I had to narrow this down to one of three choices. One was John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.” This book is spectacular, with memorable characters and an amazing ability to find laughter and sorrow contrapuntal in the same story.
Then I changed to “Franny and Zooey,” by J.D. Salinger. Everyone knows Salinger’s “Catcher in The Rye,” which I think is horribly, tragically overrated, but I think “F&Z” exceeds its more famous relative by light years. The interplay between the two leads, as well as the background into the eccentrically brilliant Glass family, makes this a wonderful read. I figured a lot of people have read this one, too (and please do so at once if you haven’t).
The book I settled on that everyone should read is James Ellroy’s, “American Tabloid.” This novel seamlessly blends real life characters with imaginary ones, as it puts the reader in the middle of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, followed by the plot to assassinate JFK. “American Tabloid” is gritty and violent, offering a bleak, helpless portrait of an America still dominated by organized crime and corruption. Its whole mix of bad men doing bad things shows a fearlessness very few authors today have. It is inspired, and thus the one book I’d recommend for everyone should read (even though it will shock some people). Give it a try.