Former prosecutor William Lashner is the author of Hostile Witness, Bitter Truth, and Fatal Flaw. His next novel, Past Due, will be published by William Morrow in the spring.
The Meaning of Shakespeare by Harold C. Goddard (Chicago, $15). An absolutely thrilling explication of Shakespeare’s work. Goddard will change your idea of almost every play in the canon, and you finish it feeling almost as if you have gained a window into Shakespeare’s soul. I can’t recommend this highly enough. It will change your life.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (Harvest, $14). My choice for the great American novel. Politics, football, sex, and murder—what more could you want? Jack Burden is a brutally honest narrator, using the great political drama of Willie Stark to expose the blights of his own soul. The voice is funny, self-lacerating, poetic, and all-American.
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Waterland by Graham Swift (Vintage, $13). As close to a perfect novel as I’ve ever read. Swift is simply one of the greatest writers of our time, and Waterland is his finest book—part history, part detective story, part tragic love story. All the strains come together in one lovely moment that is positively shattering.
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (Vintage, $12). The Maltese Falcon is the great American detective novel, true, but Chandler is a better writer than Hammett, and his language and hero, Philip Marlowe, have had the hugest influence on how Americans see themselves. The Big Sleep may be a better story, but it’s hard to read that one without seeing the movie in your head.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Little, Brown, $7). Such an original voice, such an original book. It is the model for much of what came after it, and all books about lawyers have to take it into account.
Burning the Days
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