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Misunderstood Lives

In his new biography, “The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr,” historian H. W. Brands reconsiders an American villain. Here he selects four other accounts of misunderstood lives.

The Confessions of Nat Turner By William StyronNat Turner was a black slave who sparked a bloody uprising in Virginia in 1831 and left behind—after his capture and execution—a brief, cryptic account of what made him do it. Or maybe he didn’t leave the account, which was alleged by some to have been the work in part or whole of the lawyer, Thomas Gray, who proceeded to publish it.

Jennifer Egan’s PEN Book Bag

Guests at the two Standard Hotels in New York will soon get a surprise: 12 books, from ‘Emma’ to ‘Germinal,’ will be waiting in their rooms during the week of the PEN World Voices Festival starting April 30. The Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist of ‘A Visit From the Goon Squad’ explains each pick.
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Wake-up call, continental breakfast, the day’s newspaper ... and books to make the morning complete! It’s time again for the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, when writers like Herta Müller, Paul Auster, Michael Cunningham, Etgar Keret, Margaret Atwood, and Tony Kushner descend on New York City.

Fictional Terrorism

From Philip Roth’s homegrown American to an Irish love story, Lionel Shriver picks her favorite novels featuring terrorism. Her new novel is The New Republic.

Windows on the World By Frédéric BeigbederStill one of the best 9/11 novels. The author breaks two rules with panache: that you have to be American, optimally a New Yorker, to write with authority about the World Trade Center (Beigbeder is from France, where this novel was first published in 2004); and that books published too closely on the heels of any such tragedy are bound to suffer from a lack of perspective and come out rubbish.

Depressing Beach Reads

Essayist Sloane Crosley fills a book bag for readers who wouldn't dream of going near a beach ('On the Beach'), who don't like sand but don't mind reading about it ('Waiting for the Barbarians') or who want to beat the heat by reading about snow ('Into Thin Air').
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On the Beach By Nevil ShuteA post-apocalyptic Australian story revolving around nuclear fallout, euthanasia, and a fuel crisis in which the one bright beam of civilized hope is Seattle? Yes please.  Who needs a description of Maui this summer? Not I, not when there’s an end-of-the-world Pearl Harbor portrayal inspired by then-recent events.

Dennis Lehane’s Favorite Short Story Collections

It may surprise some that bestselling novelist Dennis Lehane is a huge fan of short stories. From Andre Dubus to Wells Tower, he picks his 5 favorite collections. His new novel, Moonlight Mile, is out now.

It may surprise some that bestselling novelist Dennis Lehane is a huge fan of short stories. From Andre Dubus to Wells Tower, he picks his 5 favorite collections. His new novel, Moonlight Mile, is out now.

James Franco's Book Bag

Actor, artist and writer James Franco shares his six favorite books, from Faulkner to Bukowski. His debut short story collection, 'Palo Alto,' is out now.

Actor, artist and writer James Franco shares his six favorite books, from Faulkner to Bukowski. His debut short story collection, 'Palo Alto,' is out now.

Bill Clegg's Memories

The author of a bestselling 'Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man' shares his favorite memoirs.

The author of a bestselling 'Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man' shares his favorite memoirs.

Scott Turow's Book Bag

Bestselling author Scott Turow picks his favorite novels with a legal theme. His new book, 'Innocent,' is out now.

Bestselling author Scott Turow picks his favorite novels with a legal theme. His new book, 'Innocent,' is out now.

Michael Lewis's Book Bag

The bestselling author of Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side, and, a new chronicle of the financial crisis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, shares his favorite books of all time.

The bestselling author of Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side, and, a new chronicle of the financial crisis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, shares his favorite books of all time.

James Bradley's Book Bag

Bestselling author of 'Flags of Our Fathers' shares his favorite reads, from Lao Tzu to Kurt Vonnegut. His new book, 'Imperial Cruise,' is out now.

Bestselling author of 'Flags of Our Fathers' shares his favorite reads, from Lao Tzu to Kurt Vonnegut. His new book, 'Imperial Cruise,' is out now.

Anne Rice's Book Bag

In time for Halloween, bestselling novelist Anne Rice shares with The Daily Beast her favorite books.

In time for Halloween, bestselling novelist Anne Rice shares with The Daily Beast her favorite books.

Jonathan Lethem's Favorite Icy Novels

Jonathan Lethem, whose new book, 'Chronic City,' is out this week, shares five icy novels that are perfect for a warming globe.

Jonathan Lethem, whose new book, 'Chronic City,' is out this week, shares five icy novels that are perfect for a warming globe.

James Ellroy Book Bag

James Ellroy shares with The Daily Beast why these novels of bloody and infamous crimes are his favorites. His new book, 'Blood’s A Rover,' is out.

James Ellroy shares with The Daily Beast why these novels of bloody and infamous crimes are his favorites. His new book, 'Blood’s A Rover,' is out.

Kristof Book Bag

Co-author of a new book 'Half the Sky,' The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof shares his favorite books.

Co-author of a new book 'Half the Sky,' The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof shares his favorite books.

Chuck Klosterman's Book Bag

The acclaimed cultural critic and novelist shares some of his favorite reads, including a polemic about why Americans are stupid and an uncensored history of Rolling Stone.

The Thirteen American ArgumentsBy Howard Fineman“He's a very clear writer who can concisely outline large problems without oversimplifying their consequence.”This is a collection of the 13 abstract debates Fineman views as most central to the core definition of democracy ("Who Is a Person," "Who Judges the Law," etc.

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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