Great Writers Show Their Appreciation

We launched Top Ten Books because we had to know: Which books do our favorite authors deem the best ever written? When they gave us the answer we wanted more: Why do these particular titles mean so much to them? So we asked some of ‘em to write a short appreciation of one of their picks. A.L. Kennedy, Stephen King, Margot Livesey, Lydia Millet and Tom Wolfe are among the writers who expressed their admiration for works that range from uber-classics such as The Bible to obscure gems including "Red the Fiend" by Gilbert Sorrentino. The result is a wealth of titles with personalized recommendations from leading writers. Over the next few months we will be highlighting these appreciations so that we readers can better understand why these works matter to those whose books matter so much to us.

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Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver believes in tough love. Instead of embracing her readers she prods, pinches, pokes and provokes them by exploring incendiary social issues through novels that use unlikable characters to reveal harsh truths.

Edwidge Danticat on "Masters of the Dew"

Haitian writer and activist Jacques Roumain (1907-44) straddled, and fused, the worlds of politics and art during his relatively short life.

The grandson of a former president, he was raised in comfort and educated abroad, including in Switzerland, Spain (where he developed an interest in bullfighting), Germany and France.

But his youth was also shaped by Haiti’s subjugation during its long occupation by the United States (1915-34).

Jim Shepard Imagines the Next Pandemic

Can Jim Shepard tell the future?

How else to account for the fact he had nearly completed his novel about a global pandemic, Phase Six, before COVID-19 descended on the planet?

Although Shepard’s seventh novel is triggered by an epidemic that is killing millions around the world, it focuses on three people: the young boy from Greenland, Aleq, who became patient zero and the two female scientists, Jeannine and Danice, who try to identify the pathogen that kills about a 33% of those who contract it (COVID’s morality rate is less than 1%).

Charles Palliser on "Anton Reiser"

Nowadays, many writers follow a straight line—an elite education, MFA degree and publication.

The German author Karl Phillip Moritz (1756-93) had plenty of schooling before literary success, but his life was a jagged line. Born poor, he received just a smidgen of formal education before he was apprenticed to a hatmaker at age 12. But he clearly had a sharp mind – and also a troubled one that would haunt his days - and so patrons financed his study of theology.