- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. Simply the best book ever written in English and one I reread at least annually. The wordplay and sense of absurdity have stood me in good stead all my life and that is especially true since I began working in Washington.
- Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith. This book warped my ideas of what being a scientist was all about and was, therefore, probably not a good influence on me as a teenager. But it was an influence.
- Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year. I stayed up all night the first time I read this. Defoe has been described as lying like the truth. If you want to understand what good fiction is, read him.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors. Sayers was the first mystery writer I fell in love with as an adult. This was not the book of hers I got for 19 cents at Barnes and Noble in downtown Boston in 1978 or so, but it is my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey mystery.
- Herman Melville, Moby Dick. We read "Bartleby the Scrivener" in high school and I liked it. More of Melville and longer is even better.
- Margaret Atwood, Life Before Man. I chose this one of Atwood's books because I love the idea of a main character jogging through prehistory when she is stressed.
- Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate. A modern novel written in verse. I think Seth did a great job of capturing the Bay Area. This is just a delight to read.
- Bram Stoker, Dracula. This is not a simple horror story. Stoker's conflcted views of women (his mother was an early feminist) make it an intriguing read
- Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad. This travel account is what got me into reading Twain after several failures to read his novels. It still rings true for the experience of being a tourist.
- Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun. There was a substitute teacher in junior high who used to read to us from this. It remains a powerful anti-war novel.
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