Earlier this summer I asked for your list of “must read” books: those which a well-read person should have enjoyed at least once, books which so profoundly affected your thinking that you wouldn’t be the same person if you’d never read them. Many of you answered in the comment section, and not a day has gone by when I haven’t received an email from someone suggesting an addition to the book list.
Rather than keep that list to myself, I’ve decided to share it with you. True, it’s a bit late for those who think of reading as a summer-only past time. But if you’re like me, reading is something you do year-round — heck, I can’t even fall asleep without first spending an hour with a book.
I’ll be posting sections of the list over the next few days, beginning with today’s “Modern Fiction” recommendations. Overall, the list — which Ill post as a series — includes:
- Modern Fiction, part 1 (this entry)
- Modern Fiction, part 2
- Modern Non-Fiction
- Classic Literature
- Classic Non-Fiction
- All the rest
That said, here’s Modern Fiction, part 1 of the best books you’ve ever read.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: My first encounter with this master novelist was within the pages of Hotel New Hampshire. Oh, he may be a blue-blooded New Englander but despite being a damn Yankee he shares the Southern fascination with characters picked up from the lives they hoped to lead and plopped down, instead, into steaming heap of what life dealt them. Owen Meany is no exception: it is the story of a dwarfish boy with a big, loud voice who leaves a quiet yet powerful touch on the lives of all he encounters, including my own. One of my favorite books to revisit.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – How can a boy become a good man until he atones for the sins of his childhood? This novel, which spans from turbulent pre-Taliban Afghanistan to the U.S. and back, is one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read.
Portofino: A Novel (Calvin Becker Trilogy) by Frank Schaeffer – Dysfunctional families happen, even among Fundamentalists. Sometimes the only way a kid can cope is to buddy up with a friend who accepts him just the way he is… or else he’ll have to write a book poking (sometimes venomous) fun at his parents. Or both.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – Having one just about every award for a first book of fiction, the nine short stories in this book provides poignant and sometimes painful glimpses into the lives its fabulous, flawed and fragile characters.
The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri – This first novel, published after Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection (above), tells the tale of Gogol Ganguli – a second-generation Bengali immigrant whose life is a constant struggle to belong.
A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin – When a little boy is refused passage on a bus, elderly Alesandro Giuliani disembarks as a matter of principle and begins to walk with the child. As they travel, Giuliani tells the story of his life, from his life as a pampered and sensitive young noble to his brutal life as a soldier in WWI and the grievous aftermath of his service, after which he still somehow retains his love of beauty, hope and God.
All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Remarque – When a man is young, dumb and full of… vinegar… the thought of going into war is glorious. But reading about war and actually experiencing it are two vastly different things, and nothing can prepare a young man for the insanity of a hate that pits boys against each other based on no other real difference than the uniform they wear. A remarkable anti-war book.
Look for more recommendations to follow!