Novel Novels

I am always reading something. And while I like biographies, sports books, and occasionally even religious books, good novels remain my favorites.

I like both “popular” novels that you read while sitting on the beach, and the more “serious” works about which you would write an English paper. And as an English major, I did a fair amout of that.

So here are some that have been uniquely influential in my 40 or so years of reading them, starting from childhood and on through the present.

  • Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. It was great when childhood really was this naive and innocent. All the Beverly Cleary books are terrific.
  • The Call Of The Wild And White Fang by Jack London. I can’t think of one without the other, and I loved them both. The irony? I don’t like dogs. At all.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Hello, prevenient grace.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. One of the first inklings I received that a novel could be about so much more than simply its plot.
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Ditto.
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. As good as this is, her short stories are even better. She was the subject of my senior thesis in college.
  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. Great writing? Not really. Complex characters? Hardly. Subtle story-telling? Nope. Page turning? Absolutely. Coudn’t put it down.
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. A lot like Flannery O’Connor, just not nearly as weird.
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. The cover looked so cheesy. But this book had me at hello.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. A novel set in Afghanistan? That’s great? I was skeptical, too, until I read page one. Laughter, tears, and anger.
  • Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris. The narrator is first person plural and anonymous. Think about that. Quite an accomplishment.
  • She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Another tour de force in terms of narrative voice. And I admit it: I cried. More than once. I’m saving up The Hour I First Believed for my vacation reading.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some that belong on my list? What does your list look like?