100 books like The Gambler

By Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky,

Here are 100 books that The Gambler fans have personally recommended if you like The Gambler. 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 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 Fat City

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?

I first picked up this novel the year I started boxing. It follows the rough lives of Billy Tully and Ernie Munger, two boxers living in separate but parallel worlds—Tully an aging boxer fooled into thinking he can relive a few more glory days and Munger figuring out the hard lessons of what it means to lose. I love how this novel amplifies people eking out difficult lives who spend most of their time in dive bars, cheap motels, and seedy parts of town engaging with dubious, colorful characters. The writing is sparse, direct, sad, and unsentimental. Here Gardner is always pursuing a tough reality.

By Leonard Gardner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Tremendous' Geoff Dyer

'A pitch-perfect account of boxing, blue-collar bewilderment and the battle of the sexes' San Francisco Chronicle

A major cult film directed by John Huston

Stockton, California: a town of dark bars and lunchrooms, cheap hotels and farm labourers scratching a living. When two men meet in the Lido Gym - the ex-boxer Billy Tully and the novice Ernie Munger - their brief sparring session sets a fateful story in motion, initiating young Munger into the "company of men" and luring Tully back into training.

Fat City is a vivid novel of defiance and struggle, of the potent…


Book cover of Classical Probability in the Enlightenment

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?

Sadly, Games, Gods, and Gambling by FN David is out of print. This is the next best thing. Lorraine Daston has the supreme gift of making the complicated idea seem straightforward. This is an account of the frenzy for measuring that happened in the 18th century, and how it made the world we live in today, when the gambler’s eye for odds has become the algorithm of taming chance that guides all our decisions.

By Lorraine Daston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Classical Probability in the Enlightenment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What did it mean to be reasonable in the Age of Reason? Classical probabilists from Jakob Bernouli through Pierre Simon Laplace intended their theory as an answer to this question--as "nothing more at bottom than good sense reduced to a calculus," in Laplace's words. In terms that can be easily grasped by nonmathematicians, Lorraine Daston demonstrates how this view profoundly shaped the internal development of probability theory and defined its applications.


Book cover of Hopscotch

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?

Argentinians in 1950s Paris argue about art and philosophy. They fall in and out of love to a jazz soundtrack. The novel itself is in love with the modern city and the secret patterns of chance. Prefacing it is a ‘table of instructions’ in which the author writes that "this book consists of many books, but two books above all. The first can be read in a normal fashion and it ends with Chapter 56... The second should be read by beginning with Chapter 73 and then following the sequence indicated at the end of each chapter."

There’s an exhilaration of structure, a deadpan formal playfulness that still thrills. It’s the book that taught me the most about reading. And, not entirely coincidentally, it’s the book that made me realise I was going to become a writer.

By Julio Cortazar, Gregory Rabassa (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Cortazar's masterpiece ... The first great novel of Spanish America" (The Times Literary Supplement) • Winner of the National Book Award for Translation in 1967, translated by Gregory Rabassa

Horacio Oliveira is an Argentinian writer who lives in Paris with his mistress, La Maga, surrounded by a loose-knit circle of bohemian friends who call themselves "the Club." A child's death and La Maga's disappearance put an end to his life of empty pleasures and intellectual acrobatics, and prompt Oliveira to return to Buenos Aires, where he works by turns as a salesman, a keeper of a circus cat which can…


Book cover of The Wild Ass's Skin

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?

A young man loses all his money in a Paris casino and goes off to drown himself in the Seine. Before he can do so, he wanders into an antiquarian’s shop of treasures and is offered the skin of the title, a magical pelt that will grant its possessor any wish, but shrink each time, diminishing the possessor’s life force in the process. It’s a moral tale of wish fulfillment and identity, but most of all, it’s a thrilling glittering dark tale of ambition and excess. 

By Honoré de Balzac, Helen Constantine (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wild Ass's Skin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Who possesses me will possess all things,
But his life will belong to me...'

Raphael de Valentin, a young aristocrat, has lost all his money in the gaming parlours of the Palais Royal in Paris, and contemplates ending his life by throwing himself into the Seine. He is distracted by the bizarre array of objects in a chaotic antique shop, among them a strange animal skin, a piece of shagreen with magical properties. It will grant its possessor his every wish, but each time a wish is bestowed the skin shrinks, hastening its owner's death. Around this fantastic premise
Balzac…


Book cover of The Courtiers Manual Oracle: or the Art of Prudence

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?

When I was researching Luck, I came across many books that claimed to teach the willing acolyte how to seize opportunity and how to maximise reward while minimising risk. This is the one that’s worth paying attention to. The Oracle is a collection of three hundred maxims for practical success, in condensed, often paradoxical form, written by a seventeenth-century Jesuit. Nietzsche said of it that "Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety" and who’s going to argue with Nietzsche?

By Baltasar Gracián,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a reproduction of a classic text optimised for kindle devices. We have endeavoured to create this version as close to the original artefact as possible. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we believe they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Book cover of Bob the Gambler

Cara Bertoia Author Of Casino Queen

From my list on true stories set in the casino industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a strait-laced Southern family, I was always fascinated with casinos. In my twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, I drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. My mother highly disapproved of my working in a casino, "a place so bad it has 'sin' in the middle." Eventually, I returned east to take a hi-tech job in Boston. I also began working on my MFA in writing at Emerson. My characters were breathed into life from my years in the gambling industry. You learn a lot about the human personality when you watch thousands of people from behind the felt of a blackjack table.

Cara's book list on true stories set in the casino industry

Cara Bertoia Why did Cara love this book?

This is a novel based on Frederick’s own gambling addiction on the Mississippi riverboats. Ray and Jewel Kaiser love to gamble, until a fun night out becomes a compulsion. They find themselves showing up at the Paradise casino all hours of the day and night, becoming intimate with the employees and escalating their bets. After visiting the area, I knew the scenes in the casino ring true and the dialogue is so on point, that you root for Ray and Jewel even though in the back of your mind you know the house always wins. 

By Frederick Barthelme,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book In this darkly funny story, Ray and Jewel Kaiser try (and push) their luck at the Paradise casino. Peopled with dazed denizens, body-pierced children, a lusty grocery-store manager, and hourly employees in full revolt, this is a novel about wising up sooner rather than later--"a wise and funny tale" (New York Times Book Review) that is "masterfully observed" (John Barth).


Book cover of Comp City: A Guide to Free Casino Vacations

Arnold Snyder Author Of Radical Blackjack

From my list on those contemplating gambling as a profession.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a mailman when I became obsessed with card counting at blackjack. Not having enough money to play at a pro level, I decided to sell a mathematical formula I’d devised for evaluating games and systems. I offered it for sale through gambling newsletters at $100. I immediately had big sales because no one had ever seen a method for estimating card counters’ win rates. I got letters from college math professors asking me how I’d come up with the math. So, I started my own blackjack newsletter where I published my discoveries. I was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002 and soon had big investors funding my play.

Arnold's book list on those contemplating gambling as a profession

Arnold Snyder Why did Arnold love this book?

The author, a former casino executive, exposes the industry’s “comp system,” through which casinos give away more than a billion dollars in “complimentaries” every year, as an enticement to get people to gamble. Although the book appears to be aimed at amateur gamblers looking for casino freebies (room, food, booze, show tickets, etc.), the information in this book has been devoured by professional gamblers at the highest levels because it reveals the inner workings of how players are evaluated and rated, with tips on how to look like you’re betting more than you are, how to look like you’re losing when you’re winning, and basically how to look dumb when you’re smart. I personally made a lot of money from the information in this book.

By Max Rubin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Win every time you gamble? Is that possible? It is if you play for comps.

Every year, U.S. casinos give away more than a billion dollars worth of amenities to customers in return for their gambling action. These giveaways, known as “comps” (short for complimentaries), range from parking and drinks to gourmet meals and airfare. Are you getting your share? From nickel slot players to $500 a hand blackjack high rollers, Comp City has shown tens of thousands of gamblers how to get free casino vacations.

Since the first publication of Comp City, author Max Rubin has been teaching gamblers…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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