Self portrait courtesy of Roz Chast

“I prefer fiction to non-fiction and really like getting involved in a long novel,” says cartoonist and frequent New Yorker contributor Roz Chast. “A friend of mine said reading a long novel is like launching an ocean liner. It’s hard to get it out of the dock, but once it starts, there’s a lot of momentum. I like social satire and I love novels about money and social class. I loathe “fantasy.” There are a few science fiction books I like, like “Childhood’s End,” by Arthur C. Clarke, and “The Three Stigmata of Palmer K. Eldrich,” by Philip K. Dick. But if they start to feel like “fantasy,” I’m out. I avoid books about either World War. Or any war, really.

“I have read a lot of relatively recent novels that are wonderful too. I love Don DeLillo and George Saunders and Rachel Cusk and a million billion other writers. And don’t get me started on graphic novels and memoirs. There is so much great stuff out there.

“Ok. I’ll stop now. Favorite books:”

Below are Roz Chast’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.



Bruce Jay Friedman
“Stern” is about being Jewish in the American dream suburbs in the 1950s. It’s very dark and very, very funny. Maybe the funniest book I’ve ever read.
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The Talented Mr. Ripley

Patricia Highsmith
This is a fascinating book about a sociopath named Tom Ripley. I’m not sure why, but it’s so compelling that I’ve read it three times and am not sick of it.
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Strange Life of Ivan Osokin

P.D. Ouspensky
This is a very odd book that I love to complete bits. I read somewhere that the movie Groundhog Day is based on it. It’s about a guy who gets the chance to live his life over again so he can correct his mistakes. This miraculous do-over works as long as he remembers that he is living his life over again, and doesn’t just keep rationalizing his mistakes. Guess what happens.
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The House of Mirth

Edith Wharton
Great book about social class—money and the lack of it-- and being female at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s also set in New York City, an added plus for me.
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The Sheltering Sky

Paul Bowles
A novel about a married couple set in North Africa. Sad, frightening, fascinating.
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Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy
A great and tragic love story set against the social upheavals in Russia in the 1870s. Like “The Great Gatsby,” this is a book I’ve read three times in my life. I read it maybe five years ago and realized for the first time that Anna Karenina was an opium addict.
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The Way We Live Now

Anthony Trollope
A novel about money, social class, scandal, fraud, anti-Semitism, and greed.
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Bleak House

Charles Dickens
Great characters. A hilarious, biting satire of the British justice system. Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce! Miss Flite and her birds! And for illness buffs, there’s smallpox!
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The Great Gatsby

F.Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve read this book at a few different times in my life, and each time it makes a slightly different impression on me. It’s about love and ambition and social class and envy. It’s very American, in the best way.
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The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
This is about a young man who goes to a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to visit his tubercular cousin and winds up staying there for seven years. To paraphrase the Stefon character from SNL, “it’s got everything: love, illness, art, philosophy, religion…”
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