LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
Every summer for the past three years, we've spoken to academics, business people, actors, musicians and many others about what they're reading, from what's on their nightstand to the blogs they peruse to the books they plan to take on vacation. For the installment this year of our summer reading series, we spoke with John Doe. No, that's not the pseudonym for someone in the witness protection program. This John Doe began life as John Duchac. He's founder and bass player for X, the 1980s punk rock band. He's also an actor who's appeared on such TV shows as "Carnivale" and "Roswell." Doe lived in Baltimore in the late 1970s. At the time, his favorite escapes were the stories of Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski and other Los Angeles authors. He later moved to LA. John Fante's "Ask the Dust" remains Doe's number-one read about the City of Angels.
Mr. JOHN DOE (Musician and Actor): He's painting a picture of Los Angeles in the mid- to late '30s. And the clash between the Latin culture and the Anglo culture and there's some Hollywood mixed in there, and it's a guy trying to become a writer and it's just a beautiful character study and then totally heartbreaking at the end, which is--that makes it my favorite.
HANSEN: Doe also likes to revisit the books of Louise Erdrich. One of his favorites is "Tales of Burning Love," which weaves together the stories of several Native American families as they live through two North Dakota blizzards. Like Erdrich and her novels, Doe often uses his songs to address the theme of love.
Mr. DOE: It's something that has an endless number of variations. Her characters and, I think good characters, are sort of on a collision path, and they're in a moment of crisis that rises and falls.
HANSEN: Doe is also drawn to Japanese writers. He was pleasantly surprised by Natsuo Kirino's novel "Out." It follows a suburban Tokyo woman who kills her husband and confesses the crime during her night shift at a boxed lunch factory. The murderer and three of her factory co-workers forge a tenuous friendship as they try to secretly dispose of the body.
Mr. DOE: Murder mysteries are always so dumb. You know, it's just kind of like turn the page. How fast can you turn the page and how fast can you read it and how fast can the plot move along and have all the twists and turns? And it's--a lot of them seem kind of rote by me, but this one is terrific.
HANSEN: Michael Chabon's "Summerland" provided Doe with a chance to draw his then 12-year-old daughter to the joys of reading. He says she devoured the novel, which takes place on Clam Island in Washington state. The island's fictitious western tip, called the Summerlands, has zero rainfall and great weather all year round. In the story, a 100-year-old baseball scout recruits a really bad ballplayer in a struggle between good and evil.
Mr. DOE: It was totally outlandish, but it seemed sort of real. It was totally plausible and that kind of keeps you engaged in that fantasy.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. DOE: (Singing) Worried brow, worried brow...
HANSEN: Actor and musician John Doe. He and his band, X, recently released an album and companion DVD called "X: Live in Los Angeles." He also has a new solo CD, "Forever Hasn't Happened Yet."
To learn more about our summer reading series, please visit our Web site, npr.org.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. DOE: (Singing) I can't fix you forever. I can make you feel better right now.