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.

The books I picked & why

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Portnoy's Complaint

By Philip Roth,

Book cover of Portnoy's Complaint

Why 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.

Portnoy's Complaint

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


A Bell for Adano

By John Hersey,

Book cover of A Bell for Adano

Why 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.

A Bell for 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.


The Easter Parade

By Richard Yates,

Book cover of The Easter Parade

Why 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.

The Easter Parade

By Richard Yates,

Why should I read it?

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


Hit Man

By Lawrence Block,

Book cover of Hit Man

Why 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.

Hit Man

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…


The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

By Walter Moers,

Book cover of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

Why 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.

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

By Walter Moers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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