A Year in Reading: Hamilton Leithauser

December 2, 2008 | 6 books mentioned 2 2 min read

Hamilton Leithauser is the lead singer for the rock band The Walkmen. They released their fourth record You & Me this fall. He lives in Manhattan.

A few books that I really enjoyed this year were:

coverRoger’s Version by John Updike. The novel follows a weathered, sour divinity professor (Roger) who surprises even himself with some over-compensating good will toward two youngsters who energetically barge in on his life. He gets in pretty deep, and even stomachs an affair between the young squirt (Dale) and his own wife. Roger’s monotonous social life (cocktail parties, fantasizing about neighbors’ happiness) is funny the whole time. This was a fantastic book.

The Transparent Man by Anthony Hecht. It’s so hard to write about why I like these poems. It’s just incredible how much he can cover in so little space, and how effortless it all seems when everything has such a formal structure. I would also recommend his Flight Among the Tombs and The Venetian Vespers.

coverAmerican Pastoral by Philip Roth. I was surprised at how much I didn’t like Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, but I figured I should give him another shot so I picked up American Pastoral and enjoyed it. The main action centers around a guy named Swede – a high school sports superhero who eventually married Miss New Jersey and ran a very successful glove manufacturing business in Newark. The first half of the book paints them as an entirely boring family, but after Swede’s daughter sets off a bomb in a nearby convenience store things take a nasty turn for the family. The narrator then dissects the family’s history to uncover what may not have been such a boring story.

coverThe Comedians by Graham Greene. Three men meet aboard a ship to Haiti. They’re all traveling for different reasons and you definitely begin to wonder immediately who’s telling the truth about anything. After they arrive, they’re all assaulted by Papa Doc’s corrupt and violent regime, and each man’s character and intentions reveal themselves. This was one hell of a story. I loved it.

More from A Year in Reading 2008

is a songwriter and musician living in New York City. He has released several solo records in the past few years, as well as a brand new single “Heartstruck (Wild Hunger).”  He has two little daughters.


  1. It's nice to see Graham Greene getting his due. A master-storyteller who seems to often get taken for granted, or overlooked, or dismissed in favor of more faddish authors.
    No one takes readers on journeys the way he does, introduce them to fascinating characters who really resonate, and tell damn good stories in the process. The Comedians is indeed great; so too is The Power and the Glory, Travels With My Aunt, and the list goes on. He was one of the best novelists of he last hundred years.

  2. Always interesting to see what artists read. Leithauser has always struck me as a preppy kid, his anguish that of the man in the gray flannel suit. His reading list fits that, particularly the comment about the "weathered, sour divinity professor"– "weathered" and "sour" are notes he strikes frequently, and with great artistry.

    One day, The Walkmen will write the great opera that John Cheever deserves . . .

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