100 books like The Man with the Golden Arm

By Nelson Algren,

Here are 100 books that The Man with the Golden Arm fans have personally recommended if you like The Man with the Golden Arm. 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 Less Than Zero

Ava Barry Author Of Double Exposure

From my list on cool, culty Los Angeles.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been drawn to stories of miserable rich people, especially tales of how old money contorts lineage into something rotten. I grew up in Northern California, and while my family was comfortable, we weren’t part of the tennis club and yachting elite. During my childhood, we spent a lot of time exploring abandoned properties. It was a passion that I kept when I moved to Los Angeles as an adult and started to explore forgotten parts of Hollywood’s past. Los Angeles has always fascinated me because it embodies extreme wealth and extreme poverty: like the American dream itself, it straddles both extremes and promises everything while guaranteeing nothing.

Ava's book list on cool, culty Los Angeles

Ava Barry Why did Ava love this book?

This book is gorgeous. It’s about a group of spoiled-rotten high school friends who have started to drift apart after attending college. There’s an interesting backstory to this novel, too: Ellis wrote the first draft in eight weeks while high on crystal meth (don’t believe me? Read the Rolling Stone interview).

The minimalist prose and haunting theme of how overindulgence leads to chronic emptiness make a nihilistic meditation on excess.

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Less Than Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The timeless classic from the acclaimed author of American Psycho about the lost generation of 1980s Los Angeles who experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age. • The basis for the cult-classic film "Possesses an unnerving air of documentary reality." —The New York Times
They live in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money in a place devoid of feeling or hope. When Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college, he re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porsches,…

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Charles Ardai Author Of Death Comes Too Late

From my list on hardboiled crime novels that will move you to tears.

Why am I passionate about this?

I created Hard Case Crime 20 years ago to revive the look, feel, and storytelling style of the great paperback crime novels of the 1940s and 50s: slender, high-velocity tales with irresistible premises, crackling dialogue, and powerful emotions, all presented behind gorgeous painted covers in the classic pulp style. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to publish Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, James M. Cain, Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillane, Brian De Palma, Ed McBain, and many more extraordinary authors.

Charles' book list on hardboiled crime novels that will move you to tears

Charles Ardai Why did Charles love this book?

The first novel about legendary private eye Phillip Marlowe is also the first mystery novel that ever made me cry when I turned the last page.

Marlowe’s poetic narration and bruised outsider’s voice offer a cynical but also strangely hopeful perspective on both the shady underworld types and the corrupt high-society folk who fill the “mean streets” down which Marlowe must walk (in Chandler’s much-quoted phrase).

Why hopeful when death–the big sleep–awaits us all? Because a man of principles like Marlowe can still bring a measure of justice in this unjust world, sometimes just by bearing witness.

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…

Book cover of Last Exit to Brooklyn

Craig McGuire Author Of Carmine and the 13th Avenue Boys: Surviving Brooklyn's Colombo Mob

From my list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s no wonder South Brooklyn, in the latter half of the last century, is the setting for so many remarkable dramas for both page and screen. In fact, when legendary former NYPD Detective Thomas Dades offered to make introductions to a Colombo Crime Family associate who cooperated with the federal government, I leapt at the opportunity. I was born in Greenpoint in 1971 and grew up on 16th Avenue in the heart of Bensonhurst. It’s not just South Brooklyn’s raw, urban chaotic physical setting, but the sheer volatility of this period in time, where so many transformational trends of the larger culture were evident, and some even epi-centered.

Craig's book list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn

Craig McGuire Why did Craig love this book?

Displaying the decaying carcass of post-war South Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr. mines a grim industrial wasteland, as bleak as his beleaguered characters imploding across six short stories, each prefaced by a Biblical passage.

A gang mauls a group of soldiers on leave. A transgender woman, abused by a homophobic brother, rejected by a drug dealer, overdoses. Facing a shotgun wedding, a young man abandons his pregnant girlfriend. A sex worker is gang raped to death. A corrupt, closeted union steward is severely beaten after sexually assaulting a boy.

This 1950s South Brooklyn, when the Brooklyn Army Terminal complex and waterfront docks were infested by racketeers and thugs, comes to brutal life because of Selby’s crude prose. That grammar-be-damned style vividly captures Brooklyn life on the docks, factories, and warehouses, as well as its diners, dive bars, and union locals.

By Hubert Selby Jr.,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Last Exit to Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Last Exit to Brooklyn remains undiminished in its awesome power and magnitude as the novel that first showed us the fierce, primal rage seething in America’s cities. Selby brings out the dope addicts, hoodlums, prostitutes, workers, and thieves brawling in the back alleys of Brooklyn. This explosive best-seller has come to be regarded as a classic of modern American writing.

Book cover of Post Office

Bill Scheft Author Of Shrink Thyself

From my list on that make me feel like an absolute fraud.

Why am I passionate about this?

Why do I use the word “fraud?” The answer is agonizingly simple. My whole life, and I mean since I was ten, I wanted to be “a real writer.” Whatever that was. And now here we are, 55 years later. Despite my great good fortune to spend 24 years coming up with jokes for Dave Letterman, three years as a columnist at Sports Illustrated, and to have my name on four novels, if you asked me, “Are you a real writer?” I would tell you, “not yet….” Here are five real writers.

Bill's book list on that make me feel like an absolute fraud

Bill Scheft Why did Bill love this book?

Note-perfect 200-page tent flap pullback of the gloriously flawed Henry Chinaski, the poster manchild for living life on your own terms. But you already knew that. Gambling, drinking, aimlessness, and all the stuff we love to get neck deep in. And by “we,”  I mean me. And maybe the greatest opening line in the history of literature: “It began as a mistake.” Here’s why I am a fraud: I didn’t know about this book until four years ago.

By Charles Bukowski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Henry Chinaski is a lowlife loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial post office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks. Lurid, uncompromising and hilarious, Post Office is a landmark in American literature, and over 1 million copies have been sold worldwide.

The new edition is augmented with an anecdotal introduction by the modern Welsh cult-literary author, Niall Griffiths - a writer who was working in a British post office when he first read Bukowski's Post Office.

Book cover of The Lucky One

Deborah Halber Author Of The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases

From my list on cold cases involving unidentified victims.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d always known about the Lady of the Dunes. I’d read about how she was found in the dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1974. I didn’t know about the tens of thousands of other unidentified victims like her, stowed around the US in the back rooms of morgues and unmarked graves. As a journalist who has always given a voice to those who struggle to be heard, I feel compelled to research and write about these Jane and John Does and the people who work to keep their cases in the public eye. I share a unique bond with writers who do the same.

Deborah's book list on cold cases involving unidentified victims

Deborah Halber Why did Deborah love this book?

I am biased toward any writer who features amateur sleuths. Lori Rader-Day not only plunges readers into a compelling story with a delightfully twisty ending, she also pays tribute to the volunteers who slave away on real-life sites such as The Doe Network. When the protagonist comes across a picture of a missing person, she realizes it’s someone from her past and resolves, for complicated reasons, to track him down. 

By Lori Rader-Day,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"This might well be my favorite Rader-Day so far: a brilliant premise intriguingly developed, totally believable characters and a climax that took my breath away." - Ann Cleeves, New York Times bestselling author of The Shetland and Vera Series

From the author of the Edgar Award (R)-nominated Under A Dark Sky comes an unforgettable, chilling novel about a young woman who recognizes the man who kidnapped her as a child, setting off a search for justice, and into danger.

Most people who go missing are never found. But Alice was the lucky one...

As a child, Alice was stolen from…

Book cover of The Last Hot Time

Walter Williams Author Of Johnny Talon and the Goddess of Love and War

From my list on paranormal noir from someone who loves noir.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love noir fiction and the hard-boiled detective novels that often best exemplify the genre. Both Dashiel Hammet’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chander’s Marlowe are two men who will sacrifice everything for the truth, no matter the cost. There is a stark beauty in that. Fantasy, the genre of myth, carries the deepest, most poignant truths. These are the hard truths that can break a hero’s heart, as in Gilgamesh, or give you the bittersweet ending of The Lord of the Rings. Blending them produces some of my favorite stories, stories I love to read as the fog rolls in, listening to the music of heartbreaking jazz. 

Walter's book list on paranormal noir from someone who loves noir

Walter Williams Why did Walter love this book?

Mixing elves and eldridge powers into the gang warfare of prohibition Chicago, this book is a fast-paced wild ride into the dark and seedy lives of those who use violence to hold on to power.

The key to a good noir story is that it forces the protagonist to confront something they’d rather not know and to survive, they must find a way to live with that dark truth. This is a journey too many of us face, and Ford writes just such a brilliant journey for his protagonist, Doc.

Once I started reading this, it gripped me like cold iron until I was done.

By John M. Ford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Danny Holman leaves the cornfields of Iowa for the bright lights of Chicago, he expects his life to change. He just can't guess how much and how fast. A violent incident on the road brings Danny the favor of a man known only as Mr. Patrise, who gives Danny a job, a home, and a new identity.

The City is a different world from the one Danny--now called Doc--knew, and literally so. Long-vanished powers have returned, and more is going on in the streets than nightlife and street warfare. Power is gathering: a power rooted in terror, madness, and…

Book cover of He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories

Silvia Pettem Author Of In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

From my list on mysterious and intriguing women in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been writing for decades, as one genre evolved into another. Local Colorado history led to the identification of "Boulder Jane Doe," a murder victim. During that journey I learned a lot about criminal investigations and forensics. I devoured old movies (especially film noir), and I focused on social history including mysterious and intriguing women. Midwest Book Review (see author book links) credits In Search of the Blonde Tigress as "rescuing" Eleanor Jarman "from obscurity." So true! Despite Eleanor's notoriety as "the most dangerous woman alive," she actually was a very ordinary woman. I've now found my niche pulling mysterious and intriguing women out of the shadows.

Silvia's book list on mysterious and intriguing women in history

Silvia Pettem Why did Silvia love this book?

Using photo and newspaper archives from the Chicago Tribune, the authors of He Had It Coming tell the stories of four Chicago female murderers from the 1920s.

The documentation (both primary and secondary sources) and, especially, the newspaper's original high-quality historical photographs inspired me to dig deeply into similar archives when researching and writing my book.

By Kori Rumore, Marianne Mather,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked He Had It Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beulah Annan. Belva Gaertner. Kitty Malm. Sabella Nitti. These are the real women of Chicago.

You probably know Roxie and Velma, the good-time gals of the 1926 satirical play Chicago and its wildly successful musical and movie adaptations. You might not know that Roxie, Velma, and the rest of the colorful characters of the play were inspired by real prisoners held in "Murderess Row" in 1920s Chicago-or that the reporter who covered their trials for the Chicago Tribune went on to write the play Chicago.

Now, more than 90 years later, the Chicago Tribune has uncovered photographs and newspaper clippings…

Book cover of I Can't Wait on God

Lawrence Goldstone Author Of On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

From my list on for white people to learn about Black people.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was eight, my mother was called in to see the principal…yet again. He pulled me out of class, stood me in the hall for maximum intimidation value, then said to my mom, “Your son has no respect for authority.” Mom asked, “What about that, Larry?” My reply—and this is totally true—was, “He doesn’t mean respect. He means courtesy. You can demand courtesy, but you have to earn respect.” Those sentiments have not changed, which is why, I suppose, I have an extremely critical eye for history, especially American history, that deifies the winners. I don’t think we make ourselves stronger as a nation by pretending our leaders were somehow not as human in their flaws as the rest of us.  I prefer to look under what is called “conventional wisdom,” because that’s where the real story often lies.

Lawrence's book list on for white people to learn about Black people

Lawrence Goldstone Why did Lawrence love this book?

A brilliant hypnotic novel that almost no one read. Albert French was the victim of a publishing nightmare—his editor and his publisher, both of whom had primed his novel for a major publicity push, left for new jobs before the pub date, after which his book was orphaned and abandoned. For anyone not in the book business, it might seem hard to believe that a terrific novel would be left to languish, but, sadly, such an event is not uncommon in American publishing.

Set in an African American section of Pittsburgh in 1950, I Can’t Wait on God evokes both the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and the striving and hopelessness of African Americans trying to escape the doomed existence to which so many are condemned.  French weaves a tale that is starkly realistic, yet with a mystical overtone that creates a sort of intoxicating haze. The narrative seems straightforward,…

By Albert French,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Can't Wait on God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The crowded joys and familiar despair of poor, back-alley life in 1950 Pittsburgh have a hold on most people there, but there are those who need to escape. Jeremiah Henderson and his woman, Willet Mercer, set their sights on New York City - but making good is easier said than done. Left with no choice but to give in to the pimp who'd like to try Willet on for size before selling her to his clientele, Jeremiah and Willet try to focus on the future. But just before the pimp has his way with her, Willet balks, stabbing him to…

Book cover of The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia

Paul Moses Author Of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia

From my list on non-fiction on the New York mafia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote on the mob early in my career as a newspaper reporter, investigating organized crime’s infiltration of politics, unions, and the toxic-waste industry in New Jersey in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, then covering some of the major mob trials in New York during the 1980s (starting with the case depicted in the movie Donnie Brasco). In more recent years, I’ve returned to the subject in two books: The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians. I like work that is careful, specific, and presented in a smoothly written narrative. 

Paul's book list on non-fiction on the New York mafia

Paul Moses Why did Paul love this book?

This 2009 book combines thorough, professional historical research with a lively writing style to portray how a group of thugs evolved into America’s first Mafia “family.”

My book focuses on the Italian American detectives who battled this gang for more than 20 years; Mike Dash’s groundbreaking account looks at the flip side of this struggle, the feared Lupo-Morello gang. Dash is especially adept at working with archived documents, such as the daily reports of Secret Service agents from the National Archives. He uses the details well.

By Mike Dash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, there was the one-fingered, cunning Giuseppe Morello and his murderous coterie of brothers. Had it not been for Morello, the world may never have heard of 'men of honour', the code of omertaor Mafia wars. This explosive book tells the story of the first family of New York, and how this extended close-knit clan of racketeers and murderers left the backwaters of Sicily to successfully establish themselves as the founding godfathers of the New World.

First Family will explain in thrilling, characterful detail how the American Mafia established itself so successfully. Combining strong narrative…

Book cover of Algerian White

Jessica Ayesha Northey Author Of Civil Society in Algeria: Activism, Identity and the Democratic Process

From my list on understanding the importance of Algerian History.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved Algeria since I lived there for 3 years from 2007. The experiences of the 20th century, particularly the War of Independence, make Algeria such an important country. The anti-colonial War overturned an entrenched colonialism, not only in Algeria, but set in train a movement for freedom across an entire continent. I have written extensively on the growth of civil society associations and how these helped people recover from tragedies; and more recently, the developments that sprung from the Algerian Hirak of 2019. This saw millions of protesters march peacefully, for over a year, to bring about significant changes and new understandings of citizenship in the 21st century.

Jessica's book list on understanding the importance of Algerian History

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did Jessica love this book?

One of Algeria’s greatest writers, Assia Djebar, deserves far greater recognition in the English-speaking world.

Her book, Algerian White, gives a painful account of the loss of three important Algerian intellectuals, against the backdrop of the Black Decade, and offers an eloquent and moving account of Algeria’s trauma of the 1990s.

Her analysis of Algerian society, culture, and language offers us a powerful reflection on the difficulties of nation-building and identity, in the post-colonial period and in challenging times.  

By Assia Djebar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Algerian White, Assia Djebar weaves a tapestry of the epic and bloody ongoing struggle in her country between Islamic fundamentalism and the post-colonial civil society. Many Algerian writers and intellectuals have died tragically and violently since the 1956 struggle for independence. They include three beloved friends of Djebar: Mahfoud Boucebi, a psychiatrist; M'Hamed Boukhobza, a sociologist; and Abdelkader Alloula, a dramatist; as well as Albert Camus. In Algerian White, Djebar finds a way to meld the personal and the political by describing in intimate detail the final days and hours of these and other Algerian men and women, many…

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