My Desert Island Library

Updated April 20, 2012

These are the people that I, as a reader, watcher and listener, have come to treasure. I place them here in alphabetical order, because it would be too hard to rank them, and, after all, this is not a race. Plus, the alphabet provides some amusing pairings. Some writers are special to me for one work, some for many.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich for The Story of a Bad Boy

Hervey Allen for Anthony Adverse

Kingsley Amis for Lucky Jim

Eve Babitz, especially for Eve’s Hollywood

Noel Behn for The Kremlin Letter

David Benjamin for The Joy of Sumo: A Fan’s Notes

Mildred Wirt Benson, for every Nancy Drew mystery she wrote

Albert Bester for The Demolished Man

Jorge Luis Borges for Labyrinths

Sandra Boynton for Moo Bah Lah Lah Lah and many others

Jimmy Breslin for The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Bill Bryson for his wonderful travel books

Frederick Buechner for The Sacred Journey

Edgar Rice Burroughs for Tarzan

Herb Caen for his love letters to San Francisco

E. Jean Carroll for her queenhell bitchrants

Lewis Carroll for his letters

Willa Cather

Raymond Chandler, especially for The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely

Agatha Christie

Colette, for everything, but especially her memoir Earthly Paradise

Billy Collins

Robert Crichton for The Secret of Santa Vittoria

e.e. cummings

James Oliver Curwood for The Valley of Silent Men

Roald Dahl for Matilda, et al

Robertson Davies, especially for the Salterton Trilogy

Daniel Defoe for Robinson Crusoe and A Journal of the Plague Year

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for Wind, Sand and Stars, Night Flight and Flight to Arras

Len Deighton for Harry Palmer

Charles Dickens

Joan Didion

A.D. Divine for the short story “Flood on the Goodwins”

“Franklin W. Dixon” for the first 40 Hardy Boys mysteries

Alexandre Dumas, especially the Three Musketeers trilogy

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott for his rambling stories

Richard Farina for Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

F. Scott Fitzgerald for the last four paragraphs of The Great Gatsby

Ian Fleming for James Bond

Shelby Foote

Rick Geary for his graphic novels

William Gibson for Neuromancer, et al

Kenneth Grahame for The Wind in the Willows

Graham Greene for his “entertainments”

Leila Hadley for Give Me the World and A Journey with Elsa Cloud

Adam Hall (actually Elleston Trevor) for all 19 magnificent Quiller books

Joseph Heller for Catch-22

Joseph Hergesheimer for Java Head

Carl Hiaasen

Holworthy Hall

Robert E. Howard, especially for Conan

Richard Hughes for A High Wind in Jamaica

Leigh Hunt for the poem “Jenny Kissed Me”

Michael Jackson, the Bard of Beer

Anne Lamott for Traveling Mercies, Plan B, for being a joy and a life-saver

Munro Leaf

John LeCarre

Elmore Leonard

Madeleine L’Engle for A Wrinkle in Time

John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Norman Lewis for Naples ’44, certainly the best book on war I’ve ever read

Federico Garcia Lorca for the poem “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias,” in particular the stanza which begins “A las cinco de la tarde”

Malcolm Lowry for Under the Volcano

Alistair Maclean for his earlier work, especially Where Eagles Dare

Curzio Malaparte for Kaputt

H.L. Mencken for his memoirs and letters

Scott McCloud for Understanding Comics

John Milner for his poems and essays

David Mitchell for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Talbot Mundy

H.H. Munro (Saki) for his short stories, especially “The Open Window”

Iris Origo for War in Val d’Orcia, and her memoirs

Ralph D. Paine for his pirate books and his autobiography

Dorothy Parker, for her poem “Resume” and her way with a remark

S.J. Perelman

Tom Perrotta for Joe College, Election, Wishbones and Bad Haircut

George Plimpton for his wonderful essays

Edgar Allen Poe

Thomas Pynchon for Gravity’s Rainbow

Ishmael Reed for Mumbo Jumbo

Sax Rohmer

J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter

Rafael Sabatini, especially for Scaramouche and The Sea Hawk

Guy Sajer for The Forgotten Soldier

Dorothy Sayers for Peter Wimsey

Michael Scott for Tom Cringle’s Log

David Sedaris

Jean Shepherd for the sound of his written voice, and the sound of his spoken voice

The Rev. Sidney Smith for his letters

Neal Stephenson for Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon

Robert Louis Stevenson for adventure

Booth Tarkington, for Penrod and Seventeen, a voice of the 19th century I fear will be lost in the 21st

Hunter S. Thompson

J.R.R. Tolkien for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Mark Twain for Roughing It

Marie Vassiltchikov for Berlin Diaries

Jules Verne, especially for Mysterious Island and Michael Strogoff

Kurt Vonnegut

E.B. White for his essays and short stories

Kihm Winship, because I would be lying if I told you I did not love the sound of my own voice.

P.G. Wodehouse

Tom Wolfe

Virginia Woolf for The Waves

Chris Zenowich for his friendship, and for Economies of the Heart and The Cost of Living

And a special thanks to illustrators N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Mead Schaeffer, Frank Schoonover, Robert Lawson, Dean Cornwall and Joseph Clement Coll for making many of my favorites even more magical.


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