Chosen by Mark Duplass
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996). Any book that requires two bookmarks to read (the extra is for the endnotes, some of which include their own footnotes) is worth taking a chance on. Stay for the inspired wit, the prescient stabs at our technological future, and the incomparable Don Gately—who is, in my opinion, one of the great fictional heroes of all time.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (2010). Sorry, this one is also very long. But Murakami is left to his own devices here, and it’s a beautiful result. Some think, at 928 pages, the novel needs editing, but the looseness is why I loved it. It is a magical, heartfelt hodgepodge of speculative fiction and nostalgic melodrama. Read it when you get sick.
My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard (six volumes, 2009–11). Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian narcissist. He has written some 3,600 pages about himself and his life. I know. It sounds awful. But somehow it is riveting. He writes without decoration or flourish. He states the facts of his life in plain prose, and somehow it adds up to something incredibly moving.
Give People Money by Annie Lowrey (2018). Do you know what a universal basic income is? I didn’t. And in about 200 pages, I got a full-blown education on what it is, where it comes from, why it hasn’t worked, why it could work, and how it could truly change our world for the better if we gave it a shot. This is a quick read that makes you feel smart and hopeful. And you’ll look cool at a party when you can talk about UBI.
Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement (2000). There have been many books about the downtown New York art scene in the early ’80s. This is the only one I’ve read that takes the actual form of the art scene it’s trying to depict. Consisting of poems, ragtag diary entries, and colorful imagery, Widow Basquiat is like a Basquiat painting about a Basquiat painting (if that makes sense).
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine (2015). Just trust me on this one—a collection of six short stories, presented in graphic-novel form, from an artist known for his New Yorker covers and Optic Nerve comic book series. ■