My Five Most Important Books
1. "Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe." The first writer I fell in love with, for the personal intensity of his imagination.
2. "R Is for Rocket" by Ray Bradbury. The first writer to draw my attention to the pleasure of metaphor; I've yet to recover from the image of butterflies trapped in the grille of a roadster.
3. "Collected Stories of John Cheever." Nearly perfect in their construction, use of exposition, pacing and compression of language and imagery. Supreme among them: "The Swimmer."
4. "Trickster Makes This World" by Lewis Hyde. A quirky, quicksilver study of the Trickster in the human cultural condition. The most important work of nonfiction I've read in a decade.
5. "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel García Márquez. For the first quarter, the best book ever written. Inevitably, it falls off, though the last 50 pages are also incomparably beautiful.
A classic you revisited with disappointment: "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren. It utterly destroyed me at 19 or 20, but when I went back, I found myself laughing at the most serious moments.
A book to which you always return: "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville. My desert-island pick. It should be No. 6 on the list up there.