Selections mine. Descriptions from either Amazon or associated review or link. Listed in order of publication date.
English Journey – 1934
J. B. Priestley
Where I heard about it – David Bowie liked this and it was one of the books in Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life
Funnily enough, for all the bad news it imparts, English Journey is a consoling, optimistic read. This is down to Priestley’s tone, which, like his way with the mostly affectionately sketched characters he meets on his travels, is genial and uncontrived, or at least plays that way. Being a man of the people matters hugely to Priestley. He can’t resist a dig at “literary” writers who dismiss him as middlebrow but remain aloof from the poverty and suffering of ordinary folk. If T. S. Eliot ever wants to write a poem about an actual physical wasteland, he jokes, he should take a trip to North Shields.
Correlli’s Mandolin – 1995
Louis de Bernieres
Where I heard about it – This book was big in the 90’s.
The acclaimed story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history: “An exuberant mixture of history and romance, written with a wit that is incandescent” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
The Smoking Diaries – 2001
Where I heard about it – David Shields mentioned it in this NYTIMES interview
When he turned sixty-five, the acclaimed playwright Simon Gray began to keep this diary: not a careful honing of the day’s events with a view to posterity but an account of his thoughts as he had them, honestly, turbulently, digressively expressed.
Stage Blood – 2013
Where I heard about it – Amazon recommendation
Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace – 2014
Where I heard about it – New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014
A heartbreaking journey from a New Jersey ghetto to Yale to a drug-related murder.
Surfing with Sartre – 2017
Where I heard about it – NYTIMES Book review from 2017
Meet Aaron James. He is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine, and an accomplished surfer. His new book, “Surfing With Sartre,” aims to articulate the distinctive philosophical value of the surfer way of being. His conclusion is bold: “What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride a wave, bears on questions for the ages — about freedom, control, happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work and the very meaning of life.”
Five Minutes to Kill – 2017
Where I heard about it – Amazon Recommendation
In the 1980s and the 1990s, HBO’s annual Young Comedians Special was the ultimate launching pad for emerging comics looking to break into the world of show business. The Young Comedians Special produced some of the most recognizable—and bankable—comedic stars of all time, including Sam Kinison, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld, and Judd Apatow. But what about the ones who didn’t exactly make it?
Three Girls from Bronzeville – 2021
Dawn Turner Trice
Where I heard about it – New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2021
A former columnist for The Chicago Tribune offers a textured portrait of her 1970s childhood on the South Side, where three Black girls with similar aspirations ended up with wildly divergent fates.