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Walter Mosley's Reading List

The acclaimed crime novelist recommends five of his favorite books—from unpublished Mark Twain essays to a classic of 20th-century literature.

03.24.09 5:59 AM ET

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The acclaimed crime novelist recommends five of his favorite books—from unpublished Mark Twain essays to a classic of twentieth century literature.

The City & The City
by China Miéville

"A book about alienation, isolation, and the inability to see the world in which we live."

This book could be called a science-fiction novel but it is so much more than that. It’s a book about alienation, isolation, and the inability to see the world in which we live. It is a parable of modern-day life…and a warning. When I started reading China’s book I felt displaced, as if I didn’t belong on those pages or in that world. I soon realized that this was the feeling the author intended. He had gotten inside this text the true feeling of estrangement that the modern world enforces on its people.

Brother, I’m Dying. By Edwidge Danticat. 288 pages. Vintage Reprint. $14.95.

Brother, I’m Dying
by Edwidge Danticat

"A heart-rending memoir about two Haitian brothers as they come toward the end of their lives."

Brother, I’m Dying is a heart-rending memoir about two Haitian brothers as they come toward the end of their lives. It is an exposé of a broken system seen through the unflinching eyes of a loving daughter. I was most moved by the report of Ms. Danticat’s uncle’s death while being detained by the government. It served as a reminder of how vulnerable we are to uncaring, unseeing bureaucracy.

 

Who is Mark Twain? By Mark Twain. 240 pages. Harper Studio. $19.99.

Who Is Mark Twain?
by Mark Twain

"Twenty-four unpublished essays by the undisputed master of American wit. . . As funny and insightful as any of his published and well-known works."

Here you have 24 unpublished essays by the undisputed master of American wit, works that provide a different view of the comic genius. As funny and insightful as any of his published and well-known works, these essays take on the federal government, religion, race, fame, and even the literary canon with a sharp-eyed clarity we can chuckle over as we read while feeling uncomfortable knowing that they feel all too contemporary.

Song for Night. By Chris Abani. 164 pages. Akashic Books. $12.95.

Song for Night
by Chris Abani

"There is a darkness to the African experience…Abani’s brilliant novel takes you there, cuts your vocal cords, and sends you out into the night with little hope."

There is a darkness to the African experience from Congo to Somalia. Abani’s brilliant novel takes you there, cuts your vocal cords, and sends you out into the night with little hope. Through this novel we are forced gaze upon the heart of darkness. The main character, ironically named My Luck, experiences the terrors that America and most of the rest of the world have closed their eyes to. This child soldier is a victim and a victimizer, imbued with innocence and evil. His plight is inescapable because the rot is set into his heart like disease, like Lear’s mortality. But if he can’t escape, then neither can we—that is why you must read this novella.

One Hundred Years of Solitude. By Gabriel García Marquez. 448 pages. Harper Perennial Classics. $14.95.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Marquez

"This is true magic—the enchantment of love, memory, obsession, and the flawed attempts of human beings to understand themselves."

This is one of the most brilliant and funny novels ever written. I come back to this book once every five years or so. Each time I’m astonished at its depth, beauty, and insight. This is the story of a family, a town, a nation, a people, a continent, and the spiritual history of the human race. García Marquez has the knack of taking the ordinary and making it magical. This is true magic—the enchantment of love, memory, obsession, and the flawed attempts of human beings to understand themselves.

Walter Mosley’s mystery novels, including the now-classic Easy Rawlins series, are routinely on the New York Times best seller list. He has won numerous awards, including an O. Henry, a Grammy, and the PEN American Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Mosley served on the board of the National Book Awards and is past-president of the Mystery Writers of America. He has just released a new novel, The Long Fall.