A Brief Sampling of Reading Recommendations from Shelf Awareness’s “Book Brahmins”

Alert readers will have noticed that one of this blog’s favorite sources of information is Shelf Awareness.

Not only does Shelf Awareness have its ear to the ground for recent developments in the great wide world of bookstores, but it regularly features one of the best resources we know of for garnering intriguing ideas for any avid reader’s Must-Read list.

“Book Brahmin” is what Shelf Awareness calls this treasure trove of interviews with various individuals in the printed story-telling business – mostly authors, famous and otherwise. What’s unique about this running series of interviews is that the set of questions is always the same, and many of those questions are satisfyingly specific about the interviewee’s favorite authors and books.

Taken together, the highly-regarded books and authors treasured by the interviewees constitutes a perfect Mother Lode of considered book recommendations.  And the other information included in these interviews – including the other questions and answers – are also consistently interesting, as are each interviewee’s remarks about why he/she regards a particular book or author so highly.

Hoping this feature might lead you to either sign up for the Shelf Awareness newsletter or to make the Shelf Awareness website one of your Internet Favorites, below is a sampling of what several selected questions in some of the most recent interviews revealed. You can check the website for its archive of additional “Book Brahmin” interviews.

 

Joseph Epstein (interview posted 11/30/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • Leon Tolstoy
  • Marcel Proust
  • Willa Cather
  • Max Beerbohm
  • George Santayana
Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno; Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard; Arlene Croce’s Dancing in the Dark

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”
Henry James’s                The Princess Casamassima Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past

 

Lawrence Dorfman (interview posted 11/28/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • Jim Harrison
  • Tom McGuane
  • Richard Price
  • T.C. Boyle
  • Stephen King

BOOK by Robert Grudin

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”
God Bless You,                 Mr. Rosewater                  by Kurt Vonnegut

The Stand by Stephen King

 

Dennis Cooper (interview posted 11/18/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

Of all time:

  • Maurice Blanchot
  • Arthur Rimbaud
  • Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • the Marquis de Sade
  • Raymond Roussel

Contemporary:

  • John Ashbery
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Pierre Guyotat
  • Steven Millhauser
  • Gary Lutz
Agota Kristof’s trilogy          The Notebook / TheProof /   The Third Lie, known collectively as The Book of Lies

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”

Arthur Rimbaud’s               A Season in Hell

The Present and the Past       by Ivy Compton-Burnett

 

Jacqueline Carey (interview posted 11/16/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

For historical fiction:

  • Mary Renault
  • Robert Graves

For modern literature:

  • John Steinbeck

For fantasy fiction:

  • Guy Gavriel Kay

For gritty contemporary novels:

  • Dennis Lehane
 The Horse of Selene by Juanita Casey 
“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”

Little, Big by John Crowley

 

Paul Russell (interview posted 11/11/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • Joyce
  • Proust
  • Mann
  • Woolf
  • Nabokov

Mark Merlis’s An Arrow’s Flight

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”
Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles; Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks; J.L. Carr’s   A Month in the Country; William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow

Finnegans Wake

 

Michael Cannell (interview posted 11/9/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • Erik Larson
  • Robert Caro
  • Tom Wolfe
  • David Halberstam
  • Hampton Sides

    Rules of Civility                    by Amor Towles

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”
Robert Capa: A Biography by Richard Whelan Hemingway’s                       The Sun Also Rises
 

María Dueñas (interview posted 11/4/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • J.M. Coetzee

   “…and 499 writers more”

    The Corrections                    by Jonathan Franzen

“Book that changed your life?”

“Book you most want to read again for the first time?”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

A World for Julius by Bryce Echenique
 

Mary Curran Hackett (interview posted 11/2/11)

 

“Top 5 Authors?”

“Book you’re an evangelist for?”

  • Dave Eggers
  • Alice McDermott
  • Colm Tóibín
  • Charles Dickens
  • Tobias Wolff

What Is the What                  by Dave Eggers

“Book that changed your life?” “Book you most want to read again for the first time?”
Sharon Salzberg’s Faith

A Tale of Two Cities               by Charles Dickens

Hats off to Shelf Awareness for being so book reader-friendly with its carefully-crafted and extremely useful set of  “Book Brahmin” questions. We predict you’ll find plenty of personal booklist fodder therein – especially if your reading tastes run to titles other than the ones that happen to constitute the current bestseller lists.

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