Thornton Wilder's first novel was heartily recommended by Ray Bradbury in a recent issue of The Believer. It's a remarkable example of a novel driven by pure likability. I tore through it, not because of the plot or the characters or the setting -- though I did keep saying about Wilder's Rome, "it's still like that!" -- but because the narrator is such a pleasant and engaging fellow. The clean, unshowy, delightful writing makes these profiles of colorful Roman insiders a delight. Out of print, but very easy to find from Amazon or Alibris.