Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia by George Zebrowski — This mind-boggling epic spans one hundred billion years. It’s Space Opera Plus — a future history, a polemic, a far-reaching meditation on the ultimate survival of humankind, and a call to action. Beyond this planet, beyond Old World cultures, beyond governments, beyond authoritarian institutions, there’s macrolife.

Good News by Edward Abbey — I don’t care if it’s Abbey’s least critically acclaimed novel. I like it better than all his others, including The Monkey Wrench Gang. Part dystopian Western and part anarchist manifesto, it tackles the oldest civil war of all, the city vs. the country. Tanks and grenades vs. horses and rifles. The remnant of the power elite vs. the mind-your-own-business agrarians. Them vs. Us.

The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski — Here’s a summary I found on Amazon: “It’s your typical love story. Boy meets girl. Girl kidnaps boy. Boy loses girl and is pursued by a professional killer carrying a decapitated head in a gym bag.” It’s like an old film noir on crystal meth.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac — When this magnificent American Odyssey finally got published in 1957 (it was written in ’51), literary tightass Truman Capote wailed, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” Fuck you, Truman.

It’s Superman! by Tom De Haven — Forget the comic books and the TV and movie adaptations. This novel presents the glorious Depression-era man of steel as first created by Siegel and Shuster, stripped down to his bare bones. A brilliant mix of Steinbeck, gangster pulp, and retro sci-fi — a revisionist masterpiece.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann — In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett and two companions vanished forever into the Amazon jungle during their search for the legendary lost city of El Dorado. This is journalist Grann’s account of how he followed Fawcett’s trail into the Amazon 80 years later to solve the mystery. It’s made all the more interesting because the author is a lifelong New Yorker who hates camping, has no sense of direction, and loves junk food and air conditioning.

American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy — These crime novels reveal more about late 20th century American history than anything written by official court historians. They’re filled with mobsters, the CIA, Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, Cuban exiles, J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy assassinations, and the war in Vietnam.

Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin by Bill Kauffman – You should really read anything by Kauffman. But this short biography of Luther Martin (1748–1826), a Maryland delegate to the convention that drafted the Constitution, is a great start. When his fight against the Constitution’s centralizing tendencies failed, Martin went home to battle ratification. Soul-stirring stuff.