One of our favorite authors, Rob Roberge, recently provided us with a list of his favorite books, which you can find below (including his comments thereon). Roberge is the author of several acclaimed novels as well as the memoir Liar, a dark albeit humorous exposition of his struggles with addiction and mental illness à la Frederick Exley’s masterpiece, A Fan’s Notes. Roberge is core faculty at UCR/Palm Desert’s MFA in Writing Program and plays guitar and sings in LA’s The Urinals. He is currently working on another novel.
Feel free to click on the images of the books below for more information (via Amazon).
Simply because it was the first book that ever made me cry. I have no idea how it holds up, but it was the first time I knew that words on a page could move me.
The only hesitation I have in including this is that Baldwin could take up this whole list if I got carried away. Too many to chose from, so it’s this classic.
I cheated. A trilogy. No less than a history of the continent of the Americas from a brilliant writer.
I would have been skeptical if you had told me I’d fall in love with a book with only one character and a couple of animals. But this dystopian marvel did it.
A beautifully written book (called an autobiography in the 70’s, but would probably be labeled a memoir today) by the first African American woman to serve in congress—and the first to run for president.
One of the great first person narrators of all time. Astounding opening page. So good that Ralph Ellison and E.L. Doctorow both used openings so similar in rhythm and tone in INVISIBLE MAN, and LIVES OF THE POETS that they read like homages.
Sometimes a writer comes to a project totally suited to them. Voice, tone and plot come together so incredibly well in this book. Perfect stories for Johnson to write. It shows off every strength of his writing. For me, this is the book where he got everything right.
Great and stunningly written. But this book could make my list just for one if its stories, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried.”
A book with beauty, urgency, and torque. And the voice is incredible.
For my money, the greatest naturalist (not to be confused with realist) novel I’ve never read. It’s also fascinating to look at a “history” of California written in 1896. May also be the first white guy to actually address race and class in an American novel. It’s dated in that regard—with what have become tired stereotypes along the way—but also remarkably empathetic.
This book rocked me off my axis when I first read it nearly thirty years ago. I recently re-read it and found myself admiring it even more. A book with intelligence, taboo (to some) subjects, and a cold but perfectly rendered sense of emotion like no other.
Like Love, but Not Exactly by Francois Camoin
If this were a just world, everyone would know his name. Not a line I’d cut out of this brilliant book of stories.
There are a ton more I could list here (I wrote bad Raymond Carver rip-offs for the first five years of my career). But I suppose it’s time to get to, and not just admire, work.