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Reader's Digest


A singular syllabus from persons of note.

We looked to our group of experts to recommend the favorite books they read over the past year. Here's an eclectic assemblage of books you shouldn't miss reading.


Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler's Germany (Melville House), by Rudolph Herzog

"An appallingly serious and sober study of the most politically incorrect question of all time -- was anything ever funny if you were a Jew under Nazism? --John Waters


My Prizes: An Accounting (Knopf), by Thomas Bernhard

"Quick-witted attacks on the very organizations that rewarded this famously grumpy German author with literary accolades. Rudeness is rarely literature but here it's a masterpiece.--John Waters


Lee Friedlander: The New Cars 1964 (Fraenkel Gallery Publications)

"Hilariously satirical and humble car-portraits that mock, humiliate and devalue the very product this photographer was initially hired to glamorize." --John Waters


Full Frontal Feminism (Seal Press), by Jessica Valenti

"Supposedly written for young women, I strongly believe that this book should be the feet-wetting book for anyone, especially men, who want to begin to see slightly more accurately the way in which we see, distort, treat, undermine, support and ultimately divide ourselves into gender."--Tarell Alvin McCraney


The Stranger's Child (Knopf), by Alan Hollinghurst

"This is, as readers expect, lyrical and sumptuously descriptive and psychologically acute. This time around, however, the novel covers a hundred years of English history and reveals that one of the most important poems of World War I was actually written to a boy and not, as everyone has always assumed, to a girl."--Edmund White


Beyond Nose to Tail (Bloomsbury USA), by Fergus Henderson

"[I enjoy its] terse prose that hints at a bigger philosophy about food."--Nico Muhly


Open City (Random House), by Teju Cole

"A young Nigerian author's tribute to New York City, it's a novel but it reads like a flaneur's memoir. Cole has a prose style as arresting as W.G.Sebald's and like Naipaul he can bring out all the values of a scene just by looking at it long enough.--Edmund White


The Pregnant Widow (Knopf), by Martin Amis

"It's a rapturous, Nabokovian account of a horny English teen's summer in an Italian castle full of beautiful youngsters--a sensualist's salute (frequently comic) to his own sexual awakening.--Edmund White


The Lazarus Project (Riverhead), Aleksandar Hemon

"I was knocked out by this gripping account of a contemporary Bosnian in Chicago trying to sort out a hundred-year-old story of one of his countrymen who was mistaken for a dangerous anarchist and shot to death by the city's police chief. Hemon knows how to make every paragraph he writes utterly absorbing."--Edmund White


Zippermouth (The Feminist Press), by Laurie Weeks

"Laurie straddles an impossible line between humor, theory, science, drugs, and out-and-out worship of a thinking woman's screen icons--such as Judy Davis and Vivien Leigh. We've been waiting for this book for ten years and Zippermouth is well worth it. Laurie herself is a legend."--Eileen Myles


The Eye Has to Travel (Abrams), by Lisa Immordino Vreeland

"It's all about Diana Vreeland, and it is the tits! I was fortunate to work for DV in 1985. She was the most outrageously exciting fashion avatar; a real visionary. And she hated the idea of good taste. This book features many aspects of her creativity including her insanely glam magazine layouts. If she were around today she would be a huge Gaga fan...and Nikki Minaj!"--Simon Doonan


Talking into the Ear of Donkey: Poems (W.W. Norton), by Robert Bly

"Bly's poems explore all the usual stuff of poems--grief, wonder, longing, age, love--but these read with the crisp, lean, no-muss-no-fuss wisdom of someone who has been awake and paying attention for a long time. The slim volume is speckled with deadpan lines, and an entire poem that reads "Don't be afraid/The great lettuce of the world/ Is all around us.' "--Bill Clegg

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