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Great writers are great readers. And they have amazing stories to tell. Not just about the books they write, but about the books they read. 

Anne Strainchamps and the producers behind “To the Best of Our Knowledge” have been asking authors for years to tell a story about that one book that left a mark. A book they can’t forget. A book that changed everything.

Now they’re sharing these stories with you, delivered in a weekly micro-podcast. New bite-sized episodes every Friday.

Learn more at

Episode Date
Malcolm Gladwell on 'When Police Kill'

Over the years, author, journalist and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell has written about some notorious cases of police brutality, including the deaths of Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who was shot 41 times by New York police officers when he reached for his wallet to show them his ID, and Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in a jail cell after being arrested for a routine traffic violation. Gladwell is famous for mining behavioral science for his work — including his books "The Tipping Point" and "Outliers," and his podcast "Revisionist History" — and when it comes to understanding the intersection of crime, violence, and policing, he turns again and again to criminologist Frank Zimring.

A law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Zimring has had a long academic career examining policing, gun violence, crime rates, and the social factors that interact with each of them. In 2017, he published a book called "When Police Kill," one that Gladwell believes is especially important to read as the police killing of George Floyd sparks debates about defunding police departments.

—This author recommends—

When Police Kill

—More from this author—

Interview: 'Why Do Police Do Traffic Stops?' Journalist Malcolm Gladwell On Rethinking Law Enforcement

Jun 18, 2020
Robert Macfarlane on 'The Living Mountain'

Nature writer and adventurer Robert Macfarlane has given away one book more than any other volume. It's "The Living Mountain," by Scottish writer and poet Nan Shepherd.

—This author recommends—

"The Living Mountain"

—More from this author—

Interview: Why We're Drawn To Darkness

Jun 05, 2020
Stanley Crouch on 'Reasons of State'

For decades, Stanley Crouch has cut a singular path through American culture. Once an aspiring jazz musician and later a noted cultural critic, he was friends with Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, and later an intellectual mentor to Wynton Marsalis. For all of his intellectual virtuosity, we were still surprised to discover the book that Crouch wanted to recommend: Alejo Carpentier’s “Reasons of State.”

—This author recommends—

Reasons of State

—More from this author—

Interview: Stanley Crouch on 'The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity'

May 29, 2020
Chris Ware on 'Society is Nix'

When he’s not drawing, Chris Ware likes to read and look at vintage comics. He highly recommends a book that defies even his powers of description — a folio-sized reproduction of some of America’s first newspaper cartoons, made long before super-heroes and adventure stories took over the medium. Back then, he says, the medium could be anything — and was.

—This author recommends—

Society is Nix: Gleeful Anarchy of the Dawn of the American Comic Strip 1895-1915

—More from this author—

Interview: Chris Ware on his graphic novel 'Building Stories'

May 22, 2020
Cheryl Strayed on 'Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Torment'

Cheryl Strayed’s "Wild" is one of the most famous wilderness memoirs of our time. She especially appreciates writers who combine honesty with emotional intensity — writers who reveal themselves unflinchingly on the page. She recommends a memoir by the writer Poe Ballantine.

—This author recommends—

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere: A Memoir

—More from this author—

Interview: Cheryl Strayed on Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

May 15, 2020
Orhan Pamuk on 'Anna Karenina'

The Turkish writer and Nobel laureate says his favorite novel — the 800-plus-page Russian novel bursting with characters living the life of imperial Russian society — is a complex miracle of a book.

—This author recommends—

Anna Karenina

—More from this author—

Interview: Orhan Pamul on 'Snow'Sonic Sidebar: Orhan Pamuk on The Arabian NightsInterview: Orhan Pamuk on Fundamentalist IslamInterview: Why Write? Nobel Prize-Winner Orhan Pamuk Offers His TakeInterview: Istanbul with Orhan Pamuk

May 08, 2020
Jacqueline Woodson on 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

The author of "Another Brooklyn" recommends a James Baldwin novel she says belongs on everyone's bookshelf.

—This author recommends—
If Beale Street Could Talk (Vintage International)

—More from this author—

Interview: Four Girls Growing Up In 'Another Brooklyn'

May 01, 2020
Kazuo Ishiguro on 'Prayers for the Stolen'

Famed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro recommends “Prayers for the Stolen,” by Jennifer Clement —a harrowing tale about young children who are abducted in the midst of Mexican drug wars.

—This author recommends—
Prayers for the Stolen

—More from this author—

Interview: Kazuo Ishiguro on 'Never Let Me Go'Interview: Kazuo Ishiguro on 'The Buried Giant'

Apr 24, 2020
Ruth Ozeki on 'Kamikaze Diaries'

For her own book, author Ruth Ozeki drew from “Kamikaze Diaries,” a collection of writings left behind by the young soldiers who died on suicide missions. They represent a generation of brilliant, highly educated young students who were conscripted into the army and ordered not just to kill but to die.

—This author recommends—

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

—More from this author—

Interview: A Diary Becomes A Time Capsule

Apr 17, 2020
Petina Gappah on 'Persuasion'

Author Petina Gappah recommends a book she explains is “The most African of Jane Austen’s novels.” Her reason why is a look at women in African today told through the eyes of two novelists: a Zimbabwean in 2020 and English woman in 1818.

—This author recommends—


—More from this author—

Interview: The Empire Writes Back: Author Discusses Explorer David Livingstone's Complicated Legacy

Apr 10, 2020
Karl Ove Knausgaard on 'The Earthsea Trilogy'

Given the hyper-realism of author Karl Ove Knausgaard’s "My Struggle," you might be surprised to hear that the formative books of his childhood were filled with magic and imaginary worlds. He says Ursula K. Le Guin’s "Earthsea" fantasy series shaped him as an early reader.

—This author recommends—

Book: The Earthsea Trilogy

—More from this author—

Bookmark: Karl Ove Knausgaard on 'The Flame Alphabet'Interview: Opening A World — an interview with Karl Ove KnausgaardInterview: 'This Novel Has Hurt Everyone Around Me': A Frank Conversation with Karl Ove Knausgaard

Apr 03, 2020
Ross Gay on 'Gene Smith's Sink'

Because he’s fascinated by the process of collecting and by the impulse to document everyday life,
poet Ross Gay recommends “Gene Smith’s Sink,” by Sam Stephenson. It’s a portrait of another collector — the legendary documentarian and photographer, W. Eugene Smith.

—This author recommends—

“Gene Smith’s Sink: A Wide Angle View”

—More from this author—

Interview: 365 Days Of Delight: A Poet's Guide To Finding Joy

Mar 27, 2020
Susan Orlean on 'The Sound and the Fury'

For as long as she can remember, Susan Orlean has had a favorite book, "The Sound and the
Fury," by William Faulkner. A southern gothic novel set over a period of three decades, the book explores the lives of the members of one family, the Compsons. Told from multiple perspectives and set in several time periods, it’s not a chronological or easy read.

—This author recommends—

The Sound and the Fury (Third Edition) (Norton Critical Editions)

—More from this author—

Interview: The Book Burning That Brought All Of Los Angeles Together

Mar 20, 2020
Philip Pullman on 'The Pocket Atlas of the World'

Philip Pullman — author of the fantasy classic "His Dark Materials" — is clearly attuned to the imaginative world of children. In fact, he was a middle school English teacher before he became a best-selling novelist. So maybe it’s not surprising that the book that exerted such a pull on his own imagination was "The Pocket Atlas of the World," which he first encountered at the age of nine.

—This author recommends—

Pocket World Atlas

—More from this author—

Interview: Why Philip Pullman Is Obsessed With PanpsychismInterview: 'His Dark Materials' Author Philip Pullman On The Consciousness Of All Things

Mar 13, 2020
What Books Have Left A Mark On You?

Why does Philip Pullman love maps? How does Petina Gappah see Jane Austen as African? What science fiction stories did a young Karl Ove Knausgaard read before bed? 

Bookmarks, season 2. Coming March 13.

Learn more at

Feb 28, 2020
Your Life, Told Through Books

The next season of Bookmarks starts on March 13. In the meantime, we wanted to share a few stories we've heard from listeners about the books that have shaped them.

Have your own story to share? Email us at or leave a voicemail at the bottom of the page at

Feb 21, 2020
Eula Biss on 'The Argonauts'

"On Immunity: An Inoculation" author Eula Biss recommends a memoir in which author Maggie Nelson asks questions that bend conventions about gender, sexuality, motherhood, family and identity itself.

—This author recommends—

The Argonauts

—More from this author—

Interview: The Ethics of Vaccines

Jan 31, 2020
Paul Beatty on 'The Nazi and the Barber'

Paul Beatty, the Booker Prize Winning Author of "The Sellout" recommends "The Nazi and the
Barber," a novel by Holocaust survivor Edgar Hilsenrath. 

—This author recommends—

The Nazi and the Barber

—More from this author—

Interview: Daring to Offend: Paul Beatty's Brilliant Satire

Jan 24, 2020
Yuval Noah Harari on 'Chimpanzee Politics'

Sometimes you stumble upon a book that sets you on a whole new path. For Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Norah Harari — author of "Sapiens," "Homo Deus," and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" — it wasn’t a novel, a memoir, or even a history book that changed his world. It was a book about chimpanzees.

—This author recommends—

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes

—More from this author—

Interview: What Comes After Homo Sapiens?Interview: Control The Data, Control The World

Jan 17, 2020
Lidia Yuknavitch on 'Borne'

The main character in Jeff
VanderMeer’s other-worldly tale is a polymorphous bear who moves in
magical and unexpected ways, and keeps secrets in his fur. It’s both a
futuristic story and one with deep history, the kind of dystopian
fiction that drew Yuknavitch in, again, and again.

—This author recommends—

Borne: A Novel

—More from this author—

Interview: Lidia Yuknavitch’s Dream World: How Dreams Shaped Her Dazzling Speculative Novel

Jan 10, 2020
George Saunders on 'I Will Bear Witness'

The author of "Lincoln in the Bardo" recommends Victor Klemperer's two-volume diary that reads as
a slow-motion picture of what the Holocaust looked like before it was
known Holocaust.

—This author recommends—

I Will Bear Witness, Volume 1: A Diary of the Nazi Years: 1933-1941

—More from this author—

Interview: A Haunting Story of Lincoln's Love and Loss

Jan 03, 2020
Anne Lamott on 'Pippi Longstocking'

Writer Anne Lamott says that the children’s classic made her feel like there was room in the world for imaginative, adventurous girls who just might wear mismatched knee socks. 

—This author recommends—

Pippi Longstocking

—More from this author—

Interview: Hope Is Faith In Life Itself

Dec 27, 2019
Margaret Atwood on 'Wide Sargasso Sea'

Jean Rhys takes up a "mad" wife’s story in "Wide Sargasso Sea," an overlooked novel recommended by
"Handmaid’s Tale" author Margaret Atwood.

—This author recommends—
Wide Sargasso Sea

—More from this author

Interview: Margaret Atwood Blends Dystopia and Social Satire

Interview: 'Handmaid’s Tale' Author Margaret Atwood on the Roots of Dystopia

Dec 20, 2019
Lorrie Moore on 'Carried Away'

Writer Lorrie Moore says Alice Munro’s book of short stories, "Carried Away," shows mastery of
the architecture of the short story that is both brilliant and can’t be

—This author recommends—

Carried Away: A Selection of Stories (Everyman's Library)

—More from this author—

Interview: Lorrie Moore's Bark Stories

Dec 13, 2019
Werner Herzog on 'The Peregrine'

Filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose films include "Grizzly Man" and "Cave of the Forgotten Dreams," recommends a nonfiction collection of J.A. Baker's observations of peregrine falcons, recorded in the early 1960s.

—This author recommends—

The Peregrine (New York Review Books Classics)

—More from this author—

Interview: Why Werner Herzog Is Awe-Struck

Dec 06, 2019
Martin Amis on 'The Adventures of Augie March'

Martin Amis has written his fair share of novels and essay collections. For a writer, you expect their favorite books to be a source of inspiration. For Amis, Saul Bellow's 1953 novel is a source of writer's block.

—This author recommends—

The Adventures of Augie March (Penguin Classics)

—More from this author—

Interview: When Should An Author Call It Quits?

Nov 29, 2019
Jericho Brown on 'The Witches of Eastwick'

As a black, gay poet, Jericho Brown considers it “hilarious” that he discovered sex through one of the whitest writers in American history — John Updike. 

This author recommends:

The Witches of Eastwick

More from this author :

Interview: Can A Poem Be A Kind Of Prayer?

Nov 22, 2019
Alice Walker on 'Disturbing The Peace'

Alice Walker recommends Richard Yates' novel following an advertising executive whose seemingly successful life quietly fractures under the pressure of mundanity, alcoholism, anger, and recklessness. She says she was drawn to the book because Yates' world was so different from hers.

Nov 15, 2019
Tommy Orange on 'A Confederacy Of Dunces'

Tommy Orange — author of 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award winner “There, There” — says he wasn't much of a reader in his early years. But a chance encounter with an absurd, experimental novel by John Kennedy Toole showed him a path to writing a book that was truly his own.

Nov 08, 2019
Coming Soon: Bookmarks

Bookmarks are stories mined from our secret lives as readers. Stories of intimate relationships and life-changing encounters with books. Stories about the books we can’t forget. In this micropodcast, the producers behind “To The Best Of Our Knowledge” ask writers and creators to share what they’ve read and how it shaped them.

New episodes every Friday. For more info, visit

Oct 18, 2019