February 9, 2014 In her unconventional memoir, Jennifer Clement writes about the famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and his relationship with Suzanne Mallouk — from Mallouk's perspective. Rebecca Walker says it's harrowing, beautiful and utterly riveting.
January 19, 2014 If you liked the movie No Way Out, writer and editor Adam Sternbergh has one message for you: The book was so much better. Kenneth Fearing's 1946 noir novel The Big Clock, which inspired the Kevin Costner thriller, is just as tightly plotted and suspenseful — but it's also a moving meditation on mortality and time.
January 1, 2014 Travel Light is an unjustly forgotten fairy tale about a wandering princess who goes from bears and dragons to the real world of medieval Constantinople — and back again. Writer Amal El-Mohtar says she encountered the book as an adult and "felt, very powerfully, that I had been waiting for it."
December 15, 2013 Critics bashed Martin Amis' Yellow Dog, a novel that tells the competing stories of a thug, a king, a tabloid hack and an airplane flight. But author Ben Masters says you should ignore the naysayers and pick up this surprising, supple novel. In fact, Masters says, it's a "small 21st-century masterpiece."
December 1, 2013 Napoleonic Wars? The Royal Navy? Yawn. Novelist Nicola Griffith had low expectations when she started reading Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. But soon she was tearing through the 20-volume series, reveling in the deeply rendered friendship between the characters Jack and Stephen. It's a masterpiece, she says: "Jane Austen on a ship of war."
November 10, 2013 There are plenty of memoirs of China's Cultural Revolution written from the perspective of elite intellectuals. But Hong Ying's story is different; in her youth, the writer was the sixth child in a crushingly poor family. Novelist Karen Ma says Hong Ying's memoir, Daughter of the River is unflinching, unapologetic and incredibly powerful.
October 13, 2013 Author Antoine Wilson suggests bypassing Proust in favor of a far shorter choice: Nicholson Baker's 1988 novel, which shares the internal monologue of a businessman on an escalator. Shoelaces, drinking straws and the corporate culture of men's bathrooms undergo thorough analysis in this slim book, which Wilson calls "relentlessly perceptive."
September 15, 2013 Shirley Hazzard's 1980 novel Transit of Venus tells a sweeping, decades-long tale of two Australian sisters and three men, with a dash of astronomy thrown in. Author Roxana Robinson says the novel entranced her with tragedy, complexity and elegant, arresting prose.
September 1, 2013 Author Ann Kirschner first read Anthony Trollope's Palliser series as a graduate student. Now, returning to it after more than 20 years, she finds her impression of the Victorian tale has transformed along with her life.
August 11, 2013 Science fiction has long offered us the image of "the final frontier," but some sci-fi authors have mapped frontiers of their own. Author Stephen Burt says James Tiptree Jr. (pen name of Alice Sheldon) was a pioneer in writing about gender and sexuality when most sci-fi authors were male.
July 28, 2013 Bohumil Hrabal's novel, I Served The King Of England, about a Czech waiter who barely survives World War II, may sound dire but author Anthony Marra says that if you allow yourself to be sucked in, you'll enter a story so ethereal you'll practically float.
July 7, 2013 Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter's 1845 novella Rock Crystal is the seemingly simple tale of two children who get lost in a snowfall on Christmas Eve. But author Susan Choi says the story perfectly captures humanity at its humblest and most resilient.
June 16, 2013 The fictional tale about war correspondents will make you laugh till the person next to you on the subway thinks you have problems. It is also, according to writer Alexander Nazaryan, an all-too-real parody of the glory days of print journalism.
June 2, 2013 Donald Justice's poems are not interested in making us feel comfortable or special. Yet author Mary Szybist says there is something about them that she finds profoundly consoling.
May 19, 2013 Author Ethan Rutherford started reading Daphne du Maurier's collection of stories, Don't Look Now, while it was still light out and didn't move from his chair until dark. Each one features characters who endure the strange and the extreme, and who are forever changed by the events that befall them.