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Books I Wish I'd Written

And other lit lists

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Christopher Davis, poet and associate professor, UNC Charlotte: "I wish I had written a book of poetry called, in the original Italian, Lavorare Stanca, and in English, Hard Labor, by the mid-20th-century Italian poet Cesare Pavese. Pavese describes the hard lives and the small, quiet, familiar moments of salvation in the lives of working people and farmers. The poetry is purely descriptive, written without the pronoun 'I' and without any inflation of language. Written immediately after the fascist years, it is the ultimate aesthetic embodiment of socialism."

Doris Betts, author: "There are two books I wish I had written. The long one is entitled Who is Sylvia? The shorter one is The Caregivers. Both of them are mine, in progress and still unfinished."

Donald Mager, poet and professor, Johnson C. Smith University: "I have never felt about a book that I wished I'd written it. The question supposes that as a reader one identifies with a writer, wishing to be her or him, and to write her or his words. My experience is the opposite. Strong writers confront me with ways of being in the world utterly unlike myself; therefore, the ravishment of their writing is its inexplicable and seductive differences from me. I do not long to be that writer or to write her or his words. I marvel that a being can be so completely un-me." [Gee, thanks for getting into the spirit of things, Don.]

Ron Rash, poet and novelist: "Fredy Neptune, by the Australian poet Les Murray. In this 200-page 20th century epic, Murray creates a work that has the characters, plot, conflict, and scope of a great novel. At the same time, it is also poetry of the highest level. I believe it's the greatest poem in English written in the last 50 years."

10 Non-fiction Books All Americans Should Read

1. Letters From an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur
2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
4. And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts
5. The Autobiography of Mark Twain
6. Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson
7. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
8. The Civil War Trilogy by Shelby Foote
9. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
10. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

-- Tim C. Davis & John Grooms

5 Best Male Fictional Detectives

1. Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Inspector Morse, created by Colin Dexter
3. Nero Wolfe, created by Rex Stout
4. Hercule Poirot, created by Agatha Christie
5. Adam Dalgliesh, created by P.D. James

-- Ann Wicker

7 Best American Male Fictional Detectives

1. Sam Spade, created by Dashiell Hammett
2. Dave Robicheaux, created by James Lee Burke
3. Lew Archer, created by Ross MacDonald
4. Philip Marlowe, created by Raymond Chandler
5. Jim Chee, created by Tony Hillerman
6. Elvis Cole, created by Robert Crais
7. Leonard Pine, created by Joe R. Lansdale

-- John Grooms

5 Best Female Fictional Detectives

1. Stephanie Plum, created by Janet Evanovich
2. Kinsey Millhone, created by Sue Grafton
3. Nancy Drew, created by Carolyn Keene
4. Precious Ramotswe, created by Alexander McCall Smith
5. Deborah Knott, created by Margaret Maron

-- Ann Wicker

5 Writers I Thought Sucked When I Was Young But Are Now Favorites

1. Jane Austen
2. Graham Greene
3. Geoffrey Chaucer
4. William Wordsworth
5. Joyce Carol Oates

-- John Grooms

8 Reasons I Like Being a Writer Instead of a Banker

1. Never have to use terms like "diversification" or "risk management."
2. Simple fact: number-crunching while sitting in a cubicle is horrible, boring, monotonous torture.
3. Doesn't require nearly as much hair gel.
4. Can stare off into space for hours at a time and claim I'm waiting for "inspiration."
5. Don't have to attend weekly sycophant meetings and lay gifts at the feet of a cackling boss (this is also a reason I'm glad I'm not at the Observer).
6. Because suspenders never look cool. Never.
7. Women in business suits and tennis shoes make me nervous.
8. Being a writer gives me a forum in which to make fun of bankers.

-- Sam Boykin

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