George Saunders's Bookshelf
By Isaac Babel
This story cycle follows a young Jewish intellectual who goes forth with the Cossacks (the Hells Angels of Russia, notoriously anti-Semitic) to spread the Russian Revolution to Poland. Babel—even in English translation—is one of the most breathtaking prose stylists of all time. As minimalist as Hemingway, as lush as Nabokov, he is obsessed with issues that seem particularly relevant today: the allure and horror of power, and the place of the dreamer in a brutal world.