Recommended Books


“But, after all, plans were the worst. They drained you of every bit of present life, until all you were was a containment building, and the ghost of yourself was lost on the vapors of the future, waiting to exist. Enough of that. Better to give up all personal qualities, all hopes, all plans, all dreams. Better to exist in a permanent startle, moments lighting up like sparks and flashing out, good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.”
Jane Smiley, Horse Heaven


American Humor: A Study of National Character, Constance Rourke (why this book isn’t required reading in both American History and Literature classes is a mystery to me, it is absolutely remarkable)
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
A Short History of Scientific Ideas, Charles Singer (because it’s very well written, among other reasons)
Arrow in the Blue, Arthur Koestler (It’s rare to read such a well-observed memoir, I think.)
Art & Science, Siân Ede
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo (As fascinating for its form as its content.)
• Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art Between Museum and Marketplace, Martha Buskirk
Daughter of Earth, Agnes Smedley
Faust, Goëthe (particularly the Norton edition)
Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes
Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
Free Fire Zone, Theresa Rebeck
Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things, Gilberto Sorrentino
Inferno, Eileen Myles
Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
Par Lui-Même, Marcel Broodthaers
Pilgrims, Elizabeth Gilbert
Portrait of Lady, Henry James (I know, but it’s a great book)
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie – A Tale of Love and Fallout, Laura Redniss (A remarkable example of the unique domain of art and its ability to express ideas, questions, research, and provocation in ways that are untenable elsewhere.)
So Many Enemies, So Little Time: An American Woman in All the Wrong Places, Elinor Burkett (One of the most surprising and smart post-Sept. 11 books that I’ve read.)
The Divine Mistress, Samuel Edwards
The Elegance of Hedgehogs, Muriel Barbery
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, James McNeil Whistler
The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, Sarah Schulman
The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames), Emile Zola
The Next American Revolution, Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith
The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
Writings, Agnes Martin
Zuleika Dobson, Max Beerbohm (you have to love it )


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