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Armistead Maupin's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Armistead Maupin recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Armistead Maupin's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Joy Luck Club

Four mothers, four daughters, four families, whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's telling the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives – until their own inner crises reveal how much they've unknowingly inherited of their mothers' pasts.... more
Recommended by Armistead Maupin, and 1 others.

Armistead MaupinThe novel is structured around the four corners of the mahjong table. The device makes clear the distance between the old world of China and the new world that these women inhabit in San Francisco. The novel focuses on the memories and secrets that these women carry about their mothers and their daughters. It shows modern Chinese-Americans dealing with cultural differences across generations.... (Source)

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The Golden Gate

"The great California novel been written, in verse (and why not?): The Golden Gate gives great joy."--Gore Vidal

One of the most highly regarded novels of 1986, Vikram Seth's story in verse made him a literary household name in both the United States and India.

John Brown, a successful yuppie living in 1980s San Francisco meets a romantic interest in Liz, after placing a personal ad in the newspaper. From this interaction, John meets a variety of characters, each with their own values and ideas of "self-actualization." However, Liz begins to fall in love with...
Recommended by Armistead Maupin, and 1 others.

Armistead MaupinThe Golden Gate is modeled on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. A novel in iambic pentameter might sound like an overly intellectual bore, but it’s far from it. It’s rife with pathos and acute observations about the yuppies that began descending on the Bay Area in the 1980s. And it has a real story that pulls you in as the verse pulls you along. (Source)

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The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Today Show Book Club Pick

An extraordinarily haunting love story told in the voice of a man who appears to age backwards

We are each the love of someone's life.

So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other. At his birth, Max's father declares him a "nisse," a creature of Danish myth, as his baby son has the external physical appearance of an old, dying creature. Max grows older like any child, but his physical age appears to go backward--on the outside a very old man, but inside...
Recommended by Armistead Maupin, and 1 others.

Armistead MaupinIt was preceded by the achingly mediocre – albeit academy award-nominated – film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was based on a [1922] short story by F Scott Fitzgerald. All three are about a man who ages backwards, who was born as a little old man and grows backwards towards infancy. This setup enables the main character to court the same woman twice, without her knowing it because of... (Source)

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Recommended by Armistead Maupin, and 1 others.

Armistead MaupinThis is one of the first realist novels. It’s about the slow moral deterioration of the central character, an oafish and amoral dentist who begins a downward spiral when his fiancée wins the lottery. It’s a dark novel, with one of the darkest endings I’ve ever read. Norris locates McTeague’s dental parlour on Polk Street in San Francisco. The descriptions of the area are wonderfully spare and yet... (Source)

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The Maltese Falcon

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and when Spade's partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby's trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him? less
Recommended by Armistead Maupin, James Twining, and 2 others.

Armistead MaupinThe Modern Library named The Maltese Falcon one of the top 100 novels of the century. It was the first, and probably the greatest, hard-boiled detective novel. It pretty much invented the genre and its archetypes, including the femme fatale and the hard-drinking detective – in this case Sam Spade. Hammett created a prototype that’s been followed ever since. (Source)

James TwiningIn this one you’ve got an interesting central character, Sam Spade, who’s bitter and sardonic and plays each side off against the other. (Source)

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