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Jonathan Evison's Top Book Recommendations

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


Trout Fishing in America

Richard Brautigan was a literary idol of the 1960s and 1970s whose comic genius and iconoclastic vision of American life caught the imagination of young people everywhere. He came of age during the Haight-Ashbury period and has been called “the last of the Beats.” His early books became required reading for the hip generation, and on its publication Trout Fishing in America became an international bestseller. An indescribable romp, the novel is best summed up in one word: mayonnaise.
This new edition includes an introduction by the poet Billy Collins, who first encountered...
Recommended by Jonathan Evison, and 1 others.

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The Day of the Locust

The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, its overarching themes deal with the alienation and desperation of a broad group of odd individuals who exist at the fringes of the Hollywood movie industry. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Day of the Locust #73 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its list of 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005, and noted critic Harold Bloom included it in his list of canonical works in... more
Recommended by Jonathan Evison, and 1 others.

Jonathan EvisonTo me this is the quintessential LA novel. It’s about the film industry in its heyday. What makes it Western is that it’s set in the West, and it’s all about this idea of possibility. It’s about all these people uprooting themselves and the Hollywood dream they were sold. This book is where the name Homer Simpson comes from: He’s an everyman character who moves out from Nebraska. It’s hilarious... (Source)

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Angle of Repose

Stegner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of personal, historical, and geographic discovery
Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier. But his research reveals even more about his own life than he's willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an all American family.
"Cause for celebration . . . A superb novel with an amplitude of scale and richness of...
Recommended by Bill Nye, Jonathan Evison, and 2 others.

Bill NyeIs is about human stories intertwined, just like your life and mine. (Source)

Jonathan EvisonI’m just astounded by the scope and magnitude of the novel, and the landscape described. It’s the story of an ailing professor near the end of his life. He’s in a wheelchair and he’s becoming a bitter man. He’s writing his family history, and he goes back generations to the movement west. Meanwhile there is this fore-story going on, which is this great generational battle between himself, an... (Source)

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Ask the Dust

Arturo Bandini is a struggling writer lodging in a seedy LA hotel. While basking in the glory of having had a single short story published in a small magazine, he meets local waitress Camilla Lopez and they embark on a strange and strained love-hate relationship. Slowly, but inexorably, it descends into the realm of madness.

Ask the Dust is one of the truly great, yet unsung, American novels of the twentieth century. A tough and unsentimental story with a soft and tender heart, it remains as fresh and affecting as the day it was written.

Neil Strauss[Neil Strauss recommended this book in the book "Tools of Titans".] (Source)

Ryan HolidayI found John Fante through Neil Strauss, who considers Ask the Dustone of his favorite books. I read it in one day, LOVED it and subsequently read everything by Fante I could get my hands on. In 2011, I read seven Fante novels, one biography by his son and a book of letters between John and H.L Mencken. I utterly immersed myself in his world, from spending hours in Downtown LA where the books are... (Source)

Jonathan EvisonI won’t say this is the book that made me want to be a writer, because I always wanted to be that, but it solidified my insistence on becoming some hopelessly young, starving misfit awash in an urban landscape somewhere, working my ass off, just really throwing my heart out there and getting it kicked around. Ask the Dust is just a really powerful book for me. It’s a chronicle of the immigrant... (Source)

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The Grapes of Wrath

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic...

Elizabeth Tsurkov@Maysaloon great book! (Source)

Jonathan EvisonThis is the great American novel for me—the humanity, the landscapes, the progressive and political and social ethos of the novel, not to mention the amazing characters. Steinbeck is the American Dickens, at least in terms of social consciousness. (Source)

John KerryWhile there is a story that takes place between characters, the hardship and unfairness is a central element of the book. It shows how fiction can create progressive change as well. (Source)

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