What Pam McGaffin reads

Pam McGaffin

Pam McGaffin, the author of The Leaving Year, is constantly inspired by the books she reads and the authors she loves. Check out what the YA author reads and join us in adding these literary favorites to your #TBR pile.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

No wonder I wrote a novel for young adults. Many of my favorite books are so-called children’s stories that have stayed with me through the years, including this one. As a middle-schooler reading this book, I was immediately captivated by the bravery and resourcefulness of Karana, a native girl who’s forced to live by her wits after she’s left behind on an island off the coast of California in the 1830s. O’Dell renders Karana’s feats of survival in simple, clear-eyed prose that immerses readers in her world. I read this again as an adult to my sons and was reminded how good it is.


The Accidental Tourist and more by Anne Tyler

A master at characterization, dialogue and family dynamics, Tyler makes me both cringe and laugh with recognition at her wonderfully flawed characters. As a beginning short-story writer, I tried to imitate her, with mixed success.


Angels at the Ritz & Other Stories by William Trevor

One of my English professors at the University of Washington gave me this book to show me that short stories should be driven by character not plotting. The stories in this collection hinge on those quiet but telling moments in life that reveal a person’s heart – their secret pasts, their silent longings and the regrets that still haunt. Subtle yet sharp, Trevor’s stories got me to see “story” in a new way.


The Handmaid’s Tale and more by Margaret Atwood

I love Margaret Atwood for her insights. She has the ability to describe a common truth or emotion in a way that’s so fresh and personal, you have to stop and marvel at its brilliance. Consider this quote from Cat’s Eye about love and its aftermath: “Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones.”


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

While writing my young-adult novel, The Leaving Year, I read a lot of young adult books. This dystopian coming-of-age tale about a girl and her family struggling to live in an increasingly unlivable world was my hands-down favorite. Thompson Walker must have done a lot of research because she makes this scenario – the slowing of the earth’s rotation – believable, not just on a grand scale, but on the human scale of people’s daily lives. A brilliant leap of imagination mixed with real science.

Pam McGaffin

Pam’s short stories have appeared in the online literary journals, Eclectica and Amarillo Bay, and her non-fiction articles have been published in many Puget Sound-area publications and websites, including The Daily Herald (in Everett, WA), Bicycle Paper, the MS Connection newsletter, and Seattle Children’s Story Project. She has a BA degree in Communications Journalism from the University of Washington and certificates in fiction writing and advanced literary fiction from UW Extension. When she isn’t writing, she likes to think about writing, read, walk the dog, do sprint-distance triathlons, and devise ways to get her family to eat more colorful food.

1 Comment
  1. And today, she’s reading “Boys On The Boat,” an incredible tale of nine Northwest kids, rowing and the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany . . . a recommendation from her husband :).

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