Paul Auster was born on February 3, 1947, in Newark, US. Besides novels, he wrote poetry, screenplays, essays, and translated from the French. Some of his best-known works include The New York Trilogy (1987), Moon Palace (1989), The Book of Illusions (2002), The Brooklyn Follies(2005), Sunset Park (2010), and 4 3 2 1 (2017). His books have been translated into more than forty languages.

The search for identity and personal meaning was a common theme in Auster’s later publications, many of which concentrated heavily on the role of coincidence and random events and also the relationships between people and their environment. Auster’s heroes often find themselves obliged to work as part of someone else’s inscrutable schemes.

In 1995, Auster wrote and co-directed the films Smoke and Blue in the Face. He has also translated Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Dupin, and Stéphane Mallarmé from the French.

On March 11, 2023, Auster’s wife, the writer Siri Hustvedt, posted on Instagram that he had been diagnosed with cancer in the previous year. He died of complications of lung cancer at his home in Brooklyn on April 30, 2024. He was 77.

Siri Hustvedt's Instagram post.

Here are the ten books of Auster’s that make for essential reading:


The New York Trilogy

Originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986), it has since been collected into a single volume. The Trilogy is a postmodern interpretation of detective and mystery fiction, exploring various philosophical themes.

4 3 2 1

On March 3, 1947, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson's life will take four simultaneous but entirely different paths. Family fortunes diverge. Loves, friendships, and passions contrast. Each version of Ferguson's story rushes across the fractured terrain of mid-20th century America, in this sweeping story of birthright and possibility, of love and the fullness of life itself.


The life of Sy Baumgartner noted author, and soon-to-be-retired philosophy professor has been defined by his deep, abiding love for his wife, Anna. Now Anna is gone, and Baumgartner is embarking on his seventies whilst trying to live with her absence. But Anna’s voice is everywhere still, in every spiral of memory and reminiscence, in each recalled episode of the passionate forty years they shared.


Hand to Mouth

Hand to Mouth tells the story of the young Paul Auster’s struggle to stay afloat. By turns poignant and comic, Auster’s memoir is essentially a book about money and what it means not to have it. From one odd job to the next, from one failed scheme to another, Auster investigates his own stubborn compulsion to make art and, in the process, treats us to a series of remarkable adventures and unforgettable encounters. The book ends with three of the longest footnotes in literary history: a card game, a thriller about baseball, and three short plays.

Winter Journal

In Winter Journal, Paul Auster moves through the events of his life in a series of memories grasped from the point of view of his life now: playing baseball as a teenager; participating in the anti-Vietnam demonstrations at Columbia University; seeking out prostitutes in Paris, almost killing his second wife and child in a car accident; falling in and out of live with his first wife; the “scalding, epiphanic moment of clarity” in 1978 that set him on a new course as a writer. This is a poignant memoir of ageing and memory, written with all the characteristic subtlety, imagination and insight that his readers have come to cherish.

Report from the Interior

Having recalled his life through the story of his physical self in Winter Journal, in this book, Auster remembers the experience of his development from within, through the encounters of his interior self with the outer world, as well as through a selection of the revealing letters he sent to his first wife and acclaimed author Lydia Davis.

An impressionistic portrait of a writer coming of age, Report from the Interior moves from Auster’s baby’s-eye view of the man on the moon to his childhood worship of the movie cowboy Buster Crabbe to the composition of his first poem at the age of nine to his dawning awareness of the injustices of American life. Report from the Interior charts Auster’s moral, political and intellectual journey as he inches his way toward adulthood through the post-war 1950s and into the turbulent 1960s.

Edited collections

The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry

During the 20th century, France was home to many of the world’s greatest poets. This collection highlights some of the very best verses that came out of a country and century defined by war and liberation.

True Tales of American Life

Chosen by Paul Auster, these 180 stories provide a wonderful portrait of America in the 20th century. The collection provides a richly varied and authentic voice for the American people, whose lives, loves, griefs, regrets, joys and sense of humour are vividly and honestly recounted throughout, and adeptly organised by Auster into themed sections. The section composed of war stories stretches as far back as the Civil War, still the defining moment in American history; while the sequence of “Meditations” concludes the volume with a true and abiding sense of transcendence. The resultant anthology is both an enduring hymn to the strange everyday of contemporary American life and a masterclass in the art of storytelling.


A Tomb for Anatole, Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé’s mother died when he was just five years old, but in 1879 the cruelest blow of all struck when his beloved son Anatole died at the age of eight. A Tomb for Anatole presents the 202 fragments of Mallarmé’s projected long poem in four parts. By far the poet’s most personal work, he could never bring himself to complete it. To speak publicly of his immense sorrow, Mallarmé concluded, “For me, it's not possible.” Unpublished in France until 1961, these works are very far from the oblique, “pure poetry” Mallarmé is famous for.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert

The elusive French luminary Joseph Joubert was a great explorer of the mind’s open spaces. Edited and translated by Paul Auster, this selection from Joubert’s notebooks introduces a master of the enigmatic who seeks “to call everything by its true name” while asking us to “remember everything is double.” “Joubert speaks in whispers,” Auster writes. “One must draw very close to hear what he is saying.”