Rob Sheffield's 6 favorite books
What authors keep Sheffield, a Rolling Stone columnist and best-selling memoirist, turning pages? Everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to Oscar Wilde
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (Vintage, $14). I’m devoting this list to the books currently piled on my bathroom floor. Some of them haven’t seen a proper shelf in months, because I just keep reading them. This one never goes near the bookcase.
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic, $18). Two lonely teens meet, try to connect, keep failing. (Not that I can relate or anything.) I bought this novel last year at Grand Central Station because I loved the title and needed something for the train. All the way to Poughkeepsie, I kept thinking, Stop it. You can’t cry here. But I just couldn’t stop reading it. Still can’t.
Rock Albums of the ’70s by Robert Christgau (Da Capo, $20). If you’re an obsessive music freak, you probably have one copy in the bathroom, and another on the shelf, so you never have to walk more than a few feet to look something up. (Wait, did he really compare KC & the Sunshine Band to the Ramones? Brilliant!) This book is the all-time rock-’n’-roll argument starter, and I’ll be arguing with it for the rest of my life.
Social Studies by Fran Lebowitz (Vintage, $15). I’ve been going back to this favorite from my teen years, because I just wrote a book about growing up in the ’80s, and Lebowitz’s essays really warped my sense of humor back then. Plus my taste in food: “Brown rice is ponderous, chewy, and possessed of unpleasant religious overtones.”
Representative Men by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Forgotten Books, $9). An eccentric tour of historic crackpots—Shakespeare, Montaigne, Napoleon. Emerson writes about them as if they were rock stars, reflecting his own mad genius. Every time I stumble across an Internet flame war, I think of Emerson’s wise words: “’Tis of no importance what bats and oxen think.”
Intentions by Oscar Wilde (ValdeBooks, $8). This 1891 essay collection includes “The Decay of Lying” and “The Critic as Artist,” with the credo, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” (A disturbing idea to encounter when you’re a pompous 21-year-old twit.) Has reading this ever not changed somebody’s life?