On the list of Must-Read-Before-You-Die books has got to be The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. Published in 1939, Chandler helped define the hard-boiled private detective and developed dark, but beautiful, scenes throughout the book. A master of extreme similes that fit like a soft-leather glove on a lady’s well-formed hand, Chandler writes like no others, although others write like Chandler. His main character in The Big Sleep is Philip Marlowe, the wisecracking, hard drinking, tough private eye who is also quiet and philosophical, enjoying chess and classical music. Morally upright, Marlowe is not tempted by the femme fatale charms of his client’s two beautiful daughters—even when one of them is naked and beckoning him. Nope, Marlowe would rather eat glass (probably washed down with a shot of rye whiskey) than succumb. The book is easy to read, but Chandler’s crafted language needs to be savored. Cheap copies of the book should be readily available. Even if—as Joe Brody, a bad guy in The Big Sleep says—you’ve “been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate,” there’s always the library. Read the book before you enter your big sleep.