HarperCollins Publishers
Geoff Shandler

The Shandler List

from Geoff Shandler

Book Recommendations

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

by John le Carré

My favorite novel. I remember with amazing precision the moment when, fifteen years old, sitting on my bed, things clicked, the trapdoor opened, and I realized the terrible truth about what was actually going on. I'd never been struck by lightning of such voltage, and haven't been since.

The Adversary

by Emmanuel Carrère

The greatest true crime book I have ever read, one in which you know from page one who did it, a few pages later how he did it, and not long after why he did it. So what is the book about? I won't ruin it by saying more, except that the remaining 200 pages are beyond gripping and the scene in the pharmacy, when in one sentence the real mystery is suddenly made apparent ... whoa. If only more true crime books were written by French novelists (especially, as in this case, one who also wrote a biography of Philip K. Dick).

I, Claudius/Claudius The God

by Robert Graves

I was too young to watch the famous TV series, but when I was thirteen I opened up the first page of the first volume and the rest of the world went into very soft focus until I was done. I didn't sleep, didn't eat, didn't even look up, could not stop. (Actually, did eat, mostly Rice Chex, from the box.) Not only lavishly entertaining, but the start of a lasting fascination with the ancient world.


by Philip Norman

Bob Spitz's The Beatles is much more comprehensive, much more accurate (Paul gets his due, in a justly big way), better written, and more incisive than Philip Norman's Beatles bio, so if you're going to read one of them, definitely go with Spitz. But when, as a twelve year old, I devoured Shout! it was easily the most thrilling thing I'd ever read. I think a lot about this now, as an adult: how can we recapture that time in our lives when the rest of the world peeled away and we engaged a book with such exuberant, relentless, pure joy? Shout! made your muscles sore from smiling.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

by Richard Rhodes

This is how it's done. Magisterial, exhilarating, expertly composed, and morally inquisitive. As readers we know the horrors to come, but you cannot help but feel giddy reading about the stupendous genius of those who helped built the bomb(s)--especially the group of Hungarian Jews who fled Anti-Semitism and revolutionized our understanding of the universe. In some ways, there are Shout! moments here, too--jaw-dropping anecdotes about sheer virtuosity and brilliance that make you shake your head and laugh.


by Alice Oswald

I don't think a book from the past five years has clung to me as firmly as this. I'd been a fan of Oswald's work before, but this was (given that we were just talking about things atomic) a quantum leap in ambition--and audacity, given all of the folks who feel ownership of the Iliad. She's such a master of exploring the edges, of making the margins decidedly un-marginal; in her earlier Dart she did that for an ecosystem, but now she turns something inside out and upside down and it's just impossible what she's done but she's done it. I've given a lot of copies of this away, too, but revealing predictable editorial snobbery, I give the Faber (UK) edition because I'm not in love with the American cover. Feel free to groan.

The Burn

by Vasily Aksyonov

The only book I ever dreamed that was I in, walking down the stairs into the jazz club, greeting three of the characters, finding a corner, Aksyonov was part of a generation of Russians known as "shestidesyatniki"--kind of like a Soviet version of beats without the speed, nonconformists desperately seeking oxygen amidst the suffocation of dictatorship. It's an astonishing book, fantastic, electrifying, and as my dream demonstrates, it got very deep inside my head.

The English Patient

by Michael Ondaatje

Hard to explain it, but it took me days to get past the first page; I was just so staggered by Ondaatje's use of the word "destroyed"--the perfect, perfectly powerful, perfectly heartbreaking, perfectly visual word, one that in a million years I never would have thought of should I have tried to write or edit the scene. I've returned to it again and again, just that passage, mystified, awed. It seems like nothing--nine letters!--and yet for me it sparks fundamental existential questions. Why that word? Why did he choose it? It's a miracle, right there. And I'm totally cool with sounding like a lunatic telling you this.

Life and Fate

by Vasily Grossman

Supreme, a vast, fierce, and disconsolate account of Soviet resistance to the Nazi invasion of Russia, particularly the battle for Stalingrad. In 1959, Grossman was told by Soviet authorities that his book could not be published for 200 hundred years. His manuscripts, notebooks, typewriter ribbons, and everything associated with Life and Fate were confiscated by the KGB and he then was crushed by the regime; Grossman died five years after. More than two decades later, thanks to the courage of a small group of dissidents who had preserved a draft and helped smuggle out photos of the pages, it was released in the West. A masterpiece times one hundred.

Geoff Shandler

About Geoff Shandler

VP, Editorial Director, Custom House