The best books to combat loneliness and quiet desperation

Robert David Crane Author Of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories
By Robert David Crane

Who am I?

I have always followed writer Christopher Isherwood’s words: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” I am most comfortable as an observer, a documentarian, someone who gathers details, tries to make sense of them, lays them down in a presentable order, noticing colors, light, sounds, people’s behavior. Trying to make sense of life. I come from a divorced family, my father was murdered, and my first wife died of breast cancer. Still, there was plenty of laughter. I’m interested in and trying to figure out why we’re here.

I wrote...

Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories

By Robert David Crane,

Book cover of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories

What is my book about?

“The people we meet in Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories are mostly working-class, battling betrayals, the sudden violence so often at the edge of American life, rising to the occasional triumphs. Here is a hunt for love, companionship, maybe just meaning. In other words, real lives being lived.” – Joseph B. Atkins 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

Why did I love this book?

British spy novelist John Le Carre writes a rare non-fiction piece involving 38 tales of searching for the “human spark” – the reason we get up in the morning – and overcoming betrayal and disappointment. Le Carre meets spies, heads of state, celebrities, politicians, along his life’s journey but it always gets back to the heart, the humor, the “moral ambiguity” he finds in each individual that he transfers to his fictional characters in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I loved this book because I travelled to locations and met people that will never be part of my personal experience. Le Carre despite his fame is a humble, obedient servant to the word and shares his innermost feelings about the success and failure of human beings.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Recounted with the storytelling elan of a master raconteur - by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times bestselling memoir from John le Carre, the legendary author of A Legacy of Spies.

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carre has always written from the heart of modern times. In this,…

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Why did I love this book?

Tim O’Brien’s twenty-two fictional tales of life and death, survival at all costs, friendship, service, and respect in the horror fields and mountains of Vietnam during a war the U.S. had no solid reason for promoting took me to a time in our history I never wanted to be part of. The illegitimacy of our government’s destruction of a people and place prompted me to stay in college – 2S Deferment – after watching a live draft on television of young men like myself picked to kill other young men in a foreign land. The number on the ping pong ball for my birthdate was 55. I was going. O’Brien takes me to the frontline to experience death-too-soon, trust, loneliness, self-hate, and being lied to by authority. I didn’t want to kill but I’d sure like to visit Vietnam now and apologize.

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Things They Carried as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The million-copy bestseller, which is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

'The Things They Carried' is, on its surface, a sequence of award-winning stories about the madness of the Vietnam War; at the same time it has the cumulative power and unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme.

But while Vietnam is central to 'The Things They Carried', it is not simply a book about war. It is also a book about the human heart - about the terrible weight of those things we carry through…

Nobody's Angel

By Thomas McGuane,

Book cover of Nobody's Angel

Why did I love this book?

McGuane sure kicked it off for me in terms of seeing a way to write new fiction. Story is not a priority in his world rather observation of characters battling the odds of surviving each day. The reader wants to be like some of the characters and run to the hills from others but the sense of humor, dirt under the fingernails of these singular people we’ll never meet, relationships we’ll never be in, and locations such as Livingston, Montana or Key West, Florida we won’t spend much time in, draws me to McGuane’s page. McGuane, who wrote scripts for Missouri Breaks and Rancho Deluxe, writes like a filmmaker – the smells, the weather, the alcohol, the drugs – the reader is in the scene, the sun on your neck, the dust in the air, the sound of the ice-cold creek. McGuane is a travel agent.

By Thomas McGuane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nobody's Angel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel about a former soldier in Big Sky Country whose life is spiraling out of control, from the acclaimed author of Ninety-two in the Shade and Cloudbursts, who is "among the most arresting and fascinating [writers] of his generation" (San Francisco Chronicle).

In McGuane's first novel set in his famed American West, Patrick Fitzpatrick is a former soldier, a fourth-generation cowboy, and a whiskey addict. His grandfather wants to run away to act in movies, his sister wants to burn the house down, and his new stallion is bent on killing him: all of them urgently require attention. But…

Book cover of Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories

Why did I love this book?

One of the joys of the Internet is meeting people – writers – who give the reader a kick in the ass, an unexpected journey down an alley or a dirt path where we spend time with a character who changes our opinion, our outlook on society. Meeting writer Theresa Griffin Kennedy was that kick for me. Kennedy writes non-fiction, reportage, poetry, opinion, and fiction. Burnside Field Lizard took me down back roads and introduced me to larger-than-life characters that stung me with truths and observations that felt more like a documentary. I love realism and Kennedy knows and writes about her town Portland, Oregon, like no other writer. These short stories smack of a reporter in the trenches of a foreign war zone. The characters are in battle with themselves. Kennedy is also an observant translator of sexual behavior that can, at times, be another kind of war, internal or otherwise.   

By Theresa Griffin Kennedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this collection of five short stories Theresa Griffin Kennedy's assortment of unusual characters are sharply insightful and as damaged as they are intriguingly complex. Jolting the reader into regular double takes, "Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories," gives an authentic, place-based portrayal of some of Portland's less privileged inhabitants. Gender, class and sexual based consciousness seep into the grain of each story but most importantly Kennedy examines a universal question from the perspective of the Portland neighborhoods she knows intimately: What are people willing to take from others in order to survive and what does it mean to be…

Day Out of Days

By Sam Shepard,

Book cover of Day Out of Days

Why did I love this book?

Shepard, like McGuane, was a screenwriter and, unlike McGuane, was a playwright and actor. He thought small for the most part – one character, maybe two – sharing how people miss the brass ring, miss the obvious, miss connections. Two things about Shepard’s writing hit home with me – he is alone a lot, sometimes lonely, angry, sad, self-destructive, funny; he spends a lot of time on the road, driving his pick-up truck away from someone or, sometimes, toward someone. He doubts himself questioning lovers, family, or friends, never standing on terra firma. He’s on the run and manages to run head-on into himself in a lonely motel outside of town, his own worst enemy, a bottle on the nightstand, always searching for a pay phone. Shepard was certainly around people but his mistrust of himself built walls separating lovers, family, and friends from who he was, an observer, a detailer, a writer.

By Sam Shepard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From one of our most admired writers: a collection of stories set mainly in the fertile imaginative landscape of the American West, written with the terse lyricism, cinematic detail, and wry humor that have become Sam Shepard’s trademarks.

A man traveling down Highway 90 West gets trapped alone overnight inside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, where he is tormented by an endless loop of Shania Twain songs on the overhead sound system. A wandering actor returns to his hometown against his better instincts and runs into an old friend, who recounts their teenage days of stealing cars, scoring Benzedrine, and sleeping…

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