9 Best Books by Ann Patchett – Novels & Non-Fiction

When it comes to contemporary writers, Ann Patchett is a name that resonates with many readers. With a unique ability to tell stories that are both human and deeply engaging, Patchett has become one of the most beloved authors of our time. In this article, we’ll explore some of her best works and why they are worth reading.

9 Best Books by Ann Patchett - Novels & Non-Fiction

A Brief Introduction to Ann Patchett

The Patron Saint Of Liars

Before we dive into her works, let’s take a moment to learn more about the woman behind the books. Ann Patchett was born on December 2, 1963, in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where she attended St. Bernard Academy, a Catholic girls’ school. Patchett’s mother was a nurse and her father was a Los Angeles police officer who later became a novelist.

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, Patchett worked as a waitress at TGI Fridays and as a freelance writer. She wrote for publications such as Seventeen magazine and The New York Times Magazine. In 1992, she published her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Who is Ann Patchett?

Ann Patchett is not just an author but a passionate advocate for the arts. In addition to running her independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, she has also been a vocal supporter of public libraries and literary programs. She has served on the board of the Nashville Public Library Foundation and is a former president of the Authors Guild.

Despite her success as a writer, Patchett has remained grounded and committed to her craft. She has spoken publicly about the importance of hard work and perseverance in the face of rejection and criticism.

Her Writing Style and Themes

One of Patchett’s strengths as a writer is her ability to craft stories with richly drawn characters and vivid settings. Her prose is detailed and immersive, and she has a talent for exploring complex themes with nuance and sensitivity.

Many of Patchett’s works deal with ideas of family, love, loss, and identity. In Bel Canto, for example, she tells the story of a group of people who are held hostage in a South American country. The novel explores themes of love and connection, as well as the power of music to bring people together.

In State of Wonder, Patchett takes readers on a journey through the Amazon rainforest. The novel examines themes of science, ethics, and the clash between different cultures.

Another recurring theme in Patchett’s work is the idea of home. In The Dutch House, she tells the story of a brother and sister who are forced to leave their childhood home after their father’s death. The novel explores the meaning of family and the search for a place to belong.

Overall, Ann Patchett is a writer who is deeply committed to her craft and to the literary community. Her works are thoughtful, engaging, and full of heart.

The Bel Canto Era

Bel Canto

One of Patchett’s most beloved books is Bel Canto, which was published in 2001. The novel tells the story of a group of people who are taken hostage during a performance of an opera in a South American country. It’s a gripping tale of survival and unlikely relationships that explores themes of beauty, love, and the power of art.

The Bel Canto era was a time in Italian opera that spanned from the late 18th century to the early 19th century. This period was characterized by the use of the bel canto style of singing, which emphasized the beauty and purity of the human voice. The term “bel canto” literally means “beautiful singing” in Italian.

During this era, composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti were at the forefront of Italian opera. Their works were known for their elaborate vocal ornamentation, technical virtuosity, and emotional expressiveness.

Bel Canto: A Captivating Novel

What makes Bel Canto so captivating is Patchett’s ability to create a sense of intimacy between the reader and characters who are experiencing a life-altering event. The novel is told from multiple perspectives, which creates a layered and nuanced portrayal of the events as they unfold.

One of the most powerful parts of Bel Canto is the relationships that develop between the hostages and their captors. Through these connections, Patchett explores ideas of humanity and the universality of love, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The use of music in Bel Canto is also significant. Opera is a central theme throughout the novel, and the power of music to transcend language and cultural barriers is a recurring motif. Patchett’s writing is so evocative that the reader can almost hear the music and feel its emotional impact.

The Magician’s Assistant: A Journey of Love and Loss

The Magician's Assistant

Another standout novel from Patchett is The Magician’s Assistant, which was published in 1997. The story follows Sabine, the assistant of a magician named Parsifal, who has recently passed away. Sabine embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she sets out to uncover the secrets of Parsifal’s past.

What’s unique about The Magician’s Assistant is the way Patchett explores the complexities of love and grief. Through Sabine’s experiences, she examines the ways in which we construct our own identities and the lengths we will go to hold onto the people we love, even after they’re gone.

The world of magic and illusion is also a significant part of the novel. Patchett’s writing is so vivid that the reader can almost see the illusions being performed on stage. The use of magic as a metaphor for the ways in which we construct our own realities is a recurring theme throughout the novel.

Overall, Patchett’s novels are characterized by their richly drawn characters, evocative settings, and exploration of complex themes. Whether she’s writing about opera singers or magicians, her books are sure to captivate and inspire readers.

Exploring Family Dynamics

Family is a recurring theme in Patchett’s work, and she has a talent for portraying the complexities that exist within relationships between siblings, parents and children, and even chosen family members. Family dynamics can be messy, complicated, and emotionally charged, and Patchett captures all of these nuances in her writing.

Commonwealth: A Family Saga

Commonwealth: A Novel

Patchett’s 2016 novel Commonwealth is a sweeping family saga that spans multiple generations. The book follows the lives of two families, the Cousins and the Keatings, and explores the impact of a chance encounter between them that sets off a chain reaction of life-altering events.

At the heart of Commonwealth is the idea that our families are not just the people we’re related to by blood, but also the people we choose to love and support. Patchett masterfully weaves together the stories of the Cousins and the Keatings, showing how their lives are forever changed by their connections to each other.

What makes Commonwealth so compelling is the way Patchett interweaves the perspectives of multiple characters to create a complex and nuanced portrait of a family and the moments that shape their lives. From the perspective of Franny Keating, we see how her parents’ divorce and subsequent remarriages affect her relationship with her siblings. From the perspective of Leo Posen, we see how his decision to write a novel based on the Cousins’ family history has far-reaching consequences. And from the perspective of Beverly Keating, we see how her affair with Fix Cousins sets off a chain of events that will reverberate for decades.

The Dutch House: A Tale of Siblings and Inheritance

The Dutch House: A Read with Jenna Pick

In The Dutch House, Patchett tells the story of siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy and their remarkable childhood home, a grandiose mansion that becomes the source of much turmoil and conflict in their lives. The novel is a meditation on family, inheritance, and the lasting impact of our childhood experiences.

What’s notable about The Dutch House is the way Patchett creates tension between the characters, even as she’s emphasizing the deep-rooted love they have for each other. Danny and Maeve’s relationship is at the heart of the novel, and Patchett expertly shows how their bond is both strengthened and strained by the events of their lives.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Dutch House is the way Patchett explores the idea of inheritance, both in terms of the physical house that Danny and Maeve are forced to leave behind and in terms of the emotional baggage that they carry with them throughout their lives. The novel is a powerful reminder that our families shape who we are, whether we like it or not.

Overall, Patchett’s work is a testament to the power of family and the ways in which our relationships with our loved ones can shape our lives in profound ways. Her writing is both beautiful and insightful, and her ability to capture the complexities of family dynamics is truly remarkable.

Diving into Human Relationships

In addition to exploring family ties, Patchett has a talent for drawing captivating stories from the relationships that exist between friends, lovers, and even strangers.

Run: A Story of Family and Politics

Run: A Novel

Published in 2007, Run tells the story of a family who is forced to confront their past when one of their son’s becomes involved in a political scandal. It’s a richly drawn novel that explores themes of identity, duty, and the bonds that hold families together, even in the face of adversity.

State of Wonder: A Thrilling Adventure

State of Wonder: A Novel

State of Wonder is a 2011 novel that follows the journey of a scientist named Marina Singh who travels to the Amazon to find her colleague, who has gone missing while conducting research on a new drug. The novel is an intriguing blend of adventure, suspense, and exploration that asks big questions about the nature of science, humanity, and the ways in which we seek to understand the world around us.

Ann Patchett’s Non-Fiction Works

In addition to her impressive body of fiction work, Ann Patchett has also penned several non-fiction works that showcase her versatility as a writer.

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

Patchett’s memoir Truth & Beauty, published in 2004, is a moving reflection on her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, who died in 2002. The book is a powerful tribute to the bonds of friendship and the ways in which we can be shaped by the people we love.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: Essays on Life and Love

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage: A Reese's Book Club Pick

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays published in 2013 that explore a range of topics, from Patchett’s life as a writer to her thoughts on marriage, friendship, and the power of storytelling. The book is a testament to Patchett’s skill as an essayist and her ability to create narratives that connect with readers on a deep and personal level.


Ann Patchett’s works are essential reading for anyone who loves an engaging and thought-provoking story. Whether you’re drawn to her exploration of family dynamics, the way she paints nuanced portraits of human relationships, or her ability to craft richly detailed fictional worlds, there’s something in her oeuvre for everyone. By immersing yourself in her stories, you’re sure to come away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and the power of storytelling to transform our lives.


What has Ann Patchett done?

Ann Patchett is an American author who has received some of the most prestigious literary awards including the Faulker Award, the Orange Prize, and most notably, the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Is Ann Patchett still writing?

Ann Patchett is still writing and her next book is due for release in August 2023.

What are the best books written by Ann Patchett?

Ann Patchett has written several bestsellers. Her most notable works include The Dutch House, Bel Canto, Commonwealth, State of Wonder, Run, and The Magician’s Assistant.

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Eddison Monroe
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