David Foster Wallace recommends5 min read

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An award-winning American novelist, story writer and essayist provides a list of the books worth reading.

“Where Are the Children?” byMary Higgins Clark

David Foster Wallace’s said that this book is one of his favorite and included in his 1994 Syllabus from hrc.utexas.edu

This novel was as ground-breaking in the author’s life as it was in the life of her reading public. This is one of the best books to read, either to get a feel for the author or for mystery fiction, because it taps into that psychological horror that every mother feels eventually – losing her children. Added to that is the fear of a murder charge by unsympathetic courts, another bout with sensation-hungry journalists, and the loss of a second marriage. The worst fear of all, in Nancy Harmon’s mind, is that somehow she has killed her own children – and forgotten about it.

   “Rock Star” by Jackie Collins

David Foster Wallace’s said that this book is one of his favorite and included in his 1994 Syllabus from hrc.utexas.edu

Collins’ novels are known for a ‘glamour girl’ appeal, mixed with the dark underbelly of Hollywood politics and people. This work is a slight deviation, focusing on three music stars at the height of their power – and vulnerability. For every hit, there is a hit man (or crew) to be reckoned with. For every dream, one lies broken, and the other has been hijacked by a blackmail attempt. The names (such as Kris Phoenix and Cybil Wilde) are as exotic as the locations and events, and reading through the pages should be a swift and exhilarating roller-coast ride.

“The Big Nowhere” by James Ellroy

David Foster Wallace’s said that this book is one of his favorite and included in his 1994 Syllabus from hrc.utexas.edu

Ellroy manages to exude both ennui and the dark currents of crime noir, in the best traditions of Raymond Chandler, and make it seem new. One of the best books of his litany, besides the sequel L.A. Confidential, this novel draws together three officers of the law into a grand jury investigation gone bad – and they’re not anyone’s idea of a boy scout. Federal Agent Considine is haunted by a heroic act on the books that also resulted in a marriage full of tension. L.A. detective Upshaw is getting closer to a crazed murderer, though the nature of the murders both horrifies and fascinates him – for personal reasons. Meeks the ex-officer is involved with mobsters and prostitution rings. Friendship between these three is bound to be explosive.

“Black Sunday” by Thomas Harris

Harris’ novel makes dangerous reading – especially for fans of the Superbowl. Though Harris is better known for other his serial killer character, Hannibal Lecter, this novel displays some of the author’s best gifts: suspense and conflict. A crazed Vietnam veteran should not be playing with explosive blimps in the vicinity of crowds, but that’s just what Michael Lander wants to do – set off a bomb and kill the President in the middle of the Superbowl. The power of the FBI and international experts are against him. The question is, how will they search out and destroy a timed bomb in the middle of such a huge crowd?

 “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris

One of the best books to read on the psychology of a murderous madman, this novel sets the tone for all of Harris’ other works…and the serial killer genre. A former crime reporter and Associated Press editor, Harris blends action with good word choice. Hannibal Lecter knows all about psychology and killers, because he used to practice it on his patients – and then eat them. FBI agent Clarice Starling is on a mission to prove herself and find a serial killer named Buffalo Bill. When Clarice tries to glean information from Lecter, he turns the interaction into a life-and-death game, while Clarice struggles to keep a hold on her sanity and her mission.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

If every girl’s American dream is to attend a high school prom, it wouldn’t be the kind of prom within 100 miles of Carrie White. King takes the idea of a troubled teen, exacting vengeance on her bullies, to new levels in his first novel. After suffering years of neglect and psychological abuse from her mother, and ridicule at school, Carrie’s new powers of telekinesis become a dangerous weapon. Highlighting the issue of not fitting in, Carrie’s first blood comes from herself, as other high school students in the shower room crowd around, throwing tampons. Carrie takes on the idea that one cruel act deserves another, and the rest is well worth reading to fans of horror fiction.

  “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

Besides the Lord of the Rings, perhaps no other series is as well-loved globally by the reading public as Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This is the first introduction to the family of four (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) who become kings and queens in a magical land, which just happens to appear at the back of a seemingly ordinary wardrobe. Family ties are tested alongside their characters, as the four children discover why the frozen land of Narnia must be freed from the tyrannical hand of the White Witch. Behind all stalks the regal lion, Aslan, who will bring eternal spring to Narnia – at a great cost.

“Lonesome Dove” by LarryMcMurtry

Not only did McMurtry win a Nobel prize because of this novel’s quality reading level, but it set the tone for Westerns written after the 1980’s. Cattle drives across American prairies, Texas Rangers and ranchers, outlaws and American Indians, and their women – this story has it all. One young man carves out his own identity as he works his way toward Montana. Meanwhile, a sheriff searches for his wife, who’s run away in search of more adventure than a two-horse town can provide. There are international trade issues with Mexico, and cattle rustling, and the ever-present threat of outlaw leader Blue Duck. Behind all of the drama are the horses and cattle, on which the West was built.

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