Eric Bogosian, author and playwright, picks six great books about places in the world. His most recently published book is Mall (Simon & Schuster, $23).
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (Penguin USA, $14). This is the true story of Nian Cheng, a woman who was accused of being a British spy in Maos Communist China; she has her home trashed and gets thrown in solitary confinement for six and a half years during the Cultural Revolution.
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage Books, $13). This is another political situation, in which a Muslim Indian opens a store in a small town on the Congo. The book explores the nature of power and personality in post-colonial Africa; its fictional, but only barely. Read it in conjunction with Redmond OHanlons No Mercy and Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness.
Continental Drift by Russell Banks (HarperPerennial Library, $15). Banks details the lives of two vastly different characters whose lives intersect dramatically. I dont know much about Jamaica, which is half of this bifurcated tale, but I do know Massachusetts and Florida, and as usual, Banks nails them both.
Operation Shylock: A Confession by Philip Roth (Vintage Books, $14). A novelist named Philip Roth attends the trial of a former Nazi in Israel, while a man claiming to be him stirs up trouble by advocating diasporismthe return of the Jews to Eastern Europe. This is Roths unsung masterpiece. It tells the truth about whats happening in Israel: obstinate confusion.
The City of Joy by Dominique LaPierre (Warner Books, $8). I read this novel about an American doctor in India while I was filming in Thailand. Although its about Calcutta in the 1960s, it helped me see what I was looking at while I was in the Far East.
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (Ecco Press, $25). After World War II, three well-traveled Americans journey through the desert, only to find themselves psychologically terrorized by the inhumanity of the landscape. When I finally get to North Africa, everything I see will be colored by Paul Bowles.