Kenneth Slawenski

J. D. Salinger's biographer recommends three classics, including one from his subject.



In 2004, Kenneth Slawenski established a website—the puckishly titled—as an online resource for readers and students of J. D. Salinger's life and works.  Now, building on a decade of research, he has produced J. D. Salinger: A Life, a monumental biography of the iconic, enigmatic author of The Catcher in the Rye and the Glass family cycle of stories. Kenneth Slawenski selects for us three of his favorite reads—and makes the case for his favorite work of Salinger's along the way.


Books by Kenneth Slawenski




A Distant Mirror

By Barbara W. Tuchman


"Tuchman knew how to embed every page with a maximum payload of details, while still retaining lightness. A Distant Mirror is possibly her finest delivery. It effortlessly displays the 14th century—not as history—but as a reflection of our own generation."





Babi Yar

By A. Anatoli Kuznetsov


"This is a true story reconstructed from the diary of a ten-year-old Ukranian boy who was perhaps the sole survivor of the Nazi slaughter pit at Babi Yar. The account is powerful and damning. It leaves the reader incredulous over the depths of human depravity."




Franny and Zooey

By J. D. Salinger


"Sorry, Catcher fans, this is perhaps Salinger's masterpiece. "Franny" offers brilliant dialogue and subtlety, while "Zooey" is a brave work, contemplating the modern perils of spirituality without a blush. And, of course, there's a 'fat lady' at the end. How can you go wrong?"


April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.