Celebrity Book Club: Reading Picks From 12 Literary Stars

Michael Chabon, Jennifer Egan, Nick Hornby and more reveal their nonfiction faves.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryangessner/">Ryan Gessner</a>/Flickr


Click on each author’s name for the full interview.

Which book do you reread most often?

  • Frank Rich Frank Rich
    Act One by Moss Hart
    “It’s at once a suspenseful Horatio Alger story and a vivid evocation of 1920s New York, from the poorest immigrant tenements uptown to the glittery heights of golden-age Times Square.”
  • Michael Chabon Michael Chabon
    The Encyclopedia of Fantasy
    by John Clute and John Grant
    “A single, immense, thrilling work of literary theory disguised as a reference book.”
  • Susan Orlean Susan Orlean
    The Looming Tower
    by Lawrence Wright
    “A vivid explanation of the world we now live in with regards to Islamic fundamentalism, and a great read. Not a cheerful book, but a brilliant one.”
  • Jennifer Egan Jennifer Egan
    The Image by Daniel J. Boorstin
    “Published in 1961, it’s spectacularly prescient on the implications of image culture.”
  • Bill McKibben Bill McKibben
    Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    “It’s as rich and unbottomed as Scripture.”

Which book do you foist on all of your friends and relatives?

  • Daniel Handler Daniel Handler
    (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
    How to Cure a Fanatic by Amos Oz
    “A thoughtful, optimistic, and witty treatise on solving problems in the Middle East. Also, it’s short, and I believe if one is foisting books they ought to be easily foistable.”
  • Andrew Bacevich Andrew Bacevich
    The Irony of American History
    by Reinhold Niebuhr
    “Published in 1952, it remains the most insightful book ever written about US foreign policy, as relevant today as it was when it first appeared.”
  • Vendela Vida Vendela Vida
    Random Family
    by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
    “LeBlanc followed two Latina girls in the Bronx over the course of 10 years. It’s a work of journalism, but you feel you’re seeing the drug dealers and boys and babies that populate these girls’ lives through their own eyes.”
  • Nick Hornby Nick Hornby
    This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
    “It was one of the books that taught me how to write. I give it to them because it’s beautiful, funny, and tough.”
  • Cory Doctorow Cory Doctorow
    Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old
    by Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin
    “Took two hours to read (why the hell are so many books for new parents 3,000 pages long?), didn’t involve doing anything crazy or heartbreaking, and had our daughter sleeping through the night. By about the 12-week mark.”

What’s the most underrated book you’ve read?

  • Natalie Angier Natalie Angier
    Einstein in Love by Dennis Overbye
    “Overbye somehow manages to bring both the physicist and his transformative but daunting physics alive. Even with his flaws revealed, Einstein remains a man of extraordinary achievements and an immortal core.”

Feed Your Head

Michael Pollan‘s recommendations for foodie bookworms:

This Organic Life by Joan Gussow: “The first and best book on eating locally.”

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel: “Takes the conversation to the global level.”

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes: “Effectively demolishes the lipid hypothesis (high cholesterol leads to heart disease) that has ruled the whole food conversation for 40 years.”

Photos: Counterclockwise from top: Fred R. Conrad/New York Times; Reto Caduff; Gaspar Tringale; David Shankbone; courtesy Bill Mckibben; courtesy HarperCollins; courtesy Boston University; Heidi Meredith; Joi Ito; Darryl Estrine; Joe Mabel/Wikipedia Commons

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate