Bookseller One Grand Books has asked celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s list.
I prefer fiction to nonfiction and really like getting involved in a long novel. A friend of mine said reading a long novel is like launching an ocean liner. It’s hard to get it out of the dock, but once it starts, there’s a lot of momentum. I like social satire and I love novels about money and social class. I loathe “fantasy.” There are a few science-fiction books I like, like Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer K. Eldrich by Philip K. Dick, but if they start to feel like “fantasy,” I’m out. I avoid books about either World War. Or any war, really.
I have read a lot of relatively recent novels that are wonderful too. I love Don DeLillo and George Saunders and Rachel Cusk and a million billion other writers. And don’t get me started on graphic novels and memoirs. There is so much great stuff out there.
Okay. I’ll stop now. Favorite books:
The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann
This is about a young man who goes to a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to visit his tubercular cousin and winds up staying there for seven years. To paraphrase the Stefon character from SNL, “It’s got everything: love, illness, art, philosophy, religion …”
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve read this book at a few different times in my life, and each time it makes a slightly different impression on me. It’s about love and ambition and social class and envy. It’s very American, in the best way.
Stern, by Bruce Jay Friedman
Stern is about being Jewish in the American Dream suburbs in the 1950s. It’s very dark and very, very funny. Maybe the funniest book I’ve ever read.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
This is a fascinating book about a sociopath named Tom Ripley. I’m not sure why, but it’s so compelling that I’ve read it three times and am not sick of it.
Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, by P.D. Ouspensky
This is a very odd book that I love to complete bits. I read somewhere that the movie Groundhog Day is based on it. It’s about a guy who gets the chance to live his life over again so he can correct his mistakes. This miraculous do-over works as long as he remembers that he is living his life over again, and doesn’t just keep rationalizing his mistakes. Guess what happens.
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Great book about social class — money and the lack of it — and being female at the turn of the 20th century. It’s also set in New York City, an added plus for me.
The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles
A novel about a married couple set in North Africa. Sad, frightening, fascinating.
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
A great and tragic love story set against the social upheavals in Russia in the 1870s. Like The Great Gatsby, this is a book I’ve read three times in my life. I read it maybe five years ago and realized for the first time that Anna Karenina was an opium addict.
The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope
A novel about money, social class, scandal, fraud, anti-Semitism, and greed.
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
Great characters. A hilarious, biting satire of the British justice system. Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce! Miss Flite and her birds! And for illness buffs, there’s smallpox!