I like well written books about extreme living. It's perversely agreeable to read about the privations of Shackleton's arctic expedition whilst sitting in an armchair drinking cocoa.
Alfred Lansing: Endurance, Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.
Eric Newby: The Last Grain Race. A wonderful autobiography about his life as a young man on a commercial sailing ship. The best editions contain photographs.
Pico Iyer. I've read three of his early travel books. Each was well observed and amusing.
Joe Simpson: Touching the Void. A true story of hardship - in this case written by a poor guy who got abandoned up a mountain. He had a broken leg and his companion decided they couldn't both make it...
Siegfried Sassoon: The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston. Wonderful WW1 memoir.
Robert Graves: Goodbye to All That. Ditto.
Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air. A compelling tale of tragedy on Everest.
Wil Ferguson: Hokkaido Highway Blues. Hitchhiking the length of Japan.
John O'Farrell: Things Can Only Get Better. Political activism never previously struck me as being a good subject for comic tales.
Michael Lewis: Liar's Poker. Life on Wall Street. Very funny.
Craig Lewis. Let's Get Lost.
Jeffrey Taylor. Siberian Dawn: A Journey Across The New Russia.
P.J. O'Rourke. Most of his books are funny. He's particularly good on travel.
Christopher Ross: Tunnel Visions. A philosopher working for London Underground.
Jon Ronson: Them. Very readable.
Jimmie Lerner: You Got Nothing Coming. Autobiography about life in a hard prison written by a white collar executive. Fascinating. However I pretty much skipped the last quarter of the book which is about the crime he committed and his life before prison.
Crime/Gritty Urban life
William Burroughs: Junkie. A different world. I also like some of Burroughs' recordings - spoken in his memorably dry drawl. He had an interesting life.
Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting; Glue. Another author who has done other good work - but these two books are my favorites.
Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; The Great White Shark Hunt.
Walter Mosley: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. A powerful novel. The sequel is also worth reading, as is a book about an old blues musician, 'R.L.'s Dream.'
Dorothy L Sayers: The Lord Peter Wimsey books. I particularly liked 'Gaudy Night'.
Leslie Charteris: The early Saint stories. I used to love these books.
Jack Black: You Can't Win. William Burrough's favorite book. A fascinating autobiography by a career hobo and criminal.
Saki. Short stories. Pre-WW1. The best ones are still hilarious. Most have dated though.
They are now on-line. http://www.blackmask.com/olbooks/saki5dex.htm
William Sutcliffe: Are you Experienced? Amusing travels around India.
Richmal Crompton. The best of the early William stories are still readable.
Woody Allen. All his prose is available in a collected edition.
The Onion: www.theonion.com Check out the on-line archives.
Victor Lewis Smith: Inside the Magic Rectangle. Very sharp TV criticism.
Nick Hornby: Fever Pitch; High Fidelity.
Dennis Miller: The Rants. I liked the audio-book version narrated by the author. The early ones are the best.
Jerome K. Jerome. His work is now available online. I recommend both of the two 'Three men...' books.
Food and Restaurant Writing
Jeffry Steingarten: The Man Who Ate Everything.
George Orwell: Down and Out in Paris and London.
Anthon Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential.
Mark Bitman: How to Cook Everything
Alain de Botton: How Proust Can Change Your Life; The Consolations of Philosophy.
Richard Bach: Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Illusions. I used to really like these, but I don't fancy re-reading them at present.
Pierre Bourdieu: Distinction.
George Ritzer: The McDonaldization of Society.
Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet
Martin Cruz Smith. I've enjoyed all his work since Gorky Park.
Lionel Davidson: The Rose of Tibet; Kolymsky Heights.
Michael Hetzer. The Forbidden Zone.
Rob Long: Conversations with my Agent
Steven Bach: Final Cut
William Goldman. I've liked most of his non-fiction work. I loved Marathon Man.
Richard E. Grant: With Nails
My tastes have changed a lot over the years. These are the authors and books I would be happy to reread.
D.F. Jones: Don't Pick the Flowers. Out of print. Exciting ecological thriller.
Frank Herbert. The Dune novels. He wrote six books in the series and my favorites are the first and the fifth, both of which would be on my top ten list.
Robert Heinlein. Almost all his work is good although the quality did drop off in the last few years of his life. A great writer.
John Cramer. Einstein's Bridge; Twister. Hard sci-fi with interesting stories and characters.
Isaac Asimov. Often very good indeed.
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War.
Larry Niven et al: The Legacy of Heorot.
David Gerrold: The War against the Chtorr series.
George Stewart: Earth Abides.
Gregory Benford: Timescape. Some of his other books were also very good although I forget which ones.
Patrick Tilley: The Amtrak Wars series
Roger Zelazny. I like about half his work very much indeed. Good places to start would be with "Eye of Cat" or the first in the Amber series.
Orson Scott Card. Ender's Game. His masterpiece (which he keeps revisiting).
Stephen King. It. I was impressed by the way he used a clever structure to tell two interlocking narratives. It's his best story in my opinion, although I also enjoyed The Talisman, The Stand and the original novella that became the movie called The Shawshank Redemption.
William Gibson: Neuromancer
J.R.R. Tolkein: The Lord of the Rings
Connie Willis: Bellwether
J.R. Rawling: The Harry Potter series
L. Ron Hubbard. I like a lot of his science fiction and fantasy work. One of my favorites is a very light fantasy set in a New York hotel, called "The Ghoul."
Neal Stephenson: Snowcrash; Cryptonomicon,
Dennis Wheatley: The Devil Rides Out; Strange Conflict; The Haunting of Toby Jugg.
Jack Vance. Emphyrio
Robert Sawyer. Usually does solid Sci-Fi stories although I recommend staying clear of Starplex.
I'm fond of a particular genre of science fiction short story. The hero gets into a peculiar bind and finally figures an ingenious way out. LRH wrote a lot of these. One that I remember involved a space colonist who bought a cheap, unexamined planet only to find that its gravity was reversed. Very inconvenient.
There are two other stories (not by LRH) that I'd like to track down. Please write if you remember who wrote either of these:
1. A space explorer lands on a new planet and finds a can of paint. He discovers that it's very good paint as it slowly spreads itself thinner and thinner in order to cover the entire object it has been put on. However he then gets a bit on himself. . .
2. Four people get eaten by an alien blob. However they each keep their separate consciousnesses and then have to figure out what to do next. It's a brilliant short story.
[May 17, 2001. These stories have now been found. The Pilot got the first one - Van Vogt in the story 'A Can of Paint'. The second was located by a bookshop owner. It turns out to be the story 'Four in One' by Damon Knight. Both stories, particularly the second, are classics.]
I like all of the authors below so I've deleted all references to 'wonderful work' or 'fantastic'. Where I haven't given a book title it's because I like almost all their work (that I've seen).
Neil Gaiman. http://www.neilgaiman.com/
Daniel Clowes: Ghost World.
Art Spiegelman: Maus 1 and 2.
Dori Seda: Dori Stories. This book is a collection of pretty much all her work.
Kurt Busiek: The Astro City series.
Frank Miller: The Dark Knight Returns. Also some of his other stuff.
Alex Ross: Kingdom Come.
Scott McCloud. Understanding Comics; Reinventing Comics.
Patrick O'Brian: The Aubrey/Maturin books. O'Brian is my favorite novelist of any genre. He's not to everyone's taste - I've lent the books to friends only to find that they didn't like them. However, if you enjoy his style, you're in luck. There are twenty volumes containing the continuing story of two friends, a surgeon and a sea captain, as they have witty and thrilling adventures during the Napoleonic era.
C.S. Forester: The Hornblower books; Brown on Resolution. Sea stories.
Robert Graves: I, Claudius; Claudius the God.
John Steinbeck: Cannery Row; Sweet Thursday; Tortilla Flat; The Wayward Bus.
Rudyard Kipling: Stalky and Co. This book can be read on-line. Click here.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Jane Austin: Pride and Prejudice. This book can be read on-line. Click here.
Bernard Werber: Empire of the Ants. Rich and dark.
E. M. Forster: A Room with a View.
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose.