Bowles is a great writer and he has written better books. If you are new, have heard the murmurings, and are looking to be wowed, go with The Sheltering Sky. This is not his strongest plot or his strongest batch of characters; it is slow to get going and where exactly it gets to is up for debate. But, if you want to see Bowles laying his lifelong thematic obsessions bare, this is the book. The parargaph at the top of page 178 is one of the most shockingly honest things anyone has ever written about their art, other people, the world, period. Volumes could be written eucidating the second sentance of that paragraph (Bowles himself has written a few of them).