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The Best of Latin America

Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez, whose new novel ‘The Sound of Things Falling’ visits the history of his home country and its troubled capital, Bogotá, picks his favorite books about South America.
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Nostromo By Joseph ConradJoseph Conrad’s insultingly ambitious and incredibly accurate political novel is, to my mind, the best piece of fiction ever written about Latin America outside of Latin America. The fictional republic of Costaguana watches one of its provinces secede, aided by the military intervention of the United States, in a series of events that are suspiciously reminiscent of the revolution through which the province of Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903.

State of Surveillance

From James Bamford’s revelations about the NSA to an oral history of J. Edgar Hoover, Seth Rosenfeld, the author of ‘Subversives,’ picks his favorite books on the surveillance state.
Heidi Elise Benson

In Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power Seth Rosenfeld traces the FBI’s secret involvement with three iconic figures who clashed at Berkeley in the ’60s: Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio, University of California president Clark Kerr, and Gov.

My Top Five Horror Classics

Carsten Stroud returns to the sinister small town of his creation in the new novel, ‘The Homecoming,’ the second installment in the Niceville trilogy. Here he picks his five favorite horror novels, from Ambrose Bierce to Stephen King.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge By Ambrose BiercePeyton Farquhar, a Confederate sympathizer, is tricked by a Union spy into an attempt to burn a bridge at Owl Creek. Caught by the Union Army, he’s taken to the bridge by an execution party; they stand him up on the edge, tie a rope around his neck, and push him off.

My Favorite New York Books

Cathleen Schine, whose new novel, ‘Fin & Lady,’ is about life in Greenwich Village in the swinging ’60s, chooses the books that epitomize the Big Apple for her.

Leaves of Grass By Walt WhitmanOne of my favorite passages in Leaves of Grass, that breathless, exuberant poem so rich and full of innocence and joy and generosity and compassion, is “Mannahatta.” It springs from a 19th-century sense of possibility, but it feels just like Manhattan now.

The Great American Songbooks

In his new book ‘Ready for a Brand New Beat,’ prolific author Mark Kurlansky looks at how the Motown song “Dancing in the Street” became an anthem for ’60s America—he picks five essential music reads that inspired his own work.

Blues People: Negro Music in White America By Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka)This reflection of black history, culture, music, and how they come together was published in 1963, but remains a profound insight into the development of jazz from blues, and the role of black culture in history.

The Great Dubliners

Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, ‘Instructions for a Heatwave,’ is the story of a family that comes together in the middle of an unbearable summer to search for their father, who has gone missing. O’Farrell, who’s Irish but was raised in England, has always delighted in exploring the themes of heritage and family. Here she celebrates five of her favorite Irish writers.
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Joyce, Yeats, O’Casey notwithstanding, these are my favorite Irish writers:Molly KeaneI have read and re-read Molly Keane more, I think, than any other writer. Nobody else can touch her as a satirist, tragedian, and dissector of human behavior.

My Favorite Celebrity Memoirs

Who knew? Rosecrans Baldwin, the author of the novel ‘You Lost Me There’ and the memoir ‘Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down,’ now out in paperback, is an avid reader of celebrity memoirs. He picks his five favorites.

With Nails: The Film Diaries of Richard E. Grant By Richard E. GrantJuicy, panic-stricken, fast-paced notes from Hollywood auditions and film sets. Grant starred in the British cult favorite Withnail & I and went on to L.A.

Janet Evanovich’s Summer Reads

The author of the Stephanie Plum series picks five books she’d like to read this summer, from Carl Hiaasen’s new novel to a Mark Twain classic.
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These are the five books I want to read this summer:Bad Monkey: A Novel By Carl HiaasenBecause who wouldn't want to read a book about a bad monkey?  And besides, it's HIAASEN. The Andy Warhol Diaries Edited by Pat HackettBecause I recently watched the PBS show on Warhol and was intrigued by his childhood and early adulthood and how it helped shape his art.

Graduation Must Reads

What’s the essential book to read before you graduate? We asked some of the nation’s leading academics and authors—Junot Díaz, Jill Lepore, Cornel West, and others—to nominate one book that students shouldn’t escape campus without having read.
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Jill LeporeThere can’t be one book; there must be a library; that has got to be the lesson. But, for a start, to ponder the shape and rhythm and meaning of life: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man together with Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

Khaled Hosseini’s Book Bag

The author of ‘The Kite Runner’ picks his favorite short-story collections. His new book is ‘And the Mountains Echoed.’

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned By Wells TowerThis is an outstanding short story collection, much of it about men on the fringes and the splendid messes they have made of their lives. There are downtrodden divorcees, narcissistic teenagers, rivaling siblings, and men struggling to reconcile with their fathers, brothers, children, and the women in their lives.

Paul Theroux’s Inner Journey

The best travel writing is about the voyage into the space within. One of the great globe-trotting authors on the books that help us understand the land and its inhabitants.
Elise Amendola/AP

Some travel books are less about travel—that is a specific itinerary and perambulation—than about an intense experience of a particular place. I think of this as both an inner and an outer journey; what is illuminated is the landscape and the people—the place rather than the traveler or the trip.

10 Advice Books for Graduates

As students leave school and enter their next stage in life, what books can they turn to for practical insights about the real world? Roman Krznaric, author of ‘How to Find Fulfilling Work,’ and John-Paul Flintoff, the author of ‘How to Change the World,’ offer these suggestions.
Kantele Franko/AP

Roman KrznaricI have a slight allergy to all those self-help books that offer tips and tricks for graduates on how to write the perfect résumé or shine in job interviews. What really matters, I believe, is delving into books that help you think hard about your values and talents, and how your career might fit into your wider philosophy of life.

Nathaniel Philbrick’s Book Bag

The National Book Award-winning chronicler of maritime and American stories picks his favorite history books, from Robert Caro to novels as works of history. His latest book is ‘Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution.’

As an author of narrative history, I read a lot of history books. What follows is a list of the books I find myself returning to years after I first read them.The Powerbroker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York By Robert CaroI first read this in the early 1980s when I was a sailing journalist living in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Isabel Allende’s Influences

The Chilean magical realism writer shares the books that have influenced her the most. Her new novel is ‘Maya’s Notebook,’ out today.
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The Female Eunuch by Germaine GreerThis was the first feminist book I ever read. It was l970 and I was in my late 20s, working as a journalist. The Female Eunuch showed me the power of articulate, smart, and humorous language to express the anger I felt at the male establishment.

The Thrill of Mary Higgins Clark

She is back with her latest novel, 'Daddy’s Gone a Hunting,' but who is the Queen of Suspense's biggest competitor for the royal title? She herself picks the five best in the genre.
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Payment Deferred By C.S. Forester One of the best suspense stories ever written. The reader feels the fear and dread of the killer and the ending is a magnificent twist. Fallen By Karin Slaughter Karin Slaughter always grabs you on the first line and never lets go.

About Book Bag

Need a book recommendation? We get asked all the time, but we've left the task to the experts: every week, great writers pick their favorite books and tell you why they are must-reads.

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