NOTE: Beneath the end of the list, you can find the covers and details of each book selected.
1) "IN THE MARGINS: ON THE PLEASURE OF READING AND WRITING" by Elena Ferrante"
Offering an unfiltered glimpse into the mind of one of the most secretive and talked about authors of our times, the author of the renowned "Neapolitan Novels" quartet, Elena Ferrante's In the Margins: On the Pleasure of reading and Writing contains invaluable insights into the craft of both reading and writing as well as commendable arguments concerning the inextricable bond between them. Ferrante dances gracefully around her (highly subjective) personal experiences, beginning from her childhood and her first experiences with reading literature, and an unbiased (mainly objective) rationale. Debatable themes in fiction and literature such as the inevitability of form, the proper employment of the suited narrative techniques, and which are the basic tools of an author are discussed among many others.
2) "LECTURES ON DOSTOEVSKY" by Joseph Frank
One of the most detailed and painstaking studies on the life and work of the Russian giant, Fyodor Dostoevsky, is the five-volume biography Dostoevsky: A Writer in his time bears the signature of the American professor in Comparative Literature at the universities of Stanford and Princeton, Joseph Frank. In his Lectures on Dostoevsky, the reader has the opportunity to read the transcripts of the never-before-published Stanford lectures on the Russian novelist's major works, made by Frank himself. After a brief introduction in which Frank clarifies that the main target of the lectures is to "introduce the main literary and ideological elements" of Dostoevsky's work, the American academic presents an in-depth analysis of seven novels in particular. There is a clear distinction between the Russian author's early work that includes the first four titles and his mature period that begins with the publication of his masterpiece, Crime and Punishment in 1866, a differentiation of utmost importance for those who want to properly assess the ideological influences that managed to seep into the Dostoevskian oeuvre. A must-read for all lovers of classic literature.
3) "THE MAN WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE" by Jan Stocklassa
This is one of the most engaging biographies of the late Swedish author of the notorious "Millenium" trilogy who was also the editor and publisher of the "Expo" magazine, Stieg Larsson, and it is written by the also Swedish, former diplomat and businessman, Jan Stocklassa. Larsson began working in one of Sweden's biggest news agencies, "TT", as an illustrator and while he was working there, the unbelievable happened. The country's Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was shot in the middle of Stockholm's center as he was returning home along with his wife, Lisbet. Larsson who was innately an inquiring individual began immediately to gather information regarding the murder that soon led him to some of his theories. The presentation of those theories is the main objective for Stocklaasa in The Man Who Played With Fire. Stocklaasa offers an analytical and well-drawn account of the aftermath of Palme's assassination, and also outlines Stieg Larsson's character in a way that we are not used to. Larsson was not just a workaholic, chain-smoking individual following a terrible diet, all leading to his untimely demise. He was also a passionate person who attempted many great things through his work as a journalist, and seemed to be unafraid of the various threats from his extremist enemies. The many fans of Larsson's work will definitely appreciate this one.
4) "CHILDHOOD" by Tove Ditlevsen
Tove Ditlevsen's Childhood is a coming-of-age memoir like none else, starting from the time when little Tove's consciousness was established and the creation of credible memories became possible. From a very early age, the author was conscious of her otherness and struggled to establish a meaningful, intimate relationship with her classmates, often finding respite in writing poems and hoping that someday, a human being will read and appreciate them for their worth. Ditlevsen is still considered to be one of the most esteemed members of the Danish literary elite of the previous century and her tragic death by suicide on March 7, 1976, marked the loss of a unique, distinctive literary and poetic voice, one of those casualties that can never be recovered from. She wrote 29 works in total covering a wide range of literary types and genres, while her books Childhood, Youth, and Dependency form an autobiographical trilogy which was published as a whole in 2019 under the title The Copenhagen Trilogy. Childhood will appeal to all those fascinated with damned, obscure literary personas and they are plenty.
5) "LOVE ME FIERCE IN DANGER: THE LIFE OF JAMES ELLROY" by Steven Powell
Another bio of the "Demon Dog of Crime Fiction", the eccentric, though always honest in his statements and attitude towards the others, James Ellroy by Steven Powell who has written several more books on the American crime fiction idol and knows his work better than any. Of course, Powell cannot build an authentic portrait of Ellroy without mentioning the critical even of her mother's murder when he was only ten years old. From then on, little James led a catastrophic life that resulted in various addictions, homelessness, and even prison time. What interests the author is this study is how Ellroy's traumatic childhood influenced his work as a crime author, while it also reveals some secrets concerning the American writer's family. In lieu of a conclusion, I cite from the book's blurb: "At its heart, "Love Me Fierce in Danger" is the story of how Ellroy overcame his demons to become the bestselling and celebrated author of such classics as The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential."
6) "I AM ALIVE AND YOU ARE DEAD: A JOURNEY INTO THE MIND OF PHILIP K. DICK" by Emmanuel Carrère
Philip Kindred Dick has been hailed as one of the most influential contemporary science fiction writers in America and has also been dubbed the "Shakespeare of science fiction”, with both the readership and the critics acknowledging the deep impact his overall work had on the genre as a whole. Dick,"one of the most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century" according to the New York Times, has left a prolific body of work, consisting of 44 novels and 121 short stories while some of them became the hallmarks of science fiction in the 20th century. His most famous novels are the adapted-into-feature-film Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well as the also adapted, into television this time, alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle. Trademark themes of his fiction are questions regarding the nature of reality and perception, extending all the way to the modern problem of identity in the western societies. Emmanuel Carrère draws on interviews and various other sources to portray in the most vivid of manners the portrait of a literary genius who advocated self-examination as the cure to the ills of modernity.
7) "GEORGES BATAILLE: AN INTELLECTUAL BIOGRAPHY" by Michel Surya
The name of Georges Bataille certainly rings a bell for those who have studied or even attended classes in philosophy as the French philosopher, writer, librarian, and pornographer, is one of the key influencers of the French intellectual thought during the 20th Century. Major thinkers such as Michel Foucault, who described Bataille as "one of the most important writers of the century", Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida and Susan Sontag are only a few of those influenced by Bataille's work. Scarred by a profoundly traumatic childhood, his father was blind and paralyzed by neurosyphilis while his mother had attempted to end her own life, Georges Bataille endorsed Catholicism in his early years only to refute his stance on religious faith a few years later, in 1920. As a youngster, he made friends with significant figures such as the Russian existentialist philosopher, Lev Shestov while, academically, he became immersed in the works of eminent western thinkers like Nietzsche and Plato. Bataille left a legacy of various writings, ranging from readings and essays to poems and his position among the great intellectuals who thrived in France during the previous century remains undisputed. Michael Surya's biography is the perfect starting point for those who are not familiar with Bataille's thought, and it is a book that one can read quickly without ever feeling tired or bored.
8) "EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY: A LIFE OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE" by D.T. Max
David Foster Wallace is an author who is praised as one of the most talented of his generation in America, and his most successful books like Infinite Jest and This is Water earned him a loyal audience among the literary fiction's most ardent devotees. His studies in philosophy influenced his body of work and for many critics, David Foster Wallace is considered to be one of the most prominent representatives of postmodernism. D.T. Max a writer and columnist working at the New Yorker presents an unflinching portrait of the tragic American author who committed suicide at the age of 46. According to Max, the significance of David Foster Wallace's work is not at what he wrote, but rather how he taught as to live. He draws information from several different sources such as unpublished letters, manuscripts, and audio tapes, exploring the life and times of the lauded American fiction and nonfiction author with a conspicuous sincerity. All those keen on the history of modern American literature ought to take a look.