Just as William Faulkner tilled a fictional patch called Yoknapatawpha County for his many tales, Tayari Jones works the more urban setting of Atlanta for her novels.
Her debut, Leaving Atlanta (2002), was a story of three children coming of age during the Atlanta child murders of 1979-'81, when Jones herself was a child. The Untelling (2005), with its family sorrows, secrets and a mythological touch, is a novel Faulkner himself might have enjoyed reading.
The Silver Sparrow (Algonquin 2011, now in paperback) expanded Jones' readership with the stunning saga of two daughters of the same bigamist father, born four months apart in 1969, one "legitimate," one not.
Jones responded via email to our Reading List prompts, with words of praise for a Faulkner novel and other works that move her.
• A book you read recently: Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston. It's a brave novel all about adventure, travel, love, new ideas, forgiveness and grace, while still being sort of funny. Pam Houston writes with a both humor and heart.
• A book you've given as a gift: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I gave it to a friend who works too hard. That book is like a vacation between two covers. It should come bundled with a beach towel and a margarita glass.
• A book you remember from childhood: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. It was the first book that made me see that history had something to do with me.
• A book you'd like to argue with: Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? (by Touré).
• A book you never finished: Moby-Dick, but when I was in college, I wrote a paper on it anyway - "The Whale as Palimpsest"!
• A classic that matters to you: The Sound and the Fury (by William Faulkner), not just because of the intensity of the writing but for the truth in the storytelling. The fall of the Compton family is as archetypal as Hamlet, but it gives you the haunting feeling that it could happen to any family if you forget to love each other properly.
• A writer who deserves to be rediscovered: Ann Petry. The Street is a magnificent novel that has somehow fallen out of fashion. I read it at least once a year and I am blown away each time, and I marvel at how a novel written in the 1940s can be so relevant to women's lives today.