04.28.09

James Patterson's Bestselling Classics

The acclaimed thriller author says James Joyce forced him to discover what he could write when he realized Ulysses was untouchable, and shares some of his favorite reads.

The acclaimed thriller author says James Joyce forced him to discover what he could write when he realized Ulysses was untouchable, and shares some of his favorite reads. His latest novel, Swimsuit, was just released.

Ulysses
by James Joyce

“Ulysses is one of the novels that most influenced me as a young writer, simply because as I read it, I quickly realized that Joyce was in a totally untouchable category.”

Ulysses is one of the novels that most influenced me as a young writer, simply because as I read it, I quickly realized that Joyce was in a totally untouchable category, and it started me thinking about what types of stories I might be able to tell really well. His work might be alienating to some, but Joyce is smart, expressive, and whimsical. You’ve got to respect a man who can say things like “The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works” and get away with it.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude. By Gabriel García Márquez. 448 pages. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. $15. ()

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Márquez’s magical mystery tour begins with one of the most engaging lines in fiction”

Márquez’s magical mystery tour begins with one of the most engaging lines in fiction: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” What follows is an exhilarating recounting of a century in the imaginary Colombian town of Macondo—the comedies and tragedies, joy and suffering, sublime and ridiculous. An entire town, for example, is afflicted with insomnia at one point in the novel. A woman literally rises to Heaven while drying her laundry. And eventually, the firing squad fires.

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LaBrava. By Elmore Leonard. 432 pages. Harper Paperbacks. $15. ()

LaBrava
by Elmore Leonard

“Leonard is just about everything I love about the crime fiction genre.”

Before there was Quentin Tarantino or Miami Vice, there was Elmore Leonard. Leonard is just about everything I love about the crime fiction genre. He’s fast, he’s dark, he’s got style, and he has cleverly employed (dare I say popularized) utilitarian economy of language—a man after my own heart (or pen?). He once said in an interview, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” LaBrava was one of the first Leonard books I read. LaBrava and his femme fatale are as quirky as they come, and once I finished that book, I had to go back and start at the beginning of the Leonard collection.

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Push. By Sapphire. 192 pages. Vintage. $13. ()

Push
by Sapphire

“Though heartbreaking, it is ultimately a story about hope and survival.”

Sometimes you read a book that surprises you in every way. Push is the heartrending story of an illiterate, HIV-positive, abused Harlem teenager (named Precious), who, against all odds, finds redemption in writing and at the merciful hands of an unlikely mentor. Sapphire deftly brings Precious to life through her gritty yet lyrical voice and portrays her as both vulnerable and strong. What I like most about Push is how, though heartbreaking, it is ultimately a story about hope and survival.

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The Forever War. By Dexter Filkins. 384 pages. Knopf. $25. ()

The Forever War
by Dexter Filkins

“Filkins left me completely astounded with his hard-boiled descriptions of the gruesome realities he saw in Iraq.”

Filkins, a New York Times journalist dispatched overseas, left me completely astounded with his hard-boiled descriptions of the gruesome realities he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. What I loved about this book was that for the first time I got an honest and true picture of what’s actually happening on the ground in Iraq. I can’t imagine that anybody—presidents included—would have operated as they have operated after talking to civilians and seeing the day-to-day for themselves.

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James Patterson is one of the bestselling writers of all time, with more than 160 million copies of his books sold worldwide. His lifelong work to promote books and reading is reflected in his new web site ReadKiddoRead.com, which helps adults everywhere find the very best children’s books for their kids. He lives in Florida.