Bob's lists: Novels

Following 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, MartinGeorge - the other people I'd tag are already in the other discussion thread. I'll also finish off my philosophy list and post that.


bob said…
Just updated to add one I'd forgotten at no.7 in list 2.
Anonymous said…
Bob - I think your inclusion of 'The God of Small Thngs' is possibly the most disturbing thing I have ever read on this blog.

I am enjoying thinking about my own lists!
BenSix said…
It doesn't matter how many great novels and works of philosophical thought and religious wisdom I'll read: I'm not sure anything is going to influence me to the extent that Calvin and Hobbes and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did.
Sarah AB said…
Sorry - the anonymous comment was in fact from me.

Ben - yes, Hitchhiker was one of the first books I put on my own list!
Anonymous said…
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy


Waterloo Sunset said…

You have email.
Sarah AB said…
Here are my lists Bob:
bob said…

I thought Roy might be Controversial!

I like your lists. David Mitchell would actually be in the very top of my second list - I completely forgot about Cloud Atlas.

I was interested in how much girls' lists and boys' lists would be different.


Blook Meridian is great, but for me not quite up there.

(Anonymi, please sign a name or nickname!)


Saw the mail. I'm very tempted. Will read the doc later and reply.
I'm going to compile a first list of the books that shaped me. But I am not exactly sure what "shaped me" means, so I've decided to list some of the books I read between the ages 11 and 18. My rule of thumb is: if I remember a certain book then it makes sense to assume it had more than a mild impact on my thinking. Otherwise, why would I remember it so vividly?

So here is the list, not in any particular order:

1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Jane Eyre
3. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
4. Little Fadette, George Sand
5. Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham
6. Exodus, Leon Uris
7. Shira, SY Agnon
8. Daddy longlegs, Jean Webster
9. Little Women
10. Huckleberry Finn
11. Crime and Punishment
12. The Plague, Albert Camus
13. Story of a Real Man, Boris Polevoy
14. Nevada, Zane Grey
15. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Anyone who knows my devotion to Jane Austen may well wonder why none of her novels is included in this list. The fact is that I read Austen's Pride & Prejudice and Emma when I was about 14 years old and was not impressed.
Sarah AB said…
Nice list - I decided to exclude children's books, a bit arbitrarily, but I liked many of your favourites Noga, although more recent fantasy had a greater impact probably - Susan Cooper, Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones - I was an sf fan in the making.

I like Daniel Deronda more than Middlemarch.

Like you I tried P and P too early - I read the Brontes when I was very young, but found Austen completely unengaging until I was about 17.
I think the ironic muscle gets developed in later years which may explain why many people who could not appreciate Austen's novels in their teens become some of her greatest admirers much later in life.

But some people, sadly for them, never undergo that epiphany and continue to misconstrue Austen's novels as romantic wishful thinking. I do so pity them ... :)
bob said…
I guess I'll have to give Austen another go. I was maybe seventeen and had to read her for A Levels.

Looking back, I changed enormously as a person around the age of fourteen, and my list no.1 was essentially books I read after that. I was a voracious reader both before and after, but generally in the period from 11 to 14/15 I was reading books in the "teens" and "young adult" section of the library (which was in the children's wing) and not from the normal grown-up fiction shelves.

I have lots of vivid memories of reading in that period - feelings, flavours, images, book covers, etc. But I can remember very few actual authors and titles. I read mainly historical fiction (often set down mines or during the American or Russian revolutions) and sci-fi (especially parallel world stuff).

I loved Joan Aitken, Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols, Patrick Kavanagh's children's novels, and The Gates of Paradise (a novel about William Blake) by Peter Carter. That's all I can recall now.

As I said above, I was interested in how much girls' lists and boys' lists would be different - and it seems (from the very small sample) that there is. My sister loved Anne of Green Gables and Daphne Du Maurier, but I never read them for some reason. I've only read one book on CC's list: Exodus.
bob said…
Helen Hunt Jackson, Louisa May Alcott and Jean Rhys were the other writers my sister loved at that age.
Sarah AB said…
It's interesting that du Maurier and Heyer, who both seem quite 'girly' (Heyer is on my own list) are actually rather epicene. Heyer's central characters are often men, and romance is much less central to the plots than the covers of the novels might suggest. Similarly, du Maurier often has male narrators - Scapegoat, Progress of Julius, Flight of the Falcon, and the wonderful My Cousin Rachel. Although obviously Jane Austen is more of a priority, Bob! House on the Strand is another good du Maurier with a male narrator.
I second Sarah's comments on Du Maurier and Heyer. I was an avid consumer of Heyer's novels at around the age of 17. Later on when, like Eve, the innocence was lifted from my eyes, I could no longer derive the same kind of guileless enjoyment I did as a very young woman. What happened? I began to notice the pervasive and gratuitous antisemitism in her writing. The same happened to me with the books of Baroness Orczy, though in her renditions, the Jew, while filthy and red-haired as always, was basically decent, for his kind.
bob said…
"Epicene" - that was a new word for me, which I had to look up. Watch me deploy it now in every post!

Sarah AB said…
Yes, it's a real blot. I was just reading quite an enjoyable Persephone Press book - Mariana by Monica Dickens - and there were a couple of dodgy moments - and then a really nasty one right towards the end which meant I just skimmed the last 20 pages, no longer caring what happened to the heroine.
Entdinglichung said…
novels by Yasar Kemal, Christa Wolf, Stefan Heym, Lindsey Collen, Orhan Pamuk, Gabriel Garcia Marquez ...
Unknown said…
Hi Bob, I found that the photo of a stack of books in this blog very pretty and want to use it in my iOS app which is a book scanner. Could I know about the copyright policy for that photo? Thanks!

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