Little Black Books

Misery and suffering to put a spring in your summer.

This is my fourth summer here at the mighty Seattle Weekly. We have journeyed together through a whole stack of books by this point. But the book-list columns are still some of my most favorite to write—if only because we all get to share some great insight into other literary areas that we may have otherwise overlooked. I'll go first.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald): I guess there is a reason they call books like this "classics." This is perfect fiction, and I never got a chance to read Gatsby during my hyphenated high-school career. A pure joy to read, and totally interesting in that I got to go to New York last week and sort of nerd-out on the places the book's characters lived in and visited. West and East Egg will be on my next-places-to-go list when I next visit N.Y. (Factoid about The Great Gatsby: Hunter S. Thompson typed every word in this book four different times, just to get the "feel" of writing perfect fiction).

Down the Great Unknown (Edward Dolnick): This is the epic true story of adventurer John Wesley Powell and his nine mountain-men cohorts' 1869 journey down the Colorado River. 1865 saw the end of the Civil War and gave birth to a whole slew of young men who wanted to see the beauty in life after so much horror. A Brit friend suggested this book, and sometimes it takes that outside fascination with your own country's history to light a spark.

Outer Dark (Cormac McCarthy): Yep. Another dark and twisted look into the American soul. Poverty. Misery. Suffering. Loss. Nothing like a little Cormac fiction to put a spring in your step! Genius.

The Power Broker: A Novel (Stephen Frey): This was suggested to me by a CBGB friend while I was in New York last week. I was asking all my Gatsby-related questions, and I got a book-recommend in the deal. If you like stories of what makes the world turn 'round from a behind-the-scenes, power-player vantage point, The Power Broker is a very strong story.

(An aside: Has anyone noticed that you can't yet get all you might want by certain authors on the Kindle yet? For instance, you can get The Jungle and Oil! and a few others by Upton Sinclair, but something like 30 of his works are yet to be available on e-Books. I certainly like to have a real book in my hands, but take notice that this is one area where our convenience-based lives are underserved. These times will be remembered as archaic in about five years.)

On deck: My ultra-cool book editor and NYU professor, Tim Mohr, brought me a couple of books from his local independent bookstore in Brooklyn. His recommends are ALWAYS stellar:

A Visit From the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan): This 2010 Pulitzer Prize–winning piece of fiction promises punk rock, self-destruction, and redemption. Wait . . . I know that story.

Ten Thousand Saints (Eleanor Henderson): Again, New York City, 1980s, graffiti, etc. . . . I'm IN!

So chime in with what you've got. I'll let you all take it from here.

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