Jonathan Lethem is one of my favorite writers. His earlier books are a lot stranger than his most recent few, but his tone is unmistakable, whatever he’s writing, in this humble librarian’s opinion.
I got a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas. I drove there the next days and had taken The Ecstasy of Influence, his new book of new and old essays, off the shelf. Lethem isn’t the most mainstream writer. Most people who come into the library looking for the new Stephen King or Jack Reacher novel don’t ever seem to want Motherless Brooklyn or Chronic City.
But I’ll keep trying. And today I’ll try with you. Here’s a list of Jonathan Lethem books. If I have time in the future, I’ll come back and write a brief blurb of each one. A good strategy might be to try one of the older, shorter books like As She Climbed Across the Table, and one of the more recent, less sci-fi books like Fortress of Solitude. You’ll have a pretty good picture of the spectrum he covers, and what it feels like to read his books.
Novels by Jonathan Lethem (chronological)
Gun, With Occasional Music
As She Climbed Across the Table (maybe the strangest love story you’ll ever read)
Girl in Landscape
Motherless Brooklyn (if you have Tourette’s Syndrome, or you’re interested in it, this book is hilarious)
The Fortress of Solitude (I loved this one enough to buy a signed copy)
Believeniks!: 2005: The Year we Wrote a Book about the Mets. (co-authored by Christopher Sorrentino). On a side note, this is a book that Lethem is willing to roll his eyes at slightly in Ecstasy of Influence. It’s one of the things I love most about him. He’s willing to look at his own work and love it, while admitting when it’s not very good. I haven’t read Believeniks! so I can’t vouch for it or dismiss it from experience.
You Don’t Love Me Yet
Short Story Collections by Jonathan Lethem
The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye
This book contains a wonderful, bizarre short story called “Vanilla Dunk.” In the future, basketball players wear exoskeletons that are built to mimic the identical skills of actual NBA players from the past. It’s a fantastic piece of sports writing, and it’s funny. The major drama revolves around a white jerk who winds up with the coveted “Jordan skills.”
Men and Cartoons
How We Got Insipid
Non-fiction by Jonathan Lethem
The Disappointment Artist
The Ecstasy of Influence, Nonfictions, Etc
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Lethem edited this–the book is massive and awesome and about as weird as you’d expect from hundreds and hundreds of pages as Dick tries to sort out the universe)
Beyond these, Lethem has written many short stories that haven’t appeared in collections yet. If you want a peek at those, check out his bibliography page on his super-legit-and-official website.
I’m a fan. I hope you can tell.
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