Lee Child

Lee Child is the best–selling author of Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, and eight other novels about former military police officer Jack Reacher. Child’s latest Reacher novel is Bad Luck and Trouble.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Oxford, $13). The founding text for my whole genre. It’s all there—deduction, forensics, intelligence, action, the flawed hero, the balance of plot and character. Twelve seminal stories, including “The Red–Headed League” and “The Engineer’s Thumb.” Want to know where Law & Order and CSI came from? Read on!

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (Vintage, $14). Like hearing from Conan Doyle’s American cousin 50 years later ..… our genre’s other bookend. Sherlock Holmes has morphed into Philip Marlowe. All the Marlowe books are great, but this tale of the hapless Terry Lennox mixes great humanity with world–weary cynicism. Style, wit, grace, a seminal hero, and some of the loveliest writing ever committed to paper.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron (Vintage, $15). One of the greatest–ever American novels, Southern novels, New York novels, European novels, World War II novels, suspense novels, fast reads, and languid reads all wrapped up in one stunning package. An achievement that may never be matched.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Anchor, $14). A story of a dystopian future that makes you think, and choose, and then proves you wrong, whoever you thought you were. Educationally, it’s like four years of college in two days. This kind of book is what our brains were invented for.

The Good German by Joseph Kanon (St. Martin’s, $8). I was already a fan of Kanon’s books—suspense thrillers set against significant periods of recent history—when I met him years ago in L.A. We agreed that Berlin immediately after World War II was possibly the greatest dramatic backdrop. Imagine my delight when this book came out. Great atmosphere, great story, worth reading for either one. That you get both together is a bonus.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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