Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818). Readers should be grateful that Dr. Phil was not around in 1818. If he had been, Mary Shelley may have chosen to discuss her traumatic life with him. Instead, she turned trauma into art and wrote Frankenstein, in which the outcast Dr. Victor Frankenstein usurps God’s and woman’s life-giving power to create a monster who for all his desire cannot be loved.
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger (1961). Salinger wrote: “FRANNY came out in The New Yorker in 1955, and was swiftly followed, in 1957 by ZOOEY. Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I'm doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses.
Fuzz by Ed McBain (1968). Fueled by clever plots, sharp dialogue, and vivid characters, McBain’s series of novels set in New York City’s 87th Precinct is a gold standard of the police procedural. This novel features one of the genre’s great villains, the murderous Deaf Man, who taunts and ridicules his blue-clad adversaries.
Galpo Guccho by Rabindranath Tagore (1912). These beautifully structured stories are vast in range, moving from supernatural tales to historical stories of love. Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913, is especially good at portraying the little moments of daily life and creating vivid characters—often the poor and dispossessed in his native India—that continue to haunt us.
Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (four books published between 1532 and 1552).
Appreciation of François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel by Fred Chappell
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (1935). Sayers is considered one of the premier detective novelist of the Golden Age, and her dashing sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, one of mystery fiction’s most enduring and endearing protagonists. This novel features another of her creations, mystery writer Harriet Vane.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989). In this wild, oddball novel, Lily and Art Binewski purposely create a family of freaks and geeks by procreating under the influence of experimental drugs. This genetically altered “family” travels as a circus. Dunn’s carnival of misfits is a memorable, darkly funny, and emotionally trenchant portrait of love and family on the fringe.
Germinal by Émile Zola (1884). As in old pictures of Pittsburgh, a pall of industrial smoke seems to hang over Zola’s grim, stirring novel about a miners strike. Zola uses his usual style of fine-grained graininess to describe the lives crushed (sometimes literally) by work, and the excessive poverty to which the miners’ families seem condemned.
Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin (1965). Baldwin is best known for his political and autobiographical essays, but these eight short stories showcase his ability to capture the disparate manifestations of race in America. He vividly depicts an impotent white southerner who can only get aroused by thinking of racial violence and an African American man married to a Swedish woman.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936). Many sagas novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of love and war creates haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of remarkably vivid characters.