Jay’s Book Shelf

Jay’s Book Shelf

When it comes to reading, I’m was a late-bloomer.

As a child I loathed reading. I Cliff-Noted my way through high school and 3/4 of college. Yet ironically, I always wanted to become an author….WHO WROTE BOOKS. I guess, like most young people, I was lazy. And plus, the cool kids weren’t reading. They were flexing on girls, drinking beer, and watching Nicolas Cage movies.

Yet, I grew up (as we all do) and I fell in love with reading. I’m proud to announce I read everyday now. I’m not a fast reader. When it comes to reading, I share the turtle’s mentality–you know the one who raced the rabbit–slow and steady wins the race.

Also, I love listening to books. Through the magic of Audible (they’re not paying me for this BTW), I enjoy listening to books as I read them the old-fashion way. When good audio meets good visuals it becomes a sensory addiction. Like Nicholas Cage movies.

Below are my favorite books I have read and listened to. These are books that helped me to discover, and rediscover, my own writer’s voice. I hope you find a book on my shelf, take it down, and get lost for awhile.

All the Light We Cannot See written by Anthony Doerr, read by Zach Appleman



I’ve wanted to read this book since it was published in 2014, but the sheer volume–544 pages frightened me. However, the audio companion motivated and inspired me to finally read it. All the Light We Cannot See is about a blind girl trying to survive Nazi occupied France. It’s harrowing and cinematic. Heartbreaking and hopeful. Not since watching Schindler’s List, have I felt so emotionally fused to the people who witnessed the hells of World War II.

Also, Anthony Doerr’s writing ability is 90’s Nic Cage. Superb. Breathtaking. Mesmerizing. His prose, which border on poetry, juxtapose linguistic beauty with a very grim landscape. As a writer, I’m envious, borderline angry at Doerr for putting me to shame. He’s a wordsmith. One of the best who ever lived.

Favorite Quote: “It’s embarrassingly plain how inadequate language is.”

Born a Crime written and read by Trevor Noah



I really enjoy listening to books narrated by comedians. Their voice, their timing punctuates jokes that, if I was just reading the old-fashion way, I would butcher.

This memoir exemplifies great storytelling. The descriptions, the conflicts, the dialogue, and Noah’s ability to build suspense is masterful. Mixing lots of humor with lots of heartbreak, Noah examines his coming-of-age in a racially divided South Africa. This is not a book about his rise to fame, it’s a testament of love and survival. And absolute joy to experience.

Favorite Quote: “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

Fight Club written by Chuck Palahniuk, read by Jim Colby



Though Nicholas Cage doesn’t star in the movie, I love the movie. Humbly, I believe it’s one of the greatest books to film adaptions ever. However, if you enjoyed the movie, I absolutely encourage you to read/listen to the book. The story is so shocking, so visceral it deserves the close inspection that only reading can offer. Violent, graphic, philosophical, and a critical commentary on modern life this Fight Club (the book) is a right hook to the jaw.

Favorite Quote: “I don’t want to die without any scars.”

Breakfast of Champions written by Kurt Vonnegut, read by John Malkovich



This is classic Vonnegut. A fantastically twisted story. Funny, absurd, crude, ironic, sentimental, and critical of religion, government, advertising, and free-will.

However, Malkovich’s reading is near perfect. His voice, his cadence complements the writing so well that I thought Vonnegut was reading to me. Champions is considered Science Fiction and I’m not a Sci-Fi guy. I usually avoid Sci-Fi books like I avoid brussels sprouts. But this is a literary vegetable I gladly welcome.

Favorite Quote: “Your parents were fighting machines and self-pitying machines. Your mother was programmed to bawl out your father for being a defective moneymaking machine, and your father was programmed to bawl out your mother for being a defective housekeeping machine. They were programmed to bawl each other out for being defective loving machines. Then your father was programmed to stomp out of the house and slam the door. This automatically turned your mother into a weeping machine. And your father would go down to the tavern where he would get drunk with some other drinking machines. Then all the drinking machines would go to a whorehouse and rent fucking machines. And then your father would drag himself home to become an apologizing machine. And your mother would become a very slow forgiving machine.”

A Very Punchable Face written and read by Colin Jost



As a middle-aged suburban dad who wears Skechers and flaunts a dadbod, I should strongly dislike someone like Colin Jost. He’s young, funny, attractive, and married to Scarlett Johansson.

In Face, Jost is vulnerable and honest. Self-deprecating, reflective, and laugh-out-loud funny. As I read/listened I felt as if I was rubbing elbows with him at a local bar. And the more he talked, the more I realize, “Hey, I like this guy.”

This book is really funny yet tugs hard at your heart. His stories about getting drunk in Amsterdam and struggling to write Saturday Night Live sketches are great. But his stories about his mother being the chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department on September 11, 2001 punched me right in the tear ducts.


I’m Currently Reading: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Coming Soon to Jay’s Book Shelf:

There, There by Tommy Orange

Devotion by Dani Shapiro

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Dad’s Maybe Book by Tim O’Brien

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini