Roz Chast is a longtime New Yorker cartoonist and author of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, an award-winning graphic memoir now in paperback. She served as guest editor of the new anthology The Best American Comics 2016.
Best books…chosen by Roz Chast
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon, $35). Spiegelman’s amazing graphic memoir about his father, a Holocaust survivor, is harrowing and sad and funny and one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. I’m grateful to Spiegelman for creating Maus, because it opened up the possibilities of what a story told in cartoon form could be.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Mariner, $12). Bechdel’s memoir is about growing up gay and having a father who is a closeted homosexual. But mainly, it’s about growing up. Again, a book that is deeply sad yet also funny.
Stitches by David Small (Norton, $17). Small’s graphic memoir of a nightmare that he lived through: being 14 years old, having a “nothing” operation on his throat, and waking up mute. It then chronicles his physical and emotional recovery. I love medical stories and graphic memoirs. This is a masterful example of both.
The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante (Europa, $17 to $18 per novel). I loved all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, especially The Story of a New Name. They cover the relationship between two women from a poor neighborhood in Naples from childhood to old age, together forming one of the most closely observed stories about female friendship that I’ve ever read.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Norton, $16). Highsmith’s first in a series of novels about a charming, fascinating sociopath is by far my favorite. It’s one of the most darkly funny books I’ve read. Tom Ripley is not really a bad guy! He has no conscience and sometimes does some pretty terrible things, but there are always reasons. He just wants to live a nice life surrounded by beauty—doesn’t everybody?—though God forbid you should get in his way.
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Vintage, $19). One of my favorite books of all time. The central character is a young man who goes to a tuberculosis sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to visit his ailing cousin and winds up spending seven years there. It’s about sickness and health, but also about politics, religion, sexuality, and a continent on the brink of World War I.