What are your five favorite books and why?
Five past and recent favorites:
- Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I’ve taught and written about Chaucer over the years and still marvel at his many-voiced great work.
- Sir John Mandeville’s Travels. Medieval travel writing also occupies me, and this book is the not-well-enough-known most popular travel account of the era.
- Any of Alan Furst’s several novels about espionage and life in Europe as World War II approaches, glimpses of the time just before I was born.
- Rick Atkinson’s Day of Battle, the middle volume of his trilogy on World War II, more gripping than fiction could possibly be.
- Any of Ross Macdonald’s detective novels, set amid the beauty and corruption of Southern California, where I have spent time.
Who is your favorite character in literature?
Either Chaucer’s Harry Bailly or Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, both hosts who try their best to let everyone in.
What is the last book you bought?
Class A by Lucas Mann, a moving depiction of life in today’s minor leagues.
What’s your “guilty pleasure” – a book you love but don’t often talk about because it’s not “serious” literature?
None; My reading interests are pretty Catholic and seem to not allow me to feel such guilt.
What “important book” have you not read and why haven’t you read it?
Most of Henry James’ novels, the long and dense ones.
What books do you or did you enjoy reading with your children?
Anything by Lemony Snicket or Judy Blume.
What classic novel was a disappointment to you?
The Red Badge of Courage.
What genre of literature do you prefer to read (history, fiction, biography, etc) and why?
I equally like fiction, for its imagined worlds, and history, for its apparently actual ones.