Best books … chosen by Bill Maher

The host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher stars in the new documentary Religulous.

The host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher stars in the new documentary Religulous. The film, which opens Oct. 3, follows the political humorist as he questions believers about their faiths.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Prestwick, $4). My all-time favorite, even before Francis Ford Coppola turned it into Apocalypse Now. The ultimate topic, the ultimate metaphor. What great book couldn’t have been called Heart of Darkness?

The Most of S.J. Perelman by S.J. Perelman (Modern Library, $27). The man who wrote many Marx Brothers movies was the greatest wordsmith America has ever produced. This collection brings together his comic essays, most of which originally appeared in The New Yorker. You have to read him with a dictionary, but it’s worth it.

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Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Penguin, $12). The fact that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have been ripped off as Ralph Kramden­/Ed Norton and Fred Flintstone/Barney Rubble should tell you something about why this first great novel endures.

Story of My Life by Jay McInerney (Vintage, $13). Some say Jay McInerney partied too much and it hurt his output, but the fact that the party produced this brilliant, hysterically funny description of the party makes the partying worth it in my book. That the novel’s narrator is based on a young woman who, I’ve heard lately, grew up to become John Edwards’ mistress of course only makes it better.

Elvis by Albert Goldman (out of print). Denounced as tabloid trash when first published, this 1981 bio is anything but. Goldman has a brilliant eye for detail and larger-than-what-you-see analysis. And the descriptions of the way this hillbilly lived are just laugh-out-loud funny.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (Dover, $5) I haven’t actually read this one, but I’ve heard such good things I thought I should mention it.

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