1) The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
So well written and perfectly researched is this book. It’s been my favorite non-fiction for years. Sagan is a masterful storyteller and he connects the dots between belief, the scientific method, propaganda, and human emotion. This book will knock your socks off. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.
2) Beloved by Toni Morrison
On many readers’ lists of favorites, to be sure. Her words make you gasp for air, both familiar and new at the same time. One of the few books that has made me bawl like a baby.
3) “The River” by Flannery O’Connor (from her Collected Works)
Another tear jerker, but in short-story form, Flannery paints a heartbreaking scene of dysfunctional American life and connects it to religious transformation.
4) The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
I saw this movie on the other night and it reminded me how much I adore this book. It’s a beautifully written mystery set in 1930’s San Francisco. Murder, glamorous women, exotic theft in exotic ports… what’s not to love? A great escape book that makes me want to take the Maltese Falcon Tour here in SF. In fact, I’ll do it, and tell you how it goes, because it’s going to be awesome.
5) Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
Deliciously disturbing, if this is a book you’ve always heard of but never read, I urge you to pick it up. Reading inside the mind of a lunatic is always a fun experience (probably why I love Poe so much) but with Humbert Humbert the subtle progression of perversion is especially wrong. I put the two-part interview with Nabokov on my page if you want to check out the early reception and thoughts on this classic read.