A Life In Books: Nathan Englander

While writing his upcoming novel, "The Ministry of Special Cases," Nathan Englander was wary of picking up any old book because he was afraid of messing up his own voice. Now that he's done, his nightstand is in danger of collapse.

"Diary of a Madman and Other Stories" by Nikolai Gogol. It's about owning his voice. If you just say it right, we will follow.

"The Plague" by Albert Camus. It's finite in that it has a beginning and end. Then there's infinity in it.

"The Manor and the Estate" by I. B. Singer. There's something amazing about entering a universe that deeply and for that long.

"The Trial" by Franz Kafka. Fiction allows these extreme worlds. It's beyond ludicrous. But from page one, everything is real.

"Voices From Chernobyl" By Svetlana Alexievich and Keith Gessen. Regular people telling their stories speak poetry.

An Important Book that you admit you haven't read: "The Magic Mountain" by Thomas Mann. I keep climbing up the mountain and then I stop. I've read the first 150 pages three times.

Which classic did you go back to and find disappointing? There are things that I loved in high school that I will not revisit for fear that they will not hold that place anymore.