• Russell Baker • Willa Cather • Raymond Chandler • F. Scott Fitzgerald • Graham Greene • Edith Hamilton • Dashiell Hammett • Helene Hanff • Ernest Hemingway • Patricia Highsmith • Shirley Jackson • Henry James • W. Somerset Maugham • Mary McCarthy • Walter Mosley • Vladimir Nabokov • Patrick O'Brian • Barbara Pym • Phillip Roth • Vikram Seth • Isaac Bashevis Singer • C. P. Snow • Dylan Thomas • Evelyn Waugh • Edith Wharton • Laura Ingalls Wilder • Virginia Woolf
Each selection contains an entertaining discussion of what makes the book special, from an adventurous writing style to a unique sense of humor. The Majors also share insights about the authors and literary anecdotes, as well as recommend other gems on a similar subject or by the same author.
A literary companion to relish and refer to again and again, 100 One-Night Reads is a masterpiece in its own right!
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Read an Excerpt
RAYMOND CHANDLER The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago but spent most of his early life in
England. He attended Dulwich College and fought with Great Britain's
Royal Flying Corps during World War I. After the war he re-turned to
America, settled in Los Angeles, and had a successful business career
during the 1920s in California's booming oil industry. He was wiped out
financially by the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression that
followed it, and began to write crime stories for pulp magazines to make
a living. Persevering in this precarious career, he won acclaim in 1939
with the publication of his first novel, The Big Sleep. He wrote six
more novels over the course of the next two decades, all featuring his
tough-guy detective hero, Philip Marlowe. In 1943, Chandler began to
write film scripts as well as novels and stories, and he achieved
considerable success in the gritty and often grim films that French
critics would later call cinema noir.
Chandler's novels were strongly influenced by the work of his
con-temporary Dashiell Hammett (p. 92), to the extent that Hammett and
Chandler are sometimes described as founders of a "California school" of
hard-boiled detective fiction. (A notable feature of Chandler's novels,
especially, is that they convey very effectively the atmosphere of
corruption that was characteristic of Los Angeles politics and the
city's police department and criminal justice system for much of the
twentieth century.) Philip Marlowe is a tough character whose attitudes
and personal code are very much in the mold of Hammett's Sam Spade,
though Marlowe is, generally speaking, a classier sort of detective than
Spade and deals with a richer, more polished clientele. Like all heroes
of the genre, Marlowe is essentially a lone wolf who lives by his own
private moral code. He is interested in justice more than in material
success, and will sometimes (as in this novel) pursue a case further
than his client has asked in order to satisfy his own sense of what is
In The Big Sleep, Marlowe is hired by aging, infirm General Stern-wood
to look into attempts by parties unknown to extort money from him in
what amounts to blackmail. The general's daughters are both involved in
unwise activities. Vivian, the beautiful elder daughter, is a compulsive
gambler, which has given her some unsavory associates; these include her
recently disappeared husband, Regan, an ex-bootlegger and Irish
Republican Army veteran. The younger daughter, Carmen, is a seriously
disturbed personality whose problems include substance abuse,
promiscuity, and a total lack of moral sense. One element of Carmen's
difficulties is that she has been photographed naked by Geiger, a
distributor of illegal pornography. (Given the ubiquity of porn
nowadays, it seems rather quaint that part of the plot of this novel
turns on a conspiracy to distribute dirty pictures. How times change!)
Geiger's business, in turn, is involved with that of Eddie Mars, a
promoter of gambling and other illegal activities, who is someone with
whom Vivian has been involved.
Of course, all of these people are immersed in murky dealings that
involve one another, and other parties as well, in unexpected and
labyrinthine ways. Marlowe's job is to disentangle as much of this as
possible while remaining true to himself and while shielding his client,
the noble and admirable General Sternwood, from learning too much about
the unsavory activities of his daughters (though he guesses a great deal
anyway). Romantic sparks fly between Marlowe and Vivian Sternwood, but
the circumstances under which they meet make it impossible for a
relationship to develop. At the end of the book, Marlowe is as he was at
the beginning, a loner and an idealist.
This is a very entertaining read, even if not every element of the plot
holds together as tightly as one might like, and even though it is no
longer possible to summon up the expected amount of outrage over
Geiger's illegal activities. Marlowe is a wonderful character, and
Chandler's spare, tough language is exactly appropriate for the genre.
It is fun for the dedicated crime-novel reader to observe, too, how
later practitioners have learned from this early master of the form. The
1946 film of The Big Sleep, starring the immortal team of Humphrey
Bogart and Lauren Bacall, is a true classic (William Faulkner worked on
the excellent screenplay).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked this book up at a library book sale (discarded) and it was a little beat up, a couple of nicks to the cover with slightly yellowed page eges. It sat around the house a year or two before I started reading it. Once I did I quickly realized what a gem this book is. The authors (brothers I believe) give wonderful, brief (2-3 pages) reports of the recommended books. Their writing is superb with a nice blend of book information and author background information. In cases where giving away too much of the book's conclusion would spoil the read, they show proper restraint and do not disclose the outcome. Information about the books editions, publishing information,whether or not the book is still in print, etc..is given at the end of each book review. There is a nice mix of fiction, travel, memoirs, and non-fiction books reviewed. When I first started reading the book I went through the list of books in the contents and checked the ones I had read. Then I started putting a "x" by the ones I wanted to read. I finished up marking a lot or "x"s. I Love this book and have since laminated the book for maximum protection. I highly recommend this book and only wish that I could read a book, any book, in one night!
I picked up this book from my library, and surprisingly, it ended up being a one-night read itself. I have no idea who these guys are (I think a father/son duo) but their two to three page summaries of each of the books and why you should read them were fun and well written. I jotted down a few of the books from their list of 100 that I'm interested in. My question to you guys is: have you read any of them? The ones with asterisks next to them, I've heard about and plan on reading. Others, I might be familiar with the author, but not the novel. And still others, I've NEVER heard of (neither author or novel).
The premise here is that the books under discussion can be read in one night. Perhaps, if you don't have a life with other obligations! That quibble aside, this book is a treasure. The titles are a wonderful mix of fiction and nonfiction; of known and lesser-known authors; of modern and classic titles. The treatment of each title is comprehensive, witty, and approachable. I was swamped with titles I MUST read.
Interesting list that had me note 21 titles that I may like to read. There were many that I had already read, but never in one night. I guess I savor my sleep too much to try to read The Hobbit in one night.
I can't say that I would read every title suggested by the authors, but the authors have a great writing style and give little background info about the author or put the book in historical context as well as provide a summary of the book without giving anything away. The table of contents is also nice because it lists the books by genre. This book contains very few classics, it's more of a modern, personal selection by the authors.
If you are looking for fairly short but amazing books to read, this is the book guide for you. The authors are so knowledgeable and write so well, that before long you will find yourself buying and ENJOYING many of their selections. This is a must-have book that you will refer to again and again. I know I have!
This essay collection provides insight into 100 literary items that run the gamut from ¿Beowulf¿ to ¿Breakfast at Tiffany¿s¿ to ¿Parkinson¿s Law¿ to ¿Something Fresh¿ to ¿Auntie Mama¿, etc. The authors analyze the tale & offer background material on the author. The material analyzed range from fantasy, general fiction, non-fiction, humor, memoirs and biographies, mystery, science, and travel. Each essay is very interesting, insightful, and worth the price of 100 ONE-NIGHT READS, especially if the reader obtains the original piece and uses the work of the Major siblings as a supplement or guide. Harriet Klausner