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?"


July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).