Jere Krakoff is the author of Something Is Rotten in Fettig, a satirical novel about the criminal justice system. Prior to writing the book, he was a civil rights attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. Learn more on his website and Facebook page.
One book is permanently by my bed: The Bald Soprano and Other Plays by Eugène Ionesco. I keep this collection of darkly humorous one act plays bedside to serve as a writing prompt. When there is a need for inspiration—which is often the case—I peruse pages filled with Ionesco’s absurdist vignettes.
At the top of the impermanent, revolving pile of bedside novels to read is The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. I read The Tin Drum several decades ago and thought, at the time, that it was brilliant. At the risk of concluding that my aged brain will now think otherwise, I will look at it again. Hopefully, the indomitable miniscule drummer, Oskar Matzerath, will be as interesting as he recounts his odyssey through the years leading to and culminating in the Second World War.
Immediately beneath The Tin Drum is Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. A reliable source, who has spoken to me on condition of anonymity, insists that Something Happened is superior to Catch-22. I will take this representation with a grain of salt until proven otherwise.
In a year that I have dedicated to rereading books that I once enjoyed, there are other paperbacks that totter on the bedside end table: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris; Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut; The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson; and The Nose by Nikolai Gogol.
All of these books, and others in the queue, share a common denominator—they are humorous and wonderfully written, both of which seem to be compelling reasons to read them more than a single time.
When my appetite for humor has been sated, I will turn to Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s Crime and Punishment and Leo Tolstoy‘s The Death of Ivan Ilyich to sober-up.
What are your top re-reads? What keeps you coming back to them?