Joan Didion’s 7 best books, from essays to fiction

On Thursday, it was announced that prolific writer Joan Didion had passed away at the age of 87.

An executive at her publisher, Knopf, confirmed the author’s death to TODAY in an email and said Didion died at her Manhattan home from Parkinson’s disease.

Here, we bring together seven needed reads from the late author, who was best known for his work on grief, his essays, and his magazine contributions that captured the American experience.

Here are the best books by Joan Didion:

“The Year of Magical Thinking” (2005)

Quintana Roo Dunne leans on a railing with her parents, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion, in 1976. John Bryson / Getty Images

Probably her best-known work, this devastating work of non-fiction describes Didion’s experience mourning her husband John Gregory Dunne as she cared for her comaed daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne.

“The Year of Magical Thinking” quickly became an iconic representation of mourning, capturing the grief and boredom of this period. It has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awards, and was later adapted into a play starring Vanessa Redgrave.

‘The Blue Nights’ (2011)

HarperCollins Publishers

Continuing on from what began in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” this poignant work of non-fiction from 2011 features personal and heart-wrenching memories of Quintana, who died at the age of 39 shortly after. the death of Didion’s husband.

“It’s a searing inquiry into loss and a melancholy meditation on mortality and time,” wrote New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani.

‘With towards Bethlehem’ (1968)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Didion’s first non-fiction collection is revered as an essential portrayal of America – especially California – in the 1960s.

It focuses on his experience growing up in the Sunshine State, era icons John Wayne and Howard Hughes, and the essence of Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood in San Francisco that has become the heart of the counter movement. culture.

“The White Album” (1979)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A collection of reflective essays, “The White Album” explores many of the same topics Didion touched on in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” this time focusing on California history and politics in the late 1960s and in the early 1970s. His concrete and intimate stories give the reader a sense of what California was like and the atmosphere in those days.

“Play it as it is” (1970)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Set in an era before Roe vs. Wade, this terrifying and at times disturbing novel paints the portrait of a struggling actress living in Los Angeles whose life begins to fall apart after an abortion in an alleyway.

“(Didion) writes with a razor, carving his characters out of his perceptions with such quick and economical strokes that every scene almost ends before the reader realizes it, and yet the characters continue to bleed afterward. “, wrote book reviewer John Leonard. for the New York era.

“Miami” (1987)

Joan Didion speaks at the College of Marin, Kentfield, California, February 1977. Janet Fries / Getty Images

An excellent example of Didion’s journalistic work, “Miami” paints a portrait of the life of Cuban exiles in the city of South Florida.

Didion writes a breathtaking and passionate page turner against the backdrop of Miami’s decline caused by economic and political changes with the immigration of refugees from Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power.


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