Best books … chosen by Maria Semple
Former <em>Arrested Development </em>writer and producer Maria Semple is the author of <em>This One Is Mine,</em> a new novel about broken couples in L.A. It has just been published by Little, Brown.

Former Arrested Development writer and producer Maria Semple is the author of This One Is Mine, a new novel about broken couples in L.A. It has just been published by Little, Brown.

Last Night by James Salter (Vintage, $13). I start every writing day by copying a few pages from Salter, one of the masters. Sometimes, I get to a sentence in this story collection that’s so gorgeous and devastating and short that I have to put my pen down and do what I feel is more my destiny, like troll the mall for sales.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Vintage, $15). My favorite book from my favorite writer. His sentences are so simple and his style so conversational, still, every book tears me apart. What can I say, other than, Philip Roth, Philip Roth ... aaaaghhh, I don’t care what Claire Bloom says, I love you, Philip Roth!

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Random House, $15). And here I only thought of Rushdie as a lady’s hound with a fatwa. This, his second novel, is screaming with confidence and life. I used to write in the reading room at the Beverly Hills library and would occasionally see him there. Lucky for him, it was before I read Midnight’s Children or I would have yammered the poor knight’s ear off.

The Travelling Horn Player by Barbara Trapido (out of print). Why don’t people know about her? I stumbled across this novel at another library. Its wonderful characters zip along with feather-light wit in a marvelously complex and moving plot. Trapido has written a ton of books, many out of print in the U.S. If I can do nothing else for you, let me be the one who turns you onto Barbara Trapido.

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis (Pen­guin, $16). How do you not love a charming first-­person novel that’s full of exclamation points?

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Prentice Hall, $10). I have read Strunk & White a dozen times and still have so much to learn. There are four copies tucked around my apartment in various states of highlightedness and dog-eareditude. (Ooch, see how much I still have to learn?



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