this great post, and the interesting discussion that it led to, I am presenting here two lists of novels. The first one is the novels that shaped me, inspired me, made me think about literature the way I do. I read them in my teens and early twenties. Although I have re-read some since, I suspect I would have less time for some of them now, but they will always remain amongst my favourite books. I realise it is a very boysy list, full of male writers. And I suspect some represent the fashions and fads of the 1980s.
The second list is books I have read as an adult, books I have loved reading, which I count as my favourite novels of my adult years. I have a lot less time for reading now than I used to. In fact, for a few years after the the period of the first list I only read detective fiction. Then in my mid- or perhaps even late-twenties, I read The Satanic Verses on a beach in Cuba and fell in love with literature again. I guess once you reach a certain fullness, there isn't enough space inside your heart and head for a book to really change you, the way books change you as an adolescent. The books in the second list came closest to changing me in that way, of leaving me a different person. This list is also a bit boysy, and seems to have too many Great American and Great Indian Novels.
No doubt I have forgotten things that should be added to each list. And the numbering is slightly arbitrary, though I have tried to rank them.
The books that shaped me
1. Joseph Heller Catch-22
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude
3. Don DeLillo White Noise
4. Thomas Pynchon Vineland
5. Aldous Huxley Antic Hay
6. George Orwell 1984
7. Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five
8. Jean-Paul Sarte Iron in the Soul
9. Italo Calvino If on a Winter's Night A Traveller
10. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Petals of Blood
11. Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being
12 Graham Greene Our Man in Havana
13. Anthony Burgess Earthly Powers
14. Victor Serge Conquered City
15. William Faulkner As I Lay Dying
The books I have loved since
1. Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex
2. Philip Roth Human Stain
3. Salman Rushdie Satanic Verses
4. Michael Ondaatje In the Skin of a Lion
5. Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance
6. Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces
7. Javier Cercas Soldiers of Salamis
8. Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things
9. James Ellroy American Tabloid
10. Don DeLillo Underworld
12. Jonathan Lethem The Fortress of Solitude
13. Valerie Martin Property
I was aiming for ten in each list, and nearly made it with the second.
Want to share your list? Here in the comments thread, or on your own blog if you have one. Do bloggers still tag each other these days? I'll tag Noga, Norm, Max, Martin, George - the other people I'd tag are already in the other discussion thread. I'll also finish off my philosophy list and post that.