John Irving's Top Ten List


John Irving’s 13th novel, “In One Person,” opens with a very funny scene about a young man whose efforts to check out a book are complicated by his lust for his local librarian.


While most readers will focus on the character’s aching tumescence, we Top Tenner’s have but one question: What book is he trying to check out?


We can also guess the answer, because it is one of Irving’s very books (pip, pip, hooray!).


John’s novel, a story of sexual desire and literary yearning, is the story of Bill Abbott, a bi-sexual man nearing 70 who looks back on a life characterized by “persistent crushes on the wrong people.” They include his step-father, a handsome high school classmate and the alluring librarian, who used to be a man.


As he recounts his tale it is also the story of a budding writer who understands life in large part through the books he reads – including “Madame Bovary,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Tom Jones,” “The Tempest” and “Giovanni’s Room.”

·        Read Jeanette Winterson’s warm review in the New York Times Book Review.

·        Read Ron Charles’s review in the Washington Post.

·        Hear an NPR interview with John.

·        Visit John’s website.


John Irving’s Top Ten List

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61).

2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (1891).

3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).

4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850).

5. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1849–50).

6. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (1886).

7. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (1959).

8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

9. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).

10. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).


New List

Joyce Carol Oates

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).


Classic List

Charles Palliser


1. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant (1816).
2. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939).
3. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824).
4. Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz (1785-90).
5. The Golovlyev Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1876).
6. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947).
7. The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki (c. 1001–1010 c.e.).
8. The Dukays by Lajos Zilahy. (1949)
9. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896).
10. The Maias by Eca de Queiroz (1888).


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