A Life In Books: Kurt Andersen

My Five Most Essential Books
1. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. A "great book" that's actually great.

2. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe. It taught me that precision and hellbent inventiveness were entirely compatible.

3. "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes. Satire, adventure, sadness and profundity—and a bizarrely modern 400-year-old book.

4. "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. It doubly opened my eyes to magical realism and historical fiction.

5. "White Noise" by Don DeLillo. Both funny and horrifying, yet it manages to avoid cheap nihilism.

A Classic You Revisited With Disappointment: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway. His manliness was easier to admire before I'd actually become a man.

A Book To Which You Always Return: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I return to it once a decade. Each time it reads like a different novel.