Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood– great, auto-biographical graphic novel about a girl growing up in revolutionary Iran.
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth — written as an analysis of the struggle for Algerian independence, but incredibly relevant today. A must-read for anyone interested in current events.
Merrill Peterson, John Brown: The Legend Revisited — Loony? Martyr? Both? Peterson’s book examines John Brown’s legacy and how it has been perceived throughout American history.
William Freehling, The South Vs. the South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War — Freehling persuasively argues that the Civil War’s outcome might have been markedly different without the support of Southerners, both black and white.
Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth About Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High-Finance Fraudsters — many thanks to for recommending this. You’ll be glad you read it and wish you never had all at once.
Stephen King, The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower — I read this one slowly on purpose. I wish it wasn’t over.
Stephen King, The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah — ditto.
McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 13 — bought it because Chris Ware edited it; loved every page.
Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation — the stories of Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Adams, and Washington, written in Ellis’ compact, flowing, humorous prose.
Jim Hightower, Thieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country–And It’s Time to Take It Back — I’m a big Hightower fan. This isn’t as great as his last book, but worth reading nonetheless.
Craig Thompson, Blankets — a beautiful graphic novel about childhood, love, and loss. Ask
if you don’t believe me.
Paul Hornschemeier, Mother Come Home — similar to Blankets, in a way, though I found Mother a little more emotionally wrenching.
Stephen King, From a Buick 8 — supposedly tied in somehow to the Dark Tower series. I must have missed the connection. Just okay.
Michael Wise, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Jesus — the story of the Sea Scrolls prophet known as Judah, and his impact on the Israeli theological landscape in the years leading up to Jesus’ time. Highlights the similarities between the claims of the two men. Thought-provoking without being polemical.
Studs Terkel, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith — a phenomenal, phenomenally moving collection of interviews with famous and ordinary people about death and dying.
Shawn McBride, Green Grass Grace — a coming-of-age novel that is equally hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. Probably in my all-time Top 10.
David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride — Fischer gives the reader a ground-up view of the weeks and months leading up to the earliest days of the American Revolution. A solid, easy-to-read debunking of “great man” history.
Jeff Smith, Bone: One Volume Edition — exactly what it sounds like: the entire comic series, collected in a single volume.
Bruce Feiler, Abraham : A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths — a personal account of Feiler’s attempt to explore possibly the most contested figure in all of Judeo-Christianity.
Mary Beth Norton, Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 — this is a problematic area of historical research, if for no reason other than the paucity of materials available on the subject. Norton does a fair (if dry) job.
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail — if you haven’t read Bryson yet, you must do so now. Hilarious and informative.
Justin Martin, Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon — one of the most balanced biographies I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.
Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America — see A Walk in the Woods.
Jung Chang, Wild Swans:Three Daughters of China — a gripping memoir, written by the daughter of officials in Mao China (and the granddaughter of a warlord’s concubine).
Pete Hamill, Forever: A Novel — Hamill’s encyclopedic knowledge of New York is woven throughout this story of a man who is granted eternal life for a good deed. This book’s got it all: action, romance, epic adventure, all written with a steady hand.
Gerald Henig, Civil War Firsts: The Legacies of America’s Bloodiest Conflict — it looks like a snoozer, but this book is stuffed solid with interesting Civil War “firsts.”
Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life — Isaacson goes beyond the “kite in a storm” version of Franklin’s life and achievements to present a finely nuanced portrait of a preeminent American pundit, scholar, scientist, politician, and jackass.
Nicholas Rinaldi, Between Two Rivers — a grand, sprawling, messy character study that uses pre- and post-9/11 New York City for its backdrop.
Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 — it’s tough to find (write?) a Kennedy biography that successfully treads the line between hagiography and hack job, but Dallek acquits himself admirably. A little long on the details in some spots, but overall, an interesting read.
Marc Acito, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater — another coming-of-age novel, this one set in 1980s New Jersey. Fraud, blackmail, and impotence were never so funny.
Yann Martel, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios — four short stories from the guy who brought you Life of Pi. Three of them so-so, one amazing; all four the product of one of the quirkiest, most creative fiction-writing minds on the scene today.
J.M. DeMatteis, Brooklyn Dreams — a wonderful graphic novel about love, spiritual awakening, and Italian food.
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return — pretty much what it sounds like.
Walter Yetnikoff, Howling at the Moon: The Odyssey of a Monstrous Music Mogul in an Age of Excess — I read this for the behind-the-scenes dirt I knew I could expect from the guy who ruled Columbia Records from 1975-90…so I was surprised to discover what a powerfully moving tale of redemption it really is.”

About the Author

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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