The best books that inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader

Who am I?

My first job upon graduating from college was working for an invention-marketing firm. This wasn’t my intention; armed with a degree in journalism, I was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, the country was enduring a recession, and after six months of unemployment, I was happy to be offered a copywriting position. So often during the two years I spent there, I would think to myself, “This could make such a great novel.” It took me a while—and with more than a few rejections along the way—but inspired by the writers and books I’ve included in my collection, I finally got around to penning my own tale.


I wrote...

Mousetrap, Inc.

By Joseph Guzzo,

Book cover of Mousetrap, Inc.

What is my book about?

New college graduate Nick Adano doesn’t realize it, but he’s about to move from the frustration of unemployment into the despair of being a vital cog in a morally dubious invention-marketing company. And when Nick and his boss find themselves with a problem on their hands—a client with a good idea who’s being railroaded—will Nick have the courage to confront himself?

To entertain his equally despairing coworkers, Nick pens tales featuring an antihero named Chapel Fox, by day a respected divorce attorney, but by night a madman bringing his version of justice to his beloved hometown. Capturing the essence of the awkward early twenties, when we’re adults... but not quite, this work speaks to anyone who’s endured a less-than-ideal work situation.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Portnoy's Complaint

Joseph Guzzo Why did I love this book?

I was 16 years old and house-sitting for my uncle. I was bored and decided to scan his bookshelf. I came across this book and couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. Scandalous! And hysterical. And eye-opening. This book showed me that creativity has no limits, and it’s a lesson I try to remember every time I confront a blank page.

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Portnoy's Complaint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The most outrageously funny book about sex written' Guardian

Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)]:A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature.

Portnoy's Complaint tells the tale of young Jewish lawyer Alexander Portnoy and his scandalous sexual confessions to his psychiatrist.

As narrated by Portnoy, he takes the reader on a journey through his childhood to adolescence to present day while articulating his sexual desire, frustration and neurosis in shockingly candid ways.

Hysterically funny and daringly intimate, Portnoy's Complaint was an immediate bestseller upon its publication…


Book cover of A Bell for Adano

Joseph Guzzo Why did I love this book?

I was a senior in high school, and my English teacher gave us customized reading recommendations. He thought I might like this book. He had no idea. Though often a serious work—it’s set in World War II Italythis novel exudes charm like nothing I’d ever read. There are books, TV shows, plays, and movies that you may like or even love, but when they charm you? You never forget them. Also, there’s a minor character in the book who shares my last name. I returned the favor in my novel by giving my protagonist the last name Adano.

By John Hersey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bell for Adano as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize tells the story of an Italian-American major in World War II who wins the love and admiration of the local townspeople when he searches for a replacement for the 700-year-old town bell that had been melted down for bullets by the fascists. Although stituated during one of the most devastating experiences in human history, John Hersey's story speaks with unflinching patriotism and humanity.


Book cover of The Easter Parade

Joseph Guzzo Why did I love this book?

I’m both inspired and depressed by this book. Yes, the book itself is on the depressing side, but what truly saddens me about it is that I’ll never write as well as Richard Yates. He packs so much into this 57,000-word work that it almost defies logic. Still, he’s an inspiration as a writer, and I will always use him as a guidepost. No one’s ever going to confuse me with Michael Jordan, either, but I’m still going to shoot hoops (poorly) in my driveway.

By Richard Yates,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Easter Parade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Easter Parade, first published in 1976, we meet sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes when they are still the children of divorced parents. We observe the sisters over four decades, watching them grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates's classic novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family's past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.


Book cover of Hit Man

Joseph Guzzo Why did I love this book?

Lawrence Block has written, I don’t know, 33,000 books? That’s inspiration alone. But in Keller, the mononymous title character of Hit Man and star of numerous short stories, he compels readers to root for someone who’s not exactly committing good deeds. I find that intriguing, and Chapel Fox, the antihero of my story within a story, travels down a similar road. You’ll find yourself cheering him on. You shouldn’t.

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Keller is an ordinary man - who kills people for a living. But then a hit goes wrong, and more than one life is at stake...
'Absolutely riveting ... Block is terrific' Washington Post

Keller is an assassin - he is paid by the job and works for a mysterious man who nominates hits and passes on commissions from elsewhere. Keller goes in, does the job, gets out: usually at a few hours' notice. Often Keller's work takes him out of New York to other cities, to pretty provincial towns that almost tempt him into moving to the woods and…


Book cover of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear

Joseph Guzzo Why did I love this book?

My son’s a young adult now, but I treasure the memories of the hours we spent reading together. We went down all the well-trodden paths and shared countless joyful hours with J.K. Rowling and Dav Pilkey and The Mysterious Benedict Society, but the creativity of this book is exceeded only by its humor. Also, it clocks in at around 700 pages, so it’ll entertain you and your children for a good while. I always enjoy a laugh as a reader, and if my work elicits a chuckle from you, then I feel my mission is complete.

By Walter Moers, John Brownjohn (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unlike cats, bluebears have 27 lives, which can be very handy when one considers the manner in which the hero of this story repeatedly manages to avoid death only by a paw's breadth. The story describes Captain Bluebear's first 13 and a half lives.


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Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

Book cover of Trouble in Queenstown

Delia Pitts

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Vandy Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private investigator to satisfy her own desires. Now she’s back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery.

Soon after her return, Vandy takes on a divorce case for the mayor’s nephew, Leo Hannah. At first the surveillance job seems routine, but Vandy soon realizes there’s trouble beneath the surface when a racially-charged murder with connections to the Hannah family rocks Q-town. She’s a minor league PI with few friends and no resources. But Vandy has a determination few possess — she’ll stop at nothing to solve this case.

Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

What is this book about?

With Trouble in Queenstown, Delia Pitts introduces private investigator Vandy Myrick in a powerful mystery that blends grief, class, race, and family with thrilling results.

Evander “Vandy” Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private eye to satisfy her own. Now she's back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery. It's a small community of nine thousand souls crammed into twelve square miles, fenced by cornfields, warehouses, pharma labs, and tract housing. As a Black woman, privacy is hard to come by in "Q-Town," and…


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