Ten Books for our Times


Barack Obama said that reading novels helped him survive the presidency. Literature may help us survive Trump’s time in office as well. In making this list, I tried to avoid the usual suspects, like 1984, the Handmaid’s Tale, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451, but there’s not a thing wrong with those, either.

Here are my picks:

Richard III  by William Shakespeare

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by. Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.”

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Based on a real-life murder case, a story of class and ambition and murder—this book is under-read and under-rated.

“For his ideas of luxury were in the main so extreme and mistaken and gauche—mere wanderings of a repressed and unsatisfied fancy, which as yet had had nothing but imaginings to feed it.”

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin

“What it comes to is that if we, who can scarcely be considered a white nation, persist in thinking of ourselves as one, we condemn ourselves, with the truly white nations, to sterility and decay, whereas if we could accept ourselves as we are, we might bring new life to the Western achievements, and transform them.”

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace.

I admit—I never read the whole thing. But remember Johnny Gentle? That couldn’t be me in that video. “I’m a germophobe.”

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

The danger of fake news: it can make you super dissatisfied with reality.

An Untamed State, Roxane Gay:

“There’s no one you can trust in a country run through with anger.”

The Dead Zone, Stephen King

(See, I’m not a snob): Stillson

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

There’s Kellyanne in her FAO Schwartz coat and hat, painting the roses red.

Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The lies of a dictator: “…as he discovered in the course of his uncountable years that a lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth…”

American Pastoral, Philip Roth

“Writing turns you into somebody who’s always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on.”

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