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The Best Letter Collections

R. Blakeslee Gilpin, the co-editor of ‘Selected Letters of William Styron,’ on his favorite correspondences.

The Letters of John Cheever Edited by Benjamin CheeverNobody put things quite like Cheever. On life in Iowa (something everyone, from Styron to Vonnegut, describes differently): “I’m having a great time but I’m getting tired and I am having trouble with alcohol again.

The Renaissance Book Bag

The author of ‘Leonardo and the Last Supper’ picks his favorite biographies of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance.

The Lives of the Artists By Giorgio Vasari, translated by Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella This is the book, first published in 1550, that kicked off both art history and artist biographies. Vasari was a painter, architect, and friend of Michelangelo.

Andrew Solomon’s Book Bag

The National Book Award-winning author of ‘Far From the Tree,’ a monumental study of parents and children, picks his favorite books about family love.

Five books that deal with the complexity, nuance, and fearful intensity of family love.Torn in Two By Rozsika Parker In an era when people gamely put themselves on network television to talk about the most unlikely sexual practices or personal criminal activity, few parents are willing to admit to ambivalence about their own children.

5 Great Literary Subjects

Robert Gottlieb, author of the new book ‘Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens,’ on writers who led extraordinary lives.

There are certain historical figures of such importance that we need to know everything about them, which is why books about Napoleon, Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, and the great religious founders continue to proliferate; these lives require constant reevaluation and interpretation.

Five Books on Madness

The author of the new book ‘Lost at Sea,’ ‘The Psychopath Test,’ and ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ chooses his favorites.

3,096 Days in Captivity: The True Story of My Abduction, Eight Years of Enslavement, and Escape By Natascha Kampusch Her brilliant memoir about being kidnapped and held captive for eight years by Wolfgang Priklopil. I had the pleasure of interviewing her a few years ago.

Book Bag: Military Edition

The author of ‘The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today’ and ‘The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008’ picks his favorite books on recent U.S. military history.
Courtesy of Penguin Press

World War IIThis is almost impossible. Where to start? There are so many good histories, so many powerful memoirs, starting with Winston Churchill’s and Field Marshal Slim’s. Also, Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on the Army’s war in Europe—the last volume will come out next year—is a must read.

The Obama Vs. Romney Reading List

As the candidates face off in the election, the books they’ve read recently and their professed favorites also go head to head. Who wins?
Getty Images ; AFP / Getty Images

1. Favorite BooksSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison (Obama) vs. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Romney)Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Obama) vs. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Romney)Shakespeare’s Tragedies (Obama) vs.

Nick Harkaway’s Book Bag

The author of the rollicking spy novel ‘Angelmaker,’ just out in paperback, tells us why reading novels is difficult for him.

I’m usually reading too many books—in fact I’m usually reading enough books that if the stack fell on me I’d be injured. They break into two main groups: novels I am reading because the story grips me, and nonfiction I am reading because it is too extraordinary to miss.

Edmund Morris’s Book Bag

The great presidential biographer and author of an erudite new collection of essays, ‘This Living Hand,’ shares some of the favorite books he’s read lately.

I am that most boring of list-compilers, a guy who avidly falls upon “new” books that other people donated to their local libraries in the era of Jimmy Carter.James Gould Cozzens’s Guard of Honor, anyone? Guess not. Well, you’re missing the greatest of all American novels about World War II.

Timothy Egan’s Book Bag

Egan’s new book tells the epic story of photographer Edward Curtis, and he celebrates the adventurer by picking his five favorite travel books.

Roughing It By Mark TwainTravel writing isn't what it used to be, but a young, smart-ass Mark Twain set a standard with his romp through the wacky West, published in 1872, that has rarely been surpassed. By horseback and hoof, Twain takes us from the Mormon Theocracy of Utah to the wide-open craziness in the Sierra mining fields.

David Thomson’s Film Book Bag

The critic and author of the seminal ‘Biographical Dictionary of Film’ returns with a sweeping history of the movies, ‘The Big Screen.’ He picks five books on film that you would enjoy.

The Deer Park By Norman MailerI want books you would enjoy reading even if you knew next to nothing about the movies. In that spirit, I start with a novel—Norman Mailer’s The Deer Park (1955)—about an Air Force flier who goes to Hollywood.

Sherman Alexie’s Book Bag

The writer, poet and filmmaker has a new collection of stories, ‘Blasphemy.’ He tells The Daily Beast what books he’s reading.
Larry D. Moore

Bluets By Maggie NelsonFor inspiration and consternation, I often carry Maggie Nelson's Bluets. It is a book-length essay/poem/something that studies blue as a color, an emotion, a state of being, the meaning of sex, an existential mystery, and as art.

Lorin Stein’s Short Story Picks

The editor of The Paris Review and coeditor of the new book ‘Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story’ picks his five favorite short story collections.

Think short stories are boring? Old-fashioned? Uneventful? Here are five contemporary collections guaranteed to change your mind. PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies By Ken Kalfus Imagine Breaking Bad but with weapons-grade plutonium instead of meth.

Simon Callow’s Favorite Dickens

The great English actor and author of the new book ‘Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World,’ picks the five novels by Boz that you shouldn’t miss.
AP Photo

The Pickwick Papers Dickens’s first novel—in which his exhilaration at finally bursting into fiction is palpable. He worked on a huge canvas, using a multitude of modes and styles, painting a picture of an England that was at once contemporary and mythic.

Ken Follett’s Favorite Trilogies

The author of the epic new novel ‘Winter of the World,’ book two of the mammoth Century Trilogy, picks his favorite triptychs.

When you’ve really enjoyed a book, it’s great to come back to the characters again and see what they or their children did next. However, a trilogy is difficult to write, because the author has to revisit the same set of ideas and get more stories out them.

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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