The book I am currently reading
The End of Everything by Katie Mack. The theoretical physicist explains the five most likely endings for our expanding universe, hopefully an unimaginably long time from now. It’s witty, clear and upbeat. A good companion to Brian Greene’s Until the End of Time. I’m also reading Minds Wide Shut by Gary Saul Morson and Morton O Schapiro, a sweeping study of the rise of rigid certainty in politics, economics and literature, and the threat it presents to democracy, which requires open-mindedness and compromise.
The book that changed my life
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It made me rethink the roots of our deepest fears and insecurities, and why we often disappoint ourselves in how we manifest them.
The book I wish I’d written
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I still believe it’s the greatest novel written since William Faulkner died.
Read John Grisham's Sooley, you’ll want to cry too
The book that had the greatest influence on my writing
I always wanted to be a writer, but doubted my ability to do it. From my senior year in college to my first year in law school, I read five books that made me think it was worth a try: North Toward Home by Willie Morris; The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron; You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
The book that changed my mind
That’s a great question. I think Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste and Adam Grant’s Think Again forced me to rethink how deeply embedded our unexamined preconceptions are, not just in relation to race, gender, class and religion, but to any number of categories that lead us to see others as inferior, less worthy of being seen and heard. I like Nelson Mandela’s way of restorative reconciliation and inclusion better.
The last book that made me cry
Sooley by John Grisham. Read it, you’ll want to cry too.
The last book that made me laugh
Janet Evanovich’s latest book. Stephanie Plum always makes me laugh.
The book I’m ashamed not to have read
Ulysses. I love Irish poetry, prose and nonfiction. I love Joyce. But I always give out and give up before I get through it. I’ll keep trying.
The book I’d most like to be remembered for
So far My Life, for the reasons Larry McMurtry stated in his review: it’s a story of my life and times; an account of what it’s like to be president when so much is happening at once, with fuller explanations of events such as Black Hawk Down that you won’t see anywhere else; and a testament of what I believe and why.
My comfort read
I find comfort in thrillers with interesting characters and good stories. I really liked Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps, and all of Louise Penny’s Gamache books, Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski books, Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, and Michael Connelly’s Bosch books. I love Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, and David Baldacci and Lee Child are still getting better. And I love my co-author James Patterson’s books, especially those with Michael Bennett and Alex Cross. I hope our new book, The President’s Daughter, makes other people’s lists. I like the characters and the story.
The book I think is most underrated
Probably Ron Chernow’s Grant. He makes an irrefutable case not just for Grant’s genius as a military leader, but for his courage and determination to ensure that the American civil war was not fought in vain. With the latest efforts to discredit the 2020 election, pass voter suppression measures, and kill the January 6 commission, and the changing composition of the supreme court, we are reminded of what Grant knew: the risks of making our union more perfect includes the possibility that the inevitable reaction can rob us of our democracy altogether.
• The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson is published by Century (£20). To support the Guardian and the Observer order a copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.