The best fiction narrative for uncertain times

Robert Wintner Author Of Solomon Kursh
By Robert Wintner

Who am I?

I’ve written fiction for 60 years, scratching the adventure itch for exotic places, high seas, or converging oddities. I have wandered and taken note. The authors I love have influenced my worldview and my writing. I am a reef conservation activist with five volumes of reef photos and political narratives covering reefs worldwide. And I am an Executive Producer of The Dark Hobby, an award-winning feature film exposing the aquarium trade for its devastating impact on reefs worldwide. I live in Maui with my wife Anita, Cookie the dog, Yoyo, Tootsie, Rocky, Buck, Inez and Coco the cats, and Elizabeth the chicken.


I wrote...

Solomon Kursh

By Robert Wintner,

Book cover of Solomon Kursh

What is my book about?

A promising youth of the 60s veers to LSD and cosmic light. Stepping from university to cult life and pastel jammies, he chants and dances. Passersby laugh, and he laughs back, niched in bliss. Natural intelligence takes him to operational management, as labor and meditation define purpose for years, until...  Harsh truth drops like a turd in the punch bowl, a small one, but still. Would you like a cup?

He’d challenged the elders of his childhood. What did you do, when you had the chance? The question comes back, calling for strange absolution and justice served. Despairing a bleak future and potential wasted, he meditates on a bong like 1969 and phones a friend. The story resolves on endurance and revelation.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Ham on Rye

By Charles Bukowski,

Book cover of Ham on Rye

Why this book?

I recommend Charles Bukowski in general, and Ham on Rye is a classic. Media people these days love to bandy “existential” threats, meaning threats to existence. But existentialists pondered existence and got depressed without much concern for hazards. Berets, baggy pants, coffee, and cigarettes characterized those guys—Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, and the rest. Bukowski made existential contemplation more timeless, drinking and screwing in response to life and its challenge. Above all, it’s compelling and entertaining. 

Ham on Rye

By Charles Bukowski,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ham on Rye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTRODUCTION BY RODDY DOYLE

'He brought everyone down to earth, even the angels' LEONARD COHEN

Charles Bukowski is one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. The autobiographical Ham on Rye is widely considered his finest novel. A classic of American literature, it offers powerful insight into his youth through the prism of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski, who grew up to be the legendary Hank Chinaski of Post Office and Factotum.


Lord Jim

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of Lord Jim

Why this book?

I read Joseph Conrad from my earliest formative years. Sometimes thick, but always drawn on real time at sea, Conrad wrote from experience and touched a nerve for anyone drawn to adventure on the high seas. Lord Jim stands out for its layers of real life so sensitively drawn, from a young chandler’s boy competing in a small sloop to reach the ships just over the horizon, to a disgraced young officer who jumped ship prematurely, afraid. By the time Tuan Jim faces the high chief, he has achieved what all adventurers admire, arrival at the true self. I’ve loved several Conrad books, and I suppose Lord Jim stands out because of Peter O’Toole’s portrayal that put me alongside, in the moment. 

Lord Jim

By Joseph Conrad,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lord Jim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'To the white men in the waterside business and to the captain of ships he was just Jim - nothing more. He had, of course, another name, but he was anxious that it should not be pronounced.'

Lord Jim tells the story of a young, idealistic Englishman - 'as unflinching as a hero in a book' - who is disgraced by a single act of cowardice while serving as an officer on the Patna, a merchant-ship sailing from an Eastern port. His life is blighted: an isolated scandal assumes horrifying proportions. An older man, Marlow, befriends Jim, and helps to…


Master & Commander

By Patrick O'Brian,

Book cover of Master & Commander

Why this book?

Patrick O’Brien writes tall ship adventures with a blythe spirit, expertly portraying life at sea. Captain Jack Aubrey runs a happy ship, as opposed, say, to Captain Bligh. But rigors remain, and the distance between captain and crew is maintained to preserve social structure. The whole twenty-volume series is compelling for any seafarer, and Master & Commander is best known. The movie was good, except for Russell Crowe, who mumbled his lines.

Master & Commander

By Patrick O'Brian,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Master & Commander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.


Meshugah

By Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nili Wachtel (translator),

Book cover of Meshugah

Why this book?

All of the Singer Brothers are excellent tales of village life and struggles. Isaac Bashevis Singer could spin a yarn with no seams showing, drawing readers in to personal and social straits. Scum, Meshugah, Shosha, and the rest capture the strife and insanity of the times. Isaac Singer often called his brother I.J. a better writer. Better shmetter; I.J. wrote beautiful tales of folksy subjects, easing as well to the verge. The Brothers Carnovsky will linger for years.

Meshugah

By Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nili Wachtel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meshugah as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presents a new, recently discovered, posthumously published novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Certificate and The King of the Fields. 20,000 first printing.


Palace of Desire

By Naguib Mahfouz,

Book cover of Palace of Desire

Why this book?

Palace of Desire came out in 1957 in original Arabic and got translated to English in the early ’90s, and that’s when I read it. I’m not sure why NY waited so long, except that Naguib Mahfouz couldn’t get the right connection for those years. Your request for reasons that I chose this book made me take another look, and I’ll reread it soon. Thumbing through it now, it still flows with classic narrative, a form still vibrant in 1957, before books in English lost that traditional flow and began to read with a sameness, like most authors went to writing seminars or demanded their rights as women with feelings. I.e. Mahfouz reaches for nothing but the moment, which happens to be in a Cairo neighborhood populated with everyday Egyptians carrying on with life. It’s a slice unavailable to readers like me, revealing a reality far away and compelling, sitting socially with mint tea and smoke, chatting over events and characters, leading to a dramatic point. The translation is also excellent, I presume, avoiding those pratfalls of usage and syntax so clearly outlined in Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, where we learn to avoid the “there is” construction or lazy phrases like “a lot” to describe something other than a real estate parcel or a job commodity. Check it out. In very few pages, you can feel the difference, and though Palace is now eligible for the Senior Discount, it reads with vibrant clarity.

Mahfouz was among the few authors, in my opinion, who deserve international acclaim. His stories kept me up late.

Palace of Desire

By Naguib Mahfouz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Palace of Desire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The second volume of the highly acclaimed Cairo Trilogy from the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, Palace Of Desire is the unforgettable story of the violent clash between ideals and realities, dreams and desires.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Holocaust survivors, alcoholism, and Indonesia?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Holocaust survivors, alcoholism, and Indonesia.

Holocaust Survivors Explore 35 books about Holocaust survivors
Alcoholism Explore 57 books about alcoholism
Indonesia Explore 23 books about Indonesia

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like In the Heart of the Sea, The Bell Jar, and Neverwhere if you like this list.