Lincoln Peirce is an author and cartoonist from Portland, Maine. His comic strip Big Nate, featuring the adventures of an irrepressible sixth grader, appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide. In 2010, he began a series of illustrated novels based on the strip, introducing Nate to a new generation of young readers. His newest book, Max & the Midknights (Crown Books for Young Readers, January 8, 2019), is a comedic adventure set in the Middle Ages.
On your nightstand now:
I've always wanted a nightstand. Unfortunately, putting one beside my bed would prevent me from opening my closet, so I find other places to keep the books I'm reading. I admire Elizabeth Kolbert's pieces on environmental issues and climate change for the New Yorker, and her book The Sixth Extinction is a sobering amplification of those themes. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris is the best graphic novel I've read in many years. I'm about halfway through Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand, and it's fascinating. Herriman is on cartooning's Mount Rushmore, yet has always been a somewhat mysterious figure.
Favorite book when you were a child:
This is an easy choice: Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman. It's set in Switzerland during the 1860s and tells the story of Rudi Matt, a young man who dreams of climbing the Citadel, the mountain on which his father was killed. I'm not sure this book would resonate with kids today, but when I was a boy I found it thrilling.
Your top five authors:
Robert Caro is my favorite historian. The Power Broker is one of the all-time great books about New York City. I love Roald Dahl for his sense of mischief, and for the way he makes readers his co-conspirators. I first read William Faulkner's fiction in my teens and early 20s, and it was--and still is--unlike anything else. And I must include on my list two cartoonists who tell monumental, universal stories in tiny panels: Charles Schulz and Lynda Barry.
Book you've faked reading:
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. My grandmother gave it to me for my birthday when I was 12 or 13, and I just wasn't ready for it. I've never been ready for it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Maus by Art Spiegelman. It should be required reading in high schools and colleges.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I'm splitting this in two. The first is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It was on my parents' shelf when I was a child, and the cover was unforgettable. There was no picture--just a pinprick of blood, a distinctive font and a color scheme that suggested decay. The second is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. As a Lincoln, I always notice books with the name Lincoln in the title. We Lincolns have to stick together.
Book you hid from your parents:
Moe Howard & the 3 Stooges by Moe Howard. I think the less said about this, the better.
Book that changed your life:
In 1977, I discovered a book in my high school library called The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, edited by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams. In those pre-Internet days, before the modern appreciation of comics as a legitimate art form had really taken root, there was no place to see examples of great comic strips from the past, like Thimble Theatre, Polly and Her Pals or Terry and the Pirates. This book was not only my introduction to the so-called Golden Age of newspaper comics, but it placed those comics within a historical context. I'd never read a scholarly survey of comics before. It opened my eyes.
Favorite line from a book:
"I'll be seeing you! I'll be seeing you soon!" from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Charlie Bucket shouts those words as he runs by Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, moments after discovering the miraculous Golden Ticket inside a candy bar wrapper. I remember reading this to my daughter when she was a little girl, and she just burst into tears of happiness.
Five books you'll never part with:
With one exception, the books I feel most attached to are those I first read as a child or young adult. I still have my original copies of these four books: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is both a great work of literature and extraordinarily funny; Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams, is the gold standard in children's literature for its perfect marriage of story and art; Old Yeller by Fred Gipson is the first book that I can remember making me cry; and Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles Schulz is a heartfelt and nostalgic memoir from my boyhood hero. The fifth book on this list, a signed copy of Richard's Poor Almanac by Richard Thompson, is a collection of comic creations from Richard's partnership with the Washington Post. As a cartoonist, Richard was unsurpassed. As a writer, he was effortlessly funny. He died in 2016 due to Parkinson's disease. He was a genius.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
When I was 20 or 21 years old, I read Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. At the time, I found it quite compelling, and I identified strongly with the protagonist, Martin Arrowsmith. I'm not at all certain I'd feel the same way now at age 55. I'd like to read it again just to satisfy my own curiosity.
Book you love that nobody else has ever heard of:
Fish Stories by Nicholas Heller. My wife and I bought this at a yard sale shortly after our son was born. It's a collection of three stories featuring a nameless main character who appears to be a human/dog hybrid. He has fishing adventures that end up involving an ineffective wizard. Hilarity ensues.