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

    David Mitchell

    1. The Duel by Anton Chekhov (1891).
    2.1984by George Orwell (1948).
    3.Heart of Darknessby Joseph Conrad (1899).
    4.Sense and Sensibilityby Jane Austen (1811).
    5.The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov (1966).
    6.As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner (1930).
    7.Tom Jonesby Henry Fielding (1749).
    8.Labyrinthsby Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
    9.W, or The Memory of Childhoodby Georges Perec (1975).
    10.The Makioka Sistersby Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
    Wild Card:Lolly Willowesby Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926).


    Classic List

    Top Ten African-American Works

    1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952). 
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). 
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977). 
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). 
    5. Native Son by Richard Wright (1945). 
    6. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). 
    7. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962). 
    8. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923). 
    9. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (1990). 
    10. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (1965). 


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