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For decades, Stanley Crouch has cut a singular path through American culture as a cultural critic and an intellectual mentor to jazz figures like Wynton Marsalis. For all of his intellectual virtuosity, we were still surprised to discover the book that Crouch wanted to recommend: Alejo Carpentier’s “Reasons of State.”

chris ware on "society is nix"

When he’s not drawing, Chris Ware likes to read and look at vintage comics. He highly recommends a book that defies even his powers of description — a folio-sized reproduction of some of America’s first newspaper cartoons, made long before super-heroes and adventure stories took over the medium. Back then, he says, the medium could be anything — and was.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed’s "Wild" is one of the most famous wilderness memoirs of our time. She especially appreciates writers who combine honesty with emotional intensity — writers who reveal themselves unflinchingly on the page. She recommends a memoir by the writer Poe Ballantine.

Pamuk

The Turkish writer and Nobel laureate says his favorite novel — the 800-plus-page Russian novel bursting with characters living the life of imperial Russian society — is a complex miracle of a book.

J woodson

The author of "Another Brooklyn" recommends a James Baldwin novel she says belongs on everyone's bookshelf.

Famed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro recommends “Prayers for the Stolen,” by Jennifer Clement —a harrowing tale about young children who are abducted in the midst of Mexican drug wars.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Given the hyper-realism of author Karl Ove Knausgaard’s "My Struggle," you might be surprised to hear that the formative books of his childhood were filled with magic and imaginary worlds. He says Ursula K. Le Guin’s "Earthsea" fantasy series shaped him as an early reader.

ROSS GAY

Because he’s fascinated by the process of collecting and by the impulse to document everyday life, poet Ross Gay recommends “Gene Smith’s Sink,” by Sam Stephenson. It’s a portrait of another collector — the legendary documentarian and photographer, W. Eugene Smith. 

Pages

"When Police Kill" by Franklin Zimring
The Living Mountain
Reasons of the State
Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere
Anna Karenina
"If Beale Street Could Talk" by James Baldwin
'Prayers for the Stolen'
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