100 books like Portnoy's Complaint

By Philip Roth,

Here are 100 books that Portnoy's Complaint fans have personally recommended if you like Portnoy's Complaint. 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 Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Matthew Arnold Stern Author Of The Remainders

From my list on Jewish families in crisis.

Who am I?

Reseda, California plays an important part in my novels. I grew up there in a middle-class Jewish family, and we experienced the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. My parents got divorced, and my brother and I were raised by our working mom until she became paralyzed by a stroke. I found refuge in writing. I wrote The Remainders in 2016 during a tumultuous time when issues of family conflict, homelessness, and the growing cruelty of society came into focus. Still, I believe decency and compassion will prevail. The books I write and enjoy reading seek to find light in the darkest of circumstances.

Matthew's book list on Jewish families in crisis

Matthew Arnold Stern Why did Matthew love this book?

I read this powerful graphic novel series when the first collections came out in the 1980s.

It shows the horrors of the Holocaust and the impact it has on the families of the survivors. Maus is best known for depicting Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, but Art’s troubled relationship with his father Vladik and the death of his mother Anja by suicide frame the story.

Maus is my favorite graphic novel series and a must-read for understanding the Holocaust and how it shaped Jewish life since.

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Maus I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling first installment of the graphic novel acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker) • PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • One of Variety’s “Banned and Challenged Books Everyone Should Read”

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his…


Book cover of Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

Kate Doyle Author Of I Meant It Once

From my list on making sense of your life by writing about it.

Who am I?

I’m the author of the short story collection I Meant It Once. I often say it’s a book about being a mess in your twenties, but to speak more personally, writing it was a necessity, a way to make sense of both the intensity and mundanity of my own experiences. I love a book where you can palpably feel the author working to make sense of their own life, through language—and, in turn, sorting out what it is for any of us to be a person. Books like these are essential reading when life feels thorny, beautiful, and impossible to make sense of, and all you can do is try to write it down.  

Kate's book list on making sense of your life by writing about it

Kate Doyle Why did Kate love this book?

I’ll end with a book that started it all for me!

I still remember, in the year 2010, reaching the end of the essay "Goodbye to All That" where the date of publication is noted—1967—and how startled I was to realize something that feels so contemporary and alive had been written decades earlier. As in so much of her work, in this collection Didion offers vivid details from her life and brings her extraordinary powers of analysis to understanding their meaning.

As she once put it herself—in another essay, "Why I Write"—"Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.”

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Slouching Towards Bethlehem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joan Didion's savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution.

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were

In her non-fiction work, Joan Didion not only describes the subject at hand - her younger self loving and leaving New York, the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion…


Book cover of Lolita

Charles Salzberg Author Of Man on the Run

From my list on reads for valuable lessons as a crime writer.

Who am I?

I was an English major in college and my dream was to write the Great American Novel. My literary heroes were writers like Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Jean Rhys, Margaret Drabble, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer. They “taught” me how to write. About a dozen years ago, I concentrated on writing crime novels, like Swann’s Last Song and Second Story Man, both of which were nominated for Shamus Awards (Second Story Man won the Beverly Hills Book Award.) I'm a magazine journalist and write nonfiction books, screenplays, plays, and book reviews. I teach writing here in New York City, and I’m on the Board of PrisonWrites and the New York Writers Workshop.

Charles' book list on reads for valuable lessons as a crime writer

Charles Salzberg Why did Charles love this book?

Lolita isn’t usually thought of as a crime novel but it is.

Thirty-seven-year-old Humbert Humbert stalks 12-year-old Lolita, then breaks all kinds of laws, moral, ethical, and legal, as he transports her across state lines.

The first time I read Lolita, I was dazzled by Nabokov’s stunning use of language—and remember, English was not his native tongue—word-play, and his ability to create full-blooded characters that leap off the page.

Nabokov pulls off this morally compromised tale with wit and humor, while dealing with the serious topic of pedophilia.

Reading Lolita gave me license to create morally challenged characters like Francis Hoyt, one of the protagonists in my novels.

Nabokov proved you don’t have to like, admire, or even feel a kinship with a character, so long as that character is interesting and compelling enough that readers are fascinated about him or her without being turned off.

By Vladimir Nabokov,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Lolita as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.

Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all…


Book cover of Catch-22

Robert Gibson Author Of The Faulty Crew

From my list on understanding life.

Who am I?

From childhood until now I have always been curious and fascinated by fallacies and the little, illogical moments which are so ubiquitously common in our world. Coming from a family of teachers and professionally a teacher myself, I can only imagine these factors added to this. Having lived in numerous countries and encountering the same conundrums, I am only more driven to explore what is generally, and acceptingly, misunderstood. A fan of reading, I have found that the best people and medium to do so is in literature, which is just what I hope my own works do; explore what is unclear, neglected, and accepted. 

Robert's book list on understanding life

Robert Gibson Why did Robert love this book?

The origin of the phrase “Catch-22” this intriguing spiral into the absurdity of reality, particularly in war, is an exceptional tale.

Although it can be somewhat protracted, it is never boring. Following and recounting the inexplicable and illogical inequalities that life often has to over through the eyes of one ‘Yossarian’, it explores the gauntlet of the commonly uncommon in any form; love, fear, empathy, sympathy, dereliction, sardonicism and, finally, hope.

What truly remained with me was the tone of the book, only changing when truly necessary. For anyone trying to make sense of the chaos of life, dealing with a hopeless situation, or simply feeling down, I would always recommend this book, if not for the insight it provides but also for its ability to elicit humor in the darkest moments.

By Joseph Heller,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Catch-22 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explosive, subversive, wild and funny, 50 years on the novel's strength is undiminished. Reading Joseph Heller's classic satire is nothing less than a rite of passage.

Set in the closing months of World War II, this is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His real problem is not the enemy - it is his own army which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the…


Book cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Robert Rosen Author Of A Brooklyn Memoir: My Life as a Boy

From my list on memoirs, essays, and fiction inspiring me to write.

Who am I?

I’m a Brooklyn-born writer of what’s now called “creative nonfiction,” and whatever literary success I’ve had, I attribute in part to having studied the works of Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller. I’ve assimilated their voices and used them as guides to help me find my own voice. Read any of my books and you’ll find subtle (and at times not so subtle) echoes of this Holy Quintet. My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is in part an homage to Miller’s Black Spring.

Robert's book list on memoirs, essays, and fiction inspiring me to write

Robert Rosen Why did Robert love this book?

I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in college and it blew my mind. I’d never read anything like this outrageous tale of a journalist in search of the American Dream. The plot: Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone send Thompson to Las Vegas to cover, respectively, a motorcycle race and a district attorneys convention. Thompson, high on hallucinogenic drugs and ether, and with his attorney in tow, takes the notion of “new journalism” into a hilarious new dimension. Thompson was the kind of journalist I wanted to be: a truth-teller who made his own rules. I’ve since read the book about 25 times and it’s made me laugh every time.

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive ..."'

Hunter S. Thompson is roaring down the desert highway to Las Vegas with his attorney, the Samoan, to find the dark side of the American Dream. Armed with a drug arsenal of stupendous proportions, the duo engage in a surreal succession of chemically enhanced confrontations with casino operators, police officers and assorted Middle Americans.

This stylish reissue of Hunter S. Thompson's iconic masterpiece, a controversial bestseller when…


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

Joseph Guzzo Author Of Mousetrap, Inc.

From my list on 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.

Joseph's book list on inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader

Joseph Guzzo Why did Joseph 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.


Book cover of Great Expectations

Richard Vetere Author Of She's Not There

From my list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century.

Who am I?

Richard Vetere’s teleplay adaptation of his published stage play The Marriage Fool, starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnet, and John Stamos, now streaming on Amazon. He co-wrote the movie The Third Miracle, which is a screenplay adaptation of his own novel. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Agnieszka Holand, and stars Ed Harris and Anne Heche released by Sony Picture Classics. His screenplay Caravaggio, an adaptation of his own published stage play, won the Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival in 2021. In 2005, the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University created the Richard Vetere Collection, an archive of his work.  

Richard's book list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century

Richard Vetere Why did Richard love this book?

You cannot mention a coming-of-age novel without mentioning this classic.

Pip is an orphan who meets an escaped prisoner in a graveyard, does him a good deed, then is made a gentleman from an inheritance he knows nothing about. All of us enter our youth with great expectations and some of us are lucky enough, or unlucky, to meet our own beautiful Estella or the damaged and doomed Miss Havisham or the worldly and wise attorney Mister Jaggers.

Set in London where the worlds of extreme poverty and privilege co-exist side by side, we experience this world firsthand as Pip does wondering, all the time, if we can survive it unscathed. Ignore all other movie adaptations since they will only disappoint. Screen the 1946 version directed by David Lean. It is a great film.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Great Expectations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'His novels will endure as long as the language itself' Peter Ackroyd

Dickens's haunting late novel depicts the education and development of a young man, Pip, as his life is changed by a series of events - a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor - and he discovers the true nature of his 'great expectations'. This definitive edition includes appendices on Dickens's original ending, giving an illuminating glimpse into a…


Book cover of The Shining

Ben Monroe Author Of The Seething

From my list on scary stories to bring on vacation.

Who am I?

I’ve been a fan of horror stories as long as I can remember. The sense of building dread, and the moment of release when the terrible thing happens. I love stories about people put in impossible situations, and seeing how they overcome them, and that’s what good horror brings to the table. Being an avid reader I always have a book with me. To me, picking the right book to take on a holiday is as important as choosing the right clothing. I certainly hope this list gives you some ideas for your next vacation read.

Ben's book list on scary stories to bring on vacation

Ben Monroe Why did Ben love this book?

Perhaps a trip to the mountains is more your style? Spend some time in a snowy cabin with a hot drink and a copy of this classic ghost story. If you’re only familiar with the film version of this tale, then buckle up, buddy.

The book goes places the film never could, and is very much worth the time. The set up and pay off are great, and the sense of isolation and dread which pervades the book is palpable. It’s a classic for a reason. I reread this book every winter, and it never gets old.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Before Doctor Sleep, there was The Shining, a classic of modern American horror from the undisputed master, Stephen King.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around…


Book cover of My Brilliant Friend

Genevieve Scott Author Of The Damages

From my list on featuring complex female friendships.

Who am I?

I love to read and write about complex characters and particularly the “unlikeable” female character. Many readers connect with my characters because they are flawed—they don’t always think or do what we want them to, or what we think they should do, which is often (frustratingly) the case with the real-life people we love and care about. Real, complex people exist in real, complex relationships, including friendships that don’t always serve them—or that do serve them, but in unconventional or superficially unclear ways. I think that reading about contradictory, inconsistent, and confused characters in relationships helps us to be kinder and more empathetic people—and, quite possibly, better friends. 

Genevieve's book list on featuring complex female friendships

Genevieve Scott Why did Genevieve love this book?

I held out on Ferrante for a while, put off by the complicated neighborhood tree at the beginning of the book. When I finally dug in, I was so riveted by Elena and Lila that I stopped caring about all those other characters.

This book really nails the loyalty that can build out of rivalry in a friendship. Elena and Lila meet as schoolgirls in a violent, working-class neighborhood in post-war Naples. They are both smart, but Lila, the more fiery and precocious of the two, is forced to drop out of school to work. Elena, with a kind of survivor’s guilt, carries on with her education.

As tension bubbles in their friendship, so does an enduring respect and interdependence. The smartest girls in the room need each other, especially in this hard-scrabbling neighborhood where two heads are better than one.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked My Brilliant Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

OVER 5 MILLION COPIES SOLD IN ENGLISH WORLDWIDE

OVER 1 MILLION COPIES SOLD IN THE UK

OVER 14 MILLION COPIES OF THE NEAPOLITAN QUARTET SOLD WORLDWIDE

NOW A MAJOR TV SERIES

GUARDIAN 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE 21st CENTURY

58 WEEKS ON THE BOOKSELLER'S TOP 20 ORIGINAL FICTION BESTSELLERS LIST

SHORTLISTED FOR WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2015

43 INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS DEALS

Now in B-format Paperback

From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, comes this ravishing and generous-hearted novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but…


Book cover of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Richard Vetere Author Of She's Not There

From my list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century.

Who am I?

Richard Vetere’s teleplay adaptation of his published stage play The Marriage Fool, starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnet, and John Stamos, now streaming on Amazon. He co-wrote the movie The Third Miracle, which is a screenplay adaptation of his own novel. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Agnieszka Holand, and stars Ed Harris and Anne Heche released by Sony Picture Classics. His screenplay Caravaggio, an adaptation of his own published stage play, won the Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival in 2021. In 2005, the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University created the Richard Vetere Collection, an archive of his work.  

Richard's book list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century

Richard Vetere Why did Richard love this book?

Published in 1943, this was certainly my favorite coming-of-age novel which I read in high school. I grew up in a neighborhood in Queens with trees and parks while to me, Brooklyn was a world of concrete.

Francie intrigued me with how she survived her drunk father, her single-minded mother, and the harshness of poverty. My working-class world was a lot less dangerous and drastic than Francie’s so she intrigued me as she never wavered or lost her belief that everything would work out. The novel is the epitome of the coming-of-age book since it is truly about growing up and looking back on childhood memories no matter how unforgiving they are.

You are only young once and the novel tells us to relish those memories since there is always something good in them even if they are buried. The movie directed by Kazan is a good watch showing the…

By Betty Smith,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

A special 75th anniversary edition of the beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could…


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