This is a compilation of books The Johns have mentioned reading in interviews and elsewhere.

John Linnell

U & I - Nicholson Baker
And I just read Nicholson Baker's U & I, which came out twenty years ago. It's about his intense, almost stalker-like obsession with John Updike. He talks about how he wants to be John Updike's friend, even though there's no real basis for a friendship there. It's a very funny book, because it's this intensely confessional-sounding story, where he's admitting to this embarrassing, almost slavish interest in this other writer. It really isn't clear whether this is real or whether he's completely bullshitting.
Suicide Girls, 2011

Donald Barthelme
But I'm into reading. I'd say there's certain writers that I really liked enough to actually say that, you know, they probably affected what I do. I was really into Donald Barthelme when I was a student. I thought he was really great. I mean I think he's still good. but I probably am not as in awe of his writing as I used to be. He's really funny...and interesting...
Polygraph, 1994

The delightful short story "How I Write My Songs" by Donald Barthelme jumps to mind. Do you know that one? The narrator is trying to explain his creative process in simple, downhome language and quotes his own words, which are mostly banal blues lyrics with a few distinctly odd choices, and it being a Barthelme story you get the sense that while the narrator is describing mundane details of his life coincident with whatever song he wrote that day he's skating over an unexplainable process with confident obliviousness.
The Rumpus, 2013

The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Well, my wife and I have been on a Russian novel kick, so I'm a little ways into this version of The Brothers Karamazov. It's a weird translation, it's not the current translation that everybody likes now. This is a guy named David McDuff. It's an interesting, wacky version of The Brothers K.
Suicide Girls, 2011

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Did you ever read, The Name of the Rose or any of those books about these sort of literary mysteries?...It's about you know books that are information, like that men use to find his way into the story.
Strange Advice, 1998

Middlesex - Jeffery Eugenides
I really liked--I still think about this book--I really liked Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides.
Bloomberg, 2015

Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Godwin
Recently I read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Bully Pulpit which contains a bunch of information about White's role in the progressive movement. He started out as a conservative Midwestern newspaper editor who wrote the original "What's The Matter With Kansas?" essay (pushing back against populism) but over time he joined the movement for change and started hanging out with Ida Tarbell and Teddy Roosevelt. It turns out he was every bit as complicated as his haunting photograph.
Bearded Magazine, 2015

Men and Cartoons - Jonathan Lethem
John read the story "The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, is Interrupted by a Knock at the Door" for the audio book.

Colin McEvedy
Colin McEvedy writes the text for the Penguin historical atlases that are laying around the house. He writes concise, erudite, and thoughtful prose and once in a while he checks to see if you're still paying attention with lines like "In 1498 Charles VIII hit his big stupid head on a lintel in Fontainebleau and died, to be succeeded by Louis XII, who had a small head and a claim to Milan as well as Naples."
The Rumpus, 2013

John Julius Norwich
I like the history writer John Julius Norwich who seems to borrow his style from the great Steven Runciman. Both of them employ this phrase often: "by now emperor so-and-so was seriously alarmed." Once I counted up the number of times Norwich said "seriously alarmed" in one of his volumes about Byzantium. It was, like, five.
The Rumpus, 2013

Metamorphoses - Ovid
In my imaginary library [The Golden Ass] is shelved near Ovid's Metamorphoses which is in reality on a table in the bathroom upstairs. I think Karen is reading the Ovid in connection with your Dante group (somehow) but I sometimes pick it up and marvel at its kaleidoscopic words.
The Rumpus, 2013

Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust
JL is non-humbly boasting he just finished "Remembrances of Things Past" Proust. He says it took 14 years.
John Flansburgh on Twitter, January 26, 2012

I did eventually make my way through the Proust over the course of several years of tours. It took that long partly because of my difficulty concentrating when there are distractions but I also found that I couldn't really get what was going on in a single reading. As you know his sentences can run on for pages and his many digressions are sometimes punishingly abstruse. I wound up going very slowly, rereading some parts and also listening to a recording of Neville Jason who translated all the voices of the French social classes into English ones. His version of Baron Charlus was especially hilarious.
The Rumpus, 2013

The Great American Novel - Philip Roth
Now that I think of it ["The Mespotamians" is] a little like Philip Roth's The Great American Novel, which is about a mythical baseball league with players named things like Gil Gamesh. Jesus, I just realized that I stole the whole idea from Philip Roth. I hope you don't think less of the song now.
The Rumpus, 2013

Perfume - Patrick Süskind
In Patrick Süskind's Perfume he proposes a universe where the basis for beauty is in how everything smells, rather than how things look and sound. You are not really responding to the seemingly attractive curve in a girl's neck or the sound of rustling leaves, but their barely noticeable scent which informs all your aesthetic responses. I kind of think something analogous is happening in songs. Richard Rodgers is secretly controlling our emotions using Oscar Hammerstein as a stalking horse. In this way you can get people to go along with verbal ideas that might otherwise leave them cold.
The Rumpus, 2013

John Flansburgh

Boldface Names - Shinan Govani
It's called Boldface Names and it is pure gossip. It's like, he actually points out at the beginning of it, like, "Most times when you read, like, a star's autobiography, you just wanna get to the hot parts. Well, I've taken out all the not-hot parts. This is just the hot parts." There are crazy stories about, having, y'know, Noel Coward coming on to him, accidentally meeting Jack Kennedy, like, spontaneously spending a day with John Kennedy while he's president, while John Kennedy's president, which must've been just a complete mind-blower. He's a strange, strange guy. But it's a fascinating and singular book.
Bloomberg, 2015

Cats' Paws and Catapults - Steven Vogel and Kathryn K. Davis
I also picked up this crazy science book...It's one of these kind of airport novelty science books. But it's filled with all sorts of interesting paralells between design in nature and design in--it's called Cats' Paws and Catapults. And I looked in the index and there's one entry about catapults and there's no entries about cats' paws. But it's about the difference between design in nature and design in engineering principles. And it's actually a really fascinating book. And it's a very strange category of a book. But y'know, it's great nightstand reading. It really makes your head spin.
Cahoots Web Chat, 2000

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City - Greg Grandin
mentioned on Twitter, January 26, 2012

Langston Hughes
Said on Twitter that he's probably his favourite poet.

The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
recommended on Tumblr, 8/4/18

Just Kids - Patti Smith
mentioned on Twitter, January 26, 2012

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern - Stephen Greenblatt
mentioned on Twitter, January 26, 2012

Susan Sontag
I have a book of Susan Sontag's essays to keep me overwhelmed.
mentioned on Twitter, April 20, 2013

Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell
Actually I was just reading this book by my friend Sarah Vowell called Take the Cannoli that's a collection of her essays from the NPR radio show This American Life.
Cahoots Web Chat, 2000