100 books like Fat City

By Leonard Gardner,

Here are 100 books that Fat City fans have personally recommended if you like Fat City. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Fan's Notes

Trish MacEnulty Author Of The Hummingbird Kiss: My Life as an Addict in the 1970s

From my list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a recovered (not “recovering”) addict and writer. These days I write historical fiction because I enjoy an escape from present-day reality, and research is fun. But I started writing as a way to make sense of my chaotic world and in hopes of healing myself. Something was broken inside me, and I didn’t know how to fix it. So I wrote about the shadowy realms of my life and kept on writing until somehow I was able to let go of the past and create a different life, one which would not land me upside down in a ditch with my neck broken and my tires spinning. 

Trish's book list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups

Trish MacEnulty Why did Trish love this book?

I cannot overstate how amazing this book (an autobiographical novel) is.

I was just trying to figure out how to write my own story when a professor recommended this book. I was blown away. At the time I read it, I wasn’t a big sports fan, but this is so not a book about sports. It’s about the rage, the wild beast inside us, and how we learn to live with it, and that it’s okay to be a mess as you do it.

By the time I finished the book, I felt like I had my own Virgil to lead me through the circles of hell. The writing in this book is like a drug in itself. It truly got me high.  

By Frederick Exley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Fan's Notes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The narrator of this tale is the ultimate unreconstructed male. his primary concerns are booze, sex and the New York Giants. But things go very wrong for him - he drinks too much, he's impotent, and the Giants start to lose. So we follow his trail, through failed marriages, to mental hospital.


Book cover of The Contender

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

The mantra for this novel could be that the effort matters more than anything—the attempt, the trying. Winning is something, but it’s not everything. Brooks, a high-school dropout, has to find his way in a world where his closest friend is dying from drug addiction, his household is broken, and street thugs are after him. Against all odds, if you love something and want it, the pursuit of that dream can help those who chase it with enough intensity to possibly overcome the hardship. When so many boxing stories are written with utter bleakness, there is light here.

By Robert Lipsyte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Contender as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The breakthrough modern sports novel The Contender shows readers the true meaning of being a hero.

This acclaimed novel by celebrated sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in YA fiction, is the story of a young boxer in Harlem who overcomes hardships and finds hope in the ring on his path to becoming a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He’s a high-school dropout, and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn’t…


Book cover of The Gambler

David Flusfeder Author Of Luck: A Personal Account of Fortune, Chance and Risk in Thirteen Investigations

From my list on luck: winning, losing, and seeing opportunity.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father, when he consented to talk about all the moments in his life when the odds against his survival were so small as to make them statistically non-existent, would say, ‘I was lucky.’ Trying to understand what he meant got me started on this book. As well as being a novelist, I’m a poker player. Luck is a subject that every poker player has a relationship to; more importantly it’s a subject that every person has a relationship to. The combination of family history and intellectual curiosity and the gambler’s desire to win drove me on this quest.

David's book list on luck: winning, losing, and seeing opportunity

David Flusfeder Why did David love this book?

This novel is the best account of the gambling psychology I know. It is a first-person narrative, ruthless in its depiction of the lies that addicts know they’re telling themselves. The story of a resentful compulsive gambler, the poor but superior tutor to a Russian family at “Roulettenburg,” it was itself the subject of a bet. Dostoevsky signed away his next decade’s worth of publishing profits unless he could deliver a new novel within a year. With six weeks to go he hadn’t written a word. He delivered the completed novel several hours before the deadline was going to pass. 

By Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Gambler" is a gripping narrative of the dangers of an addiction to gambling. As was common with Dostoyevsky's writing he draws upon his own life in a semi-autobiographical way in "The Gambler". Dostoyevksy himself suffered from a compulsion to gambling and those first-hand experiences bring a depth of realism to "The Gambler" and to his portrayal of the main character, Alexis Ivanovitch, a young man addicted to gambling. "The Gambler" is an insightful look at the compulsive nature of the gambling addict and the tragic consequences of such an addiction.


Book cover of Cassidy's Girl

Peter Alson Author Of The Only Way To Play It

From my list on characters who are down and out.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of the books on my list are about characters who—either due to their own failings and character flaws, or bad luck, or the body blows that life has thrown their way, or a combination of all those things—have hit rock bottom (though as it sometimes turns out, there’s a bottom below that bottom). I think because of my own struggles, and because I’ve often been my own worst enemy, I’ve found comfort in reading stories of this sort. Like many of the writers on my list, I’ve also found that, more often than not, the only way out was to start writing about what I was going through. 

Peter's book list on characters who are down and out

Peter Alson Why did Peter love this book?

Nearly every Goodis novel features an antihero who has fallen from a higher station in life and is now living on the fringes. In this one, Jim Cassidy, once a highly respected airline pilot until a disastrous plane crash leaves him a broken man, now finds himself driving a bus on a dead-end route, consoling himself with a drink at the neighborhood watering hole where he met his cheating wife and trying to figure out how not to get dragged down even deeper. Of course, things do get even worse for him, and not even the surprising “happy ending” can change the inevitability of the ultimate crash we know is coming for him and for all of us.

By David Goodis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cassidy's Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They say that a man needs a woman to go to hell with. Cassidy had two. One was Mildred, the wife who kept him chained with ties of fear and jealousy and paralyzing sexual need. The other was Doris, a frail angel with a 100-proof halo and a bottle instead of a harp. With those two, Cassidy found that the ride to hell could be twice as fast.

Goodis holds his rightful place in the pantheon of noir writers, alongside Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, and Charles Williams. His writing stays true and never wavers, is never prettified. His characters always…


Book cover of Ask the Dust

Peter Alson Author Of The Only Way To Play It

From my list on characters who are down and out.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of the books on my list are about characters who—either due to their own failings and character flaws, or bad luck, or the body blows that life has thrown their way, or a combination of all those things—have hit rock bottom (though as it sometimes turns out, there’s a bottom below that bottom). I think because of my own struggles, and because I’ve often been my own worst enemy, I’ve found comfort in reading stories of this sort. Like many of the writers on my list, I’ve also found that, more often than not, the only way out was to start writing about what I was going through. 

Peter's book list on characters who are down and out

Peter Alson Why did Peter love this book?

This tale of Arturo Bandini, a young would-be writer living on the edge in 1930s Los Angeles, is the book that Charles Bukowski discovered in a local library and was purportedly his inspiration for becoming a writer himself. Like Henry Chinaski in Buk’s autobiographical works, Bandini is a stand-in for Fante, and his personal disasters are mined for their comic gold. He falls in love with a waitress named Camilla, only to watch her fall in love with another man and eventually suffer a nervous breakdown. In the end, Bandini realizes he can't help Camilla and must focus on his writing instead—a conclusion that I, as a young writer, totally identified with.

By John Fante,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer’s life he fought so hard to attain.


Book cover of Rope Burns

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

This is the most beautiful, touching, and emotional book about boxing, penned by a cut man who didn’t stumble into writing until he was in his sixties. Toole’s prose is sharp, lean, commanding, and coming from the mouth of truth. His gritty characters tell it and show it like it is, and it’s Toole’s ability to demonstrate the love trainers have for their boxers and passion for the pursuit of boxing, along with all the big hearts and often unseen vulnerability in the sport, that makes this story collection so open and heavy and heartfelt and breathing and alive.

By F.X. Toole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Ring magic is different from the magic of the theatre, because the curtain never comes down - because the blood in the ring is real blood, and the broken noses and the broken hearts are real, and sometimes they are broken forever. Boxing is the magic of men in combat, the magic of will, and skill, and pain, and the risking of everything so you can respect yourself for the rest of your life.'The hermetic world of boxing is notoriously difficult for outsiders to understand, though it has provided a source of fascination to numerous writers, including Norman Mailer, A.J.…


Book cover of Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

The importance of these stories lies within the relatable concept of how people choose to medicate—through pills, alcohol, sex, distance, lies, boxing. Jones’s characters are full of grit and sharp tongues, broken bones, each pursuing a way out of the mediocre feeling of their existences. Some want to chase greatness, while most just dream of coming up out of the hole for a moment in hopes of seeing the light. What Jones teaches is that there’s always redemption in the beauty of the attempt. 

By Thom Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Faber Stories, a landmark series of individual volumes, presents masters of the short story form at work in a range of genres and styles.

He met Liston's gaze but found it almost impossible to sustain eye contact. Soon it became an exercise in the control of fear. Sonny Liston gave Kid Dynamite the slightest hint of a smile and winked.

In the build-up to a fight, Kid Dynamite's head swirls - with thoughts of his estranged father, his difficult relationship with his stepfather, the time he met his hero, and the sense that his own life is reaching a moment…


Book cover of The Professional

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

Heinz takes the day-to-day minutia of being a boxer and makes it something beautiful. While the novel follows Eddie Brown’s quest for the middleweight title, told from the cynical perspective of sportswriter Frank Hughes, what’s really being relayed is everything it takes to build up to the one moment so few people ever face—that one-on-one in the ring you’ve got nowhere to run from the truth, from yourself. Did you prepare enough? Did you give it your all? And just who in the hell are you, really?

By W.C. Heinz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1958, The Professional is the story of boxer Eddie Brown's quest for the middleweight championship of the world. But it is so much more. W. C. Heinz not only serves up a realistic depiction of the circus-like atmosphere around boxing with its assorted hangers-on, crooked promoters, and jaded journalists, but he gives us two memorable characters in Eddie Brown and in Brown's crusty trainer, Doc Carroll. They are at the heart of this poignant story as they bond together with their eye on the only prize that matters,the middleweight championship. The Professional is W. C. Heinz at…


Book cover of Alburquerque

H.L. Cherryholmes Author Of The Reminisce

From my list on set in New Mexico.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised in New Mexico and it’s a part of me. New Mexicans will tell you that it’s impossible to describe its uniqueness, that you must experience it for yourself. That may be partially true, but writers have done a great job incorporating the majesty of the landscape, the earthiness of the people, the eclectic nature of its values, and ultimately the spell it casts. I’ve set quite a few books in New Mexico and have tried to show how these layers fit together for me. Ultimately, it’s called The Land of Enchantment for many reasons and we do our best to share them with our readers. 

H.L.'s book list on set in New Mexico

H.L. Cherryholmes Why did H.L. love this book?

I was a fan of Anaya’s well-known novel, Bless Me, Ultima, and was intrigued that this title’s spelling itself was significant, returning the first ‘r’ to the city name a century after it was dropped by a white station owner. Anaya blends fantasy with history, examining the myth of racial purity and offering a different take on being a New Mexican and our connection to the land. He also departs from a familiar depiction of Albuquerque as a sleepy western town and paints it as a vibrant metropolis with all the associated political machinations. Mostly though, I felt a strong connection with the protagonist, an up-and-coming boxer who learns he was adopted and questions the definition of identity. 

By Rudolfo Anaya,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is a winner of PEN Center West Award for Fiction. Abran Gonzalez is a homeboy from the barrio, a young boxer whose world is shattered forever the night he is summoned to his mother's deathbed. He learns he is the son of an unknown Mexican man - a man he is desperately compelled to find. His quest will bring him in contact with many unpleasant characters.


Book cover of Go: A Coming of Age Novel

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From my list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

This is a fast-paced story about a young man named Sugehara.

He is a so-called Zainichi Chosenjin who falls in love with a Japanese woman. Through him, the North Korean minority is given a face and a voice, and what the reader learns, namely, that every step he takes is a step against an invisible wall of racism and marginalization, is more evident here than practically anywhere else.

“Go!” you want to scream at him. “Run up against the wall! Knock it down!” The weight of the subject matter goes hand in hand with language that masterfully expresses the hunted but determined nature of the main character and his closest circle.

Not a book that can be put lightly aside after reading. It stays with you for a long time, and its reverberations – of Sugehara’s running, of his footsteps – remain in the ether for a long time, like…

By Kazuki Kaneshiro, Takami Nieda (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A Freeman Award Winner for Young Adult Literature

For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.

As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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