Roz Chast

The cartoonist on three fiction favorites.

If you’ve ever felt awkward, neurotic, plagued by indecision, or frustrated with the mysteries of everyday life, then you’ve probably recognized a little of yourself in the cartoons of Roz Chast. Her jittery, unmistakeable panels — which have appeared in The New Yorker since 1978 — elicit delight even as they defy description. Hence the appeal of her new book, What I Hate: From A to Z, which turns a hilariously spiteful gaze on irritants including rabies, tunnels, and Jell-O. This week, Chast offers a respite from such annoyances in a trio of fictions: “I’ve read all of these books at least twice,” she assures us, “and would be happy to read any of them again.”

Books by Roz Chast

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin

By P. D. Ouspensky

“This book is about the desire to go back in time and do things differently, knowing what you now know. The question is, would you do things differently? Or would you make the same mistakes again and again, carefully rationalizing each one every step of the way until you end up in the same place? It’s kind of bleak, but also kind of hopeful.”

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith

“A terrifying, fascinating, and sometimes very funny book about a sociopath named Tom Ripley who is sent to Italy to retrieve a wealthy young man named Dickie Greenleaf by Dickie’s father. It’s also about envy, money, love, obsession, class in America, repressed sexuality, and lots of other interesting things.”

The Magic Mountain

By Thomas Mann

“This is the story of Hans Castorp who goes to a tuberculosis sanitarium to visit his cousin for a three week stay. At first he finds the sanitarium and its inhabitants strange and almost repellent. After not too long, though, he is drawn into the world of the sanitarium, which centers on illness and allows its residents to be cut off from the outside world with its workaday concerns, and he winds up staying seven years.”