Favorite Novels

by Roger Ebert, Steve Almond, Tod Goldberg, Marty Beckerman, Ned Vizzini, Robert Birnbaum, Ron Hogan, Jessa Crispin, James Norton, Adam Finley, Jade Walker, Joe Lavin, Brian Lewandowski, and Bob Sassone
 
(Lists are in no particular order, unless otherwise noted as alphabetical/numbered)
 
***  

ROGER EBERT  

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

“All American literature begins with a book by Mr. Mark Twain named ‘Huckleberry Finn’.” – Ernest Hemingway.

The Golden Bowl, by Henry James.

The Master’s greatest novel. When I was introduced to James as an undergraduate, I was astonished by his labrinthine sentences and his indirect way of implying information. Now I turn to him as one turns for the best conversation; no other author so completely absorbs and envelops me. I am just now reading “The Portrait of a Lady” for the third time, inspired by Colm Toibin’s wonderful new novel The Master, which imagines several years in the life of the lonely author.

Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens

Or any of the other great novels by Dickens, the most fecund inventor of memorable characters since Shakespeare.

The Quincunx, by Charles Palliser

A tour de force: Five generations of five families, and five codicils to a will, in a novel setin the age of Dickens, painting a harrowing portrait of London.

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell (pronounced “Pole”)

A novel cycle that spans British life from the first to the second war with interlocking characters and an infalliable ear and eye.

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

The best novel of the past 10 years, Dickensian in its consideration of poverty in India.
The Raj Quartet, by Paul Scott

An ambitious and absorbing undertaking that follows the fall of the British Raj in India through the eyes of vividly-created characters representing a wide selection of society.

A House for Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul

The best coming-of-age novel since “David Copperfield,” and the best autobiographical novel I can name.

The Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh

The most important and successful work by the British novelist sometimes more honored for his humorous books.

Parade’s End, by Ford Madox Ford

A penetrating, bittersweet, psychological quarter of novels about World War One.

Your Draconian limitation of 10 titles prevented me from mentioning Cather, Conrad, Trollope, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Updike, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Balzac, Robertson Davies and the first of all novels, “Tale of Genji,” by Lady Murasaki. And do have a look at “Sinister Street,” by Compton Mackenzie.

Roger Ebert writes for The Chicago Sun-Times and hosts ‘Ebert and Roeper.’
 
*** STEVE ALMOND
 
Awake, by Elizabeth Graver
Project X, by Jim Shepard
The Visit Of The Royal Physician, by Per Olov Enquist
Heaven Of Mercury, by Brad Watson
Eva Moves The Furniture, by Margot Livesey
Stoner, by John Williams
Henderson The Rain King, by Saul Bellow
Rabbit Redux, by John Updike
Song Of Soloman, by Toni Morrison
Money, by Martin Amis

Steve Almond is the author of Candyfreak and the short story collection, My Life In Heavy Metal.
 
***TOD GOLDBERG
 
1. Rock Springs, by Richard Ford

Here’s where Colson Whitehead and I disagree about things – not that Colson and I have ever met, it should be noted – as I believe Richard Ford is one of America’s finest writers and this, his first collection of short fiction, is a primer on writing well.

2. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Miscast as a collection of short stories, The Things They Carried is really a novel of related short stories, each one singular and excellent, but when taken as a whole you understand just how gifted a storyteller O’Brien is and how deeply the Vietnam War has affected him.

3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Whenever I sit down to write, I’m aiming for the green light at the end of the dock.

4. A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving

A masterpiece on friendship, religion, war, love and the value and disparity of humanity, this is one of the few books that stands up with each re-reading. It also has one of the very best opening paragraphs in modern fiction.

5. Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies.

Irving credits Fifth Business as his inspiration for Owen Meany and the comparison is obvious on the face of things, but when you read this remarkable work by Canada’s finest export not named Gretzky, you’ll see that Fifth Business is perhaps the inspiration for all of Irving’s work. A grand, funny, sad and touching novel about the instruments of our lives.

6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

The first book that made me cry and the first book that let me know that some stories hinge merely on the fact that we are, all of us, frail.

7. The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford

Ford has said that this is a book about someone trying to get happy – and if this is happiness, I’m Superman. What it is, however, is an inside look at desperation and, finally, hope. Within the scope of this wonderful book is an inside look at the interiors of a writer’s mind, with all the bumps and divots in place.

8. Give Us A Kiss, by Daniel Woodrell

Daniel Woodrell should be a household name, though perhaps most households don’t love Gothic Country Noir as much as I do. Woodrell has written a scad of books you’ve never heard of – Death of Sweet Mister, Tomato Red, The Ones You Do, to name a few – but Give Us A Kiss is his most clearly realized work. Flush with sex, violence and introspection, this is noir at it’s very best.

9. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Harper Lee did what all writers dream of doing: she wrote one great book that encapsulated everything she ever wanted to say…and then she stopped and lived off the royalties for the rest of her life.

10. A five-way tie: The Laws of Evening, by Mary Yukari Waters, The Ice Harvest, by Scott Phillips, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje and Atonement, by Ian McEwan.

Tod Goldberg is the author of three novels. One, Fake Liar Cheat, is often listed as a favorite of 17 year old kids in their Live Journals. Another, Living Dead Girl, was good enough to be called one of the favorites of the folks who pick the LA Times Book Prize, but, sadly, not favorite enough. The other, ‘Even The Losers’, hasn’t come out yet, but when it does, Tod would appreciate it if you’d buy it and make it your favorite. To see Tod’s ego, visit TodGoldberg.com.
 
*** ROBERT BIRNBAUM
 
Ten Favorites (at this particular moment in time):

The Man With The Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren
The Servants of The Map, by Andrea Barrett
The Poet, by Michael Connelly
Erasure by Percival Everett
One Hundred Years of Solitude/Love in Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Burning Marguerite, by Elizabeth Iness-Brown
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
Mile Zero, by Thomas Sanchez
Damascus Gate, by Robert Stone
Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Washington DC, and Hollywood, by Gore Vidal

Robert Birnbaum is editor-at-large at Identity Theory and a contributing writer to The Morning News. He feeds his canine companion,Rosie, twice a day.

*** 
 
MARTY BECKERMAN

 1984, by George Orwell

A benchmark in human thinking. Orwell will outlive your grandchildren.

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

A fictionalized memoir from a German WWI veteran. Its antiwar sentiments might be overly idealistic, but this was one of the first books to eradicate the glorious myths of war. Also explores how elites brainwash young people into serving as tools for their own ends. And that dripping wet sex scene is pretty freakin’ hot.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

The most prescient book ever written. Astonishing that Huxley wrote this in 1932, as it uncannily predicts the soullessness of present-day American culture. And those Alpha Teenager sex scenes are pretty freakin’ hot.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

Widely acclaimed as one of the best science-fiction novels of all time. Explores a future in which six-year-old kids are recruited for military service. No sex scenes because the author is a Mormon, but read the book anyway. Just stay clear of the sequels, for the love of Christ.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter Thompson

Gonzo journalism’s defining moment, and the pinnacle of (my old hash buddy) Hunter Thompson’s career. This book explores the cultural breakdown of the 1960s in an insanely captivating style, and remains supremely relevant today, as Americans are caught between far-right and far-left dogmatism.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

A book of endless depth, especially considering that Shelley was only 19 years old at the time. Maybe she’s the original one-hit-wonder young author who only got a publishing deal thanks to family connections.

Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis

The closest Ellis ever came to writing a great book, although American Pyscho is up there too. Nobody can set this one down without feeling total hopelessness for the human race, but the ride is sickeningly enjoyable.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Piggy has the coolest death scene in all literature, possibly excluding the New Testament.

Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Spanning a year in the life of an emotionally distraught 15-year-old boy, this one is a real heartbreaker. It’s also funny, wise and touching — one of those books that everyone loves. And the author is a genuinely awesome guy in person.

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Very weird, very surreal and very good. Another one of those books without a happy ending, but if that’s what you want, check out the fucking Christian romance section the next time you’re in your local bookstore. Because those are the hottest freakin’ sex scenes of all.

Honorable Mention: Beneath the Axis of Evil, by Neal Pollack

Neal is a very funny man. This book makes me laugh. Can I please have my family back now, Mr. Pollack?

Marty Beckerman is the author of Generation S.L.U.T.
 
*** JESSA CRISPIN
 
Lanark, by Alasdair Gray
Shame, by Salman Rushdie
Troubles, by J. G. Farrell
Birchwood, by John Banville

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham Dubliners by James Joyce (technically short stories, but they play off of one another, and each one is so essential as part of the group that it feels like a novel)

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Jessa Crispin is editor-in-chief of Bookslut.
 
*** NED VIZZINI
 
1. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

People kill me for this, but what can I say? I turn to it every year. It has more in it about America, entertainment, law, science, politics, the human dilemma and the state of the world than any other book I own. Plus dinosaurs eat people every few pages. I think it’s like Moby Dick, but better.

2. 1984, by George Orwell

I could pick A Clergyman’s Daughter as well when it comes to Orwell. But this is a terrific mix of action and lesson and I’m glad Orwell finished it before he died.

3. Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer

I claim this guy. He was born in 1977 and I claim him for my generation. He’s a genius. “The Dial” chapter, in parciular, is perfection.

4. It, by Stephen King

Best book about childhood I’ve ever read.

5. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

The invention of the computer needed a myth. Thanks to Mr. Stephenson we have it. Not the best, but the most rewarding book I have ever read.

6. Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

YA that puts A to shame.

7. Oracle Night, by Paul Auster

His most recent might be his best. Great exploration of the telescoping story. This slot almost went to Don Delillo and White Noise, which I just read but since I just read it, maybe next year.

8. Satyricon, by Petronius

Deathless humor.

9. Sphere, by Michael Crichton Half this list could be Crichton. He has a special section in my shelves. But this is my girlfriend’s favorite.

10. Preacher, by Garth Ennis

A graphic novel. That’s gotta count. The most twisted reimagining of Christian myths ever to get printed, featuring god’s personal assassin, the retarded offspring of Jesus, a eunuch Mafiosi, a meat fetishist, vampire, and a Kurt Cobain wannabe… just too much.

Ned Vizzini is VP of operations at SquipWorks, America’s leading producer of squip software. He is also the author of the upcoming novel Be More Chill and, previously, Teen Angst? Naaah…, which is popular among America’s dorks and rejects. His base of operations is Nedvizzini.com.
 
*** RON HOGAN
 
The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers

Who couldn’t love a novel in which a poetry professor travels back in time, then gets stuck in the 19th century, THEN gets caught up in an Egyptian sorceror’s efforts to revenge the Crusades with a brainwashed homunculus of Lord Byron?

The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy

The novel that came between The Black Dahlia, Ellroy’s breakthrough work, and L.A. Confidential, his most famous, this has the characters and the scenes that have stuck with me the strongest over the years.

The Devil Wears Wings, by Harry Whittington

In my early twenties, when I nurtured dreams of directing films, I was totally gung-ho about adapting this pulp masterpiece in which a washed-up pilot is hired by thieves to fly their getaway plane, then starts to get ideas of his own, with predictably disastrous results.

Forty Lashes Less One, by Elmore Leonard

Sort of a halfway point between Leonard’s westerns and contemporary crime novels, this story, set in a Yuma prison at the turn of the twentieth century, is one of his most tightly plotted tales–and in his case, that’s really saying something.

The Happy Island, by Dawn Powell

It’s actually hard to choose a favorite among Dawn Powell’s New York satires, all of which are just about equally brilliant. (Imagine Sex and the City with a genuine literary sensibility.) But characters from this one kept popping up when I tried to recall which of her works I liked the best, so here you go.

Masks of the Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson

Half-remembered scenes from this novel, which I first read when I was maybe 15 or 16, still give me goosebumps nearly 20 years later. Einstein and Joyce grapple with Aleister Crowley to save a man’s soul…and in a pastiche of Ulysses, to boot. I reread it maybe every five years or so.

Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian

Really I could have just filled up the whole list with installments in the Aubrey-Maturin saga, but I figured Bob might want a little more variety. Just start here and don’t stop until you’ve got through them all.

Roadwork, by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

The other novel I obsessively nurtured hopes of adapting for film. No supernatural elements, but King’s depiction of deteriorating psychological conditions has rarely been stronger. I’d pit this against anything Updike wrote as a portrait of the 1970s.

The Savage Girl, by Alex Shakar

At first, I wasn’t going to pick anything that I’d actually read as preparation for a Beatrice interview, but Shakar’s novel is such a perfect example of how to do social comedy in the 21st century that I couldn’t resist.

The Slide Area, Gavin Lambert

As with Powell, I really wasn’t sure which of Lambert’s novels I wanted to put down, but scenes from this inevitably come up when I try to recall what I admire most about his stories about life on the fringes of Hollywood. Hard to find, but you should definitely haunt used bookstores until you do.

Ron Hogan blogs about books and the publishing industry at Beatrice.com.

*** JADE WALKER
 
1. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
2. The Eight, by Katherine Neville
3. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
4. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
5. A Drink Before The War, by Dennis Lehane
6. Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
7. Rape: A Love Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
8. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
9. Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton
10. The Man Who Ate the 747, by Ben Sherwood

Jade Walker prefers novels that contain well-written, fast-paced stories and intriguing characters in romantic and/or murderous situations. She currently lives in Seattle, where she’s writing vampire romance novels and running The Blog of Death.

—–
 
JOE LAVIN
 
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
1984, by George Orwell
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
Summer of My Amazing Luck, by Miriam Toews
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
Any Choose Your Own Adventure novel
Joe Lavin writes a weekly humor column at JoeLavin.com.
 
*** ADAM FINLEY
 
Ten favorite novels and fun with opposites!

Now let’s get shakin’:

Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs

Clothed Breakfast

Would also accept: Dressed Supper
 
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Bravery and Loving Outside Branson

Would also accept: Courage and Affection Beyond Des Moines
 
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

The Landscape of the Writer as an Old Woman

Would also accept: A Snapshot of the Patron as an Elderly Matriarch
 
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Two Walked Under the Seagull’s Hole

Would also accept: One-Half Crawled Inside an Ostrich’s Log Cabin
 
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Throw-44

Would also accept: Toss-11 OR Lob-33
 
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Gong Can

No exceptions.

My Education by William S. Burroughs

Your Ignorance

Would also accept: Their Recess
 
Bear v. Shark: The Novel by Chris Bachelder

Lion v. Dolphin: The Movie

Would also accept: Rabbit v. Salmon: The Pop-Up Book
 
TIE:

Vanishing Point by David Markson AND White Noise by Don DeLillo

Appearing Base AND Black Silence

Would also accept: Focus Bottom AND African-American Solitude
 
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Demon of the Gnats

Would also accept: Lady of a Maggot OR Madam of the Bumble Bees
 
Adam Finley lives in Minneapolis, MN, at least he will by the time you read this. He has contributed to Ironminds, Impact Press, Flak Magazine, The Black Table, and Lost Brain. He remembers liking “The Satanic Verses” but can’t remember if he liked it enough to add it to this list. Same with “A Clockwork Orange.” He would have also added “Ulysses,” “Finnegans Wake,” and “Gravity’s Rainbow” but that would only have been to brag about the fact that he’s actually read them, and he’s simply not that arrogant.
 
*** MATT HINRICHS
 
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Of course, this is the Alienated Teenager’s Bible, but I can clearly see why that is so. Holden Caulfield is one of the most unique, unforgettable fictional characters ever created.

Chilly Scenes of Winter, by Anne Beattie

Bittery funny book about a circle of friends too cynical and full of themselves to think about love. You’d have to be in your twenties and single to fully appreciate it, but there’s no denying Beattie’s wit and perceptive gifts.

Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West

Amazing. An indelible portrait of disenchanted also-rans and hangers-on, living amongst the faded glitter of 1930s Hollywood. This book actually reads better now than it undoubtedly did when it was new.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

A long-ass book with modern people pontificating about their own modernity while looking dramatically at the sunset. They also talk about architecture. I treasure this book, mostly because of the courage of Ayn Rand’s convictions. P.S. I saw the movie first. While reading the novel, I couldn’t resist picturing Dominique as Patricia Neal in 1948.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

A classic that hardily deserves the title. Despite the unthinkable hardships his characters endure, I love how Steinbeck gives them dignity in their simple ability to persevere and move on. Definitely an inspiration.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

In the ’80s, it read like a cautionary tale of fundamentalism gone mad. Today, it could almost be considered prophetic. I love Atwood’s talent for descriptive detail.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Yeah, it’s one of my favorites — shut up!

The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

In chronicling one guy’s lunch hour, detail by minute detail, Nicholson Baker created a stream of conciousness masterpiece. Baker’s obsessive, navel gazing writing style is a wonder to behold. His influence can currently be found in, of all places, weblogs.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain

It’s hard to pick a favorite among Cain’s books, but Postman towers above the rest as an object lesson in economical writing. Tawdry, dark, super-blunt and startlingly contemporary.

Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin

About as dated as a rainbow-hued pair of platform boots – and twice as fun. Goofy as they are, the characters are all warm and easy to identify with. Later books in the series got more loopy and convoluted, but this one reads like a hilarious time capsule of San Francisco in the ’70s.

Matt Hinrichs runs the cool pop culture blog Scrubbles.
 
*** JAMES NORTON
 
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

The great American novel. Period. Deep, rich, challenging characters meet, clash, fall in love, and gain some sort of sad, world-weary wisdom amid the rise and spectacular fall of a fictionalized Huey P. Long, demagogic governor of Louisiana.

Another Country, by James Baldwin

A poetic novel of race, friendship and sexual identity set in Greenwich Village, Harlem and France. A ripping good read of hurricane intensity.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Captures the chaos and idiocy of war with the keen eye of a master satirist. Absolutely impossible to follow for the first 100 pages; then it all snaps into a phantasmagoria of action, tragedy, and comedy.
Dune, by Frank Herbert

A space-operatic retelling of the founding of Islam, written with wire-taut skill and unforgettable images. Science fiction taken to an absolutely sublime level.

From Here to Eternity, by James Jones

Quite possibly the best World War II book among the many great books to emerge from the conflict. Epic depth and breadth, and the sort of perfectly-realized world that draws you deep within its confines.

Martin Dressler, by Steven Millhauser

A modern fable of absolutely luminous imagination. A story of the American dream taken to a monstrously outlandish and ultimately fantastic new level.

The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi

Razor sharp short stories that accrete to describe the life of an Italian Jew fighting to survive in the time of Hitler. Writing of almost clinical precision and detachment describing a horror that is at once personal and unfathomably broad.

The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut

One of the most singular and hilarious books to ever straddle the genres of science fiction and satire. A beautiful bridge between Vonnegut’s earliest published writing (which takes a hard sci-fi cue from the likes of Asimov and Bradbury) and his later, more distinctively personal works.

The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell

Described by Russell as “Jesuits… in… space!,” “The Sparrow” explores what happens when entirely new cultures meet – and clash. The micro-anthropological interactions (a crew pent up on a small spaceship) are as brilliantly sketched as the author’s marco-anthropological ideas.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

A masterpiece by one of the sages of post-modern fiction, Japanese author Haruki Murakami. A deeply strange story of a seemingly ordinary man who, while searching for his wife’s lost cat, confronts an enemy of almost supernatural evil.

J.R. Norton is a researcher for “The O’Franken Factor,” on Air America Radio.
 
*** BRIAN LEWANDOWSKI
 
My 10 Favoritest All-Time Novelly Ready Things

The Good Professor is sometimes not a fair man nor a rational one. When he asked for my ten favorite novels, I was stumped. What would be the criteria? How could I pick? I read so often that I may have actually forgotten some books. My favorite genres change from year to year. How was I going to do this?

So I had to set some criteria. The first and foremost, I figured, should be if I had taken the book to the crapper with me. You see, I gotta do something while I am in the can. I can’t just sit there and stare at the complexities of the towel bar. That’s where magazines like “Woman’s Day” come in. If a book was so good that it superceded the latest how-to article on “Using Your Fallopian Tubes to Decorate Colorful Cakes,” then I figured it was a keeper.

With that in mind, here’s my 10 All-Time Favorite Novels that kept me turning the pages before reaching for the toilet paper.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

A tiny little man-toddler with a weird little voice saves a bunch of people from an airport bomb. No, I swear it’s not “Bat Boy: The Musical.”

Chasing Cezanne, by Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle wrote all those pompous books about living in Provence eating fungus and indulging on grape juice toe-cheese. They caused people to move there in droves. This isn’t one of those books.
Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

Just finished this book about a tiny government that starts banning people from using certain letters in everyday life. To those type of right-wing control freaks, I say “F U!”

The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald

My all time favorite book as a kid well after those geeky Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster things. I swear that a Sasquatch once lived in my den.

Oh Henry!, by Sol Weinstein and Howard Albrecht

Henry Kissinger is a super hero. Yeah, I didn’t believe it at first. But then I saw his really big “S”!

The Pleasure of My Company, by Steve Martin

Everyday before I read this book I touched all the glassware in my cupboard seven times, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then walked backwards to my reading chair.

The Road to Wellville, by T Coraghessan Boyle

Christ, another book about insanity. This book was simply marvy but then they made it into a movie with Dana Carvey (Holy Crap! I rhymed!). You don’t make movies with Dana Carvey unless he is playing Garth.

Roadkill, by Kinky Friedman

Someone is trying to kill Willie Nelson and Kinky sets out to find who, what and whyÖ oh and to roll a few fatties.

Saratoga Backtalk, by Stephen Dobyns

I like any of these books in this mystery series as they all take place in the town I grew up in. It’s fun to read about a spot and think “I threw up there.” Oddly, this Dobyns guy has lived in almost all the places I have at around the same time. Freak!

Slapstick, by Kurt Vonnegut

Sometimes it’s good to be The King of Manhattan. Sometimes it’s good to be The King of Manhattan and know that Donald Trump and George Steinbrenner are long since deceased.

Brian Lewandowski has a penchant for being opinionated, often daily, often at BrianLewandowski.com. He occasionally interviews celebrities of some sort at Five For The Famous. He has a book, “Slop and Swill from a Festering Mind,” which is available here. The rest of the time he explores his photographic and artsy side at hideedee.com. He resolves to shorten this blurb someday.
 
*** BOB SASSONE
 
In alpha order, since any other way would be too difficult:

The Contortionist’s Handbook, by Craig Clevenger

One of the very few debut novels that made me say “wow.” I read it twice in one week.

Fade, by Robert Cormier

I’ll steal the cover blurb from Stephen King: “Imagine what might happen if Holden Caulfield stepped into H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man…” A great book. It’s probably in the young adult section of the bookstore, and parents would probably freak out if they knew their kids were reading this.

Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

This book, along with a ton of sci-fi books, started me on the road to being a writer (see also Clifford, The Big Red Dog). Also one of two mouse-oriented books on my list. Weird.

Generation X, by Douglas Coupland

All the cliches happen to be true: this was an important book to my generation, one that really captures the zeitgeist of the 80s. And I love the structure and layout.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

For obvious reasons.

Gun, With Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem

Newsweek said it “marries Chandler’s style and Philip K. Dick’s vision.” I agree.

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

I’m an American, and this is must-read Americana.

Kiss Me, Judas, by Will Christopher Baer

When I fantasize, which is often, I think that one day I will write this well.

Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck

Classic for a reason. Extraordinarily well-written, with vivid characters and memorable scenes.

Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris

His other Lecter novels aren’t up to par, but this first one is very well done.

Anything by Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, or Ross MacDonald. All masters of the detective and/or noir novel.

Bob Sassone got his start as a dancer on The Carol Burnett Show.

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