Shepherd, a new Website that helps people discover their next great read, asked me to put together a list of books that were important to me, and explain why. This was a way to make readers aware of my latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, which I describe as "darkly comic" and "an unsentimental journey through mid-century Flatbush, where Auschwitz survivors and WWII vets lived side by side and the war lingered like a mass hallucination."
I called the list "The best memoirs, essays, and fiction that inspired me to write." It's also a list of books that helped me find my own voice. The most difficult part of putting the list together was limiting it to five books. Those five classics, which you can see above, were written by giants of American literature: Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller, who was one of my creative writing instructors at City College.
If I could have added a sixth book, it would have been Miller's Black Spring, because A Brooklyn Memoir is, in part, an homage to Miller's journey out of the "damp grime of his Brooklyn youth."