The ''Star Island'' author lists ''The Kite Runner'' and ''Crime and Punishment'' among his favorite reads

By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated August 06, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

What are you reading right now?
I haven’t started it yet, but the book that’s on the nightstand is Matterhorn.

What book were you really surprised that you enjoyed?
The Kite Runner. It was one of those books I felt obligated to read. But this one was the real deal.

Are there any books you find therapeutic?
By the end of my book tours I’m a bitter, heaving mass of self-pity and self-loathing. So here’s what I thought would get me through [my last one]: Crime and Punishment.

Which is in itself a type of punishment.
Part of you wants to see how low you can get. You read Crime and Punishment and think, Well, at least my life isn’t as bad as that guy’s. And I tell you, if you’re sitting on a plane reading that, people stay away from you. There is no idle conversation. ”How’s that going?” ”How’re you liking that book?”

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud? The last one that made you cry?
The last book that made me laugh out loud was Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart. He’s brilliant. The last book that made me cry? I’m Norwegian, and we don’t crack up a lot; that’s not in the DNA. I guess it would be Old Yeller. Everybody told me to read Marley & Me, but I know how it ends, and there’s nothing sadder than a dog dying. So I stayed away from it. That’s the problem with pets — they die. If you don’t want that, get a tortoise. That’s the book I’d write.

Where the tortoise is rabid and gets taken out back and shot?