It's so hard for me to choose. But I'd like to try:

War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

La Chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal

Le città invisibili di Italo Calvino

Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez

The sun is shining in my Italian hometown, not far from Rome. Hope you can see the beautiful messengers of spring and smell the sweet scent of jasmine flowers in bloom.

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Why six? You've set us a difficult task. If it were a Desert Island booklist it would have to be narrowed down to these:

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

2. Saturday by Ian McEwan

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

4. The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

5. Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

6. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

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Life in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez , War and Peace by Tolstoy, Lolita by Nabokov, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Alexandria Quartet by Durrell, L'Education Sentimentale by Flaubert, Les Essais by Montaigne, all of Oriana Fallaci, all of C.P. Snow, all of Stefan Zweig, all of Andre Brink.

It is hard to stop, so many. Meanwhile I think of you and your challenges and i read of the obstacles in your mind. I hope the coming of Spring lifts your moods a little and that they take you outside in nature to heal.

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Hanif what a question! My brain went into a giant spin. It did come up with some but really, a lifetime of reading how to lean on just six. However, as you prob know you can go back to a book you thought was fabulous and inspiring at the time and upon a second read you think what? So they do have to withstand that test - some books are for a specific time in our lives others can be there all the time.

1. C G Jung - Man and his Symbols - was introduced to Jung by an off her head (so very intelligent) fellow student whilst surprising myself on a degree course - I began with the Memories, Dreams one I think and did read others, but this one is pretty good. he has inspired me throughout my life really.

2. The White Witch - Elizabeth Goudge - I think I got this book second hand in the 80's maybe and for some reason it struck a chord. A deep one. Bits of the story seemed to speak to where I was and somehow when I felt bad - a lot at that time, it was like a saving book. Went on to read most of her books which are so how can we say, well old fashioned, spiritual - but all of them somewhere speak to me. (another story there.)

3. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt - what a book - fell in love with Theo could not believe my attachment to his story - a one off.

4. The House on the Strand - Daphne Du Maurier - read most of hers of course the well known ones (don't forget she wrote Don't Look Now)but this one is so unusual never read anything like it - it is time travel always fascinating but the setting and her characters are so - you could say emotionless but at the same time pinning their entire lives on someone else. This story is just so so good.

5. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - late to the party with Dickens suddenly decided I think in my early 50's to read him. Loved his writing he was so funny - ended up loving this one probably because of the passion in it - Joe and Pip - Pip and Estella - Miss Havisham all on her own is such a story. Don't like the recent BBC adaptation at all though.

6, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susana Clarke - how she wrote this fantastic story I do not know - magic it is throughout and about but a little like Miss E Goudge,, it did speak to me and that, was magic.

I've got a million more but they can do. I've noted some of yours to try - just joined my local library and felt like a child again going in there so will be going again soon. Thank you for great questions Hanif and hope you are staying level. Maddi from deepest North Yorkshire.

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May 7·edited May 7

Favorites as of today:

The Magic Mountain (and everything by Thomas Mann)

The Sea, The Sea (and everything by Iris Murdoch)

Beloved Toni Morrison

The Cairo Trilogy (Naguib Mahfouz)

The Brothers Karamazov (here’s to imps in corners)

Everything by Doris Lessing, James Baldwin, Seamus Heaney, Charles Simic J

St. Judas, James Wright

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Hmmm, Hanif. I have been looking into Bataille,as I am making a film about Isabel Rawsthorne and Giacometti and Isabel knew Bataille very well. Have also been talking with a French writer friend who wrote a biography of Colette Peignot, one of Bataille's lovers. I prefer Bataille's "Larms of Eros" to "Eroticism". In any case...Bataille seems to have beem more talk than action when it came to exciting transgressive sex. My books (this is a bit like a kid asking what my favourite colour is!) : "Flash of the Spirit" by Robert Farris Thompson, who decoded much "Afro-Atlantic" culture Cuba, Brasil, Jamaica, Haiti, USA et al in terms of fundamental aesthetic and ethical concepts in Yoruba and kiKongo culture (among others). Bob spoke Yoruba and kiKongo, was an initiate priest of Ifa and a much-loved professor at Yale. "L'éducation sentimentale" by Flaubert, just a delight..but so many of those French 19thC novels are, Lewis Hyde "The Gift": a wholly original and imaginative account of culture, love and community. James Hillman's "Death and the Underworld" - or any number of his books. He is very big in Italy, as it happens... iconoclastic, brilliant and took Jungian ideas way beyond his teacher's insights. Junichiro Tanizaki's "Seven Japanese Tales"...which includes the very disturbing, erotic and beautiful story "The Tattooer" - and maybe his classic "In Praise of Shadow", a classic text for any architect who thinks beyond buildings....Buildings must have dark spaces, loos should be black not white.... My love to you Hanif! May the spring bring you some joy, you brave man.

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So hard…

I’d choose:

Larry Mc Murtry. Lonesome Dove

Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine

Jane Austin. Sense and Sensibility

Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit

And Carlos Ruiz Zafron…the whole 4 book cycle…( which I will count as 5 and 6, to be fair)

The Shadow of the Wind (2001)

The Angel's Game (2008)

The Prisoner of Heaven (2011)

The Labyrinth of the Spirits (2016)

My choices aren’t very intellectual, just pure pleasure.

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Thanks Hanif. I'll check out the Batsaille.

I could suggest many sets of 5s.

My name is Lucy Barton, by E. Strout

Saints and Sinners, short story collection by Edna O'Brien, especially Manhattan Medley and Shovel Kings.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Antarctica, Short story collection by Claire Keegan.

Nathan the Wise, play by G. E. Lessing

Beloved by Toni Morisson

The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche

All texts on Socrates' trial, best translation by Lovett in The dialogues of Plato

Go, went, gone by Jenny Erpenbeck


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Very hard to choose! I’d say the Black Album is my favourite, or one of them. Also Buddha of Suburbia is in there too probably. Then the Passion, Jeanette Winterson. Maybe also Oranges are not the Only Fruit. Then there’s a whole stack of Diana Wynne Jones books I adore. Probably Fire and Hemlock number one. Then the Dalemark Quartet. Also Archer’s Goon. But I have so many on my favourite list.

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I mean no disrespect with this observation but perhaps a more interesting question might be “which 6 authors would make you buy another of their works without knowing anything about it?”.

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It’s very very very very hard…. Love to you and your family

Il Gattopardo, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Il visconte dimezzato, Italo Calvino

Nostromo, Joseph Conrad

The Tempest, Shakespeare

American Patoral, Philip Roth

The power of the dog, Don Winslow

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F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tender Is the Night. Structurally, this novel is near-perfect. FSF achieves a perfect synthesis of action and character. A brutal story, told with supreme elegance by a man who was at the height of his powers while his life was going to hell.

Carson McCullers - Reflections In A Golden Eye. I don’t know any other novel where the hermetically sealed worlds of people ‘who live too much inside themselves’ have been so persuasively described.

Michel Houellebecq - Serotonin. Bleakly hilarious and bleakly depressing. I read this in December 2019, as britain got itself stuck in the U-bend from which history may never reclaim it.

George Gissing - New Grub Street. The real life of writers. Well over a century later, the essential details are the same.

W. Someset Maugham - Of Human Bondage. A comforting book, and the only convincing happy ending I know of in world literature.

William Styron - The Confessions Of Nat Turner. Styron inhabits his protagonist and creates a genuine tragic hero. The abuse he got for writing this in the sixties was shocking; if an equivalent book appeared today, it would be far worse.

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The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man. Thomas Mann

Mann’s last unfinished work on deception, role playing and identity. His descriptions of early childhood, especially one of a grotesque stage performer are unforgettable.

Old Goriot. Balzac.

As a friend said to me after reading this book, “ If only I knew what learned from this book when I was younger. “

How can a boy from the provinces survive in treacherous nineteenth century Paris? Under the tutelage of Vautrin , one of Balzac’s most memorable characters we can all learn something.

Down and Out in Paris and London. George Orwell

My first “ real book”. Or maybe that was Animal Farm. Either way it was Orwell, a voice I could relate to, a voice I understood. And for him to be broke, penniless and writing about it meant I could too! I had found my subject matter ! Soon after there I was, broke and writing in a Paris cafe!

The Thief’s journal. Jean Genet

Genet, thief, criminal , homosexual. Outcast, outlaw, yet with prose of gold, with a lyrical way of carrying you along the back streets of Barcelona, along the ports of Antwerp. Cinematic writing, mood writing, each chapter, each character appearing in front of my eyes as if on a screen. The idea of the writer as a true rebel in society.

The Dharma Bums. Jack Kerouac.

Girls, booze, nature, literature, meditation. How Asian thought was creeping it’s way into the hearts and minds of America’s young thinkers. A counter culture movement that’s still building stream as we speak!

Hamlet. William Shakespeare.

A play I can read again and again. The rhythms, the pace, Shakespeare at his finest. As James Tyrone says of the bard in O’Neil’s masterpiece. “ I loved Shakespeare. I would have acted in any of his plays for nothing, for the joy of being alive in his great poetry.” Alive in his great poetry. That sums up the way I feel when I read Hamlet.

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This is a lovely thread. My top six have barely changed in 20 years:

The Buddha of Suburbia made such an impression on me as a teenager. I first read it at exactly the right time in my life and every time I re-read it I am taken back to growing up in a dull town, navigating the breakdown of my parent's mixed-race marriage and seeing so much of that reflected in this novel.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith seemed like nothing else I had read before when it came out. Her later work is better written (she says this herself) but for a teeanger growing up and figuring the world out, it's a great book.

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald captures a moment in time I'd give anything to have lived through.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, which I found in an old box of books in the loft as a teenager. I absolutely loved the escapism of old Hollywood and Broadway and revisit this book often.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, the prequel to Jane Eyre but a gorgeous novel in its own right which demonstrates the importance of exploring stories from all (not always obvious) angles.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabiel Garcia Marquez and its story of aging love means more to me the older I get.

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Buddha of Surburbia is hands down my favourite book - all my other favourites come after.

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The Magus - John Fowles

Concrete Island - JG Ballard

Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

The Rings of Saturn - WG Seabald

Precious Bane - Mary Webb

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Hardy

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Here’s six from me:

Jim Crace / Harvest

Martin Amis / Time’s Arrow

I Claudius / Robert Graves

The Kite Runner / Khaled Hosseini

The Shipping News / E. Annie Proulx

Nineteen Eighty Four / George Orwell

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A short story called “The Scarlet Ibis” undid me as a child. I could not come down to dinner from my upstairs bedroom because I was crying at the small tragedies that frame our mortal existence.

Later, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” became the coming of age story that informed my early adolescence.

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I am loathe to identify the book that has exerted the most profound influence on my life, and which recently came back into my possession, as I am in the middle of writing about it for a newsletter.

With the exception of The River, by Ted Hughes, which I read almost daily – one poem at a time – on a continuous cycle, the book I have revisited the most in recent years is The Winter Men – a graphic novel written by Brett Lewis, and illustrated by the late John Paul Leon, set in Russia as it free-falls into the chaos of unstructured free-market Capitalism, following the end of Communism.

A genetically-engineered superman, referred to as Revolution's Hammer, has gone to ground. The team of elite special forces operatives, who were established as one of the checks and balances to neutralise him if he ever went rogue, have disbanded. Nina is working as a bodyguard. Nikki has embraced the prevailing anarcho-capitalism and has carved out a criminal niche for himself in Moscow. He has some kind of deal going with Pepsi, that in one instance sees him pause, mid-journey, to empty a Kalashnikov into a Coca Cola vending machine. Drost, the Cossack has remained a solider. He is writing a science fiction novel in Ukrainian. The Siberian is biding his time in a secret prison on the tundra, 1000 miles from civilisation - “a good, warm place to organise your dreams and plan your destiny.” His sole purpose in life is to kill one man, though even in undertaking this direct and unambiguous responsibility, there is room for nuance.

Kalenov. the protagonist. is working as a cop. His attempts at reuniting with his estranged wife are derailed when he is tasked with investigating the kidnapping of a child, who was taken after her parents stopped paying for her replacement liver. Next to her cot, he finds a tiny handprint burned into the wall.

The strength of The Winter Men lies in its well-informed portrayal of a Russia thrown out of kilter by political collapse. Lewis draws several real-life events into his semi-fictional world. Leon's artwork is cluttered with detail, like a stall at an outdoor flea market. Time is taken to develop the characters, which adds poignancy to the sacrifices and broken friendships that characterise the end of the novel.

Chapter four is essentially a digression from the main plot, following a day in the life of Kalenov and Nikki as they drive around Moscow. Kalenov is babysitting a suspect in a rape case until the victim is available to make an identification. He also has to pick up a tree for the new year celebrations – a task that entails going into the woods and chopping one down. Nikki is micro-managing the various facets of his piecemeal criminal empire. Together the pair attempt to come up with a way of liberating one of the bolted-down table and chair sets from the Red Square branch of MacDonald's.

The men share a complicated relationship:

“He confused hate with the opposite of love,” says Kalenov.

“What is the opposite of love,” enquires the suspect, as they lean against a giant stone bust of some redundant figurehead of the old regime.

“Nothing,” says Kalenov.

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The God of Small Things --Arundhati Roy

Midnight's Children--Salman Rushdie

The Matrix--Lauren Groff

The Bluest Eye--Toni Morrison

The Curious Sofa--Edward Gorey

Middlesex--Jeffery Eugenides

The Red Convertible--Louise Erdrich (many of the short stories in this book)

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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

Any of Elizabeth George’s Lynley/Havers novels

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See, "Intimacy" is not here because it's you asking. I always include it into my top 10. Buy you said six:

Sexing the Cherry, by Jeanette Winterson (and others)

Time’s Arrow, by Martin Amis

Galápagos, by Kurt Vonnegut (and others)

Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins (and others)

Shame, by Salman Rushdie

Intimacy, by Hanif Kureishi

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And I do have to mention Doris Lessing because I have ingested most of her books starting way beck. You probably knew her or had enough knowledge of her to be less a fan than I was. She is a great example of a writer producing work that seems to predict the future.

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Vanity Fair William Thackeray

Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy

The Silmarillion Tolkien

The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi

The Library at Night Alberto Manguel

The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn

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Magic Mountain (Thomas Mann)

Moly Dick (Herman Melville)

Our Lady of the Flowers (Genet)

Stigma (Erving Goffman)

Asylums (Erving Goffman)

Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Gregory Bateson)

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Each period of life had its own list. With some , I remember the feeling, not necessarily the content.

I remember filigree language, light, particular words. I remember laughing out loud. A feeling of loss. Heavinesses and darkness, or a sense of excitement.

Some books, like Vassily Rozanov’s “Fallen Leaves” were a discovery of who I am at the age of 15. Some came to me at the right place and the right time, like “The Magus” by John Fowles, which I read in my first weeks in Greece.

Then, there was always “The Kreutzer Sonata”.

“Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee.

“The Sea” and “Ancient Light” by Banville.

And the book that shaped my dreams as a child - “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas” by Jules Verne. I was probably 6 at the time.

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Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky - such a cool chronicler of passion

This Real Night by Rebecca West

The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson

Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park - Park tempered her earlier sentimentality with finely drawn vignettes of brutality of early Sydney

The Walnut Mansion by Miljenko Jergovic - I think I’d love a Substack slow release for this, because I read it too fast the first time round

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

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I can't name a favourite book. There are several writers I really like: Zola, Kureishi, Rushdie, Simenon or Doris Lessing etc. If I had to name a book which is not fiction it would be "The History of Sexuality" by Foucault.

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Lonesome Dove - McMurtry a masterpiece

Confederates - Keneally Gone with the Wind from the poor people perspective

A Bright Shining Lie - Sheehan Devastating indictment of a senseless war and the man who led it.

I Claudius - Graves Just a joy

Quantum - Kumar two geniuses go head to head about the nature of reality

The Matter with Things - McGilChrist possibly the most important book ever written. Could change the world.

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May 14·edited May 15

Sorry Hanif - can't do only six, but I've whittled it down to eight, and even that was very difficult. All these I have re-read many times.

The Death of Ivan Ilych - Tolstoy. The most profound meditation on dying and mortality. Unmatched - a work of genius.

Seize the Day - Saul Bellow. No one creates a whole magical world and populates it with such an array of both larger-than-life, quirky, eccentric and equally humdrum but fascinating characters that one can see and feel with such crystal perspicacity as Bellow does in this novella. Profound, funny, tragic, existential - everything I love.

Angel Pavement - J.B Priestley. A depiction of a now lost London and, as with Bellow, one is immersed in a whole world, dwelling among characters that are so real it's as if you are eavesdropping on their lives in all their tragedy, ugliness and beauty. Priestley at his best - peerless.

The Painted Veil - W. Somerset Maugham. Hong Kong under British colonial rule, female sexuality, Taoism, the English class structure, the agonies, ecstasies and pathetic absurdities of love, the weltanschauung of the rational Occident versus the mystical Orient, the unspeakable horrors of a cholera epidemic. Reading this, as with all of Maugham's work, is like watching a movie unfold in your mind. His writing is so clear and precise, evoking setting and place so keenly you can smell and taste it.

The Indian Life - Herman Hesse. A short story at the end of his novel 'The Glass Bead Game'. Utterly magical, transcendent. Maya, Hindu Yogi meditation, sexual and familial love, the vanity and futility of war, the illusion of life, the nothingness at the heart of everything. So beautifully written, such clarity of thought and prose.

The Outsider - Camus. At age 19 this book changed my life. Maybe it even saved my life. Certainly, it transformed my life from what it may otherwise have become. The enigmatic anti-hero Meursault is the very embodied essence of French Existentialism.

Engleby - Sebastian Faulks. An astonishing work of art. Madness, reason, (and the madness of reason), the brutality of an English public school institution, and at the heart of it an utterly fascinating, thoroughly disturbing case study of a murderous psychopath and sociopath in the character of Engleby. A work of genius and IMHO Faulks's best novel.

Love in a Blue Time - Kureishi. Your excavation of the 'inner life' and the soul's search and yearning for love and fulfillment is breathtaking in its insight. In particular, your two collections of short stories 'Love in a Blue Time' and 'Midnight All Day'. 'Love in a Blue Time' is a searing, soaring set of stories. The final short story 'The Flies' is so deep, haunting and unflinchingly candid.

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I've been thinking over this question for a while. It's difficult to decide but I do love the following: Moderato Cantabile - Marguerite Duras

Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

Intimacy - Hanif Kureishi

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

In Search of Time Lost (even though I have not yet read all of it) - Marcel Proust

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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This is hard to do:

Don Quijote De La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

War and Peace by Leon Tolstoy

Ulysses by James Joyce

Omeros by Derek Walcott

Odyssey by. Homer

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

A Most dangerous Method: the story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Speilrein by

John Kerr

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

Sent from my iPad

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This very difficult but I’ll try.

1) Foster - Claire Keegan

2) The Fifth Child - Doris Lessing

3) The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

4) Love - Hanne Ørstavik

5) Other People - Martin Amis

6) Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

I will post this and then regret it for all the novels I’ve not listed. As I said, too hard.

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Life a User's Manual by Georges Perec:

I love big books and of my choices are all big, all representing an author in full command of the craft, each reaching perhaps just a bit too far on occasion, but doing so with glorious results. George Perec was a man who craved constraints, puzzles, games to create his worlds. Life a User's Manual takes place in a single moment in time in a Parisian apartment building in the 1970s. The movement from dwelling to dwelling is done in accordance with the Knight's move in chess. Like the man himself, the novel is difficult to describe in a few sentences. Perec uses each dwelling to tell a story, whether one from that precise moment in time, or from a moment in the dwelling's past brought forth by an object in the apartment. Though it may sound like a dry exercise, the novel is filled with life, with joy, with love. Perec died far too young after a tragic upbringing where he lost both is parents in the War. Puzzles and impish mischief were his way out. Read this book. I've read it three times and it still reveals gifts.

In Search of Lost Time.

I prefer the translation that was contemporaneous to Proust, the Scott-Moncrief, though the new Penguin one is also quite good--particularly Lydia Davis' volume 1. (as an aside: the bio of Scott-Moncrief written by his great-great niece called "Chasing Lost Time" is outstanding)

Underworld by Don DeLillo.

All of his collective concerns were poured into this book.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

A joyful and terrifying mess of a book describing a terrifying, and occasionally joyful world. A satire of the future of American culture that has largely (and sadly) come true.

The Bell by Iris Murdoch.

I just recently started reading Iris Murdoch. My god what a towering intellect, what a generous mind, and yes, what a funny goddamn writer.

Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

A world sleepwalking into oblivion.

But wait! How could I forget Moby Dick!!!!

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May 9·edited May 9

The Idea of Perfection - Kate Grenville

Small Island- Andrea Levy

A Theft: My Con Man -Hanif Kureishi

What Maisie Knew - Henry James

The Siege of Krishnapur - J G Farrell

Life with Picasso - Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake.

All carrying rich insights.

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This is a movable evolving feast, but right now? Hmmmmm

Small Things like These by Claire Keegan

The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

Aura by Carlos Fuentes

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

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Hard as hell to choose for sure. In no particular order - but, as you can see, I contend that 'entertaining' fiction can be just as wondrous as 'art fiction'. And then there's poetry...

Love Poems - Anne Sexton

Dr. Bloodmoney (or Ubik, or Martian Timeslip, or The Man in the High Castle, or...) - Phillip K. Dick

Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence

Lolita - Vladimir Nabakov

Man and His Symbols - Carl Jung

Autobiography of a Face - Lucy Grealy

Honorable mentions:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (and Waldo & Magic, Inc.) - Robert Heinlein

Climate Man and History - Robert Claiborne

The Magic Mountain (or the Death In Venice collection of short stories) - Thomas Mann

Our Marvelous native Tongue - Robert Claiborne

The Norton Anthology of Poetry

The Norton Anthology of Women Poets

The Making of the Atomic Bomb - Richard Rhodes

Man's Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl

The Great Gatsby - S. Scott Fitzgerald

Everything That Rises Must Converge - Flannery O'Connor

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Six of the best.

The first could be whatever I'm in love with reading at the moment. And at the moment I'm reading Wuthering Heights, which seems like it'll be a leading contender ever more anyway. Before that it was Fear of Flying.

Then What is Art by Tolstoy. No nonsense lots of sense, and heart.

A Moveable Feast, Hemingway. Paris, being young, being a writer and among lots of others.

A Christmas Carol, Dickens.

Zen mind, beginners mind, Shunryu Suzuki. Very helpful.

Finding Them Gone, visiting China's poets of the past, Bill Porter/Red Pine.

Could be others, I'm not absolute on it, in a way. I've not included poetry or drama. I wonder if it's the book I'm in love with or how it meets me in life, or met me.

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Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak

Anna Karenin, Tolstoy

Lolita, Nabokov

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton

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And I thought ‘favourite 70s movies’ was a tough one. Okay, here goes…

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

It’s got the lot hasn’t it? A book about class, snobbery, cruelty, unrequited love, obsession, illness, redemption, revenge and tragedy – it never surprises me that so many artists have adapted this for tv, film and radio, and continue to do so.

Personally I’d like to have a go at adapting it to the modern era, maybe with some gender-swapping thrown in (Pip becomes Phillipa?) – but that’s way beyond my paygrade.

Could this be Charlie’s ‘Hunky Dory’? Maybe…

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

An amazing book about illness, freedom, prejudice, power and society.

Many people read great novels after seeing filmed adaptions, but this can be risky. How many times have you struggled not to see the actor who played a particular part, or think about certain scenes from the film, when reading the novel it was based on? This has happened to me a lot, but not with this book.

I love the film version – I think it’s almost perfect – but when I picked up the novel, after the first few chapters I’d forgotten about Jack Nicholson and co.

Is Kesey a forgotten author these days? I was amazed that the young lecturer on my creative writing MA had never read any Kesey.

Provided You Don’t Kiss Me – 20 years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

Hanif – I know you’re a Man U fan, but bear with me on this. And if you’re reading this thinking I’m not a football fan, it doesn’t matter, I would recommend this to anyone, whether they like football (or soccer) or not.

A great book about one of the most charismatic, mercurial and controversial figures in post-war British sport. I first read this on a boozy coach trip to Ostend from the UK – I read it again on the way back. Sports journalist Duncan Hamilton writes about his time with Clough during the highs and lows of the latter’s management career – the complexities of their relationship (Hamilton was a naïve junior hack when he first met Clough) and the reality behind a very complex man.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I can’t remember who said this, but someone once wrote that Ray Bradbury didn’t write science fiction or fantasy, he wrote stories about people in the mid-west – who happened to be living on Mars.

This was my favourite book when I was a kid, and a regular takeaway from the tiny prefabricated hut that was my local library. The stories are sometimes exciting, occasionally horrifying and always captivating.

Did Ray invent magical realism? Quite possibly.

The Steps of the Sun by Walter Tevis

Another book with a sci-fi stamp on the dust jacket, but put to one side any prejudices about bug-eyed monsters and fluorescent spandex jumpsuits.

The author of The Hustler, The Queen’s Gambit and The Man Who Fell to Earth, this is a fascinating and weirdly prophetic book, written in the early 80s, that includes an Obama-like president, an Elon Musk type protagonist and a powerful capitalist China still wearing communist clothes.

It’s also a book about alcoholism, impotence, loss and redemption. I first read this in my teens and tried to find it again in my 30s. Long out of print, I had to import a well-worn copy originally from Sayville library in New York.

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

A pioneer of wild swimming (don’t stop reading, please!), Roger Deakin journeys across the UK exploring our relationship with water and swimming beyond the chlorinated, blue-tiled baths most of us are probably familiar with.

Part-personal-history, part-social-history, with digressions on the ownership of land and water, and the value of nature (and swimming) for everyone, at times it felt like I was swimming down a river on a perfect summer day alongside the author.

I think Robert MacFarlane once said there was always a whiff of (clean) river water whenever he met Deakin

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Fortune de France (Robert Merle)

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

Good Omens (Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman)

Bluets (Maggie Nelson)

All the Living and the Dean (Hayley Campbell)

Louis XI: The Universal Spider (Paul Murray Kendall)


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Thank you Hanif for this post and thank you all for posting your list. I will revisit many of your titles and check out what i have not read. I forgot to add to my list: most of Doris Lessing except for her science fiction.

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Mine are:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Never Let Me Go by Kasugo Ishiguro

How I Live Now (Can’t remember the author)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

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Hmm... at the moment my favourites would be:

O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker - I thoroughly enjoyed this and a friend I passed it on to said it made her laugh out loud.

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

A Month in the Country by J L Carr

The Fortnight in September by R C Sheriff

Hard to decide on the sixth! So many titles coming to mind. Will have a think.

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Hard to choose, of course, but my six:

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv

Civilisation by Steve Braunias

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

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I would say Beloved - Toni Morrison

The Scarlet Song by Mariana Ba

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Reluctance Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Men Without Women - Haruki Murakami

Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

and The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende

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Yes she (Elizabeth Goudge) wrote children’s books too / was it the white horse one? There are a few - that has made me happy to know !

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Any 21st century publications yet?

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Oooh, that's a difficult one.......Possibly:-

'People Of The Lie' - M Scott Peck (Narcisissism and Evil)

'Intuition' - Osho (If in doubt meditate!)

'The Prophet' - Kahil Gibran (Profound and poetic observation of life & love)

'Perfume Story Of A Murder' - Patrick Sùskind (most sensually evocative and beautifully written book I've had the pleasure to read)


'Wilt' - Tom Sharpe (British farce at its finest)

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I think they may be these...

Memoirs de Hadrian, Yourcenar

Tristes Tropiques, Levi-Strauss

Totem and Tabu Freud

Dreams of my Russian Summers, Makine

El País de Jauja, Rivera


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