literary style–fantastic prose, unforgettable characters, and compelling plots.
If you are also a fan of Ann Patchett, I hope this list gives you a few read-alikes for your favorites.
Books by Ann Patchett
Of course, the first place any reader should start is with Patchett’s own books. It may come as a surprise that I haven’t read them all–I think I’ve been saving the last few (for what, I’m not sure!). Below are my favorites.
Author: Ann Patchett
Set at the end of World War II and told over five decades, this is the story of a brother, Danny, and sister, Maeve, whose stepmother casts them out of the estate of their childhood after their father’s death. The house looms large in their memories and their relationship, and they revisit it in various ways over the years, never quite able release its hold and its secrets.
Author: Ann Patchett
At a party in the vice-presidential mansion of an unnamed South American country, a band of young terrorists enters and takes hostages. The hostages include a world-renowned soprano, a Japanese business titan, and diplomats from various countries. The days and months stretch on and lines blur, relationships form, and tensions rise and fall and rise again.
One of my favorite books and the first book I would recommend for anyone who hasn’t yet read Patchett. More info
Author: Ann Patchett
In Commonwealth, Ann Patchett brilliantly weaves together flawed families who fail one another over the decades but keep trying and trusting in spite of the failures. Where you would expect villains, she instead presents complicated characters struggling with their own hopes, inadequacies, and feelings about the past and how to move forward.
Where you would expect broken, bitter relationships, she shows the enduring power of loyalty, love, and forgiveness. This is not an action-packed novel, but one where the subtle emotional tensions will resonate. More info
Author: Ann Patchett
This memoir tells of Patchett’s friendship with the late poet and author Lucy Grealy. The two met in college and cemented their friendship in graduate school and the years that followed, as both pursued writing careers. Grealy, who in childhood battled cancer that left her without part of her lower jaw, endured ongoing health difficulties and reconstructive surgeries.
Grealy was a needy, all-consuming friend–talented, tortured, and plagued by addiction and her need for love. Patchett, for her part, basked in Lucy’s need for her, as well as their shared goals and talent. The two moved toward success together, and the journey must have felt magical and pre-destined, if not always healthy. Patchett’s writing shines, as always, as does her narration in the audio version. More info
Author: Ann Patchett
Set over a period of 24-hours during a blizzard in Boston, Run brings together the former mayor, his twin sons, and a stranger and her child who are involved in an accident. Privilege and poverty collide and connections unfold in another moving tale of family from Patchett.
You can feel the quiet on the snowy streets of a usually bustling Boston, giving this muted but fast-paced story an insular snow-globe effect–perfect for a quiet night in. More info
Author: Ann Patchett
When a brilliant medical researcher disappears into the Amazon, her protégé, Dr. Marina Singh, is sent to find her–and learn the status of the potential miracle fertility drug she’d been seeking. What Dr. Singh finds is a bizarre world of advanced science juxtaposed with the dark life of the jungle and its traditional inhabitants. Inspired by Heart of Darkness, this is very different from the more recent family dramas Patchett has delivered. More info
Author: Ann Patchett
A young woman leaves her husband and arrives at St. Elizabeth’s, a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky–usually a temporary stop. After giving birth, she and her daughter stay and make a place for themselves with the nuns, changing cast of pregnant girls, and the groundskeeper. Told from three perspectives, this was Patchett’s debut novel that explores what it means to leave and stay, and the impact of those choices. More info
Even though Patchett is among my favorite authors, I haven’t yet read all of her works. These are the ones that remain on my TBR–I’d love to know what you think, if you’ve read them:
- This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
- The Magician’s Assistant
- The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
Books and Authors to Read if You Love Ann Patchett
Whether your favorite is Bel Canto or The Dutch House or another of Patchett’s books, the books below are great choices for literary read-alikes.
Author: Brit Bennett
The story of two Black twin sisters, raised in a small town where light skin is valued and sought after when building families. The two run to New Orleans as teens and then take very different life paths, only to be reunited decades later and forced to reckon with their choices.
The raves for this book are well-deserved; it features intricately drawn, multi-generational characters exploring race, identity, and family. A good choice for fans of both The Dutch House and Run. More info
Author: Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes follows two neighbor families over decades. While the adults are not close, children Kate and Peter are. They forge a friendship in childhood, but a violent event rips the families apart and has repercussions long afterward.
An excellent, character-driven book, perfect for fans of The Dutch House. More info
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Neighbors are suspicious when an affluent family moves into an established neighborhood and tears down the existing house to build a McMansion. Their renovations destroy Valerie Alston-Holt’s beloved old tree, and that’s the last straw. The stakes rise and are complicated by the budding romance between Valerie’s son and the new neighbors’ daughter, until they reach their tipping point.
A compelling story that examines issues of race, class, and how people with different values can live alongside one another. Good for fans of Run. More info
Author: Miriam Toews
Elf and Yoli are two sisters who grew up in a Mennonite community in Winnipeg. As an adult, Elf is an acclaimed and glamorous pianist. Yoli is less successful–going through her second divorce and struggling to raise two teenagers–but it’s Elf’s struggles that dominate. Crippled by depression, she is determined to end her life.
Yoli grapples with what it means to approach her sister with love and compassion, without being complicit in her plans. A heartbreaking and sharply observant book–try this if you loved The Dutch House. More info
Author: Claire Lombardo
The Sorenson family is grounded by the seemingly perfect marriage of Marilyn and David. The four daughters in adulthood seem hampered by this perfection, given an example that is impossible to attain and that brings their own failures and struggles into sharp relief. But a closer look reveals that perfection in any life is a myth, and there is no one way to face adversity.
Filled with wonderfully complicated characters–some of whom you think you might dislike, but you actually end up loving–much like Commonwealth. More info
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
In the 1940s, 19-year-old Vivian Morris is kicked out of Vassar and sent to live with her aunt, who owns the failing Lily Theater in New York. Vivian embraces the glitz, glamour, and her new wild lifestyle wholeheartedly, until a scandal takes it all away.
Vivian, narrating from her eighties, emphasizes her own naivety and mediocrity, but she proves to be anything but mediocre. Try this if you liked The Patron Saint of Liars. More info
Author: Elizabeth Ames
Lainey, Ji Sun, Alice, and Margaret are roommates and best friends in college, and the independence and intensity of campus life bonds them forever. Over the years, as the women graduate and move into adulthood, each makes a terrible mistake. The book walks through each–the Accident, the Accusation, the Kiss, and the Bite–examining the shifts and evolution in the women and their friendships. A fictional option if you liked Patchett’s memoir of friendship, Truth & Beauty. More info
Author: Bianca Marais
In post-Apartheid South Africa, two estranged sisters find themselves back in their childhood home. One’s marriage has collapsed, while the other has been disgraced out of the convent. When a Black baby is abandoned on their doorstep, with his desperate mother not far behind, they may be able to rebuild as a different kind of family–if the world will let them.
South Africa’s political upheaval, rampant racism, and emerging AIDS pandemic were fascinating historical backdrops to this deeply personal story. Try this family drama if you liked The Dutch House and Commonwealth. More info
Author: Dane Huckelbridge
A man and woman are the only survivors of a plane crash in the Pacific. Stranded together on a small island, they must learn to depend on one another if they want to survive. Huckelbridge’s literary style, vivid characters, and the way that he intertwined art, music, and reflections on love, loss, and home elevated this book beyond my expectations. A great choice for fans of Bel Canto. More info
Author: Tara Conklin
Four children are defined by their mother’s years-long retreat, cementing a lifelong closeness, sense of responsibility, and knowing of one another.
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s modern classic about a devout Baptist man who takes his wife and four daughters into the Congo in 1959 is a favorite of many readers. Told over decades and from different points of view of the mother and daughters, it takes on colonialism, coming-of-age, and the history of the region in an engrossing family saga. Try The Poisonwood Bible if you liked State of Wonder. More info
Author: Maile Meloy
When Liv and Nora and their husbands decide to take their families on a cruise, it feels like just what everyone needs after some stressful times. They just start to relax when the worst happens: in a moment of lapsed vigilance on a day trip ashore, all of the children disappear. While the parents search for the kids, the children must take responsibility for each other and make life and death choices–and all of them must decide who to trust. Not quite a read-alike, but an option for those looking for a book like Bel Canto. (Plus, Patchett herself blurbed this one). More info
Author: Amy Silverstein
Twenty-six years ago, during the infancy of heart transplant surgery, Amy Silverstein received a new heart. Now in her fifties, that heart is failing, and she again waits for a new heart, along with nine close friends who sign onto a schedule to keep vigil at her bedside.
This is a brutally raw memoir of suffering and friendship. Amy is unflinching in her examination of herself and what it means to be a sick person, dependent on others, and finding the balance between caring for yourself and caring for those who surround you. If you like Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, try this for another memoir of friendship. More info
Author: Peter Heller
The River begins slowly: college friends Wynn and Jack drifting down a Canadian river in their canoe. But soon the two men spot a wildfire in the distance, then encounter two other pairs on the river and try to warn them. Their leisurely journey turns into a race to safety, where the fire is not the only threat they face.
Heller is obviously a skilled outdoorsman; he doesn’t ignore the beauty and brutality of the setting or what it takes to survive in it, even as he builds the tension of this fast-paced nature story. The nature setting and river thrills, as well as Heller’s wonderful literary writing, make this a good choice for fans of State of Wonder. More info
I’d love to know about your favorite Ann Patchett books, and the read-alikes you would recommend.