I have set myself a task for 2020: reread the ten most important books in my life. To qualify for the list, the novel (or novella or short story collections; I’m including those also), must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- It was so profound and meaningful to me that I’ve read the novel multiple times.
- It significantly influenced my own development as a novelist.
- The experience of reading the novel is inexorably linked to and illuminates a moment or period of time in my life.
It’s going to be challenging to pick the ten books. I’m not concerned that I’ve forgotten any important book, because if I have, then that book by definition wouldn’t qualify for the list. I’ve started with 25 titles, from which I must cull down to ten.
Why am I doing this? I’m interested in how the passage of time and accumulation of life experiences have changed how I feel about a book that I once placed on a high pedestal. Has the book stood the test of time? Have I? What’s changed?
For now, I’m listing my initial list of 25, in no particular order, and without explanation. When I get down to ten, I will provide context as to why I chose each one to read again.
- THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, John Irving
- AMERICAN PASTORAL, Philip Roth
- SELF-HELP, Lorrie Moore
- A FARWELL TO ARMS, Ernest Hemingway
- A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, Jennifer Egan
- THE SLAP, Christos Tsiolkas
- THE EXORCIST, William Peter Blatty
- DUNE, Frank Herbert
- CAT’S EYE, Margaret Atwood
- THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, Milan Kundera
- THE ROAD, Cormac McCarthy
- IN THE GARDEN OF NORTH AMERICAN MARTYRS, Tobia Wolff
- LITTLE CHILDREN, Tom Perrotta
- SMILES ON WASHINGTON SQUARE, Raymond Federman
- 10:30 ON A SUMMER NIGHT, Marguerite Duras
- THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, J.D. Salinger
- A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS, Kazuo Ishiguro
- LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- BELLEFLEUR, Joyce Carol Oates
- THE HOURS, Michael Cunningham
- LEGENDS OF THE FALL, Jim Harrison
- THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, Tim O’Brien
- MARIETTE IN ECSTASY, Ron Hansen
- THE ACCOMPLICES, Georges Simenon
- WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE, Raymond Carver