I have two degrees in American Studies and am inspired by the rich multicultural tapestry of United States literature. It was difficult to narrow down five of my favourite reads but I’ve picked some US classics along with a British thriller. The titles range from the 1920s to today.
My favourite reads: Amanda Dale
Amanda Dale is a sub-editor at The National
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
F Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, set in 1922, sparkles with the energy, glamour and decay of the Jazz Age, from decadent parties at Jay Gatsby's Long Island mansion to the wasteland of the Valley of Ashes. The Great Gatsby is ultimately the story of the American Dream, as symbolised by the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan's dock, just out of Gatsby's grasp - "the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us".
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1939)
An English sportsman trains his rifle on an unnamed dictator but the hunter then becomes the quarry in this classic British thriller. He escapes across Europe back to London, pursued by shadowy agents, and goes to ground in Dorset, using all his animal cunning to survive. Rogue Male moves at a cracking pace, full of relentless tension. Household later said he intended the 'Great Man' dictator to be either Hitler or Stalin.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Now in its 60th year, this Beat Generation classic is a celebration of the United States, its landscape, freedoms and possibility, and also life itself. The prose hums along to the sounds and rhythms of be-bop and jazz as we follow Kerouac and Neal Cassady's adventures as Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, traversing the US coast to coast, and burning "like fabulous yellow roman candles".
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (1990)
Walter Mosley turns Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled Los Angeles on its head in his African-American 'noir'. It's 1948, and in Watts, black war veteran Easy Rawlins is asked to help find a missing white woman. Drawn into an underworld of corruption, child slavery and greed, the reluctant private eye also runs up against the racism of the city's police officers and establishment. This is the first of Mosley's Rawlins mysteries, of which there are 14 to date.
The Wave by Susan Casey (2010)
Whether you're a surfer, sailor or simply love the ocean, Susan Casey's fascinating account of big waves is a must-read. Exploring natural phenomena, science and the power of waves to induce spiritual transcendence, Casey travels the world in this rollicking read. Her accounts of the exploits of big-wave surfers and hanging out with Laird Hamilton are particularly good. Then there's the rogue waves that swallow whole container ships, and the threat of global warming.