If You Knew Then What I Know Now has gotten a pretty remarkable reception so far. There have been starred reviews (Publishers Weekly), interviews (Bookslut), and a playlist (Largehearted Boy). David Gutowski, the Largehearted Boy himself, said of the book, “With effortless and elegant prose, the fourteen linked essays in Ryan Van Meter’s new collection If You Knew Then What I Know Now coalesce into a coming-of-age memoir as well written, honest, and moving as I have read in years.” Below are the books that Van Meter recommended to us as models and inspirations for his own work. They make up a bibliography of what it means to grow up, and grow into yourself in America. Take a look, and get reading.
The Boys of my Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette
Naked by David Sedaris
Crush by Richard Siken
Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life by Abigail Thomas
Essays of E.B. White by E.B. White
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolfe
The middle-American coming-of-age finds new life in Van Meter's coming-out, made as strange as it is familiar by acknowledging the role played by sexuality. If You Knew Then What I Know Now reinvents the memoir with all-encompassing empathy. This is essay as an argument for the intimate, and an embrace of all the skinned knees in our stumble toward adulthood.