Thomas Mann’s gay son Klaus wrote this outrageously bitter, funny, and hate-filled portrait of an opportunistic actor who rises to fame and glory during the Third Reich in 1936. Nineteen-fucking-thirty-six. There’s a lot of talk about the coming catastrophe, blood, death, and evil, even though the bastards had only been in power for three years. As vicious and merciless this book is, it gets even better when you find out that Hendrik Höfgens, the ambitious main character who “walks on corpses” to get where he wants to be (and is memorably portrayed by Klaus Maria Brandauer in the Oscar-winning movie), is closely based on a real figure, the actor Gustaf Gründgens. It gets freakin’ outrageous when you find out Gründgens used to be not only a friend of Mann’s, but his brother-in-law. But even without any of the real-world complications (which led to the book being banned in Germany even after the war; technically at least, it is still verboten today), this is a fascinating study in evil.