My Best Books

My Very Very Best (Classic)

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Dante: The Divine Comedy (each translation has merit, especially the one by Clive James)
George Eliot: Middlemarch (1872)
Thomas Hardy: Jude the Obscure (1895); Return of the Native (1878)
Katherine Mansfield: The Garden Party and Other Stories; Bliss and Other Stories (1920)

My Very Very Best (Modern)

Gabriel Garcia MarquezNobel 1982 Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
Anita Desai: Fasting, Feasting (1999) Booker shortlist
Anne Michaels: Fugitive Pieces (1996) Orange
Louise Erdrich: The Master Butcher’s Singing Club (2003);The Antelope Wife (1998)
Alice MunroNobel 2013 The Progress of Love (1987); Dance of the Happy Shades (1965)
Bruce Chatwin: On the Black Hill (1982) James Tait Memorial Prize
William Dalrymple: From the Holy Mountain (1997)
Nicholas Murray: Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual (2002) biography

My Very Best

Jane Austen: everything she wrote
Sebastian Barry:  The Secret Scripture (2008); On Canaan’s Side (2011); The Temporary Gentleman (2014)
Arnold Bennett: Clayhanger (1910)
Carol Birch: The Naming of Eliza Quinn (2005)
Anton Chekhov: short stories
Cressida Connolly: My Former Heart (2011)
Don DeLillo: Point Omega (2010)
Carol Ann Duffy: Feminine Gospels (2002)
Terry Eagleton: The Gatekeeper (2001) memoir
Anne Enright: What Are You Like? (2000) Whitbread shortlist; The Pleasures of Eliza Lynch (2002); Taking Pictures (2008) – short stories; The Forgotten Waltz (2011);  The Gathering
William Fiennes: The Snow Geese (2002) Somerset Maugham Award; The Music Room (2009) memoir
Penelope Fitzgerald: The Beginning of Spring (1988)
Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary (1857)
Aminatta Forna: The Memory of Love (2010) Commonwealth Writers’ Best Book; The Hired Man (2013)
Linda Grant: When I Lived in Modern Times (2000) Orange; Still Here (2002)
Graham Greene: everything he wrote. I was overwhelmed with sadness many years ago on finishing The Heart of the Matter (1948): if I were to write a book this would be what I would want to write, and Greene had done it and no-one could ever hope to do it better.
Shirley Hazzard: The Great Fire (2003) Orange shortlist; Greene on Capri (2000)
Henry James: everything he wrote.
Tomasi di Lampedusa: The Leopard (1959)
Penelope Lively: Family Album (2009)
Elizabeth Jennings: Selected Poems (1979)
David Malouf: Remembering Babylon (1993) IMPAC; The Conversations at Curlew Creek (1996); Dream Stuff (2000)
Hilary Mantel: everything she has written, including her autobiography, Giving Up the Ghost
Jay McInerney: The Last Bachelor (2009)
Arthur Miller: Presence (2009) (short stories)
David Mitchell: Black Swan Green (2006) Man Booker
Toni Morrison: Jazz; (1992) Paradise (1997); Beloved (1988) Pulitzer Nobel; Home (2012)
Andrew O’Hagan: Personality (2003) James Tait, Granta; Be Near Me (2007)
Amanda Prantera: Strange Loop (1984); Proto Zoe (1992); The Young Italians (1993); Zoe Trope (1996); Letter to Lorenzo (1999); Don Giovanna (2000); Capri File (2001); Wolfsong; Spoiler (2003)
Jean Rhys: The Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
Marilynne Robinson: Gilead (2004)
Jose Saramago: Raised From The Ground (1980)
Paul Scott: Staying On (1977) Booker
Carol Shields: Unless (2002); The Stone Diaries (1993) Pulitzer
Anita Shreve: Resistance (1995) and everything else she has written, but I recommend leaving a few weeks between each one.
Zadie Smith: On Beauty (2005)
Muriel Spark: everything she wrote
Graham Swift: Waterland (1983) (this to me is much better than his other books despite Last Orders winning the James Tait Memorial Prize and Booker)
Donna Tartt: The Little Friend (2002)
Colm Toibin: everything he has written, including The Master (2004) Booker shortlist except The Testament of Mary (2012)
Leonard Tsypkin: Summer in Baden-Baden (1980)
Giovanni Verga: his Sicilian short stories
Alice Walker: The Color Purple (1983) Pulitzer; The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart (2000) short stories
Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway (1925)

My Best Poets

TS Eliot, John Fuller, Ian Hamilton,  Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, AE Houseman, Elizabeth Jennings, John Keats, Andrew Motion, Stevie Smith, WB Yeats

An Excellent Read

John Banville: Athena (1995); The Sea (2005) Man Booker; Ancient Light (2012)
Neil Belton: A Game With Sharpened Knives (2005)
Aphra Benn: The Lover’s Watch (1686)
Anita Brookner: The Latecomers (1988)
AS Byatt: Possession (1991) Booker
Cressida Connolly: My Former Heart (2011)
Hiran Desai: The Inheritance of Loss (2006)
Janet Davey: By Battersea Bridge (2012)
Agnes Desarthe: The Foundling (2010)
Will Eaves: This is Paradise (2012)
Robert Edric: The Sword Cabinet (1999)
F Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise (1920); The Last Tycoon (1941)
Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
EM Forster: everything he wrote
Kate Grenville: The Idea of Perfection (1991) Orange
David Guterson: Snow Falling on Cedars (1995); East of the Mountains (1999)
Hillel Hankin: Melisande! What Are Dreams (2012)
Alice Hoffman: Local Girls (1999)
Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty (2004)
Rachel Joyce: Pefect (2013)
John le Carre:  A Murder of Quality (1962); The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird 1961 Pulitzer
Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook (1962)
Mario Vargas Llosa: Nobel 2010 Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977)
Armistead Maupin: Tales of the City (1978)
Ian McEwan: In Between The Sheets (1997); Atonement (2001); On Chesil Beach (2007) Booker shortlist
John McGahern: The Barracks (1963); That They May Face the Rising Sun; Amongst Women (1990)
Henning Mankell: The Depths (2004)
Arthur Miller: Presence (2009), short stories
AA Milne: Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)
Rohinton Mistry: Family Matters (2002) Booker shortlist
Andrew Miller:  Oxygen (2001) shortlisted for the Booker and the Whitbread Novel; Ingenious Pain (1997) James Tait, IMPAC, Premio Grinzane Cavour; One Morning Like a Bird (2008)
Brian Moore: The Magician’s Wife (1997)
Maureen Myant: The Search (2009)
Irene Nemirovsky: Suite Francaise (2004)
Joyce Carol Oates: We were the Mulvaneys (1996); Beasts (2002); I’ll Take You There; The Tatooed Girl (2003); The Mudwoman (2012); Jack of Spades (2015)
Kate O’Brien: The Land of Spices (1941)
Maggie O’Farrell: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)
Michael Ondaatje: Anil’s Ghost (2000)
Maggie O’Farrell: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)
Annie Proulx: The Shipping News (1993) Pulitzer
Michele Roberts: Ignorance (2012)
Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things (1997) Booker
Francoise Sagan: Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Lorna Sage: Bad Blood (2000) memoir
Vikram Seth: A Suitable Boy (1993)
Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries (1994) Pulitzer; Larry’s Party (1997) Orange
John Steinbeck: The Pearl (1947)
Amy Tan: The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2001); Saving Fish From Drowning (2005)
Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited (1945)
Tim Winton: Dirt Music (2001)

A Good Read

Isabel Allende: Eva Luna (1987)
Iain Banks: Dead Air (2002)
Julian Barnes: The Sense of an Ending (2011)
Louis de Bernieres: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994) Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 
Alain de Botton: Essays in Love (1993)
William Boyd:
 The Blue Afternoon (1993); Fascination (2004); Ordinary Thunderstorms (2009)
Peter Carey: Oscar and Lucinda (1998) Booker, and shortlisted for Booker of Bookers
Justin Cartwright: Other People’s Money (2011)
Rachel Cusk: The Last Supper (2009); The Lucky Ones (2003)
Helen Dunmore: Your Blue Eyed Boy (1998) Orange; A Spell of Winter (1995) Orange; Burning Bright (1994); The House of Orphans (2006)
Roddy Doyle: The Van (1991) Booker shortlist
F Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise (1920); The Last Tycoon (1941)
Robert Frasier: Cold Mountain (1997)
Esther Freud: Hideous Kinky (1992)
Alex Garland: The Beach (1996)
Jane Gardam: Old Filth (2004)
Sue Gee: Thin Air (2002); Mysteries of Glass (2004); Coming Home (2013)
Rumer Godden: The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1963)
Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha (1996)
Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (2003)
Robert Harris: Enigma (1995) but not others
Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night (2015)
Eva Hoffman: The Secret (2001)
Simon Hopkinson: Roast Chicken and Other Stories, cookery
Anthony Horowitz: various
Kazuo Ishiguro: Remains of the Day; When We Were Orphans (2000) Booker shortlist
Andrea Levey: Small Island (2004)
Marina Lewycka: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (2005)
Alison Lurie: various
Deirdre Madden: The Birds of the Innocent Wood (1988)
Yann Martel: Life of Pi (2002) Booker Prize
David Mitchell: Black Swan Green (2006) Man Booker
Julian Mitchell: Circle of Friends (1966)
LM Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables (1908)
Marta Morazzoni: The Alphonse Courrier Affair (1997) translated by Emma Rose, an excellent translation Independent Foreign Fiction Award
Blake Morrison: And When Did You Last See Your Father (1993)
Iris Murdoch: The Sea, The Sea (1978) Booker
Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)
Bethan Roberts: My Policeman (2012)
James Runcie: East Fortune (2009)
Lorna Sage: Bad Blood (2000) memoir
Nigel Slater: Toast (2003) memoir
Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar (1963)
Tom Rob Smith: Child 44 (2008)
Edward St Aubyn: Mother’s Milk (2006) Booker shortlist, Prix Feminina Etranger
William Trevor: Love and Summer (2009)

A Relaxing Read

Jeff Abbott, Jussi Adler-Olsen (some but not others), Karin Alvtegen, Linwood Barclay, Maeve Binchy, Bill Bryson, Patricia Cornwell’s early work but not after 2008,  Lee Child, Ann Cleeves (some but not others), Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Jonathan Coe (The Rotters’ Club trilogy), Charles Cumming, Torquil Damhaug, Carin Gerhardsen, Robert Goddard, Frances Edmonds,  James Ellroy, Tess Gerritsen,  Joseph Hansen, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Holt, Karin Fossum (some but not others), Frances Fyfield, Peter James, Garrison Keillor, Camilla Lackberg, Lisa Marklund, Peter May, Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo, Hakan Nesser, James Patterson, Karen Rose; Gerald Seymour, Karin Slaughter,  Tom Rob Smith, PJ Tracy, Minette Walters, Morris West, Meg Wolitzer, Tom Wood

– but not Alafair Burke, Arne Dahl, Helen Fitzgerald, Nicci French, Sophie Hannah, Mari Jungstedt, Philip Kerr, Torquil McLeod, Cynthia Oziek

No Passion Yet

These good writers have not yet sparked my passion but I may try them again in case: Pat Barker, Clare Boylan, JM Coetzee, Sebastian Faulks,  Joanne Harris, Robert Harris, Siri Hustvedt, Howard Jacobson, Francesca Kay, Bernard Schlink, Jane Smiley,  Colin Thubron, Rose Tremain, William Trevor, Anne Tyler, Edith Wharton

No Passion

I have read or started to read books by these well respected authors but am unlikely to try them again: Kate Atkinson, Margaret Attwood, Joan Bakewell, Melvyn Bragg, Elizabeth Buchanan, John Burnside, Tracey Chevalier, Patricia Duncker, Michael Frayn, Jostein Gaarder,  Janice Galloway, Philip Hensher, Khaled Hosseini, Victoria Hislop, Angela Huth, Tove Jansson, Francesca Kay, Santa Montefiore, Cyrus Moore, Audrey Niffeneger, Philip Pullman, Kathy Reichs, Gwendoline Riley, JK Rowling, Lionel Shriver, Sally Vickers, Marianne Wiggins

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2 thoughts on “My Best Books

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