Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale (Broadway, $16). Abagnale's memoir blew me away. From disguising himself as a Pan Am pilot as a teenager to forging checks worth millions of dollars, the high school dropout lived the ultimate rags-to-riches life — until he got caught.
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort (Bantam, $16). This is an incredible snapshot of Wall Street in the crazy '90s, told by a former investment banker whose insane rise and eventual takedown by the FBI and SEC makes mind-altering drama.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (Vintage, $15). Thompson's Vegas adventure isn't for everyone, but his drug trip of a book broke ground in so many ways, and to me it's the perfect introduction to the ultimate gonzo journalist. The red convertible, the drugs, the Samoan attorney, the fact that they somehow survived… Just read the thing, love it or hate it, and then try to move on with your life.
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney (Vintage, $15). This book almost ruined my life. Once I decided I wanted to become a writer, I spent two years writing deep, dark stories set in New York City bars, trying to emulate the deep throb of capitalism, nihilism, and narcissism that made McInerney's book perhaps the best novel of the 1980s.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (Vintage, $16). This is a perfect companion to McInerney. I've never read anything that felt as free; Ellis just lets himself go in a way that I've often tried to emulate. An orgy of violence, perfect hair and abs, competitive business cards, perversion, and Phil Collins music, American Psycho will disgust you and make you smile.
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman (Grand Central, $8). Jim Morrison was a true rock star. He was also a poet, probably a genius, definitely an addict, and completely insane. Turn off the lights, turn on "The Crystal Ship," and read this book by candlelight. You'll feel like you're right in the middle of it all.
— Ben Mezrich's latest book, Straight Flush, recounts the not-quite-legal adventures of the college buddies who launched AbsolutePoker.com