Maud Casey, University of Maryland associate professor of English whose latest novel is Genealogy, recommends The Moviegoer by Walker Percy: “This was my first favorite book, one of those life-changing reads. It’s a wickedly funny novel about existential angst, and it’s also full of summery things: malaise, sultry climes, and the cool, magical relief of the movies.”
Matt Labash, Weekly Standard senior writer, likes A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley: “Read this mordantly funny, crushingly sad ‘fictional memoir’ only if you want to be moved. It’s the best book I’ve read about failure, alcoholism, insanity, football, Frank Gifford, and obsession. If you’re not obsessed with it on a first reading, read it again, like the obsessive it will transform you into.”
Linda Pastan, a former National Book Award finalist in Potomac whose books of poetry include Traveling Light, suggests A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark: “Coming across a Muriel Spark novel I hadn’t read was like finding a bottle of cold Champagne hidden among the six-packs of beer. This story of post–World War II Londoners is quirky, articulate, and sly.”
Christopher Farnsworth, author most recently of The President’s Vampire, likes Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan: “Set in a near future in which the US has divided into several red and blue nations, this story sets a genetically enhanced soldier in the middle of a sharply plotted murder mystery. But the real draw is in the clues on just how America collapsed, which seem almost spookily prescient.”
George Pelecanos, whose latest DC crime novel is The Cut, recommends John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books: “This series features ‘salvage recovery expert’ Travis McGee, a tarnished knight/stone-cold stud who lives on a Florida houseboat and takes his retirement check out early, one job at a time. MacDonald could write the hell out of a crime novel. Of the 21 books in the series, start with the first, The Deep Blue Good-By.”
Thomas Mallon, author of Fellow Travelers and other novels and director of George Washington University’s writing program, likes Nothing Daunted, nonfiction by Dorothy Wickenden: “Rooted in the letters of the author’s grandmother, it tells the lively story of two Smith graduates who in 1916 go off to rugged, barely settled Colorado to teach school. It’s crisp and bracing, like the experience acquired by the women themselves.”
This article appears in the August 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.