It was revealed on Thursday that prolific writer Joan Didion had died at the age of 87.
A senior executive at her Knopf publishing company confirmed the author’s death to TODAY in an email, saying Didion had died of Parkinson’s disease in her Manhattan home.
Here we summarize seven essential readings from the late author, best known for his work on grief and essays and magazine articles that captured the American experience.
Here are the best books by Joan Didion:
“The Year of Magical Thinking” (2005)
Probably her best-known work, this disembowelling work of non-fiction, portrayed Didion’s experience of mourning her husband, John Gregory Dunne, while caring for their comatose daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne.
“The Year of Magical Thinking” quickly became an iconic portrayal of grief, capturing the grief and boredom of that time. It won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awards, and was later adapted into a play starring Vanessa Redgrave in the lead role.
‘Blue Nights’ (2011)
Continuing what began in The Year of Magical Thinking, this poignant nonfiction book from 2011 contains personal and heartbreaking memories of Quintana, who died at the age of 39, not long after Didion’s husband died.
“It is a burning investigation into loss and a melancholy meditation on mortality and time.” wrote book critic Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times.
‘Shuffling Towards Bethlehem’ (1968)
Didion’s first collection of non-fiction books is revered as an essential portrait of America – especially California – in the 1960s.
It focuses on her experience growing up in the Sunshine State, then icons John Wayne and Howard Hughes, and the essence of Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood in San Francisco that became the heart of the counterculture movement.
“The White Album” (1979)
As a reflective collection of essays, The White Album explores several of the same subjects Didion raised in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, this time focusing on the history and politics of California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His factual and intimate stories give the reader a sense of what California and the atmosphere was like at that time.
“Play It As It Lies” (1970)
Set in a pre-Roe vs. Wade era, this terrifying and sometimes disturbing novel portrays a Los Angeles-based actress whose life begins to loosen up after an abortion in a back alley.
“(Didion) writes with a razor blade, cutting characters out of their perceptions with strokes so quick and economical that every scene ends almost before the reader realizes it, and yet the characters keep bleeding afterwards.” wrote book critic John Leonard for the New York time.
As a great example of Didion’s journalistic work, “Miami” paints a portrait of the life of Cuban exiles in the city in southern Florida.
Didion writes a breathtaking and passionate Pageturner against the background of the decline of Miami, which was caused by the economic and political changes with the immigration of refugees from Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power.