We asked Charlottean and New York Times best-selling author Gavin Edwards to tell us what’s on his bookshelf, and he shared
A READING LIST FOR MY FRIENDS:
Reading is often a solitary activity, but part of the pleasure of books is sharing them. I’ve pushed all ten of these books on various friends in the past year; some people had asked for recommendations, others not so much, but everybody who read one of these selections was happier as a result. (And since I’m making up the rules of life as I go along, I’m going to say each of them owes me lunch.) A few of these volumes were written by people I know—but that’s fine, because through the power of books, now you and I are friends too. (You don’t even have to buy me lunch.)
Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler. Decades before biological horror writers like China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer, Butler wrote perfectly crafted science-fiction stories about power, silence, and the emotional consequences of being implanted with eggs by an alien species.
Means of Ascent by Robert Caro. The four volumes (so far) of Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson are a master class in how political power shapes our country and the people who run it. This volume, mostly about the 1948 Senate race in Texas, has drama, vote fraud, and old traditions battling against new technologies (the helicopter!).
I Like to Watch by Emily Nussbaum. The TV critic for The New Yorker collects her criticism–sharp enough that you could use it to mince garlic—and will make you binge-watch the shows you’ve never seen and rethink the ones you have.
Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf. Eleven words that made me hunt down this book as soon as I heard them: “Virginia Woolf wrote a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel.” A compelling story of gender, art, and dognapping.
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. A riveting novel of modern-day slavery at industrial farms—sometimes narrated by Scotty, who is rude, funny, and the personification of crack cocaine.
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark. A darkly funny novel about tourism, insanity, and murder. Every sentence is a elegantly fashioned bon-bon with a creamy poison center.
Red Plenty by Francis Spufford. This book sounds laughably dry—it’s an interlocking series of short stories about the economic theories underpinning the Soviet Union in the 20th century—but it’s actually vivid, page-turning historical fiction.
Dreaming the Beatles by Rob Sheffield. Hundreds of books have been written about the Beatles—this one is my favorite. It’s a short, endlessly quotable book that examines the enduring, endless appeal of the Fab Four—and is somehow jammed full of stories and facts that even Beatlesologists won’t know.
The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake. As consistently funny as P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels are the books starring the hapless burglar John Dortmunder (of which this is the first). They’re the comic flipside to Westlake’s equally excellent hard-boiled Parker novels (which he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark).
Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson. Novels about rock bands usually feel out of tune and weirdly off the beat; this one, about a epidemic of murders of musicians, is melodic and funky. And it’s literally two-sided: when you’re done, you can flip it over and read a different version of events.
Gavin Edwards is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve books, including The Tao of Bill Murray, Last Night at the Viper Room, The World According to Tom Hanks, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series of misheard-lyrics collections, and the upcoming Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever (to be published by HarperCollins in October 2019). A longtime contributor at Rolling Stone, he has written for the New York Times, Wired, Billboard, Details, and GQ; and has appeared on the Today show, Entertainment Tonight, and Jeopardy! He’s also moonlighted as a game designer, a photographer, and a demolition derby driver. He’s lived in Charlotte since 2015.