Since the publication of his first story collection, The Shell Collector, in 2002, Anthony Doerr has been lauded for his lyricism, his precise attention to the physical world, and his gift for metaphor. Tamara Straus, a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, characterized Doerr’s literary ancestry as a combination of “Henry David Thoreau (for his pantheistic passions) and Gabriel García Márquez (for his crystal-cut prose and dreamy magic realism).”
Doerr’s latest novel, runaway New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See, is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as a finalist for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The celebrated prose stylist brings his keen naturalist’s eye and his empathetic engagement with humanity’s largest questions to the parallel stories of Marie, a blind girl living in occupied France, and Werner, a German orphan whose extraordinary mechanical abilities earn him a place among the Nazi elite. The novel was on over a dozen year-end lists, including Barnes & Noble, Slate, NPR’s Fresh Air, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Kirkus, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Nature is also an important theme in Doerr’s novel About Grace, the story of a scientist who flees the country after having a premonition that he causes the accidental death of his baby daughter. Doerr’s memoir Four Seasons in Rome is a carefully observed account of the year he spent as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome, accompanied by his wife and infant twin sons. His second story collection, Memory Wall, features characters from all over the world who are grappling with issues of preservation and extinction, permanence and evanescence.
“For me, the natural world is always telling big stories about humongous scales of time,” Doerr said when discussing Memory Wall. “And I often feel simultaneously terrified and humbled by those scales and in awe, and delighted that I get to be here; that I’m lucky enough, that we are lucky enough to get to experience these things for the tiny finger snap of time that we get to be on Earth. So, in a lot of ways, my fiction is about trying to pay homage to the grandeur of the scales of time in the natural world. And I feel like memory is a part of that. Memory is this one attempt to not be erased by time.”
Doerr’s fiction has been translated into over thirty languages, and is anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He was notified that he won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters on the day his wife gave birth to newborn twins. He has won the Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best of Young American novelists.
Doerr has lectured at campuses all over the country on originality, the importance of failure, and the role of wonder in contemporary life. He is currently working on two novels, one set in 15th-century Europe, and another set in the future. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he now lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two sons.