Alumnus C.J. Box (BA ’81)
“Catch-22,” by Joseph Heller
I was shocked to find out recently, when I ordered a new copy, that this novel is over 50 years old, and it humbled me. This was the book that convinced me I wanted to write, and few novels are darker, funnier, more exasperating or more wise. I get something new out of it every time I read it.
“Blood Meridian,” by Cormac McCarthy
This is probably the bleakest novel I’ve ever read. It stays with you years after you put it down (provided you can finish it). It’s McCarthy’s finest (and, on second thought, maybe not the best read to keep your spirits up on a desert island). There has never been a creepier villain than Judge Holden.
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories,” by Flannery O’Connor
It’s a sad thing that well-crafted short stories have become a thing of the past, because they’re harder to write than a full-blown novel, and they can, in the hands of an author like O’Connor, pack a bigger punch. This is her best collection.
“Little Big Man,” by Thomas Berger
Like “Catch-22,” this one gets better with age. Although I’m a huge fan of the author all around, this is perhaps the perfect revisionist Western. By turns hilarious, insightful, inclusive and downright cruel, it’s an absolute tour de force.
Novels and Essays by Thomas McGuane, including “The Sporting Club,” “A Sporting Chance,” “Ninety-Two In The Shade,” “The Longest Silence” and “Some Horses.”
OK, this is cheating, since it’s a lot more than five books, but McGuane is in my opinion the finest literary stylist I’ve ever read. Plus, he writes about fishing and horses.
And since I’m already cheating …
“Boatbuilding Manual,” by Robert M. Steward and Carl Cramer. Because I’ll want to get off the island.
C. J. Box is the bestselling author of 27 novels, including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (“Blue Heaven,” 2009), as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, two Barry Awards, and the 2010 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award for fiction. His latest book is “Long Range,” the 20th in the Joe Pickett series.