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A Summer Reading List
CounterPunch’s Favorite Novels (in English)
by Alexander Cockburn

–coeditor CounterPunch

Books-writ-in-English I’d throw in the car to read on the way to somewhere? 20th century novels I truly love? Start with P.G. Wodehouse. Two of his best, written in the late 1930s or early 40s, The Code of the Woosters and Jeeves in the Morning. Up there with Shakespeare’s best comedies. And talking of Shakespeare, try to find Hugh Kingsmill’s Return of William Shakespeare, a first person account of his life and work by the Swan of A. Now move over to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Close out with a little surrealist classic, written as a series for the old English Lilliput, Maurice Richardson’s Exploits of Engelbrecht the Dwarf.

Adventure? Stanley Weyman’s Under the Red Robe, tighter than Dumas, set in Richelieu’s France, with its terrific first line, "Marked cards!" Now for Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea, and then in a natural aquatic progression, to that Irish revolutionary, Erskine Childers and his Riddle of the Sands, then to John Buchan’s Greenmantle, chock with all the ingredients of today’s headlines about Islam, terror, Osama, the Great Game, only written 70 years ago.

Now to Eric Ambler’s Mask of Dimitrios, then head east from Istanbul to India and John Masters’ haunting thriller The Deceivers about stranglers (The Thugs) in the service of Kali. Don’t forget to pack Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, made into that great movie Plein Soleil. Pack at least one of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books, maybe Flying Colors, where the austere commander has that torrid fling with the Comptesse Marie de Gracay. Not enough women in this list. How about Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Rebecca West’s The Thinking Reed, with its playboy who "even when he was peering down a woman’s blouse managed to look as though he was thinking about India".

Pick up my father Claud Cockburn’s Beat the Devil, so much better than the movie Huston made from it.Then on to Patrick Hamilton’s London-set Slaves of Solitude, noirer than noir. Something short, though still noir-ish? Evelyn Waugh’s Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, so superior to the pompous war trilogy. Now settle down with two by Joseph Conrad, both brilliant about terrorism, Under Western Eyes and The Secret Agent. Close out with Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds and my one concession to heft, James Joyce’s Ulysses. Throw in Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.

You forgot to pack Mann, Musil, Broch? Lucky you. Another summer safe from attack by Joseph and His Brothers, The Man Without Qualities, not to mention the Death of Virgil. Next year, you promise.

Jeffrey St. Clair–co-editor CounterPunch. (My top 20 in rough order of preference.)

Far Tortuga-Peter Matthiessen
(Moby Dick narrated by Bob Marley.)

Mumbo Jumbo-Ishmael Reed
(A conspiratorial history of America that Howard Zinn might have written if he’d been a black radical, obsessed with the blues and jazz and blessed with a vicious sense of humor. Reed is our funniest novelist since Twain and also one of the most painful.)

Go Down Moses- William Faulkner
(Faulkner is the Poe of the 20th Century. But he’s haunted by bigger demons–here nothing less than cultural incest, human enslavement, the destruction of wild nature by cut-and-run timber companies and the extermination of the Indians of the Mississippi Delta, all of which come crashing together in the extended version of "The Bear," which forms the heart of this novel.)

Solo Faces-James Salter
(The best novel ever written about mountain climbing, sex and France–yes, they go together. The prose is as clear and deadly as the sheer face of the Dru.)

Almanac of the Dead-Leslie Marmon Silko
(The reconquest of America by the people, animals and plants the masters of the nation mistakenly assumed they had annihilated.)

Ray-Barry Hannah
(The white Ishmael Reed…on drugs.)

A Feast of Snakes-Harry Crews
(The deep south in all its gothic weirdness, populated by the next generation of Faulkner’s Snopes, in prose distilled to two syllable words and eight word sentences. But what sentences!)

The Plumed Serpent-DH Lawrence
(Sex, power, sun and the old Mexico. Oddly, it’s also Jean-Luc Godard’s favorite novel.)

The Executioner’s Song-Norman Mailer
(The crowning achievement of Mailer’s career and the best book ever written on crime and punishment in the US.)

Tropic of Cancer-Henry Miller
(The most liberating novel in English and one of the very best.)

Gravity’s Rainbow-Thomas Pynchon
(The secret history of WWII and the corporate plot behind the engineering of the Cold War, with lots of Sadean sex, pigs, dirty limericks, hallucinations, pie fights, anarchists, bad puns, quantum physics and screwball comedy to rush things along.)

Tender is the Night-F. Scott Fitzgerald
(Fitzgerald’s true masterpiece about a Lost Generation of rich and dissipated American expatriates, who almost get what they deserve.)

A Place of Greater Safety-Hilary Mantel
(The most enthusiastic account of the French Revolution written in English since Twain and a rip-roaring read.)

The Violent Bear It Away-Flannery O’Connor
(Religious zealots, sadistic families, visionary schizophrenics, greedy bastards and a gumbo of freaks and outcasts. Just another day in O’Connor’s America.)

Sleeping Beauty-Ross McDonald
(Lost children, narcissistic adults and the destruction of the southern California coast by big oil. McDonald is also a better writer than the more acclaimed novelists of So Cal’s unique brand of degeneracy, Raymond Chandler and Nathaniel West.)

The Last Good Kiss-James Crumley
(For my money, the greatest hard-boiled detective novel ever written and, like the second greatest, Hammett’s Red Harvest, it takes place in our greatest state: that would be Montana.)

Deserted Cities of the Heart-Lewis Shiner
(Shiner defies categorization. He’s often lumped with the cyberpunks, but here he writes about rock ‘n roll, drugs and the haunted past of Mexico better than any living writer.)

The Monkeywrench Gang-Edward Abbey
(Too bad it’s fiction. Or is it?)

Fool’s Crow-James Welch
(Hemingway spoke of loss as a measure of character. Papa was bluffing. James Welch isn’t. The Blackfoot novelist is the American West’s great historian of loss and this haunting novel about the Blackfeet Tribe, the great horse raiders of the Rocky Mountain Front, at the time of the white invasion is a beautiful and excrutiating evocation of his tribe’s history–and our own.)

Children of Light-Robert Stone
(The best novel about Hollywood since the Last Tycoon.)

Captain Blood-Rafael Sabatini
(The first novel I reread.)

Flush- Virginia Woolf
(I’m a sucker for dog stories.)

Ben Sonnenberg–CounterPunch counselor, former editor of Grand Street, author Lost Property: Memoirs of a Bad Boy.

Riddle of the Sands — Erskine Childers

Kim — Rudyard Kipling

Riceyman Steps — Arnold Bennett

Manservant and Maidservant — Ivy Compton Burnett

Parade’s End — Ford Madox Ford

Cakes and Ale — Somerset Maugham

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight — Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

Island of Dr Moreau — H.G. Wells

Scoop — Evelyn Waugh

Animal Farm — George Orwell

Death of the Heart — Elizabeth Bowen

Novel on Yellow Paper — Stevie Smith

The Rainbow — D.H. Lawrence

The Man Who Was Thursday — G. K. Chesterton

USA Trilogy — John Dos Passos

A Lost Lady — Willa Cather

Zuleika Dobson – Max Beerbohm

Momento Mori — Muriel Sparks

Passage to India — E.M. Forester

Between the Acts — Virginia Woolf

Stew Albert–poet and Overlord of the Yippie Reading Room. He can be reached at: stewa@aol.com

An American Dream–Norman Mailer

USA--John Dos Passos

The Sun Also Rises–Ernest Hemingway

The Iron Heel–Jack London

The Great Gatsby–F. Scott Fitzgerald

It Can’t Happen Here–Sinclair Lewis

Dog Soldiers–Robert Stone

American Pastoral–Philip Roth

Catch 22–Joseph Heller

Underworld–Don DeLillo

Lady Chatterley’s Lover–DH Lawrence

The Jungle–Upton Sinclair

Dharma Bums–Jack Kerouac

This Side of Paradise–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Elaine Cassel — former English professor turned lawyer, law professor, legal columnist and blogger on Civil Liberties.

The Golden Bowl – Henry James (My favorite James. The strains in a relationship are symbolized in a cracked urn; emotionally charged, yet exquisitely restrained.)

The Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison (The outsider portrays his separateness with sarcasm and a touch of humor.)

The Sweet Hereafter — Russell Banks (Aching emotionality simmers just beneath the surface; spare prose, nary an unnecessary word. My favorite short story author is Ray Carver, and this Banks is the most Carveresque.)

Mr. Bridge & Mrs. Bridge — Evan Connell (Two novels, actually, of a 1940s couple describing their life and marriage each through their own eyes. Each captures his/her loneliness in a subtle way_read them together for the best experience of two lives passing in the hall.)

The Citadel — A. J. Cronin (The tale of a young Scottish doctor in the 20s, as he goes from a small-town doctor barely making it to a London physician who has it made. But he become disillusioned and recovers his love for medicine and people.)

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — James Joyce (The ultimate "coming-of-age" novel from surely the most important writer of the 20th century.)

To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf (A stream-of consciousness narrative of a middle-class matron; dreamy setting.)

Sorrell and Son – Warwick Deeping (A father sacrifices and devotes his life to making a good life for his son. Poignant, but with a "happy" ending.)

My Man Jeeves — P. G. Wodehouse (Hard to pick my favorite Wodehouse, but this one will do. What is it about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, his valet, that appeals to me? The deadpan sarcasm and subtle humor, I guess.)

A Handful of Dust– Evelyn Waugh (A master of satire and dry humor, Waugh pokes fun at his favorite victims–the British upper class.)

Down and Out in Paris and London — George Orwell (Ostensibly a novel, this book is Orwell’s thinly fictional account of a time he spent "slumming it" in Paris and London. The decadence is compelling.)

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton (The darkest of Wharton’s novels, the tragic tale of a desperately unhappy man locked in a loveless marriage.

Native Son — Richard Wright (One of the most important novels in the 20th century about the hopelessness of being poor and black in the US in the 30s. In many ways, not much has changed.)

Chris Clarke — editor of Faultline: the magazine of the California environment.

Tortilla Curtain–T.C.Boyle

Black Sun–Ed Abbey

The Brothers K–David James Duncan

Continental Drift–James Houston

Tripmaster Monkey–Maxine Hong Kingston

The Octopus--Frank Norris

Straight White Male–Gerald Haslam

All the Little Live Things–Wallace Stegner

The Turquoise Dragon–David Rains Wallace

Vida–Marge Piercy

The Giant Joshua–Maurine Whipple (Spelling correct)

All the Pretty Horses–Cormac McCarthy (despite the movie)

Animal Dreams–Barbara Kingsolver

Bless The Beasts And Children–Glendon Swarthout

Bucking the Sun–Ivan Doig

Michael Donnelly — Salem, Oregon-based environmental organizer.

Slaughterhouse Five–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Where is Joe Merchant?–Jimmy Buffett

The Dispossessed--Ursula LeGuin

A Canticle for Liebowitz–Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Lord of Light–Rodger Zelazny

Tourist Season–Carl Hiaasen

Little Altars Everywhere–Rebecca Wells

Dog Soldiers–Robert Stone

Sometimes A Great Notion–Ken Kesey

The Butcher’s Theater–Jonathan Kellerman

A Thief of Time–Tony Hillerman

King Rat–James Clavell

Condominium–John D. MacDonald

1876–Gore Vidal

Devil in a Blue Dress–Walter Mosley

The Foundation Trilogy –Isaac Asimov

Brave New World –Aldous Huxley

Invisible Man –Ralph Waldo Ellison

Adam Engel — New York writer, poet and CounterPunch contributor.

Gravity’s Rainbow — Thomas Pynchon

JR — William Gaddis

Americana – Don Delillo

Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison

Ulysses – James Joyce

Catch 22 — Joseph Heller

Naked Lunch — William Burroughs

Absalom, Absalom! — William Faulkner

The Book of Daniel — E.L. Doctorow

Catcher in the Rye — J.D. Salinger

Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream — Kathy Acker

Blood and Guts in High School — Kathy Acker

Mumbo Jumbo — Ishmael Reed

USA Trilogy — John Dos Passos

The Making of Americans — Gertrude Stein

Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable — Samuel Beckett

Carl Estabrook — Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CounterPunch columnist.

SWORD OF HONOUR — Evelyn Waugh,

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME — Anthony Powell,

DOCTOR FISCHER OF GENEVA — Graham Greene,

AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS– Flann O’Brien

ULYSSES — James Joyce

THE SOUND AND THE FURY — William Faulkner

Gravity’s Rainbow — Thomas Pynchon

EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE –Flannery O’Connor

THE BLACK PRINCE — Iris Murdoch

MASTER AND COMMANDER — Patrick O’Brian

MANHATTAN TRANSFER — John Dos Passos

NAPOLEON SYMPHONY — Anthony Burgess

REGENERATION — Pat Barker

WOMEN IN LOVE — D. H. Lawrence

LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL — Thomas Wolfe

BEAT TO QUARTERS — C. S. Forester

A FLAG FOR SUNRISE — Robert Stone

LUCKY JIM — Kingsley Amis

OLIVER WISWELL — Kenneth Roberts

JULIAN — Gore Vidal

DAY OF THE LOCUST — Nathaniel West

THE GOLDEN GATE — Vikram Seth

LOLITA — Vladimir Nabokov

THE BLUE FLOWER — Penelope Fitzgerald

MR. AMERICAN — George MacDonald Fraser

GAUDY NIGHT — Dorothy L. Sayers

THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET — Lawrence Durrell

THE LORD OF THE FLIES — William Golding

MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR — Herman Wouk (Wait, I can explain…)

Julie Hilden — laywer, columnist and author of the newly published erotic novel Three and the memoir The Bad Daughter.

A Book of Common Prayer — Joan Didion

The Book of Daniel — E.L. Doctorow

"His Dark Materials" trilogy — Philip Pullman

The Left Hand of Darkness — Ursula LeGuin

The Dispossessed — Ursula LeGuin

Affliction — Russell Banks

The Sweet Hereafter — Russell Banks

The Foundation Trilogy — Isaac Asimov

July’s People — Nadine Gordimer

The Late Bourgeois World — Nadine Gordimer

Age of Iron — J.M. Coetzee

The Comfort of Strangers — Ian McEwan

House of Stairs — William Sleator

Anything by Philip K. Dick

Bruce Jackson — editor of the web magazine BuffaloReport.com and SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo.

Absalom, Absalom! — William Faulkner,

The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison,

Native Son — Richard Wright

Call it Sleep — Henry Roth

Miss Lonelyhearts — Nathaniel West

The Maltese Falcon — Dashiell Hammett,

Gone With the Wind — Margaret Mitchell

From Here to Eternity — James Jones

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold — John Le Carre

The French Lieutenant’s Woman — John Fowles

The Stand — Stephen King

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

Wise Blood — Flannery O’Connor

Little Big Man – Thomas Berger

Ulysses — James Joyce

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

Ironweed — William Kennedy

Disgrace — J.M. Coetzee

Christine Karatnytsky — New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Voss by Patrick White

Martha Quest by Doris Lessing

Swing, Hammer, Swing by Jeff Torrington

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien

Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Valis Trilogy by Philip K. Dick

Bill Kauffman– author of Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt) and of a novel, Every Man a King (Soho Press), and three other books.

Burr and Lincoln by Gore Vidal–(America, by a true patriot and our greatest living man of letters.)

The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey–(An anarchist Western. In the film version (Lonely are the Brave, starring Kirk Douglas’s jaw), screenwriter Dalton Trumbo shamefully changed the hero’s crime from rescuing a draft-resister to harboring a family of adorable illegal immigrants. Abbey: Brave. Trumbo: Coward!)

The Octopus by Frank Norris, Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvaag, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck–(The great American novel: take your pick.)

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis–A regionalist dystopia by a Minnesota Firster. George Babbitt is a fool not because he is provincial but because he has bought into the lie of mass culture. If you drink at Starbucks and watch SEX AND THE CITY, you’re Babbitt. Dump FRIENDS; make friends!

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington–You’ve seen Welles’ butchered movie; now read the superior novel.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry–The finest book ever written about a barber. Berry is the exemplary American agrarian.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury–Just lovely. My daughter and I read the opening pages (about the first day of summer) every summer solstice. Yeah, I know, dandelions yellow the yard in May, not June, but maybe things were different in Ray’s Waukegan.

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe and On the Road by Jack Kerouac–I loved these books when I was 23, and I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING!

The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan–An Armenian-American pacifist confronts The Good War and loses his career. Saroyan was a soldier when he wrote this charming story of a 19-year-old draftee who discovers that "our own army was the enemy." Office of War Information commissar Herbert Agar–a turncoat bastard who had been a Kentucky distributist before going proto-Ashcroft–threatened him with a court martial and tried to kill the book. Saroyan nailed the chickenhawks but good: "when everybody else got shipped overseas they were still writing scenarios for films encouraging everybody else to face death like a scenario writer."

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson–Inspired an aptly bleak album by one of my all-time favorite bands, Green on Red.

Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.–Indiana golden boy writes 1,000-page Whitmanesque novel, then kills self. No one has read this book for 50 years, but I love it.

Crazy Legs McBain by Joe Archibald–Hey, it’s my list. Every fall I read this 1961 boys book about an unlikely college football star, a gawky kid who runs punts back 90 yards, makes one-handed catches, and piledrives the pretty boy-rich kid quarterback’s face into the turf. Go Bobcats!

Max Sawicky–economist at the Economic Policy Institute and Tsar of the MaxSpeak site.

don’t die before reading:

Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison

Good as Gold — Joseph Heller

Catch 22 — Heller

Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs

Why Are We In Vietnam — Norman Mailer

less taxing:

Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match (really one book)–Len Deighton

Spy Hook, Spy Line, Spy Sinker (ditto); — Len Deighton

The Foundation Trilogy — Isaac Asimov

Day of the Jackel – Frederick Forsythe

everything by John Le Carre

Standard Schaefer–independent economic journalist and cultural historian. He also co-edits the New Review of Literature. He can be reached at ssschaefer@earthlink.net

Lincoln –Gore Vidal

American Tabloid — James Ellroy

If He Hollers, Let Him Go — Chester Himes

Love in the Ruins — Walker Percy

White Noise — Don Delillo

Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace

Harlot’s Ghost — Norman Mailer

Five Doubts — Mary Caponegro

Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things — Gilbert Sorrentino

The Bushwacked Piano — Thomas McGuane


Lewis Shiner — author of Deserted Cities of the Heart, Slam, Glimpses, and Say Goodbye: the Laurie Moss Story.

HEART OF DARKNESS — Joseph Conrad
(Tainted by racism and imperialism, but undeniably compelling, both in the narrative techniques and the sheer power of the story.)

THE SWEETHEART SEASON — Karen Joy Fowler
(Nostalgia was never like this–a women’s baseball team in the late 1940s reveals a weird America just under the surface, full of wit, grace, and beauty.)

THE DIGGING LEVIATHAN — James P. Blaylock
(A loving attack on the very nature of science, hysterically funny, and wonderfully unwilling to pass judgment.)

A THOUSAND ACRES — Jane Smiley
(Hard to pick just one from an oeuvre that’s so varied and uniformly excellent, but the emotional level in this one is stunning.)

MASTERS OF ATLANTIS — Charles Portis
(Deadpan novel of fringe culture and conspiracy from a seriously underrated writer.)

Gravity’s Rainbow — Thomas Pynchon
(The funniest, easiest-reading "difficult" book I know, taking a slight edge over the also wonderful MASON & DIXON.)

SAINT MAYBE — Anne Tyler
(Again, hard to pick just one, but this may be my favorite of hers–caring, patient exploration of damaged characters trying to make some headway in life.)

LAND OF LAUGHS — Jonathan Carroll
(Flawed novel with a deeply unsatisfying ending, but completely unforgettable, with twists and turns unlike anything else out there.)

DREAM SCIENCE — Thomas Palmer
(Hyper-realistic book about a man caught up in a series of impossible events that have a primal, almost mythic quality, finally hijacking our sense of what reality is.)

MARTIAN TIME-SLIP — Philip K. Dick
(Essentially a mainstream novelist of character, his best work uses SF elements to tighten the screws on his protagonists–you’ll never look at Ken and
Barbie the same way after reading this.)

ENDLESS LOVE — Scott Spencer
(I don’t know many other novels that get the obsessive quality of young love as right as this one does–Spencer is another writer with a large and varied body of work, all of which is great.)

DOG SOLDIERS — Robert Stone
(Word for word I can’t think of a better stylist, but Stone’s books are too often about self-pitying drunks. Among the exceptions, DAMASCUS GATE may be a better novel, but this is his archetypical work.)

Sam Smith — editor of the indispensable Progressive Review and author of The Great Political Repair Manual.

I don’t read that many novels in part because I resent novelists. They write lies, then get to call it literature and turn beautiful women gooey-eyed at parties. Journalists write the truth, then get to call it news and turn bleary-eyed listening to politicians at press conferences. If they start writing like novelists, it becomes a major scandal, witness the recent troubles at the Times.

There are plenty of literary truth-tellers and any summer would be better spent reading them than the average novel. I particularly recommend the work of The Intitials: E.B White, A.J. Liebling and H.L. Mencken, as well as anything by James Thurber. Consider, for example, a good novel that makes my list: "All the King’s Men." Fine as it is, it doesn’t match Liebling’s description of another Long in "The Earl of Louisiana."

Further, having more than enough dysfunction in my own family, I get no particular joy out of reading about other people’s problems, whether fictional or mildly disguised. And I agree with Joe Rauh who once told me that he once declined an invitation from Arthur Miller to see a tragic play because "I didn’t see why I should have to pay to see what I try to avoid in real life."

But, unlike novelists, journalists tend to do what they’re told, so here’s my list:

Sister Carrie–Theodore Dreiser

The Great Gatsby–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Brave New World–Aldus Huxley

Catch 22–Joseph Heller

1984–George Orwell

Slaughterhouse Five–Kurt Vonnegut

Animal Farm–Orwell

All the King’s Men–Robert Penn Warren

The Sun Also Rises–Ernest Hemingway

Catcher in the Rye–JD Salinger

Lord Jim–Joseph Conrad

Lord of the Flies–William Golding

Invisible Man–Ralph Ellison

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–Douglas Adams

Finally, when I do read fiction, it tends to be detective mysteries. I’m convinced that Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, and Michael Innes tell all one needs to know to get along in this life and how to avoid trouble along the way. As Chandler once wrote of the detective hero, "He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with a rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in."

David Vest — CounterPunch columnist and rock’n'roller. His scorching new CD, Way Down Here, is now available from CounterPunch.

MASTERS OF ATLANTIS–Charles Portis

Written on the Body — Jeannette Winterson

Ellen Foster–Kaye Gibbons

The Handmaid’s Tale–Margaret Atwood

The Knockout Artist–Harry Crews

Hue and Cry–James Alan MacPherson (I know, hush about it)

The Ambassadors–Henry James

Last Exit to Brooklyn–Hubert Selby, Jr.

The Talented Mr Ripley–Patricia Highsmith


Jesse Walker — associate editor of Reason and author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU Press, 2001). http://jessewalker.blogspot.com

The Place of Dead Roads — William S. Burroughs

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay — Michael Chabon

The Man Who Was Thursday — G.K. Chesterton

David Boring — Daniel Clowes

Aegypt — John Crowley

A Scanner Darkly — Philip K. Dick

The Sound and the Fury — William Faulkner

Red Harvest — Dashiell Hammett

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — James Joyce

Impollutable Pogo — Walt Kelly

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — Ken Kesey

Motherless Brooklyn — Jonathan Lethem

The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien

Wise Blood — Flannery O’Connor

Mumbo Jumbo — Ishmael Reed

Burr — Gore Vidal

Jimmy Corrigan — Chris Ware

The Woman Chaser — Charles Williford

Illuminatus! — Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea

Kimberly Willson — Millar Library, Portland State University.

Golden Notebook– Doris Lessing

Justine — Lawrence Durrell

Aaron’s Rod – D. H. Lawrence

The Years — Virginia Woolf

Light Years — James Salter

The Executioner’s Song– Norman Mailer

Sula– Toni Morrison

Solstice — Joyce Carol Oates

Desperate Characters– Paula Fox

The Crying of Lot 49– Thomas Pynchon

Slaughterhouse Five– Kurt Vonnegut

In the Cut — Susanna Moore

Death in the Family– James Agee

Farewell, My Lovely– Raymond Chandler