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Robin's Picks

 

 

 
Literature I Fanatically Recommend at Every Opportunity

Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
I went on a Graham Greene binge last year, and this was one of my favorites. It's a take on Cervantes' Don Quixote (which I'm reading now because of this book), in which a chivalrous monsignor sets out on a quest, complete with his own Rocinante and Sancho Panza.

Nobody's Fool Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
Russo is wickedly funny. Between this book and Straight Man, Russo has become one of my favorite writers. In Nobody's Fool he creates a world I didn't want to leave – even though it takes place in a town that's dying, and is filled with a host of charming losers who seem to fumble through life (including the world's dumbest man and a philanderer that would make a president blush).

You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
Reading any of Wolfe's work feels almost like going on a bender because he wrote with such intensity and passion. This book is my favorite of Wolfe's because as he delves into who he is, he also provides breathtaking portraits of Europe on the brink of World War II that are incredibly insightful about what is to come. His insight is especially poignant since he died at the age of 38 in 1938. This is definitely a book that must be devoured rather than read in moderation.

One Writer's Beginnings One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty
This is a deceptively slim book that still haunts me. It's Welty's autobiographical look at what shaped her as a writer, delving into her childhood in Mississippi and her family's passionate dedication to oral history, books, and music.

 

Mysteries that Keep Me Addicted

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Sjowall and Wahloo (a Swedish couple who wrote in the sixties and seventies) keep you gripped on the edge of your seat throughout this book. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best mysteries ever written – convoluted, suspenseful, great prose, and superb characterization.

Cosi Fan Tutti by Michael Dibdin
Napolese villains set to the theme of Mozart's opera – the mafia, corruption, unfaithful lovers, and marauding garbage trucks – Dibdin is always fun.

The Thin Man The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
A classic for a reason, as well as a fun glimpse into the 1930s world of nightclubs, gangsters, and witty repartee over whiskey for breakfast.

Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen
Hiaasen makes the top of my list for his bitingly funny writing. As a former Floridian who fled the land of greedy land developers and Yankees who dress in pink and green plaid, his story especially rings true to me.

 

Assorted Other Books I'd Grab First in the Event of a Fire

Cross Creek Cookery by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
As an undergrad at the University of Florida, I used to frequently drive the 15 minutes or so to Rawlings' home (creator of The Yearling and South Moon Under) in Cross Creek. I would wander through the dilapidated orange grove, and read by the water, before heading over to Micanopy to haunt a wonderful little used bookstore. This cookbook by Rawlings provides both delicious recipes for traditional Florida fare as well as a glimpse into rural Florida in the thirties and forties. While you may never use some of the recipes (bear and squirrel recipes aren't much in demand these days), many others represent Southern cooking at its best.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This book has an extremely special place in my heart. I highly recommend reading it aloud to someone you love if you feel the need to escape for a time into another world.

Half Past Autumn by Gordon Parks
This is Parks' look back on his career as one of the nation's most talented photographers. His career has spanned decades, and at the same time he was photographing some of the world's most beautiful models, he was also tackling the subjects of racism, poverty, and violence, while fighting prejudice and discrimination himself. This book is my latest treasure, and is mesmerizing and gorgeous.

Lush Life Lush Life: a Biography of Billy Strayhorn by David Hajdu
This is a biography of the brilliant jazz composer and collaborator with Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, who created such classics as Lush Life and Take the A Train, as well as Boo Dah, a piece impossible to sit still to. Strayhorn's life was a fascinating combination of brilliance, self-destruction, and incredible friendship.

 

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