Favourite novels: Then and now  
Saturday, August 18, 2012, 09:21 AM
Posted by Administrator
I’m responding to a nudge from Bob from Brockley, and matching his two lists of novels. Here are the parameters he sets:

“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. …

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.”

Here’s my first list:

Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Brigid Brophy, In Transit
Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Ronald Firbank, Valmouth
Marilyn French, The Women’s Room
Ursula K. Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness
Michael Moorcock: Dancers at the end of time
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings
Gore Vidal, Creation

And this is my second:

Maria Edgeworth, Patronage
Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
William Godwin, Caleb Williams
Georgette Heyer, The Corinthian
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas
Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Dan Simmons, Hyperion
Dorothy Whipple, They Knew Mr Knight
Richard Wright, A Scientific Romance


I found it both easier and more interesting to think about the first list - these are books which somehow seemed to exert a kind of charismatic pull and which, in most cases, I reread, sometimes repeatedly. The second list was more difficult – I found myself focusing too much on novels I have read in the last few years. And I don’t know why there aren’t more eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels on the list. In my 20s and 30s I worked my way through yards of second tier Victorian fiction – and hugely enjoyable it is too – but it seems to be the (comparatively) more recent books which stuck in my mind. Bob provides another reason why I struggled over the second list:

"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."

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